Archive for November, 2011
“But in those days, after that suffering, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, 25 and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. 26 Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in clouds’ with great power and glory. 27 Then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven. 28 “From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. 29 So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates.
13:30 Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. 31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. 32 “But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33 Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come.
34 It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch. 35 Therefore, keep awake–for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, 36 or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. 37 And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.” -NRSV
Looking in the clouds, Times, Patterns, Shapes, and Mysteries
The visiting air force chaplain at the academy reminded me about the fun of cloud watching. And I found myself listening to fewer of his words and paying more attention to the formation of Cumulus vapors passing by the chapel’s main window. Reflecting on the power of the wind and the effect it has on folks in the present location and for miles ahead.
To be a meteorologist is to daily graditifcation as Santa is to a child’s christmas morning. For those folks who are stymied until you have confirmation of the complete 36 hour, day and and 10 forecasts before you can make any plans or decisions there is a level of ODC about signs and predictions. At the root there is an assumption that if I have enough data and can full control or at least be prepared for any and all situations.
These folks look at the folly and foolishness of those who simply throw caution and proper priory planning to the wind and simple run out side without the full day’s attire and projected protection preparations.
But for all the neurosis and over planning of some, the caution of Mark’s text from Jesus is to look at the real comfort and importance of signs and signals. If the light on the stove top is red, don’t touch the eyes. If the dogs teeth or the cats claws are showing, don’t extend you hand. If there is no gas in the car, don’t expect to be early to work. Signs are important.
The point being, for everyone and every time you hear the response to predictions and plans: “Only God know the time and date of the last days” is NOT permission to ignore spiritual signs anymore than we would ignore that grey clouds and strong winds with warm temperatures are the fruit salad that thunderstorms and tornados are made.
Accountable to the Signs: When did I see you feed, clothe, encourage the hopeless.
The point for the signs are the accountability that come with them. If you run the stop sign there is a greater chance you will hit or be hit by another motorist or pedestrian. If you ignore the signs ignorance will not get you out of a speeding ticket or soft shoulder in a construction zone, where fines are doubled.
If the date on the milk said it has expired and you are looking forward to a creamy compliment to your chocolate chip cookies or hearty breakfast cereal.. you find sour, butter, and rancid alternative if you ignore the indicators.
On of the clearest sets Jesus gives of accountability of signs are in the great judgement lesson, “When did I see you feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the hopeless,” and proclaim the nearness of the Lord in each day? Here are your signs! Bill Enval’s catch phrase is more scriptural than even he might realize. Jeff Foxworthy has his, “You Might be a Redneck..” Jesus tag line would be, “Did you see those who are hungry, poor, alone, lost, broken, different or afraid?” That is where I looked for you. That is where you could find me with you. These are our signs.
Look at the women, men, children and youth who received meals this week because we went out to share Jesus Christ with them. “Praise the Law’d, she said, God is so very good. Tell your wife thank you for sharing Jesus. There is nothing that separates us in his love.”
Look at the children who received warm coats in the hundreds. finding one that fits just right, we have seen youth and adults clothed in our own clothes through CERF and seen the kingdom in our clothes.
Look to though who the rest of the world would write-off, ignore, and pass by and there are those in this very room who would be friend, visit, comfort, counsel and love.
These are the signs of Christmas.. not the sale papers, door-busters and super savers.
- Where we turn to the papers of the Word,
- Where we open the doors of our hearts and homes
- We find that we both meet and share THE Savior… if we will look for the signs.
Keep Awake: Watch for the signs of life and wait for The Day, the arrival, the present(s)
THEREFORE, the teaching is to be alert, be aware. Be looking.
Not just for the sake of seeing signs, not be being prepared, not even for being right.
Keep Awake, because the Living Lord, is with us…. Christmas is a day that drives us to The Day of Christ living with toward the Day we living with Christ.
Aunty Mame: “Yes! Live! Life’s a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death!”
We don’t have to be hungry, we have food to eat and to share
We have a gift to receive and to give away.
Christ is near.
