Archive for April 1st, 2012

Hebrews 10:4-10 “God’s Not Pleased with our Bull” JUMC 20120401:0900

1 The old plan was only a hint of the good things in the new plan. Since that old “law plan” wasn’t complete in itself, it couldn’t complete those who followed it. No matter how many sacrifices were offered year after year, they never added up to a complete solution. 2 If they had, the worshipers would have gone merrily on their way, no longer dragged down by their sins. 3 But instead of removing awareness of sin, when those animal sacrifices were repeated over and over they actually heightened awareness and guilt. 4 The plain fact is that bull and goat blood can’t get rid of sin. 5 That is what is meant by this prophecy, put in the mouth of Christ: You don’t want sacrifices and offerings year after year; you’ve prepared a body for me for a sacrifice. 6 It’s not fragrance and smoke from the altar that whet your appetite. 7 So I said, “I’m here to do it your way, O God, the way it’s described in your Book.” 8 When he said, “You don’t want sacrifices and offerings,” he was referring to practices according to the old plan. 9 When he added, “I’m here to do it your way,” he set aside the first in order to enact the new plan – 10 God’s way – by which we are made fit for God by the once-for-all sacrifice of Jesus. [The Message]

1 Since the law has only a shadow of the good things to come and not the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered year after year, make perfect those who approach. 2 Otherwise, would they not have ceased being offered, since the worshipers, cleansed once for all, would no longer have any consciousness of sin? 3 But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sin year after year. 4 For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. 5 Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, “Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body you have prepared for me; 6 in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure. 7 Then I said, “See, God, I have come to do your will, O God’ (in the scroll of the book it is written of me).” 8 When he said above, “You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings” (these are offered according to the law), 9 then he added, “See, I have come to do your will.” He abolishes the first in order to establish the second. 10 And it is by God’s will that we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. [NRSV]

In the Old Testament, the practice of offering God animals has shown conflicting reviews rather than answers and faithfulness.
On one hand, from earliest of stories, [Gen. 4], it is Cain and Able bring offerings to God. Cain is the farmer brings grains that he has plucked, baked or even brewed and God declares that his gift is pleasing and appropriate. Able is the herdsman brings an animal that he has butchered and brazed or barbecued and God declares that Able’s gift is dis-pleasing and inappropriate.

Able’s response to doing what God does not approve or displeased God leaves Able hurt, disappointed, feeling rejected and after internalizing all this, he becomes angry and seek revenge on Cain.. who is later killed by Able. There is a great mis-placed and mis-directed response of Able to go after Cain. Feeling rejected for doing what displease God, Able feels Cain has showed him up. Cain didn’t bring grain to make Able look bad. Able didn’t necessarily know God would be please or dis-pleased.

God makes it clear. I don’t want your animal, Able I. A nice wool sweater would be just fine or some goat cheese. Rather than Able asking God, for instructions or help or forgiveness. Able seeks revenge and resolution by his own judgment. This is his sin. (Not so much bringing the wrong gift.)

What does God want from us this Palm Sunday? Do we need to be waving palm branches high in the air? Is that what God wants from us? Maybe, but probably not if we leave the leaves by the way-side and resume speaking ill of each other. God is probably not pleased if we are interested in getting even with those who hurt us. God is not so happy when we kill someone’s spirit and joy. God is not happy when we don’t learn from our mistakes.

The Old Testament gets confusing, because several generations later sacrificing animals becomes the focal point of seasonal celebrations for God’s people. Did God suddenly change the rules and expectations? The grain, oil, perfume offerings along with the fellowship of sharing meals seems to be approved by God. The next thing you know there is an entire priestly family clan and tradition with rules that are kosher or not. There are offerings of animals for the community, the family and the individual.

Later the people are exiled in foreign lands and cannot come to the temple to worship and the animal sacrifice seems to be the exception and not the rule.
Jesus comes along and becomes the final passover lamb sacrifice that God finds pleasing.. this is my son, listen to him.

In the letter to the Hebrews, God is saying, I’ve come not only to complete my part of the work, I’m going to do it from your perspective. Jesus becomes for us the sacrifice that we need. Jesus becomes our bridge to the no-where we have created out of our sin and detachment from God.

If you look back to the Gen 4 passage, God neither asked for an offering, nor gives any instruction. Only after seeing how we respond, does he correct Able. God doesn’t want us to fix what we cannot repair.
God does not want us to play God’s part in the drama of our own lives.
God doesn’t need our blood, God has given us that life in the first place.

