Archive for January, 2013

Luke 4.14-22 “Unroll the Scrolls” JUMC 20130127

scroll unrolling

Then Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country. He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone. When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” [NRSV]

Did you know that the phrase, idiom, “Preaching to the Choir” was first references in 1973 in the Lima Ohio News in the month of January. Forty years, why that’s nearly my whole life time.  The older phrase is ‘preaching to the converted’, first cited in the works of John Stuart Mill in his, An Examination of Sir W. Hamilton’s Philosophy, 1867. The phrases might change from time to time, but why do preachers preach to those who are already believers?
It is more interesting that you might think.. let’s look at this text from Luke. Jesus has been out in surrounding areas: (Forsyth, Monticello, Griffin and McDonough distances away from Jackson, GA) and his new ministry has great reviews, great works, and a growing following. But when he comes home to Nazareth, he returns to the people who knew him, not as the Messiah, but as Joseph and Mary’s child. Jo-Jr., did not stay at home and keep the family trade. He has gone off and become a big-shot and he is trying to tell the home folks how they ought to live. At least this was likely the assumption of the men and boys sitting in the synagogue and the mothers, widows and girls listening from just outside. After Jesus reads the scriptures for his family and friends, we hear another couple of phrases: The crowd was “blown-away” and just sat there “like a deer in the headlights.”

Jesus, teaching and addition to the text was that the Prophet Isaiah was correct and his prophetic words had come try “right-before-their-eyes.” Wow!

Think about my question: Why do preachers preach to the home-team? Why rally the fan base of those who already have their support? Jesus’ preaching was not filled with stories on this day. There are no parables, no miracles, no food, no signs and wonders, just plain talk.

We are so accustom to looking for bits and pieces of scripture by chapter and verse. Today with digital search engines the use of chapters and verses are nearly obsolete. Did you know that the scripture has only had numbered chapters and version for less than five hundred years. Did you know that for about a 1000 years the scriptures were written only on the hearts of the faithful. Think of the years when there was only one copy, at the temple. We probably have access to a dozen bibles and considering the internet, dozens of translations are just a few clicks away.  (I like to use http://www.biblestudytools.com – It is by means not the only collection, but its free and has lots of versions and resources for bible study all in one place.)

One of our Church History professors, Manfred Hoffman, was a from a German tradition. He told that story that his professor believed that the scriptures had to be studied in Hebrew, Greek and Latin and only in German when absolutely necessary, and he considered it vulgar to have to read them in English. Dr Hoffman said his professor would “turn over in his grace” he knew about digital bibles, no ink, no paper, and pages to turn. It is interesting that over half of the ministers in my study group have given up our paper bibles for multiple translations on tablets and ipads.

In the passage from Luke, Jesus is handling the scrolls. He used the resources of his day to find the place in the prophetic voice, to hear God speaking in the present. This is the task for us in our hearing. When it the last time you touched a bible, paper or digital? It is God’s message and word, it is God’s teaching and voice, and it is God’s conversation for those who will encounter it.

We don’t grow from scripture by being near it. We don’t grow in faith by having lots of copies? We don’t ever need to let someone get away with saying, “Well it’s somewhere in the bible, I know it says…” Call them on it to show you, “prove it!”  The Lord helps those who help themselves? Nope, not in the bible. Some close variations, but “Blessed are the poor for they will inherit the earth” is a good bit more clearly spelled out.

So what does Jesus read from the prophet Isaiah?

Jesus reads the passage putting it into the first person and proclaims to his family and friends:

  1. He is anointed
  2. He will give Good News to the poor.
  3. He will call for those imprisoned and bound to be released.
  4. He will give sight to those who cannot see.
  5. He will give liberty to enslaved and trapped.
  6. And, He will proclaim this is the Lord’s time, “right-here, right-now”, this-year, right here!

No wonder they were “shell-shocked”

What if these words of the prophet Isaiah, claimed and proclaimed by Jesus, speak about what the church is about.

For the church is the body of Christ, the church is the presence of Christ. We have seen great signs and wonders though Jesus, he promised that his disciples, like us, would do even greater signs and wonders. Let’s start with his list from Isaiah:

What if we got in touch with the scriptures.

What if we read God’s word as frequently as we eat?

There are thousands of devotion books with scripture, every bookstore sells copes, we have copies to share, check them out of the library, pick one up at the motel in the draw of the nightstand by the bed, smartphones, laptops, computers. Tapes, CDs, MP3s, and downloads galore.. The Holy Scriptures are more available to use than at any other time in human history and I would guess that the majority of our gathering here might have to think for awhile the last time we opened God’s word, got our hands on the text and stopped to hear Jesus speak these ancient words a-fresh to use today.

Jesus was preaching to the choir because the choir was singing something other than the words of Isaiah, something other than words that declared, This is God’s year.

This year is not the Falcon’s year. It was amazing to see tens of thousand of fans, rise up, with a city of hopeful fans to cheer on the home team. It was a bit disturbing that the Falcons paid Samuel L Jackson, an undisclosed sum, to dress up like a preachers, surrounded by a robed choir and call for fan’s to raise the dead, out of the ashes, that the city might come to it’s feet and… buy enough tickets to pay for the players, the television rights and the World Congress Center and Georgia Dome loans and repair costs could be covered while grown men run around hitting each other in tight pants, ON Sundays! Maybe next year will be the Falcons. I don’t know..