2 Corinthians 8 (New Revised Standard)
1 We want you to know, brothers and sisters, about the grace of God that has been granted to the churches of Macedonia; 2 for during a severe ordeal of affliction, their abundant joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. 3 For, as I can testify, they voluntarily gave according to their means, and even beyond their means, 4 begging us earnestly for the privilege of sharing in this ministry to the saints— 5 and this, not merely as we expected; they gave themselves first to the Lord and, by the will of God, to us, 6 so that we might urge Titus that, as he had already made a beginning, so he should also complete this generous undertaking among you. 7 Now as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in utmost eagerness, and in our love for you —so we want you to excel also in this generous undertaking. 8 I do not say this as a command, but I am testing the genuineness of your love against the earnestness of others. 9 For you know the generous act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich. 10 And in this matter I am giving my advice: it is appropriate for you who began last year not only to do something but even to desire to do something— 11 now finish doing it, so that your eagerness may be matched by completing it according to your means. 12 For if the eagerness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has—not according to what one does not have. 13 I do not mean that there should be relief for others and pressure on you, but it is a question of a fair balance between 14 your present abundance and their need, so that their abundance may be for your need, in order that there may be a fair balance. 15 As it is written, “The one who had much did not have too much, and the one who had little did not have too little.” 16 But thanks be to God who put in the heart of Titus the same eagerness for you that I myself have. 17 For he not only accepted our appeal, but since he is more eager than ever, he is going to you of his own accord. 18 With him we are sending the brother who is famous among all the churches for his proclaiming the good news; 19 and not only that, but he has also been appointed by the churches to travel with us while we are administering this generous undertaking for the glory of the Lord himself and to show our goodwill. 20 We intend that no one should blame us about this generous gift that we are administering, 21 for we intend to do what is right not only in the Lord’s sight but also in the sight of others. 22 And with them we are sending our brother whom we have often tested and found eager in many matters, but who is now more eager than ever because of his great confidence in you. 23 As for Titus, he is my partner and co-worker in your service; as for our brothers, they are messengers of the churches, the glory of Christ. 24 Therefore openly before the churches, show them the proof of your love and of our reason for boasting about you.
In Review of Stewardship and our covenant and vow to commit our prayers, presence, gifts, service and witness of Jesus Christ we come to this very Sunday.
FOUNDATION OF GENEROUS GIVING #1
We give because we made in the image of God, whose essential nature is giving.
- We are hard wired to be social, compassionate, connected, loving and generous.
- Yes we get scared, scared and callous.
- GOOD NEWS: God sends us Jesus Christ to bring us back to our true and whole selves and back into relationship with God.
FOUNDATION OF GENEROUS GIVING #2
The heart of giving is never about what we get.
This is counter-intuitive to what society and commerce teaches about value. We come together today in worship of God and in the fellowship of friends in Christ to celebrate giving.
Think about the times you have been GENEROUS
- There are times every parent has given up your meal so that someone else could eat.
- Recall how you have given up some treasure you owned or deserved so that someone else could have their treasure.
- Step back into the moments when you and I have given time, money, sacrifice not because it is our work or prize, but because we have taken the high road Jesus Christ and served someone else.
- How many people will give up restful family time to work hard feeding neighbors this next week to provide a meal of thanksgiving?
- How many of you have spent time with a child or family that everyone else had given up on helping because you knew love and persistent faith would make the difference for generations to come.
- How many people will leave the comfort of this great land of plenty to go, first hand to feed, cloth, and shelter the poor and hopeless of Honduras, Kenya, Portugal, and other countries than our own.
- How many people have put themselves in harms way for the high calling of truth, hope and freedom and honorable given their own feet on the ground and their own sweat and tears in the face of an enemy.
We give praise to God that we may know and remember times of giving like these:
TURN TO YOUR NEIGHBOR and thank them for the times they have stepped out on faith to give of themselves so that someone else may have life and love. THANK YOU.
FOUNDATION OF GENEROUS GIVING #3
Generosity is ALWAYS about someone else and never about ourselves.