What does God expect, want, need, ask of us? “See I have come to do your will.”
God wants us to trust God’s system
God wants us to follow God’s lead
God wants us to ask for help and direction
God wants us to come to God first and not after we’ve tried all our other options..

But hear the Good News! God has a preference for our life. God has patience for us to find God, if we will patiently continue to seek God.
So often, we try something once or twice, if we fail we give up on it.
Try asking for help again.
Try reading the scripture with a fresh set of questions.
Try coming to the table and finding an invitation, even though we have not done what was asked.

God will teach, correct and straighten out our brokenness.. that may not be pretty no easy.
But don’t give up, Don’t judge or get even with those who have found faithfulness
God doesn’t want our bull, God wants us. Not a stand-in or replacement. God stand in the way of sin, to find us where we are.
Don’t hurt our sister or brother, just because we are able.

Easter is about raising cain… and raising all of us.
So celebrate! Now and through the Maundy and the darkness of Friday… Sunday is coming. Don’t’ give up now.

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Luke 1:26-38 “remember what’s possible” JUMC 20120401:1100

26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” 29 But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. 30 The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. 33 He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” 34 Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” 35 The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. 36 And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38 Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her. [NRSV]

26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to the Galilean village of Nazareth 27 to a virgin engaged to be married to a man descended from David. His name was Joseph, and the virgin’s name, Mary. 28 Upon entering, Gabriel greeted her: Good morning! You’re beautiful with God’s beauty, Beautiful inside and out! God be with you. 29 She was thoroughly shaken, wondering what was behind a greeting like that. 30 But the angel assured her, “Mary, you have nothing to fear. God has a surprise for you: 31 You will become pregnant and give birth to a son and call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great, be called ‘Son of the Highest.’ The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David; 33 He will rule Jacob’s house forever – no end, ever, to his kingdom.” 34 Mary said to the angel, “But how? I’ve never slept with a man.” 35 The angel answered, The Holy Spirit will come upon you, the power of the Highest hover over you; Therefore, the child you bring to birth will be called Holy, Son of God. 36 “And did you know that your cousin Elizabeth conceived a son, old as she is? Everyone called her barren, and here she is six months’ pregnant! 37 Nothing, you see, is impossible with God.” 38 And Mary said, Yes, I see it all now: I’m the Lord’s maid, ready to serve. Let it be with me just as you say. Then the angel left her. [The Message]

When Jesus enters the city of Jerusalem, riding on a colt, on donkey, Mary must have had a flash back to the trip to Bethlehem some thirty plus years earlier. She certainly remembered that long journey with Joseph over dusty and rocky paths. It was probably a four day trip, less than 70 miles as the crow files, but closer to 90 miles on the main traveling roads. As the end of her pregnancy she and Joseph were filled with anticipation and celebration and a good dose of frustration having to travel so near to her delivery time. And now, Mary travels with a different family members, to another time of anticipation, celebration and another good dose of frustration, remembering the words the angels and Jesus foretells about coming to Jerusalem.

I invite you to join me thinking from Mary’s perspective today. She was a “ponderer.” Compare and contrast the starting point and this parade. Imagine the procession and celebration of people praising and celebrating her son. She would have been proud as any mother might be. From their humble beginnings and through difficult and threatening days, Jesus seems to coming into his own. What amazing impossibilities have become possible for Mary and her son.

Ahead of this moment of celebration, comes more impossibilities. Jesus’ last supper, capture, trial, and sentence of the death penalty. And the greatest impossibility, Easter, the resurrection. This is where we join the story for real. Not by looking back and placing ourselves in Mary’s shoes or even standing beside her, but in the unfolding of possibilities that come out of impossibilities.

What is impossible for you today? Is it physical? Is it financial? Is it relational? Is it personal and internal? Is it the juggling of all these? The message of the Angel and cousin Elizabeth, of Jesus and the disciples, of the Word lived out in our flesh… is that NOTHING is impossible for God. Everything hits impossible without God.

Remember, it is possible to eat at Christ’s table and find healing and wholeness for our broken hearts, bodies, and relationships.
Remember, it is possible to drink from Christ’s cup and find salvation, forgiveness, fresh starts for our broken trusts and broken spirits.
Remember what this bread and cup are for us.. Evidence, proof and invitation to step where we cannot walk and run where we cannot go.

God’s word that became flesh and moved in with us, continues to live that we might have a life that is full of hope and power.
What is possible for God in your heart today? What is possible for God in your home today? What is possible for God in this place today?
Don’t forget, remember and believe.
Don’t just believe, remember to live.

Hosanna, Our Saviour comes to walk with us.
Amen.

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