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Archive for February, 2016

Luke 13.1-9 Lent3 Bearing Fruit Let’s Get Figgy 20160228

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At that very time there were some present who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. He asked them, “Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were worse sinners than all other Galileans? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as they did. Or those eighteen who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them—do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others living in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did.” Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and found none. So he said to the gardener, “See here! For three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree, and still I find none. Cut it down! Why should it be wasting the soil?’ He replied, “Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig around it and put manure on it. If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’ “ [NRSV]

Shootings, terror incidences, oppresses and abuses!! It feels as if each day brings terrible news of violence and tragedies. We either struggle to renew our claim to hope or add to the calluses built on the previous tsunamis of chaos and generations of apathy.

But from these witnesses of evil we look and hope for the good. We hear people ask:

  • Is the racism of the systems that cause police to unjustly do their jobs or is it the lawlessness of thug culture to blame? Which is the evil and which is the good?
  • Are we to blame drugs and alcohol, those who produce and traffic them, or those who use them for the death and mayhem associated with their abuse, or those who stand by and watch to only direct blame? Which is the evil and which is the good?
  • Are those killed as victims of holy wars made especially righteous for their martyrdom or are they only casualties of evil. Where is the good? Are we safe? Are we Saved?
  • Why do bad things happen to good people?
  • Why do bad people seem to get away with anything?
  • Why do the good die young?
  • Did those faithful and innocent folks loose salvation because their deaths were tainted with the evil acts of an oppressive government? This question, like those above are put to Jesus for understanding:

A Question, An Answer. A Warning, and a Parable.

Jesus is asked a question. He gives a straightforward answer. He adds a warning and teaches with a parable.

  • Is the life of a faithful person of more value than the life of a criminal?
  • Is the life of a victim more important than the life of an oppressor?
  • Is the life of an innocent person of more worth than the existence of a thug?
  • Is the life of a politician worth less than a… well you know what I mean.

Jesus gives an answer:

Are you ready? The answer is.. No!

Not complicated, not filtered, not qualified, no need for interpretation. Just, No.

No the life of the innocent, the victim, the faithful one is no less valued to God than the life of the criminal, the oppressor, or the thug.

  • Which leads to Jesus’s warning.
  • Our salvation, value/existence are connected to our relationship with God in this life.
  • WARNING: Worry about repenting more than blaming.
  • Worry about grace instead of rules and laws

Focus on God instead of yourself or anything that leads you away from God.

Crazy Questions: This warning leads us to ask questions:

  • Are the Jews Going to Heaven?
  • Are the Muslim Lost?
  • If someone has not been baptized are they saved?

Answer is not about words and thoughts as much as it is about actions

Jesus answers with a WARNING:

  • Were they trying to live a life that leads to God?
    • Can you look at their lives and see God at work in them?
  • Were they working with the hope of finding God?
    • Were they working to assure themselves an entrance ticket or a relationship with God?
  • Was God an add-on to a host of things they did?
    • Was God the reasons they woke up live and lied down to rest?
  • Are you more worried about what you can’t control
    • or more assured with what God CAN control?

The Warning: Don’t live or die without repenting.

REPENTANCE: Turning one’s life toward God’s heart.

  • Repentance is not about the words we speak and the thoughts we think
  • Repentance is the fruit of a searching heart
  • Repentance is the evidence of our struggle toward God and overcoming evil.
  • Repentance is active, observable and gives at witness to others and encouragement to ourselves.

The Parable: Jesus uses a time of worry, fear and evil as a time for faith and fruitfulness.

The Fig Tree

It should be cut down, but it is not, because the gardener has patience and grace

The prescription is for intentional work, nutritious effort and waiting for fruit.

The Goal is fruit

  • The Process is Grace
  • The Danger is to
  • Not work
  • Not Study, Struggle and Share
  • To end up empty

The Challenge:

  • This is a day to work on the relationship
  • This is a day to study, pray, serve, forgive, love, teach, question, grow
  • This is a day to look for the presence of God bearing fruilt
  • If there is not fruit, the get to work.

BECAUSE: No fruit waists the soil, wastes the trust, wastes the grace, wastes the time.

So What?

