Archive for December, 2016

Titus 3:4-7 ‘Living the Good News’

strawberrycheesebiscuitRemind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show every courtesy to everyone. For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, despicable, hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy, through the water of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit. This Spirit he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. The saying is sure. I desire that you insist on these things, so that those who have come to believe in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works; these things are excellent and profitable to everyone. [NRSV]
My mother, Vicky, made wonderful cheese biscuits. I tried for years to replicate the recipe without success, but finally found where she had written down the recipe I was able to make them at will. My waistline can testify to the accuracy of the formula.
The recipe: Vicky’s Cheesy Biscuits
  • Preheat the oven to 410*F
  • 4 level cups of White Lilly’s self-rising flour
  • 1/2 cup of Crisco all vegetable shorting
  • After the dough begins to form add
  • 4 cups of coarsely grated extra sharp cheddar cheese
  • approximately 2/3 cup of whole milk, base on temperature and altitude
  • Mix by floured hands or in KitchenAid with three hole mixing blade
  • Roll with a wooden rolling pin on floured cheese cloth
  • Cut with a medium size round cutter
  • Bake for 9 to 11 minutes based on temperature and altitude
  • Brush tops with melted butter to taste
  • Make enough for one sitting for a family of four with friends.
Now comes the gravy on top: Serve hot with Land-O-Lakes butter and strawberry preserves
Titus 3 is a letter for the faith seeking folks like us who have gathered here to know the ingredients for Christian living plus the how-to enjoy and use them together for maximum benefit.
The Christmas story reminds us how much God wants to be in a collective relationship with us. The ‘gravy’ is that God is willing to love us, save us, and be with us.
We live in a world that knows more information that we can process, but too many have lost faith in the power of Christmas story. They might remember the ingredients, but how and why to combine and used them for our own good is our mission to share.

Advice for 2017 from Paul through Titus

  • Trust and Obey
  • Ready for Good
  • Avoid Fussing
  • Be Gentle
  • Courtesy to everyone

Q: How different 2016 would have been if we Trusted God, obeyed authorities, lived expecting Good, avoided fussing, acting out of gentleness, and showed courtesy to all?

But How? Jesus is How!

The Good News for 2017: But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy, through the water of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit. This Spirit he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

Know the story:

  1. God is good, loving and kind
  2. God showed up as Jesus
  3. Through Jesus, God saves us from sin

So What, Footnotes:

  1. Note 1: God’s actions have nothing to do with our worthiness
    1. Tell you neighbor: “I’m not worthy. You’re not worthy. We are not worth it, but God loves us anyway.
  2. Note 2: through baptism, we find the rebirth and renewal of God’s gift through the Holy Spirit.
    1. Ask you neighbor: “I want the Holy Spirit to make me new.” “Fix me, forgive me, make me whole!”
  3. Summary: The Spirit is poured out on us, richly, through Jesus who makes us whole through God’ s grace which makes us kin to Jesus, belonging to the ongoing work of God from now and forever.
    1. Join hands with your neighbor and lift hands to Jesus: “I have holes in my heart, in my track record and I want you to make me holy, whole and new.

Memory Verse for 2017

The Good News for 2017: But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy, through the water of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit. This Spirit he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. [Titus 3.4-7]

Challenge

  • By the end of the year, you will know this very my memory, you will know it by heart.
  • By the end of the year, you will learn to share this verse with many other people.
  • By the end of 2017, you will be known as a witness of Titus 3.4-7
  • By the end of the year, you will experience what it means to be gravy coated and ready for the heavenly banquet that we share here on earth and for eternity.

 

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Christmas Sunday Luke 2:1-21 20161225

In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!” When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. After eight days had passed, it was time to circumcise the child; and he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb. [NRSV]

The Appropriate Response

One fun Christmas movie is “The Holiday.” This romcom by Nancy Meyers about two women on opposite sides of the globe who swap houses only to discover that a change of address can really change their lives. At one point the character played by Jude Law professes his love to Cameron Diaz’s character, oops spoiler aleart. To which Cameron is speahless. Jude’s line is “Well I guess if your first response is not, ‘I love you’ then..”
Likewise the Christmas story, a grand love story, gives us the gifts of hope, joy, peace and love in Jesus Christ. What is our first response?