But I do know this: If we are bold enough to rise up, take up the scroll of the scriptures and place them in our hands and in our hearts and heads, AND listen to the call they have upon our lives, we will see the Kingdom of God in our home town.

And if we don’t, we will not. It is just that simple. Its just that clear.

The Question is: Is this the year that God’s word will transform our community, or will we continue to make a mess of things, mess’en around.

The Question is: Is this the year we study, getting our hands-on God’s word in our witness and service for each other right here, or will we pass that to someone to do for us?

The Question is: Do the words God speaks to Isaiah, Jesus, Luke, and to us today… continue to hold the power or have we given up on them?

What say you?

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1 Corinthians 12:1-11 “Gifts for Good” JUMC 20130120

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12:1 Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed. 2 You know that when you were pagans, you were enticed and led astray to idols that could not speak. 3 Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking by the Spirit of God ever says “Let Jesus be cursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except by the Holy Spirit.
  4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. 7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8 To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues.
11 All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses. [NRSV]

Our Congregation is teaming with talented people.

We have a surplus of gifts… Do you know the some of the favorites?

  • To some we hear the gift of Complaint
  • Some have the gift of Blaming
  • Others have the gifts of Worry
  • And to some the gift of Apathy
  • Still others have the gift of Fair-weather Participation.

Each is given according to the spirit of false faith..

These are not gift of the Holy Spirit! This are not what we are called to be known and witness!

Seriously, we need to look at listen to ourselves and the tools we turn to first when solving a problem or even listening to one another.

The gifts give in the 12th chapter of first Corinthians is not an inclusive list of the ONLY gifts of the spirit. These are samples of how we experience God’s spirit at work through one another.

Various Gifts, Services, and Activities

  • Wisdom,
  • Utterance of Knowledge,
  • Faith,
  • Healing,
  • Miracles,
  • Prophecy,
  • Discernment,
  • Tongues of praise and Tongues of interpretation.

Each is given for the common good

..and may not be enjoyable by the bearer.

This is the test of the purpose of Spiritual Gifts. They are not for us. They are for the community. The community of faith, the extended community or even for the world.

But they are not for our personal benefit alone. This is a very good measure and guide for understanding our spiritual growth and maturity.

All are activated by the Holy Spirit.

The key difference between our talents, skills and experiences and Gifts of the Spirit, is the the power source.

If we have trained and done our best we might become more ready to serve, but the gift is the work of God’s action through us.

Where have all the Spiritual Gifts Gone?

As we look around, we don’t see many healers, we don’t have too many who teach, we don’t hear too many different languages spoken, and we are running short on current miracle stories most Sundays.

It is our tendency to think that Spiritual Gifts are for the Disciples, the Early Church or for some other denomination. United Methodist have been rich in gifts of the spirit but where are they now?

This is the So What part of the passage. Is this text relevant to us now? Are we gifted people?

I would say, We Can Be, We Might Be, and We Most likely Are.

But we would be scared to admit it or let them show if we were.

  • The Gift of Hospitality
  • The Gift of Insight.. seeing what others see
  • The Gift of Grace.. forgiving before we are asked to
  • The Gift of Get-it-done.. Starting and finishing a task without permission
  • The Gift of Trust and Confidence.. Keeping a confidential information confidential
  • The Gift of Giving.. Over a half million dollars in a down economy speaks loudly
  • The Gift of Letting Go and Not Holding a Grudge.. because it makes you too tired to keep up the fight
  • The Gift of Letting Go of Money, Food, Clothes, Time to enable someone else to live, eat, work, or grow
  • The Gift of Cooking.. When others would rather eat.
  • The Gift of Dish washing.. When others are leaving for home.
  • The Gift of Teaching.. When others have their done-that TShirt
  • The Gift of Driving.. To give a ride to someone who is stuck at home
  • The Gift of Leading.. When others would sit back and wait
  • The Gift of Singing.. When some would keep silent
  • The Gift of Trying a New Thing.. When the old, familiar things suit you just fine.
  • The Gift of Bring a friend.. When others stay at home with their friends
  • The Gift of Grace.. When you are able to see with God’s heart and eyes, the world is not winning, not hopeless. The Spirit is Real and with us, still.

These are the gifts, and services and activities that I see and hear and experience…

They are activated by the Holy Spirit, because we are too lazy, selfish and tired to do them on our own.

These are the signs of God at work..

And the Good News is: There are other gifts, through other folks just like you and me. None of them have to be the same, but all together they are the Holy Spirit With us.

Praise the Lord.

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Luke 3:15-17, 21-22 “Baptized with Spirit” JUMC 20130113

baptism
3:15 As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, 16 John answered all of them by saying, “I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 17 His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” 21 Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, 22 and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”  [NRSV].