  • The question is not about are we saved?
  • The question is God’s presence obvious in my life, thought, words, and actions?
  • The question is what am I waiting for, if not for God?
  • Are the things and thoughts that consume me, bringing God closer to me and closer to God’s people, or not?
  • If you don’t see the fruit, get to work, add some fellowship, worship, study and service and wait for God to work through God’s process.

Begin by the act of spiritual inventory:

Do I need to repent? Do I need God? Want God? Have I got it covered?

Ask your neighbor: Where do you see God at work in my life? Tell your neighbor the truth because their salvation weighs in the balance.

Or keep to yourself, mind your own business, assume the best and stay away from your enemies the best you can… that is not what Jesus said.

Jesus said, the harvest is coming, surly. Where’s fruit? (Where’s the beef? dated, ref)

—–Ramblings

-When we gather with one another at the funeral home or around the pews at times of shared grieving, we struggle for comfort and perspective and utter questions

-As each day grows closer to the November election, the shouts and rants of politicians and publicists point rear-view fingers of blame, current insults of shame, and future dreams of promise filled salvation for those on their side. Some are compelled to take sides, while others retreat into the camps of apathy and indifference.

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Luke 13.31-35 Casting Evil and Curing Relationships 20160221 RSUMC

JesusGang At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.”  He said to them, “Go and tell that fox for me, “Listen, I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my work. Yet today, tomorrow, and the next day I must be on my way, because it is impossible for a prophet to be killed outside of Jerusalem.’ Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! See, your house is left to you. And I tell you, you will not see me until the time comes when you say, “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.’ ”  [NRSV]
Jesus Agenda: Casting out evil, Curing the broken, and finishing his work on the third day.

      A fore telling of Jesus’ arrest, conviction and crucifixion are addressed by the disciples and Jesus.Jesus is talking back. Calling Herod by his action, a fox, cunning, callus and calculated. Skills of self preservation for the fox. Jesus’ mission, in Luke’s Gospel, requires him to be back in Jerusalem, positioned for the crucifixion.The Agenda cannot be stopped by Herod or any evil. But that will not stop evil things from happening.KEY:

God’s presence cannot be taking away, but neither are we to expect evil to disappear in the world.Prophet’s Job is Seldom Appreciated.

    Jesus points to the difficult task of being a prophet.The Prophet says nothing new. The prophet reminds us of the rails that our collective train should be running.The Prophet reminds us that God desires up to be with God.Jesus is more than any prophet. Jesus is God showing up first hand, the real deal, the actual.Jesus’s lament is how the necessary role of the prophet has never been without attack and often takes one’s life.We have at least two prophetic voices for our capital city:

I would suggest that our two leading political candidates (S&T) have tapped into the telling the people what the want to be reminded of, but their trains are running in opposing directions. Neither of them claim to be God’s prophets, but folks are desperate for a prophet and will follow until the find the prophet’s flaws or the prophet’s message becomes too personal. Mud-Slinging Campaign: (Interesting to hear from Jesus and John the Baptizer) Herod, was the secular leaders and he was a ‘fox’. The Sanhedrin were the religious leaders and they were a brood of vipers.  God desires us to be together.There is a VERY powerful moment of self-disclosure and God’s heart being revealed in these words of Jesus outside of Jerusalem:The Mother Hen and her brood: How I wish my chicks would trust me. (Not just after they are in trouble, not after they are lost to evil, not just when faced with their own mortality, BUT when there was time to “walk together in the garden”) Remember the relationship with Adam and Eve, where God would walk and talk with them face-to-face, and explore the garden along side with them (Gen 3.8)The Prophets role is to remind God’s people of the relationship of Good and Evil. Helping folks remember what side of the fence they are too live.

    Are we people who put God first?Are we a people who put God 2nd or third or last?Are we people who honor our parents and their generation?Are we a people who lie, cheat, steal and murder?Are we people who choose our own agenda or God’s?Are we people who hunger and thirst to be correct or forgivenAre we people who satisfied with God or we want more?Are we people who listen to snakes and foxes?Are we people who will call out what it is evil, broken and diseased?Are we people who will turn to God or Government to define us?

These are the prophet’s questions: What are our answers?The Declaration:Blessed are those who come in the name of the Lord.