Name one person you admire and respect because of all they keep for themselves. We don’t admire greed.
Largeness of spirit leads to an eagerness to give our utmost and highest.
Robert Schnase writes in his book the 5 Practices of Fruitful Congregations about the image of a birds nest:
The notion of building nests is often used as a metaphor to describe people successfully providing for their own comforts.., “You’ve built yourself quite a nest for yourself here!” . . . The word nest often connotes shelter, coziness, homelike, comfortable. In actual fact, the nests which birds build are not for the birds who build them, but for their young, for the next generation, for the future of the species. The hours of carrying straw, sticks, and mud; the days of defensive watchfulness; and the weeks of endless feeding are all for the benefit of the new ones, the young, the future.
Now consider “nests” we build in our churches. The buildings, programs, ministries, job descriptions, and services we build—are they for our own comfort and coziness? Or are they to further the faith and provide for future generations? Does our giving serve us and our needs or serve God by serving the mission of the church to reach new people? Vibrant, fruitful congregations focus as much energy, prayer, and planning on those who are outside the congregation as they do on those who are already active in the congregation. (pp. 14–15)
Every sanctuary and chapel in which we have worshiped, every church organ that has lifted our spirits, every pew where we have sat, every Communion rail where we have knelt, every hymnal from which we have sung, every praise band that has touched our hearts, every church classroom where we have gathered with our friends, every church kitchen that has prepared our meals, every church van that has taken us to camp, every church camp cabin where we have slept—all are the fruit of someone’s Extravagant Generosity.
We have been the recipients of grace upon grace. We are the heirs, the beneficiaries of those who came before us who were touched by the generosity of Christ enough to give graciously so that we could experience the truth of Christ for ourselves. We owe the same to generations to come. We have worshiped in sanctuaries that we did not build, so to us falls the privilege of building sanctuaries where we shall never worship. (pp. 41–42)
FOUNDATION OF GENEROUS GIVING #4
Generosity DEMANDS a change within our heart.
Generosity derives from a profound reorientation in our thinking about how we find contentment in life.
Paul writes, “I have learned to be content with whatever I have,” but Paul was not a slacker, lacking in initiative! He was industrious, competitive, and ambitious for the work of God. Paul realized how seductive our activity and our appetite for more could become. We begin to believe that happiness depends upon outward circumstance and material comforts rather than deriving from inner spiritual qualities—love, peace, compassion, self-control, gentleness, prayerfulness. Possessing greater wealth does not mean that we experience contentedness. We can still feel panic, emptiness, striving, and isolation. We feel needy, and our appetites become insatiable. Surrounded by water, we are dying of thirst.
Breaking the cycle of conditioned discontent requires courageous soul work. Abundant living derives from generative relationships, from mutual support, and from knowing how to love and be loved. Contentment arises from seeking that which satisfies. (pp. 58–59)
Over the last few weeks we have considered what we love and value in our church, who has made a difference in our spiritual lives, and our best hopes and dreams for the next year.
Today we go to 2 Corinthians 8:24 . 24 Therefore openly before the churches, show them the proof of your love and of our reason for boasting about you.
Our pledge cards, commitment cards are not about dollar figures, that will be the work you and your family share each week and month and the on-going work of our finance committee to manage, inform and challenge us.
The commitment card is a public witness to each other in the church that Christ comes first: SAY THESE ALOUD WITH ME
- We give because we made in the image of God, whose essential nature is giving.
- The heart of giving is never about what we get.
- Generosity is ALWAYS about someone else and never about ourselves.
- Generosity DEMANDS a change within our heart.
“Then the kingdom of heaven will be like this. Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. 2 Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. When the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them; but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed, all of them became drowsy and slept. But at midnight there was a shout, ‘Look! Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ Then all those bridesmaids got up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise replied, ‘No! there will not be enough for you and for us; you had better go to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.’ And while they went to buy it, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went with him into the wedding banquet; and the door was shut. Later the other bridesmaids came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I do not know you.’ Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour. NRSV
Jesus tells a parable of the Kingdom of heaven.
