Archive for September, 2015

Luke 9.38-50 Avoiding Firey Worms RSUMC 20150927

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John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.” But Jesus said, “Do not stop him; for no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. Whoever is not against us is for us. For truly I tell you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ will by no means lose the reward. “If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea. If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life maimed than to have two hands and to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame than to have two feet and to be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to stumble, tear it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and to be thrown into hell, where their worm never dies, and the fire is never quenched. “For everyone will be salted with fire. Salt is good; but if salt has lost its saltiness, how can you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.” [NRSV]

Hey, Who cares about the Pope, we are not Catholic

Jesus is more concerned about actions and relationships than titles and divisions

The Popes visit was somewhat historic, this guy is Pope and he had never traveled to the super power of nations.

There were surely folks at the Vatican who were saying:

we do t need to go on some foreign mission when we have so many folks in need here in Vatican City, Italy and Europe

the trip is a waste of money, they have churches they can take care of this themselves

just stay here and send the, a letter or post a YouTube video

The Pope Models our work as Christians

The Hierarchy of he church made sure the Pope had audiences with leaders, congress, the United Nations and benefactors of the church.

The Pope interrupted all the plans each day to make small difference in the lives of individuals.

Dont ignore the witness of Christ through the Pope

What was going on in the US Thursday? 8:00pm

  • Thursday night football 3.2 million
  • Bill ORiley 2.7M watching the news
  • WWE Smackdown 2.3M watch the important professional wrestling
  • 2.1 m watched mountain men on the history channel
  • 1.9 watched the new episode of ‘ castle’
  • 12 and a half million citizen age 2 and older were focused on watching TV
  • 23 Million were estimated to be online

Popes modeling servanthood and we are media driven

2. If your not going to be modeling Christ, certainly don’t lead other astray

A) the old Miletone torture treatment: it’s a horrible statement from Jesus:

B) mangle the human body rather than leads the little/young in faith.

c) if you lead folks away from God by out example: the ultimate punishment is A hell never dying worms and flames that are an eternal torture.

If Jesus the Prince of Peace is working about all sorts of torture what’s going on here ?.

What must we do to avoid these terrible atrocities.

“Be salt”

make grains of difference

feed someone and tell the, why you are feeding them for Jesus, not your salvation

clothe someone and tell them how God is working I their presence not making you safe

visit someone, befriend someone and you build a relationship of Jesus with us that is genuine and real

co fort and heal as Christ working and you share the work of Christ in Suffering terror filled world that is still afraid of red moons and and threats of war.

Bottom line

what will it take to get serious about our faith?

for some, you are already on that journey

for some, you think your done, but you are not

for others, you Think it’s not your calling, that’s for others, you feel too busy, to weary, to thin, to full, to committed

A: will it take loosing your limb to see that you need Jesus

B will it take your death or someone else to see your life needs Jesus at the core

C will you eternally seek what worms can eat and fire can burn to find what is actually spiritual and actually eternal?

Lets help each other, I forage one another rather an ignore or scare each other.

Cardiologist said eat little to no salt. Jesus said, be the salt.

be the flavor

be the preservative

be the difference in one persons life of faith… And you will not go wrong

 

 

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Romans 3.21-24 The Persistence of Leaven Clouds Our Heaven RSUMC 20150920

IMG_2862.JPGBut now, apart from law, the righteousness of God has been disclosed, and is attested by the law and the prophets, the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction, since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. [NRSV]

Sin is a friend to us all.

  • Even if we don’t invite sin to dinner, it shows up at the table.
  • Even if we don’t plan for brokenness to break in, it will.
  • Even if we begin to build up defense against the darkness of evil, it persists.
  • Even if we had just said “no” a thousand times before, sin creeps into our hearts, minds and actions.
  • It claims friendship that we might never want: So that even our inaction can give witness of sin’s power.

What are we to do?

Our holy meal, of bread and wine, instituted by Jesus for the disciples and for “all who have sinned and fallen short,” is our remedy.

Think back to the dinner that first communion night. Jesus had gathered with friends to celebrate the Passover remembrance. The would have followed generations of Hebrews ritual and instruction since Moses at the tenth plague against Pharaoh in Egypt.

The blood of a sacrificial lamb was placed on the on the lentil, brushing it with the top of the doorway as a sign that those within that house were safe, protected, to be passed over. Thus the name, “Passover” itself remains a promise that God 1) knows the power of sin and death and 2) God is ready to provide a way of salvation for those willing to claim it.