Baptism

At the end of a bowl game, two of the players who are strong enough to lift the orange Gatorade ice cooler but not usually known for much playing time on the field anoint their coach on the sidelines within a few seconds of the ending of winning the game. Have you ever seen the loosing coach receive the icy bath at the games end? Maybe that baptism is only for winners.

Mr Webster: defines baptism as a Christian sacrament marked by ritual use of water and admitting the recipient to the Christian community ( an act, experience, or ordeal by which one is purified, sanctified, initiated, or named )

As United Methodist, Mr Wesley might call baptism a dependable experience of Grace and presence of Christ With Us.

But what is ‘baptism’ to us, today?

It is that rare sprinkling of a baby’s head when they are still small enough to be carried or the even more rare confirmation student who was not baptized as an infant coming with class or the even most rare of all is the adult or teen who comes to accept full baptism into the church.

Baptism is the ticket stub. Do you remember when Hank Arron hit the home run to break Babe Ruth’s record? I had the ticket from the game at the end of the prior season where he hit 713.  You say “so what” about that game? It was the game where I was there, in person, a shouting and celebrating fan, cheering hope and faith that history would be changed in my presence. That’s my ticket to the game I attended. I went friends from my class at school. It was a glorious night in the nose-bleed seats of FUL-CO Stadium.

Baptism is our ticket into the church. It is the open door. Once you enter through baptism, you know the heat of Christ is always open. Do you know someone who thinks that door is shut for them? Think what they are missing:

Adoption

Isaiah 43:1-7  But now thus says the LORD, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.  When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. I give Egypt as your ransom, Ethiopia and Seba in exchange for you.  Because you are precious in my sight, and honored, and I love you, I give people in return for you, nations in exchange for your life.  Do not fear, for I am with you; I will bring your offspring from the east, and from the west I will gather you;  I will say to the north, “Give them up,” and to the south, “Do not withhold; bring my sons from far away and my daughters from the end of the earth– everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.” [NRSV]

Adoption is a good example of the relationship of Baptism. The parents choose the child knowing much about the child. Gender, health records, birth parent and/or context of life prior to becoming part of one’s family.

God knows us before we are ready to claim God and God’s family. Baptism is as much about God Choosing us and our choosing Christ.

Did you know that UMC clergy/pastor have the right and responsibility to deny someone who they believe should not be baptized and kept out of the church. Generally we are so desperate for members we would do anything to baptism someone. They do put pressure and measure the success-fulness of our ministry leadership by the number of baptisms we have during a year. I struggle with this because we don’t want to be like our Baptist Neighbor churches and focus just on getting people into the heavenly seats, we also want the relationship that should go with the ticket.

Claimed vs Owned

Hear God’s words in text from Luke: “This is my child.” Imagine what this world might be like if more parents would claim their children. We are starting a class for all you guys beginning the last Saturday of this month. Letter’s from Dad. (You don’t even have to be a father to participate) In this class you will learn to write letters of blessing. Your whole family will benefit and you will be the hero. Don’t miss it! You will miss out and so will those you love.

The parent’s claim upon a child is a powerful gift for both the child and the parent. Tell you children that you love them. Tell you parents that you appreciate, love and forgive them. Tell you spouse, significant-other, girl/boy friend that you respect and admire them… butting in writing, say it out loud, make it real.

God speaks and sends a the spirit in the form of a dove. Saying I claim and accept you. I don’t own you. We don’t have to have a relationship but I choose to claim you any way.

The Active Witness

Going to those who are missing the POWERFUL part of faith.

Acts 8:14-17 Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them. The two went down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit (for as yet the Spirit had not come upon any of them; they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus). Then Peter and John laid their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit. [NRSV]

If there is someone who may have head knowledge about Jesus, but no spirit of joy, spirit of hope, spirit of faith, spirit of forgiveness, spirit of love, spirit of grace, trust, peace… then get to them and lay hands on them.

The first thing I learned about being a brother is that no matter how dirty the diaper, you can always wash your hands. But if you don’t get your hands dirty sometimes, then you all enjoy the foul smell of a diaper gone bad…

Our challenge in hearing this story of God’s claiming and Jesus being baptized is that ALL of use are in this together and if you’ve not been baptized, what are you waiting for? if you have who will you lead to the water and to the Holy Spirit?

Peter and John, go to bring the power of the Spirit and change complete families and communities… This is why we are a church. This is what we do. Baptism in Jesus Christ.

REMEMBER YOUR BAPTISM!

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Mt 2:1-12. Why were the wise men wise? 20130106

Christian Christmas Nativity Scene

In the  time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, 2 asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.” 3 When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; 4 and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. 5 They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet: 6 “And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel.’ ” 7 Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. 8 Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.” 9 When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. 11 On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.  [NRSV]

 

Some would say:

  • • Keep momma happy
  • • Pithy sayings about pennies and stitches
  • • not just the fruit of age and experience
  • • King Solomon recognized wisdom is Gods gift of perspective to see the world

1 Seeing what others miss

2 Willing to go when other stayed

3 Knowing when to be humble – paying homage

4 Appropriate fits for e appropriate occasion

5 Allow for changing plans

We too are wise when we See, go, stop, give and follow the spirit.

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