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Archive for December, 2013

Matthew 2:13-23 “Cutting Through the Clutter to Find God” JUMC 20131229

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Now after they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, “Out of Egypt I have called my son.” When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah:  “A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.” When Herod died, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said,  “Get up, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who were seeking the child’s life are dead.” Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And after being warned in a dream, he went away to the district of Galilee. There he made his home in a town called Nazareth, so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, “He will be called a Nazorean.” [NRSV]

Joseph and his dreams

  • OT: It is Jacob’s son, Joseph who has visions and dreams where God is revealed to him even as a child.
  • His dream that the shafts of wheat would bow down to him offended his brothers who sold him into slavery.
  • While imprisoned, Joseph becomes known as one who interprets dreams as God’s messages. Later he is called on to explain Pharaoh’s dreams and describes how they will have abundant years followed by lean years. Pharaoh placed Joseph as is second-in-charge to prepare for the years of famine.
  • During the drought, Joseph’s brothers journey to Egypt and to Joseph’s court asking for food to feed their family. After some testing, he reveals himself to his brothers that enslaved him who bow before him. His dream is revealed over the span of his life.
  • NT: Now Mary’s husband, and Jesus’s foster parent, our Joseph from today’s text continues the experience of God speaking through dreams.
  • God sends an angel to comfort and assure Joe when Mary becomes pregnant.
  • God speaks in a dream warning Joseph to leave town and avoid Herod and his plot to kill the baby Jesus.
  • God uses Joe’s dreams to direct him to live in Egypt. (Note the geography similarity to Jacob’s Joseph in Genesis.)
  • God speaks in a dream to call Joseph to return to Israel and leave the far country to return home.
  • God uses Joe’s dream to direct him away from Herod’s son and to live in Galilee region in the city of Nazareth.

Does Joseph Sleeps Alot?

  • I don’t think he slept too much, but it seems that is the time that Joseph was most receptive of God’s word and direction.
  • It is rare that God speaks through thundering clouds and a voice from heaven rubbles down.
  • It is more common that God speaks through other people, through music, through art, and through creation itself.
  • Not everyone pays attention during the sermon: ref. “Best Sleep I get all Week..”
  • Not everyone enjoys singing or pays attention to the words.
  • Not everyone is patient enough to listen after exhausting our list of petitions in prayer.
  • Some folk are too busy at work, at school or even in their own homes.

Joseph is one of those who God found his attention when everything else was laid to rest.

Where and When is God Most Likely to Speak to You?

Just as we might hope and expect to find presents under a Christmas Tree, we hope and expect to find God when we are a church. Gathered with God’s people doing good and right service, witness and worship. But there are times that we are too preoccupied with something else even when we are in the “God Zone.”

The original intention of Sabbath as a day of rest was not simply to cease working. It is a vacation from our vocation. A clearing of the table that cluttered with junk and find the level foundation where we can begin afresh.

As we continue in this season of Christmas, carve out time to be silent, open and patient for God.

It might be easier now that most of the holiday festivities are behind us. Possibly now is a better time to find Christ born anew than at the reenactment of the nativity.

The shepherds took a bigger than broadway production to get their attention.

The wise men looked to distant star and calculations and a map.

Marry and Joseph had their sleep interrupted.

Have you ever had trouble falling asleep or going back to sleep after waking up?

It seems that is my every-night struggle.

Rather than fight it, take that time listen for God.

Prayer journaling, FB chatting  (you’d be surprised who is up ready to pray with you), read the Psalms (That will put you to sleep for sure..lol) Just ask God to speak. Be quiet and listen.

No matter the time of day or night, we can sleep and work right through God’s message and guidance.

Out fears, worries, control, stubbornness and uncertainty can cloud our visions and keep us apart.

Turn the Christmas tree lights back on, light a candle (that you blow out before falling asleep), and pray for the Light of Word to Open your heart and mind.

Speak to us and give us ears to hear and hearts to trust and minds to believe.

