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Archive for December, 2014

Galatians 4.4-7 “A Piece of Pie” RSUMC 20141228

Mov'in On Up

The Jeffersons, Lear Sitcom “Mov’in On Up”

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children. And because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God. [NRSV]

The Season of Christmas, 12 Days of Gifts

I have no idea why retail industry has not fully adopted the 12 days of gift giving. Christmas Day is but the first day of a 12 day season. I think we need to help extend the celebration. Don’t You?

When you think of Christmas, part of our celebration is gifts, trees with lights, decorations and music, are all part, but the one thing that sets a holiday apart is food. Food implies sharing at a common table the fellowship of those we share all holidays: Valentine chocolates, Easter eggs, 4th of July grilling, Halloween candy and Thanksgiving turkey all are essential elements of the holiday. If you had to pick a flavor of pie for Christmas what would you pick?

Apple, Pumpkin, Cherry, Sweet potato, pecan, chocolate custard,  Key Lime, Peach, minced meat, (who said minced meat, take them out of the room right now and feed them some rhubarb pie and send them by to New England.) Here is a one reported list: http://www.livescience.com/33111-favorite-pie-america.html

pie-chart-02

Apple 47%                    16%
pumpkin 37%                12%
Chocolate Creme 32%  11%
Cherry 27%                       9%
Apple Crumb 25%            8%
Pecan 24%                        8%
Lemon Meringue  24%      8%
Blueberry 21%                  7%
Key Lime 18%                   6%
Peach 16%                        5%
All others 10%

What ever flavor you choose. You in good company if you choose some type of pie for Christmas.

In a way, the Christmas Story is God’s way of inviting us to be part of God’s heart and family.

God asks us “Do you wanna a piece of pie?”

What does a baby born so long ago have anything to do the pie we eat today?

Because of that baby, you and I have a piece of pie for Christmas.

I date myself remembering the sitcom, The Jeffersons, who’s theme song celebrated a successful black/African-American business man and his family and their their upward social and economic mobility in the city.

Mov’in On Up, [Ja’net Dubois (from Good Times) and Jeff Barry co-wrote The Jeffersons’s theme song]

  • Well we’re movin on up, to the east side. to a deluxe apartment in the sky. Movin on up, To the east side. We finally got a piece of the pie.
  • Fish don’t fry in the kitchen; Beans don’t burn on the grill. Took a whole lotta tryin’ Just to get up that hill. Now we’re up in the big leagues, Gettin’ our turn at bat. As long as we live, it’s you and me baby, There ain’t nothin wrong with that.

We have a piece of the pie because of that baby born in Bethlehem.

We are no longer servants and slaves; we are children of God. Jesus is our brother.

And if Jesus is our brother then we have a sharing in the inheritance from the Father.

Because of Jesus We have moved up..

How are we related? Adoption

While It does explain why we don’t look like Mary or Joseph sides of the family.

I don’t remember any interviews or paper work about adoption into Jesus family.

God Chooses Us..

God Sends us a brother that will show us the way home.

God chooses us before we were born. This is the good news of Christmas!

This is the gift. This is the Christmas Gift, Paul shares with the church in Galatia, and with us all.

Gal 3.25-29 But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise [covenant].  [NRSV]

As we draw close the end of the year, we do beginning to reaffirm that we are part of God’s family.

Tell you neighbors, (pref not your bio family members) you are my brother/sister.

This is how we celebrate the brother that makes us one heart, one family, one people.

Not based on our faithfulness, rather because God is faithful

Not based on our love nor loveliness, rather because God first loves us.

Not based on holidays and traditions but is celebrated because God’s desire is that we are part of God’s tradition.

  • Merry Christmas.
  • Merry Christ is our Brother
  • Merry Christ connects us.

This is who we are and who we invite others to believe.

Christmas is one of our greatest evangelistic stories: God loves us so much, God wants us to be family.

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Advent 4 20141220 Luke 1:39-55 “It’s That Time of Year” RSUMC

JOY_maryandelizabeth

Mary’s news is to be shared at home and throughout the hill side with leaps of Joy.

In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.” And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.” [NRSV]

Preparing for God With Us:

  • The Big Things God Does through Individual people
  • Exploring What God See in Our Faithfulness
  • Sharing the Joy with Family and Friends

The Bible is a collection of stories about God working through individuals. The individuals may end up leading tribes, bands and nations, but the conversation starts one-on-one.