Today I invite you to think about the stickiness of sin. It might start small or we might jump in over our heads, either way, we continue to see it’s power and presence among us.

The starting place to deal with sin, is with ourselves.

Long before we talk about the evils in the world, we look at where we water down goodness/righteousness, God word and presence to make it easier or more convenient for us individually.

Sin creeps in more than diving in  :Shade of Grey

Love your neighbor… as long as I’m around them I will act neighborly and polite.

Feed the poor, clothe the naked, visit the prisoner,….. as long as they deserve it, or not too much trouble.

Forgive your enemy… What good would that do?

Sell all of your possessions…. after I take care of everything else first.

Turn the other cheek….When the other guy goes first.

Don’t worry about the future…. Are we supposed to sell all and go sit on the street corner?

The Happy Meal: Why is Communion the powerful Remedy

The cup connects us to the sacrifice that Jesus made as an exchange on our behalf. Jesus paid our debt.

The Bread, is about dealing with the sticky, glutinous, power of leaven: Meet you in the broken crumbs of sin. Jesus is there for you. (Communion served in our brokenness)

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Luke 15:1-10 “one has value” 

 
Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.” So he told them this parable: “Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.

“Or what woman having ten silver coins, if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” [NRSV]

This value and power of the one to the whole. 

On this anniversary of 9/11, we remember the violent and hateful actions of a few as well as heroic individual acts of rescue and sacrifice that make up the memories of this day I our national history. 

Their is no ‘I’ in team

But there is in ‘win’. Every coach I have ever heard has relied on the “no I” speech to promote the team solidarity. While everyone has a roll to play in making a team succeed, there is one pesos who kicks the ball, one person carries the ball, one person unleaded the ball to the one receiver. A more true statement is that “the I’s have it”. God chooses to make is unique and yet interdependent.   

The value is in both the parts AND the whole. Each sheep in the shepherd care is important. The one roughy and the one obedient.    

Gods loving grace is poured out for the just and the unjust. All are in need for we cannot save ourselves.

Therefore: reach to help one person each day and the kingdom will be in your presence.  Presently your one act of grace gives witness of Christ tot the world. 

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Mark 7.24-37 Racism: “How about them Dawgs” 20150905, Facetimed from COS to RSUMC

From there he set out and went away to the region of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know he was there. Yet he could not escape notice,but a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately heard about him, and she came and bowed down at his feet.Now the woman was a Gentile, of Syrophoenician origin. She begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter.He said to her, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.”But she answered him, “Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.”Then he said to her, “For saying that, you may go–the demon has left your daughter. So she went home, found the child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.Then he returned from the region of Tyre, and went by way of Sidon towards the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. They brought to him a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech; and they begged him to lay his hand on him.He took him aside in private, away from the crowd, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spat and touched his tongue.Then looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.”And immediately his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. Then Jesus ordered them to tell no one; but the more he ordered them, the more zealously they proclaimed it.They were astounded beyond measure, saying, “He has done everything well; he even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak. [NRSV]

The Politics of Racism:

It is in influx of racially motivated incidents AND the fires fueled by political factions that our United Methodist Council of Bishops has asked us to address the topic of Racism this Sunday. They ask us to 1) acknowledge that racism is a sin and to 2) affirm the church’s roll in eradicating Racism is to be a priority. I find this passage that is typically remembered for its emphasis by Jesus on miraculous healing, is an interesting perspective on dealing with assumptions and prejudice, regarding racial divisions.

The passage is about seeing and hearing Racism.

First, the passage is about Jesus healing people from different political and geographical regions.

Gentiles of Syrophoenician heritage, Folks from Tyre, Sidon and the Decapolis regions.

We generally focus on the healing miracles and skip over the very thing we need to hear and see in the passage:

Might Jesus be a racist?