Shock and Awe

The first response to experiencing the blinding lights and thundering chorus of angelic choirs turning the night sky into daylight has the nightworkers huddled in fear.
We know they are afraid, not only by assumption, but by the angel’s first words. “Be not afraid.”
Why would God’s messengers be sent to the shepherds and not the political and religious authorities. Who should hear the news first? Shepherds: those working third shift, those least likely by the society, those who had been promised hope, joy, peace and love and were the most likely to need to hear news that was Good.

The Shepherds Go

Once having heard and understood, their first repsonse was to go see if these things were true. Given this past year of controversy and stress about “news” and its authenticity and accuracy, the shepherds model a very responsible and proactive step. They go to verify the varsity, (truth), and the meaning of what they have heard.
The heard that God had sent them Good News, and the proof was in the arrival of the Messiah. God’s savior has come for the least, the last and lost.

Who is Christmas Intended?

The most popular answer in my personal research is, “the children.” And that is one of the good answers, but the strong clue from Luke’s Gospel directs our first attention to the engaged teemage new mother delivering her first child in a barn far from her home town. The first visitors are not family and friends but those working third shift and the animals of strangers. The text yeilds that “the child” is for those who have the least give and those most willing to believe, trust and follow.
This familliar passage, recited by Linus in the Charlie Brown’s Christmas classic, reminds us that the ugly, small, rejected and left out are those who Christmas is first revealed.
When is the time to go and share the Good News: the hope, joy, peace and love of God in the world today? Right! Today, and everyday!

Christmas on Sunday

The interruption of our comfortable Christmas traditions is the heavenly day of Spiritual Rest, Worship and Renewal. If Christmas has not interrupted your daily routine to touch your heart to share the hope, joy, peace and love of Christ, then I offer you the interupption of Sunday into your Christmas worship.
Look and Listen for fear and brokenness and you will find the best time to share the Good News of Jesus. Without shame and full pride of God’s works of love and power for the world, show up and join with angels and sing praise, go share the news that everyone may know for him and herself that Jesus shows up for us. God’s gift has been wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger for the whole world.

Our Responses?

  • Thank you Jesus
  • Sharing the News
  • Going to See, Show and Retell
  • Pondering and Remembering in our hearts

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Matthew 1:18-25 Reclaiming Christmas: Christmas Delivery

coke-can-nativity

Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “”Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.“” All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: “”Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,”” which means, “”God is with us.“” When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son, and he named him Jesus. [Matthew 1:18-25]

The Christmas story is an experience with DELIVERY.

  • Fedex plans to deliver 317 million packages this shopping season, Black Friday to Christmas Eve.
  • UPS plans to deliver 700 million packages this shopping season.
  • USPS plans to deliver 750 million packages

God promises deliveries, too!

  • God delivers on the promise to live with us.
  • God delivers on the promise to claim and give us eternal life.
  • God delivers on the promise to use us, you and me, to deliver and forward God’s gifts.

The postal carrier’s “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds” – while by no means an official creed or motto of the United States Postal Service – have long been associated with the American postman. The motto is inscribed on New York’s James Farley Post Office, but it has no official status.[1]

This statement is a paraphrase derived from a quote from HerodotusHistories, referring to the courier service of the ancient Persian Empire:

The different in the two is the first and last word, with the last words being significantly different: these are stayed neither by snow nor rain nor heat nor darkness from accomplishing their appointed course with all speed.

Rekindling the spiritual power of Christmas is found in picking up the job of postal carrier, delivery person, one who is delivered, sharing Christ with those who have not, or have forgotten or have lost their way.

What keeps us from Delivery of the Good News?

  • God did not wait for Mary and Joseph to work out all the social, economical and family systems issues before delivering the news that God was choosing them for witness and service.
  • God did not wait for Mary and Joseph to begin parenting in their hometown, surrounded by family and friends to help raise and train up their child in the way they should grow.
  • God did not wait for the politics to be peaceful and safe to show up for us.
  • God did not wait for penthouse hotel accommodations, God did not wait for a
  • God did not wait for a convenient, simple time, God delivers into the middle of the mess.