One like you and me.

One who have been faithful and even those not as faithful.. Mary the faithful and Joseph the doubting, fixer of problems.

Part of understanding, discerning and responding to God’s work in us, is revealed through conversation and relationship with others. Elizabeth and Mary.. not just two women talking about babies, but talking about God at work in all their lives and witnesses.

Small Groups, Bible Studies, Classes, and conversations at home all give us a place and opportunity to question, reflect and experience God at work in each others’ lives.

Barna Group: Friends and family sharing faith is still top evangelism relationship: They have observed Fewer people are sharing with one another.

Q: How many have talked about God’s work in your lives in the past two weeks?

Examples: What is God doing in my life? What is God expecting in my life right now? Where do you touch God’s presence this week ahead.

What we have been journeyiing toward is an incarnational, experiential presence with God, THIS is what CHRISTMAS is for us now.. the story began in Bethlehem, but the story for our time now is where is the living CHRIST revealed now?

Ask you family, neighbors, a stranger.. because it is into relationship that God is revealed.. not just my mind our your mind..

The church is the present body..Are we actually expecting to share God With Us or just familiar stories, songs and comforts?

Jesus came to unwed parents, homeless in a strange place of in laws connections, in the dark of the night, revealed to servants and kings. Revealed in leaps of joy in the womb and praising shepherds and rejoicing magi.

What about you? What is God revealing to you this season? THIS IS WHAT WE ALL WANT AND NEED TO HEAR AND SHARE.

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Advent3 Luke 3:7-18 “Do We Bring Fire?” RSUMC 20141213

FireGiftJohn said to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruits worthy of repentance. Do not begin 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 ax 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.” And the crowds asked him, “What then should we do?” In reply he said to them, “Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.” Even tax collectors came to be baptized, and they asked him, “Teacher, what should we do?” He said to them, “Collect no more than the amount prescribed for you.” Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what should we do?” He said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusation, and be satisfied with your wages.” As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, 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. 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.” So, with many other exhortations, he proclaimed the good news to the people. [NRSV]

What should I bring?

If we knew Jesus were coming to our house for Christmas this year. Everyone would be gathering around a beautifully decorated treat what we wrap under the tree for Jesus?

<story of Sam Bangura spending Christmas Eve and Christmas morning with our family> The welcomed stranger brings Christmas Joy for lifetime of “Christmas Gift”

In this third week of Advent, our preparing has lead us to be 1) Alert and On Guard, 2) Making room and paving a Way, and today 3) we talk about Gifts and Presents:

Asking: What does Jesus want for Christmas this year? Know the answer will be “what Jesus wants every day.”

John the Witness, John the Baptizer, John the Spiritual Road Pave-er tells us:

Bear fruits of repentance:

  • If we have asked for forgiveness, live as though we have been forgiven.
  • If we have forgiving some one treat that person or relationship with grace like we have forgiven.
  • If we have not forgive then we have some work to do.
  • As long as you have two coats and there is someone who has no coat, we have work to do.
  •  As long as we have food enough to eat and there is someone hungry, we are not done.

How to Bear Fruit when we have things working against us?

It’s one thing when the ground is fertile and serving is easy. It’s hard NOT to bear fruit on a mission trip. People will complain many times about the cost of going on mission trips when there is so much to be done right here at home. But let me ask this: How many mission trips have you heard about that were fruitless? Oh there will be roadblocks, illnesses, and set backs, but have you ever heard of a mission team coming home saying. We did nothing good, we got nothing out of it. It was a total waste of time, money and energy. I’ve never heard it… We invest in having a fruitful, productive, meaningful and powerful experience from the outside expectation.

(We don’t always do this when we are near home. So close to home, we are more likely to say: We will get to it soon and when we get around to it.) Advent is a Round-to-it time of year.

An uncommon audience

The tax collector and soldier are two who have come to hear John’s teachings and ‘good news’ and as how do I do my job that seems be so hated or feared… how to I do my job and serve God?

These two folks the Tax Collector and the Soldier were feared and hated, most because they were the first line of OFFENSE from the government. Interesting advise from the prophet helps us all:

Do you job: Collect what is due. BUT don’t take advantage of folks. (Don’t run a title pawn that keeps folks in poverty.)