What?  This might be an uncomfortable question for Christians to ask given this text.
Our immediate response likely is, “Of course not! Jesus couldn’t possibly have been racist!”
 What are you talking about?
But Jesus’ conversation with the Syrophoenician woman seems to raise the question. In it, Jesus calls the woman, who was desperate for a miracle for her child, “a dog”, a dehumanizing ethnic slur common at the time. No matter what theological tap dance we might create to avoid this uncomfortable truth, eventually, we have to face this stark truth.
Jesus uttered a racial slur. “Dog’s are not worthy.” Blessing is not for you, you are a female dog.” We have a word for that term.
If we only knew Jesus was talking with a women, we might Just call his statement Sexist.
But since she is first identified by her race and as a women. Its a double whammy.
What in the world is going on here?
 (Have you ever read or studied this passage? It is troubling but crucial to address.
Part of the difficulty of this passage is that as Christians,
we want Jesus to be the simple,
clean-cut,
white or black with absolutely no shades of grey
Jesus must have easy answer to all our problems and to all of society’s problems.
When in fact: 100% x 2 is not 200%
The passages show us that Jesus is 100% God who can heal beyond any medicine and all limits.
This passage shows us that Jesus is 100% human. A man who was raised in a culture, filled with real people who struggle to choose good from bad and right from wrong.
This passage reveals the complexities of personal and institutional racism, it is much easier to think of Jesus as being above them all and loving all people regardless of skin color or culture of origin.
But that is not what we want to see and hear from Jesus, but, “Whoop, there it is.
And yet, he says: You are a dog: You are not legitimate, you are not worthy, you are less than human, as a woman and as a Canaanite.
 This does not fit our picture of Jesus at all:
After all, that’s what our children’s song teaches us. Jesus loves the little children. All the children of the world. Red and yellow, black and white. They are precious in his sight.
But how about them Dawgs?
Does Jesus love them too? Is every team unworthy of support?
Here we are in the start of SEC Football season kicking off and you are bring racism in religion and sports into
The difficulty of this passage particularly for white Christians is that we want Jesus to be colorblind.
We want Jesus to be colorblind because that’s what we want to be or think we should be. But, in truth, at least in the Gospel of Mark, Jesus is anything but colorblind.
In fact, and not being part of the solution to racism or ethnic prejudice, Jesus seems to be very much part of the problem, according to this story.
So What?
So what does it mean, exactly, that the Son of God, the Incarnation, the Christ, the Second Person of the Trinity, utters a racial slur?
Because that is exactly what Jesus does in his dealing with the Syrophoenician, Canaanite heritage woman.
When confronted with the gentile pagan in this story, he explains that his message and ministry are for Israelites only, a comment of ethnic exclusion and prejudice that calls to mind a similar refrain – “whites only” – that is part of our history not too long ago.
It wouldn’t be fair, Jesus explains, to take the banquet ready for his people – the children, the humans – and give it to gentiles – the dogs, the less than human.
He is “Just a Joking” trying to get someone’s attention?
A some scholars whistle past this ghastly put-down by explaining that perhaps Jesus called the woman a dog with a twinkle in his eye, as if he winked at her knowingly to say he didn’t really believe her to be a dog. Like she was in on the joke when he uttered this well-known racial slur.
Others emphasize that the word for dog that Jesus uses isn’t the typical strong language usually associated with this racial slur. They explain that the word Jesus uses takes the diminutive form, implying perhaps a beloved pet or a lap dog, and therefore takes the sting out of the slur.
Of course, white Americans have had their own diminutive versions of racial slurs to imply endearment. Still unconvinced?
Look at the picture
Perhaps we can put this story in better context, our current context. Imagine the Syrophoenician woman as an African-American woman who comes to Jesus, a white male, seeking to be healed.
In response, Jesus dehumanized her, calls her an animal, a female dog. She is coming to Jesus for healthcare for her daughter and calls her a welfare abusing mother of a litter that has not paid taxes to cover the care.
If those slurs are too harsh, choose a different one. Does a more kind-sounding name make the sting go away?
I will always remember my Grandmother’s conversation with my Grandfather. He called the people he hired to help around the farm: Negros. My Grandmother corrected him repeatedly, Now Charlie they preferred to be called Coloreds. The terminology did not change the foundational relationship. And similarly, I don’t think Jesus’ diminutive case of “dog” in this text softens the bite of his own racism either.
So what are we to make of this conversation?
Clearly, racism is a sin, an evil, systemic sin which Christians everywhere should stand against. But how are we to do stand against racism when our own Lord and Savior has so clearly uttered such a heinous racial slur?
Does it make Jesus a racist? Does it make him a sinner? What flag would Jesus have raised to this woman?
Q: Does this passage change the way you  think of Jesus?
This, I think, is the great lesson of the Syrophoenician woman:
It teaches us about Jesus and it teaches us the dynamics of racism, of how even the best of humanity — Jesus himself — can get caught up in systems of oppression, in a culture of supremacy.
I Slice of Real Life
As a good Jew, Jesus would have been reared to give thanks daily that he was born a Jew, not a Gentile, a man and not a woman. Jesus could not help but become entangled by such a sexist and racist snare.
His statement reflected his heritage, his culture, his up bringing, his community understanding of men and women.
Jesus, given his embedded culture, could not be colorblind. And neither can we.
But being caught in such evil, however, does not make one an overt racist. It is what happens in the moments afterwards that makes that determination. How we respond, when confronted with the narratives of the oppressed, reveal who we truly are.
Do we continue to ignore or deny these realities of oppression? Mock them?
Continue to brush them aside as dogs? less than human?
Or do we, like Jesus, do the miraculous and listen to them, be changed by the power of the truth of they are speaking?
When this woman, in boldness, confronts Jesus and his racist, sexist slur, Jesus listens, and hears. It is the only time recorded in the gospels where Jesus changes his mind.
“But even the dogs get table scraps,” she replies, a complex response often required of the member of the “lesser race” who stands up to dismissive racism even while accepting its instituted, ugly, dehumanizing order.
I heard, for the first time.
Jesus is astounded, the holy wind knocked out of him. A moment before, she was but a dog to him.
 In the next, he listens to her and sees her for what she truly is, a woman of great faith, a moral exemplar, his teacher.
Jesus does the most difficult thing for those of us born into the unfortunate privilege of dominance or prejudice.
He listens. And allows himself to be fundamentally changed.
The very next healing miracle Jesus conducts is to open a man’s ears to here.
 