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Luke 4.1-13 An Opportune Time 20160214 RSUMC

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Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing at all during those days, and when they were over, he was famished. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.” Jesus answered him, “It is written, “One does not live by bread alone.’ ” Then the devil led him up and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And the devil said to him, “To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” Jesus answered him, “It is written, “Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’ ” Then the devil took him to Jerusalem, and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written, “He will command his angels concerning you, to protect you,’  and “On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’ ” Jesus answered him, “It is said, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’ ” When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time. [NRSV]

Spiritual Retreat

  • Not a business trip,
  • Not a vacation,
  • Not a luxury,
  • Not even a mission trip,
  • Before Doing No Harm and Doing all the Good, it is the maturing of the Spirit of God within us.
  • Studying, prayer, fasting, listening and waiting for God.
  • But a necessary beginning point for ministry and faith.

Work of Nurturing Spirit within Us.

If you ever ask, “why am I so weary, worried or stressed?” think about the last time you devoted serious time to spiritual retreat.

  1. The first lesson Jesus models is to be a strong spiritual person we need serious time for spiritual preparation.

But there is more.

Not only do we more often say to ourselves: “I don’t have time and energy for spiritual training, I did that years ago, or I will do that later.”

But when we invest the time, is not going to keep evil from confronting us.

We are preparing ourselves when evil, temptation, hopelessness comes our way.

 2. The second lesson Jesus models is that Spiritual Training doesn’t help us avoid evil, it helps us confront evil and temptation.

Spiritual Training makes us ready for

  • On the last day of a month and a half spiritual journey, Jesus is hungry. Jesus is wrestling with acceptance. Jesus is contemplating his use of power.
  • The scope of the temptations takes him from Judea to Jerusalem to the ends of the earth, thus matching the three journey of Jesus’s ministry that Luke will recount in this gospel.
  • The weight of the three temptations ranges from small to medium to larger.
  • The reality of the three temptations was personal to Jesus’s condition, opportunity and position.
  • The thing about dealing with temptation for us is that it is equally personal, timely and as dangerous for us as it was for Jesus.

The SCENE: Evil shows us in our life and says: You are not getting what you deserve. You are not loved, attractive,

Fairness, Belonging, and Responsibility.

3. Jesus models listening to the voice of evil. We can’t live to hide and avoiding temptation. Jesus could not and neither can we.

On three particular fronts, Jesus is tempted.

  1. How far can I lie to myself (Jesus was physically hungry, but his training was to trust God to provide.)
  2. How can I fool my family and friends (Jesus knew God would provide, His training was to test himself, trust God and not test God.)
  3. How can do what I want, use my family and friends and have the world at my feet. (If you and I have the power of God, how would alter physical and how far to test.)

Jesus doesn’t believe the twisted truth, lies, fears and threats, but he listens to know what the issue behind the words.

The devil asks him to use his authority to serve himself.

  1. He was hungry, justifiable.
  2. He was at the end of the journey, cut some slack, not going to be legalistic. and
  3. No one will find out, only you and I will know.

The devil was asking:

  1. serve yourself first
  2. you can bend the lines
  3. It’s all about you.

If we listen to the lies, twisted words, fears and threats of temptation, NOT BELEIVEING THEM but hearing what is at stake we can make better choices about faithfulness.

After listening Jesus speaks/acts:

4. The response Jesus models for us is to trust scripture to speak to us and tell our actions.

With every temptation, Jesus draws on scripture to tell and frame

  • One does not live by bread alone
  • Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him
  • Do not put the Lord your God, to the test.

40 days of Bible study, prayer and spiritual training, gives the opportunity to get familiar with scripture to allow God to speak through us, to face evil face-on, with the authority of God.

DANGER: It’s not using scripture as sarcasm to cut down our enemies, it is allowing God to speak to our enemies and let God deal with them.

God speaks the Love, the Truth, the Power, the Life, the Hope. Let temptation deal with God.

How does Jesus deal with evil

  • Spiritual Training
  • Preparing to Face and not Avoid Evil/Temptation
  • Listening for the truth about the voice of Temptation
  • Speaking God’s word instead of My words
  1. Take these next forty days to read the Bible, as much as you can study
  2. Take the next forty days to pray for the church, your faith, all the politics of the world, all the economies, all the fears
  3. Take the next forty days to as the framework as a training program. Service, fasting, forgiving, singing, etc.
  4. Take the next forty days to name, name, write down the things that temp and test our faith personally. seek out verses that speak to them.
  5. Take the next forty days to prepare for Christ to live, speak and love through you.
  6. Isaiah 40:28 Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable.