You work for the government. Do your job, don’t use your position to take advantage of folks.

It’s ok to make a profit don’t extort, don’t take advantage of folks.

It’s fine to make money: John Wesley’s advise on money: Make All you Can, to Give all you can, to Do all the Good you can. But use money as tool and instrument of Goodness, blessing and grace rather than power, abuse or oppression.

Back to the Gifts: What gifts do we bring to Jesus for HIS birthday?

Side Note:  John the Baptizer were speaking with authority and connecting with people helping the to find their way closer to God and so they thought he might be the Messiah.

“Nope, I’m bringing Water, Jesus is bringing Fire.”

“You think I’m fired up for God, God is about to send his very own Firestorm. Look out, be on guard, get ready and keep asking for a status report.

Jesus wants, what I need.

What I need vs What I want.

I want a gift card from Krispy Kreme, what I need is accountable set of scales.

I want to be blessed and loved, what I need to is to be a blessing and love unconditionally.

I want protection and care, what I need to offer support, counsel and keep a watchful eye on someone.

I want freedom and grace, what I need is to let go of leverage, grudges, guilt and shame and model grace.

The gift I give is the gift I receive.

Jesus wants folks fed, clothed, friend-ed and connected in grace.. the John the Baptist Question:

AM I GIVING THAT GIFT as daily witness?

Do I still need to go shopping?

Have I been looking for the wrong deal?

As long as Im asking for the status report, I’m on the right track… Ask you neighbor: Have you gotten Jesus’s gift yet?

What have you got him today?

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Luke 3:1-6 “The King Is Coming Soon” RSUMC ADV: 2 20141206

 ElvisBWIn the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was ruler of Galilee, and his brother Philip ruler of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias ruler of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah, “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.'” [NRSV]

Prepare the way of the King: There is some confusion about who the real king is at Christmas? Is it Jesus or Santa. South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker pit Jesus and Santa clause in a boxing match and the victor is Brian Boitano who instructs everyone Christmas is a time to be good to one another. Smoothies all around the cult classic born.

But we all know better? We just want our manger and our presents. I have tried to share some Advent and pre-Christmas photo posts on Facebook each day. So far the one the has drawn the greatest comment has been the most misunderstood:

startrekstarwarsbatmanaNativityMost folks have thought i was promoting this as a creative, post modern spin on the traditional nativity. (When actually I’m totally offended by the collection.) But this passage is not so much about Elvis as King or Super Hero Movie action figures holding court in a fake moss-crusted manger set. Let’s get to the juicy part. Politics and Christmas.

Politics at Christmas? Jesus comes into the world to transform all powers.

I good friend of mine shared a personal commentary this week. She observed that there were two conversations going on this week. Christmas bargains and responses to the turmoil in Ferguson. It was interested to here to two radically different conversation interwoven without clashing until she brought them together.

Who wants to talk about politics at Christmas time?

But this is the very thing that John the Baptist, John the son of Zacharia, called attention to in the introduction of Jesus’ ministry.

Luke retells of John’s ministry of Advent, preparing for Christ’s arrival, in the context of the politics of the day.

The Emperor was Tiberius, [ a soldier become leader, opposed by others, wanted to Senate to make all the decisions, married for politics and was concerned a very unhappy person and leader. ]

Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, [ primary functions were military, but as representatives of the empire they were responsible for the collection of imperial taxes,[25] and also had limited judicial functions ]

Herod was ruler of Galilee, [ Born Arab, Became Jewish in Marriage, Gave himself the name, Herod the Great, massive building and taxes for his glory in the name of Rome. Killed many, fears everyone, 2000 body guards, pool in is house on the Med Sea. ]

herodpoolHerod’s brother Philip was ruler of the region of I-tur-aea and Tra-cho-nit-is, [ Self titled, Phillip the Tetriarch, married his niece to secure the family conquest of ‘dynasty’ ]

Ly-sani-as ruled Abilene, [ Arab city of Damascus, in Syria, little is know, but Luke uses the regional context as inclusive of powers ]

And the high priests in Jerusalem were An-nas and Cai-aphas,
[ The Annas family ruled the temple from 3 AD to 63 AD and Caiaphas married into the family, think of the church dynasties today ]

For us, in 2014

It would be like telling the Jesus story today in the context. When Obama was president, and Deal was Governor of Georgia, Haslam was Governon or Tennessee, Paul Johnson was coach at GTech, Mark Richt was a UGA, and Mike Watson was Bishop and Herzen Andone was DS in the Northwest District.