When it happens, when we finally have ears to hear, we will never be the same, will never be able to listen to the lies of the dominant oppressors the same way again.
For me, this happened as a student at Gammon Seminary at the ITC at Atlanta University. Having grown up in the racist culture of the Deep South, I was serving a congregation that had about a quarter of its members we in bi-racial families and my reference to serve and lead as pastor was lacking
I found myself disarmed in my doctoral  class, by the students sharing stories of what it meant to be black in the church in the south and a Christian. We listened to one another’s faith journey stories, by the reflections of my classmates, (by being the a minority as a white person) they heard what it was to be white from a real person seeking God and I heard what it was to be black from real people seeking God.. It happened listening to the stories of Atlanta-area ministers explain the realities of being Black in urban America. It happened as I learned to be quiet, to listen and to allow myself to be changed. I also shared my journey that did not necessarily fit their assumptions about the power of the “whites.”
I also had a well-respected faculty member in the area of Christian worship dismiss my dissertation agenda of addressing Racism in Worship, resigning from being my committee chair because she said she wanted to know, and I quote, “Why do you think a little white boy has any business teaching the black community anything about racism? I believe you have it backwards.”
I knew I was not little.
I was not a boy, and
I was not fitting her definition of racism and its potential for resolution.
I knew God has a better way.
First: Processing, honestly what we hear:
Second: Be willing to change our hearts and minds when we experience oppression.
You see, when Jesus listened to the Syrophoenician woman, he heard not only the truth of her reality. He also heard the brokenness of his own reality.
Both must happen to tackle racism. We must be able to hear the realities of the oppressed and disenfranchised as true. This, in and of itself, can be difficult for those of us who are members of a majority race or gender, to accept a foreign reality without qualifications, to listen without interrupting, to hear without reworking their experiences into the dominant cultural narratives embedded within us.
But we must also be able to hear the brokenness of our own realities and of our own stories.
Things to note:
Racism is about power and can be abused both ways.
The Goal is not colorblind, but to find ways to appreciate one another, even if we offend each other.
The church, by Jesus example, is the agent of transformation of racism.
I would offer this passage needs to be read, studied, shared and brought into life before political correct politics claims another task of the church.
 
So, in the end, Jesus’ conversation offers us perhaps the most powerful story for those of us in majority classes as we stand against racism. It compels us to listen to the narratives of the oppressed we devalue implicitly. It requires us to listen to our own prejudice.
It asks us to do the unthinkable: to own our racism and to be changed by society’s most marginalized.
Having followed Jesus this far, perhaps we can do no better than he did, and that is to learn to listen to those with such different realities than mine and to let that new reality change my reality from– who I am and who I will become through living out our relationships with God together.

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