Where do we find things in a mess?

  • Poverty and Politics
  • Families and Freedoms
  • Drugs and Debts
  • Religion and Racism
  • Churches and Checkout lines

We find lives broken, messed up, tested and stretched everywhere!

  • Don’t be afraid, God is with us.
  • Didn’t stop the doubt
  • Didn’t stop the evil
  • Didn’t stop the humility and struggle of the birth
  • Didn’t promise to show up at midday at the palace rather now. A stable in the dark of night

God’s continues to deliver on promises for us..

  • God didn’t stop fear, nor doubt, no evil nor struggle nor darkness nor troubles, Christmas is about keeping close, continuing to reveal, share, tell
  • God delivers on crying out where we suffer
  • God delivers on shining as an alternative in darkness
  • God delivers by calling those willing to Go, See and Tell to share Good News for a searching and hurting world.Christmas is about keeping close, continuing to reveal, share, tell
  • God delivers signs that inspire those who are wise. Those who see Jesus as a gift, are wise enough to reply with sharing the gifts that they have.

This is our model, our cue, our response:

  • God delivers God’s promises, God’s self, God’s strength, God’s light, God’s glory
  • God delivers Grace, Forgiveness, Hope, Love, Restoration of Trust,
  • And you and I are the recipients, the winners, the benefactors, the gifted. (Tell your neighbor, “You are Gifted”

God’s Back Bumper has a sticker that reads: “All my Children are Gifted”

Picture Holding God’s Hand: Why is it a comfort to hold you parents hand as a toddler, an embarrassment as a teen and, and a lost opportunity as an empty nest parent ourselves?

  • Remember a time you were trying something new, confronting someone difficult or when we are in a dark time of grief, illness or loss? What does it mean to have someone be preset with you? Maybe they are silent, but they bring their strength to yours.
  • When you and I were born, the very first thing we needed to do is breathe, to fill our lungs, not with with something parents provide but something God has made before any of us could breathe.
  • God breathed on the face of the earth and gave us breath to be present before we’re came to be delivered, God had already delivered just what we needed
  • Before we imagined, discovered and formed notions that we no longer needed a God, God delivered us with minds, emotions storage for Growth and maturity,
  • God ordered mathematics and physicist so that we can benefit from the, before we even understood how these constants work

Reclaiming Christmas is about reclaiming the comfort and joy that God is with us. God was before us and God will be with and for us long after these bodies wear thin.

A practical way of reclaiming Christmas is to become a vessel, an instrument, a channel, a highway or portal for God to keep shoeing the work that the promise to continue with us is still true.

This Advent season, we have shared how reclaiming our Christmas Traditions if they help us proclaim Jesus Christ with us. We talked about that even a Christmas card can become the physical and spiritual manifestation of Christ connecting us.

reclaiming our Christmas Traditions if they help us proclaim Jesus Christ with us. We talked about that even a Christmas card can become the physical and spiritual manifestation of Christ connecting us.

We talked about that even a Christmas card can become the physical and spiritual manifestation of Christ connecting us.

We suggested making intentional lists that force us to connect the dots between what we know about Christ and how we share Christ in our lives.

Today, I add, that there is a final step. Making the delivery of Christ. We can sing about Jesus, Read about Jesus, Give and Recieve in Jesus, But there is a core thing that you and I are called to do: Go Postal! Be the one who brings Jesus to the doorstep. That offers the gift and places Christ in the hands of the

Be one who leaves no doubt that all that we do in the name of Christmas is to deliver Christ joy, comfort, hope, forgiveness, trust, love, power, grace, truth, praise to a world filled with sorrow, struggle, doubt, revenge, separation, hate, weakness, guilt, lies and silence. That’s what God has done for us; we who have been delivered are called to share the deliverance. This is the work of Christmas.

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Luke 1:46b-55 ReClaiming Christmas: Why Celebrate Jesus 20161211 Advent3

advent_3My 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.”” [Luke 1:46b-55]

Christmas is on Sunday

“I hate it when… or “I love it when… Christmas falls on a Sunday. Either way: Christmas is always a sabbath day. A day of worship.