Why would set the Spiritual story in the context of political leaders?

Because the spiritual story is unfolding now.

Because the spiritual story in a context of current realitiy

Because the spiritual story is a contrasting story to the culture in which it is revealed.

Because to NOT know the reality of the context is to ignore the role and power of the message.

A call that Challenges Authority

Think of John the Baptizers Call to the Nations: Prepare the Way of the King, the Lord, the Authority

Q: What preparations would be made if we knew the president, governor, coach, bishop or DS were coming?

A: It kind of depends on what you think of their leadership or how you respect the office.

John is calling for God’s Children to prepare for a greater Authority..

Who is our Authority?

There are many levels in many different contexts. But who is responsible for shaping our view, motives and responses to the world in which we live?

Take the injustice of racism: In my doctoral studies I attended Gammon Seminary. It is a historically Black United Methodist seminary on the Atlanta University campus. At the time I started my degree, one third of my congregation persons who were Black, African-American, culturally different from my experience. My going to school was to try to learn and better understand so I could better connect, serve and lead as their pastor. When I choose the topic of addressing racism through the repetition of worship as a white pastor, I was quickly set straight by both students and faculty that that was not possible for a “little white boy” to do. I was told that fighting racism was the job of “the black man” and the “black church.” It took me several years to find an adviser who would work with me.

The political reality of racism is a real as ever. But the current charges in the news are not based on solving the problem, instead it continues to be a struggle for power and authority. It fall right in with John the Baptist’s call for making away for a NEW AUTHORITY. One that is more than black or white or yellow or red or brown or tan. BUT TO PAVE A NEW ROAD, old ways have to be torn away. The answers to the conversation of Ferguson, MO. are not impossible, but they call for our society to look at people as people and crime as crime. Folks on both sides of the conversation are not necessarily ready to do both simultaneously.

Have yourself a politically correct happy holiday.

Again I say, we can applaud the efforts of those individual and merchants who continue to state, Merry Christmas instead of Happy Holidays, but that is only an attempt at resurfacing a road that many have given up traveling in the first place.

John Preaches Prepare the LORD’s path, the KING’s road, Christ’s Way.

The Way

From the beginning the church was known as the “Way”:

  • The way to God,
  • the Way to live,
  • the way to follow Jesus,
  • the way to heaven,
  • the Way to salvation,
  • the Way to life eternal

The Lord’s Way… The way God is working in the world, through the Spirit and through those who follow.

  • I would make a case that it is not the government’s responsibility to feed the hungry: it is the church’s
  • It is not the government’s responsibility to clothe and house the homeless, it is the church’s,
  • It is not the government’s responsibility to comfort and help the widow, orphan and imprisoned, it is the church’s
  • It is not the government’s responsibility to provide health care, it is the church’s
  • It is not the government’s responsibility to provide moral instruction to broken families and expectant mothers, it is the church’s

This is a radical road, a difficult road, a path that has been long forgotten and forsaken…

The preparing for Christ coming is not getting our decorations, it is paving a new road, by a new authority, for a new world relationship with God.

Tell me I’m wrong and show me my miss reading and I will repent..

So you say: “Im overwhelmed.” If this is true, I don’t know where to start.

This advent we have started with the conversation of Prayer, the Study of the Word, and today we add Breaking Ground.

Ground Breaking

Isn’t it fun to break ground: to see the shovel of reality break through the dreams of hope and change.

That act is the physical and tangible involvement of putting ideas into motion.

Prayer

Study

Actively Break New Ground for Christ:

and Dig into reality.. get involved. get your hands dirty, get the sweat equity in what you believe..

If Christmas is a time for giving gifts, don’t just get a good deal, use the gift to be witness of JESUS’s love and grace.

If Christmas is a time for traditions of family and friends, use the occasions to make certain Make God known through them

If Christmas is a time for lights and songs, then make sure they clearly point to why we do and sing and remember.

The Season of Assumption is past…

We living in a time of paving, new break through of God’s authority… and we hold the shovels!

And God is coming Soon…

Advent is an annual experience of asking ourselves: If Jesus were coming in a month, what would be different about my life and faith and living… and act accordingly.

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