When I face temptation: I need to hear God speak through

Romans 8: 31-39 If God is for us, who can be against us?  He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?  Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”  No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,  neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

God is with us, in Jesus, in 30 AD in 2016 AD, in politics and poverty, in school and prisons, in church and walmart, GOD IS WITH US, ALWAYS.

Isaiah 40:28 Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. 

I’m as fickle, afraid and as vulnerable as grass blowing in the wind, and so are the opinions, polls, and agendas, but GOD IS EVERLASTING, GOD, is not tired, weary or uninterested. GOD WAS, IS AND WILL BE.

Philippians 4:13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

I can’t do anything on my own, but if my strength and endurance are in God’s, I can do all things.

 

 

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Psalm 84 Claiming A Place with God 20160207 RSUMC

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How lovely is your dwelling place, O LORD of hosts! My soul longs, indeed it faints for the courts of the LORD; my heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God. Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, at your altars, O LORD of hosts, my King and my God. Happy are those who live in your house, ever singing your praise. Selah (two of 74)

Happy are those whose strength is in you, in whose heart are the highways to Zion. As they go through the valley of Baca they make it a place of springs; the early rain also covers it with pools. They go from strength to strength; the God of gods will be seen in Zion. O LORD God of hosts, hear my prayer; give ear, O God of Jacob! Selah

Behold our shield, O God; look on the face of your anointed. For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than live in the tents of wickedness. For the LORD God is a sun and shield; he bestows favor and honor. No good thing does the LORD withhold from those who walk uprightly. O LORD of hosts, happy is everyone who trusts in you. [NRSV]

Text Notes:

A psalm, a hymn for worship, to be sung by the choir/praise team. Not a congregational hymn but more of a solo or at least for the choir, [psalm for *Korah]

Denote 2 of the 74 Selah references are in this one psalm/hymn.

 

VERSE 1

God’s Temple is our Refuge, heart’s home

Song begins remembering the temple/tabernacle is beautiful.

My heart longs to be there, my bones ache to sing for joy and know God is alive.

 

Secondly, God’s house is a place where everyone is welcomed. Even the least little bird (swallow) finds a home at the temple. Who wants the swallow? Bugs, mites, disease, messy? But God’s house has room for all of us.

Bottom line of verse one: People find God at the temple and love to worship when there are in the magnificent gates. Come and find God present in the sanctuary. The ornate nature of the space reminds us of God’s presence and our belonging.

SELAH, pause to praise, breathe and find God with us.

 

VERSE 2

Finding God outside the walls.

It makes us happy to know God is near, even when we are not in this place…

It is a blessing to know God is with us, even when we are not at church…

When you are at home or your place of safety, all is well. You make it through the day back to base, you can breath easy because you are thankful for all that is “home”.

 

Perspective is looking at the “place of comfort” when you are not there.

The Valley of Baca (Weeping)

Instead of focusing on the being lost, focus on the being at home, where you are.

 

Happy are those who know the way home. But what of those who have lost their way… those who don’t know where to turn? It can be a comfort, that even though we have gone astray, we know the way home, the way back. the GPS coordinates match up.

 

Those who know the Strength of the Lord, That’s Us.

 

BUT VERSE 3

WHEN ALL I HAVE IS A SHIELD

What about those who are outside or

those who have lost their way, or

those who have not heard?

 

Imagine hiding from the struggles, turmoil and threats in life, picture yourself out in the open, a shield is a protection but only on one side and the arrows are hurling in from every direction: money, hunger, rejection, fear, shame, sin, etc.

 

When we realize we are far from the walls of safety, belonging and peace.

A place between the House of God and the tents of wickedness.

Our place is between, bridging the gap.

Our Space is halfway in and halfway out.

 

Claiming Space in God

Dwelling Place

Happiness is : Content/at Peace/at one/ complete

Shield: temporary help, but we need to claim/reclaim temple life, when there is no temple.

Door Keepers: The greatest service is to be one of the choir members of Korahites, sing so someone will hear and find their way to God.

 

Happy are those who trust in God

God’s House has room for us all

Someone is living in the valley of weeping adversity

Our place is not in the temple, but out singing, knowing/remember the comfort of home, but reaching out to be shield

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