Any time we hear one about the Kingdom of heaven we are learning something about the RELATIONSHIP with God.
Our relationship with God is..
(1) an invitation for everyone.
- Ten fingers.. some RSVP, others don’t
(2) a relationship we can share with God now.
- Wedding Party share celebration.
- Have responsibilities in the waiting.
- Wait and work together for the groom.
(3) Something not forced upon us.
- Some live prepared and ready
- Some wait, some don’t think or care.
(4) Time-line of God’s choosing, not ours.
- The job of the bridesmaids was to confirm the consummation of the marriage contract. Tradition of celebrating the work of the worthy. Bridesmaids can’t do the work of the bride and groom. Groomsman and bridesmaids follow the direction as it is not their day, not their wedding, but is their party and family.
(5) Worth staying awake to celebrate.
- The heart of the story is about the moments of absence, distance, brokenness, sin, emptiness, and loss. (The reality of the absence of the oil)
OIL is the blessing: At my first church, on my first Sunday I saw a gallon of olive oil behind the pulpit. Anointing was not part of my worship tradition at that point in my ministry. I was scared to death that someone wanted to be anointed and I would not know what to do. I was relieved to find out they had a spaghetti dinner the week before and someone had forgotten that gallon jug in the sanctuary.
Through out the scriptures OIL is used for blessing, setting apart someone for service or leadership, making an offering holy, or healing some one who was ill or broken in spirit or sin.
OIL is a sign of SALVATION in this text. It is given to all, but some don’t take it, trust it or mature in it.
In the past 22 years since my first church my faith and practice of ministry has matured and taken turns and twists that make me the “branches” connected the vine of Christ.
The promise of Salvation that I claimed at age 13 has not changed, but my awareness of its power, depth and love has become exponential by comparison.
In the past 22 years how many people have we served, taught, feed, clothes, blessed, visited, comforted, forgiven and loved? Thousands I hope!
This passage is about those who have given up, never found their hearts warm enough to catch on fire, much less burned out…
Here is the real fulcrum of the see-saw. If we sat around the church all the time and looked out the doors and windows pointing out all those poor lost souls in the mean bad world, but never reach out to show them the emptiness of their lamps before the wedding begins.
Even if you and I are not ready to sit on the street corner on December of next year for the World to end, it is clear that the great disasters, wars, spiritual battles and economic chaos that it is usually at the bottom of the well we find God in powerful ways.
My cousin Arnold, showed his new bridge how much he loved her when he climbed down the bottom of the well to rescue her cat. He showed her grace beyond the call of duty when the cat jumped back in the next day. But on third time the cat jumped in, you have to ask the question: “Does that cat just want to be left alone?”
We can’t make anyone have faith, come to church nor change their behavior if they don’t want it first.
But were are not at the bottom the well, not at the end of time nor at the end of grace.
The very fact that Jesus tells and teaches this parable he is saying that it is not too late. The wedding has just started.
Some folks have not opened the invitation and that is what we can do.
Some folks have not picked up their blessing/oil and that is ours to share before it is too late.
I have a charge for you that I could not know two decades ago, but I know for some fools we don’t have time to wait any longer.
Take your hand, for every finger you have left, write down the name of a person:
- that you know does not know the love of God,
- that is lost in grief or worry or fear.
- That you know is angry or disappointed,
- That is scared confused or frustrated..
Post their names on your bathroom mirror, in your wallet, on the dash of your car, in you agenda book or family calendar.
Pray for them every day. Pray for the words and opportunities to invite them to the love, home, hope, trust, joy, peace, fresh-start, blessing and appreciation that Christ holds for us.
Pray also for you to be the OIL distributer for them. Every time you see the price of GAS change, that is one more opportunity to BLESS and REACH as changing world around you.
If you don’t, you will hear the beating at the door of judgment and know they could be at the party if you had helped them see the emptiness of their living. As long as we have breath and life we have the responsibility to bless..
ANOINTING: You are blessed to be a blessing.