Let us know what you hear from God.

Joseph did.. as we see how God protected, prepared, moved and shaped Joseph and his family throughout their lives. A pretty good example if you ask.

Merry Christmas.. See you next Sunday.. it will still be Christmas then too.

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Titus 2:11-14 “Zeal for Good” JUMC XmasEve 20131224

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For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all, training us to renounce impiety and worldly passions, and in the present age to live lives that are self-controlled, upright, and godly, while we wait for the blessed hope and the manifestation of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. He it is who gave himself for us that he might redeem us from all iniquity and purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds. [NRSV]

Jesus gave himself to save us and to do Good.

1. Grace Appeared.. in Jesus’ birth
2. Bringing Salvation.. to show and sacrifice
3. Training us to
a. renounce Worldly Passions
b. Live self-controlled, godly, upright lives
4. Wait with hope for the Manifestation of Jesus
Titus attempts to give us handles to grab hold of and to comprehend who Jesus is for us and the world.

I am so frustrated by friends and particularly clergy friends who are impassioned with political correctness and the feelings of those who don’t want to hear that Christmas is Christ’s birthday. Why does it matter?

Why Was Jesus Born?

Jesus was not born to bring us good feelings
Jesus was not born so we would all get along
Jesus was not born so promote Santa Shopping
Jesus was not born to keep him to ourselves
Jesus was not born for publicity
Jesus was not born to be only remembered,

Jesus was born for relationship
Jesus was born to save us from ourselves and sin
Jesus was born to love us even when divided
Jesus was born to share with the world
Jesus was born to live and teach us how to live

Christmas is celebrated when we remember

The angel’s message of hope in a fearful world
The gifts are for the Love of Christ and not to attempt to buy love or relationship
Take the Good News and apply it to our daily actions

I learned this year that the Original St Nicholas was instrumental in working on the foundations of faith through the Council of Nicene. He was known for getting into fisticuffs to defend his faith and beliefs and hold off heretics. Now that is an interesting image of Santa fighting for the church.

We tell the story of the Nativity again and again to remind us that the gift lives in us.

If we let the world tell what Christ is upto it becomes clouded with cartoons, gifts, and the weakest failures where the church makes the news.

Be responsible for giving birth to the Nativity story of Christ alive in you this night, this month, and all this next year.

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Isaiah 35:1-10 Christ’s Way is Coming JUMC 20131215

The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad, the desert shall rejoice and blossom; like the crocus it shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice with joy and singing. The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it, the majesty of Carmel and Sharon. They shall see the glory of the Lord, the majesty of our God. Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees. Say to those who are of a fearful heart, ‘Be strong, do not fear! Here is your God. He will come with vengeance, with terrible recompense. He will come and save you.’ Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy. For waters shall break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert; the burning sand shall become a pool, and the thirsty ground springs of water; the haunt of jackals shall become a swamp, the grass shall become reeds and rushes. A highway shall be there, and it shall be called the Holy Way; the unclean shall not travel on it, but it shall be for God’s people; no traveller, not even fools, shall go astray. No lion shall be there, nor shall any ravenous beast come up on it; they shall not be found there, but the redeemed shall walk there. And the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away. NRSV

Upside down Onside out.

Our world perspective is out of order and backwards, when children don’t feel safe at school, when politics is more important than people, when trillions of dollars of debt are ignored, when a kindergarder’s kiss is sexual harassment. Just a few, but you get the picture.

Gods highway. The Holy Way

The prophet Isaiah, describes a highway. Not a traffic jam in Henry County, but a way paved with the folks who are trying to live right, putting their steps in sync with God.

Singing of Joy and Gladness

Isaiah foretells, the crowd will be recognized through singing songs of joy and gladness. Eternal and unstoppable joy. What are you singing about today?

So What: Christmas has become a season of compromise: (Santa and a savior: The Fight carton that stated South Park.)

The birth of Jesus paves Gods way of transforming grace and salvation. Do we worship a sacred santa and lust for gifts or trust the one who has given us THE gift before we even made our list? Are our Christmas prepping making us ready for traditions or salvation? ready for Warm fuzzies and mounds of wrapping papers or warmed hearts and a parade marching toward God?

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Matthew 3:1-12. Preparing the Brood of a Vipers. JUMC 20131208

In those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea, proclaiming, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.’ This is the one of whom the prophet Isaiah spoke when he said, ‘The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.” ‘ Now John wore clothing of camel’s hair with a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then the people of Jerusalem and all Judea were going out to him, and all the region along the Jordan, and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. But when he saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, ‘You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit worthy of repentance. Do not presume to say to yourselves, “We have Abraham as our ancestor”; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. Even now the axe is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. ‘I baptize you with water for repentance, but one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing-fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing-floor and will gather his wheat into the granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.. NRSV’

John must have been so frustrated in his time. He could see the misplaced values and hopes of the people. He could see e political leaders feeding the politics and powers and economies of the empire of Rome instead of the Kingdom of God. He could see people being closed minded by choice to the false hopes of false Messiahs… All the while knowing God was about to be present with them, face-to-face.

The wilderness of Judea was a rugged and rocky mountainous area north of the historic city of Jericho. It was a place far from the holy places of Jerusalem. It was a place that apart. His perspective was out of a state and place of reflection. He appears calling for a turn around.

What is our world and community needs to be turned around? Repealed? Reformed? Repaved?

Who will follow in John the Baptizers footsteps for our generation?
Calling for the people to lead the way by making the first step, turning back toward God

Secondly who will call for integrity of our leaders in the community, county and church?

Third who will give the invitation for all to be baptized, made whole in body and spirit?

The temptation is to say: No Lord, you must be calling someone else.
But you and I are the ones who know he good news
We already know the power, gift and role of the church as Christ presence in he world.
You and I already have he perspective of the world through the eyes of Christ

We have all the John the Baptizer ever had and more… We could do his job, if we would

The church has one task, for all the good things we do, we have one essential role, to reveal to the people and world around us that God is present where ever gods people gather to worship, share and live. THIS is the Christmas give we need Br ready to share this year.

Scripture readings are from New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Psalms, Canticles, and Collects are from the Book of Common Prayer (1979), which has been placed in the public domain.

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Luke 4.16-21 First Things First JUMC 20131201


16 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, 17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written: 18 “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, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” 20 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. 21 Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
NRSV

First Words
Typically a child’s first words are a rough version of Daa Daa or Maa Mas, some
Jesus’s first words as teacher, preacher define our task as Christians and the role of the church

5 Point Sermon
Bring Good News to the Poor, Freedom to the captive, Seeing to the blind, Oppressed accepted, AND tell the world this is what God is all about
Jesus defines what we are to do as disciples, as Christians, and as a church
Confirmands: Listen up.

Hometown Hearers
Jesus starts with the folks who had the greatest opportunity to know Jesus, those who have known him the longest
Not always does longevity mean understanding. The longest member or the longest marriage does not always mean the greatest witness or the greatest love IE. Sadi and Shorty Brown..

Evaluation
Are we getting closer to the destination?
Flight… much like image that Bishop Schnase describes in chapter 2, of Remember the Future,
Given the choice to walk home from Colorado all alone is not my best choice.
I prefer the air plane. I got upgraded, so I had more room and a better snack for my flight… But on this flight home I had two crying babies, one in front and one behind me. The flight was delayed 40 minutes. They ran out of the full breakfast and I had cold cereal instead. I sat next to a talker who didnt mind waking me up to tell me about their family problems. But given all the craziness it was much better than walking 1200 miles on my own.

Being the church is not the easy route. Being a follower of Jesus is seldom accepted by the majority. In fact it is a good test of our progress: If things are going smoothly and everyone is happy and comfortable, most likely we have made things about us rather than those who are poor, captive, blind, oppressed and search to find what God offers instead of what we offer.

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