Christmas for us looks back and looks forward.

Looking back we retell the story of birth, incarnation, hope, peace, love and joy.

Looking forward we hear the prophet foretell of who God will work as seen through the life of Mary.

Have you ever looked at the similarities of Mary’s faithful “favor” reflects God’s work through us in Christ?

  • holy is his name. (King of Kings, Lord or Lords, Prince of Peace, Mighty One, the Christ!)
  • mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation, (Grace and Trust go hand in hand)
  • shown strength with his arm; (Incarnational, personally and physically working alongside)
  • scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. (
  • brought down the powerful from their thrones,
  • lifted up the lowly; (Children come to me, women at the well, hemorrhage, demoniac
  • filled the hungry with good things, (feeding the 5000)
  • sent the rich away empty. (Rich Young Ruler)
  • helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, forever (Connection to the covenant with Abraham, eternal)

All these things that God finds favor with Mary’s faith and remembering of God at work through God’s People, tell the Jesus story before he was born.

Christmas is reclaimed in the present

Not I didn’t say in the presences, not necessarily, but Christ is reclaimed in the current moment, right in what we are dealing with, here and now.

In this third week of preparing for Christmas, we work to reclaim Christmas by looking at our own lives:

Making the list of God’s faithfulness in my life and how the faithful has shaped God’s work in me

Mark breaks out singing praise to God when she is told of  God calling entrusting her to serve as mother to Jesus.

It is a whopper of task for sure.

Me the Magnificant? No not me?

What is God calling me to do? to be? to say? to stand for? to witness to a struggling world.

So far was have talked about reminding each other that Christmas is Jesus’s birthday and the gifts are his.

Secondly, we talk about the simple act of sharing a card can begin or continue a conversation of love and faith.

Today, it time to add the list.

Advent is the season of lists.

If you keep them in your head, on paper or in some digital form, the lists are important. (From best to worst list)

  • The Santa List
  • The gift list
  • The cooking list
  • The party and company list
  • The decoration list
  • The clean up the house list

The things we do in response to the special day, the day of the Lord.

Look back at Mary’s list

 

  • How can I share God’s Glory this Christmas (God’s greatness.. God is so great..
  • How might God bring peace and home to my fears? ( Start acknowledging our fears then match of God’s mercy and grace, connect dots.
  • How will I offer my hands/feet/body to be used to reveal Christ? (Feeding, Serving, Gifting, Friending
  • Share what holds our heart captive from loving and forgiving. (Go out forgive and love someone difficult.
  • Power and Pride
  • Teach a child God’s in-the-flesh, incarnation story, Share your story with a stranger or elder or sojourner
  • Feed someone, letting them you are eating together as sharing of Christ.
  • Give a gift that is extravagantly valuable yet cost not money. Forgive, Bless, Teach, Empower, Relent your control!
  • Most importantly, name how your Christmas traditions connect you to God and God’s people through your generations, what do you want the next generation to learn from you about Jesus.

Personalize the Mary List

Of all the things we do to prepare for Christmas, Tackling the Mary List is the best way to reclaim and rekindle Christmas.

Mary has nine things on her list: We would rather have one thing, maybe three or four. But nine sounds like too many to squeeze in with all we have planned.

Three part list: God’s part, Our Part, Connecting the Dots.

That is the point.

  • God Part
    • Praise God
    • Trust God
    • Serve God
    • Confession to God
    • Let go and Rest in God
  • Our Part
    • Share the story
    • Live the faith
  • Key Part
    • Connect the dots.

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Matthew 3.1-12 Reclaiming Christmas “Brood of Viper Cards”

xmascard

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 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. “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]

I recall my parents making drawn and silk screened Christmas cards as part of the family tradition of preparing for Christmas. Part of the handmade effort was the personal and creative gift the other was for economical reasons. Each year mom would draw some variation of Mary and Jesus, occasionally including Joseph, an angel or a star. Dad would do the printing. My jobs waving the paper for the ink to dry, affixing stamps and sealing the envelopes. After the fourth or fifth church, it was necessary to use a bulk permit to cover nearly 800 hundred cards to church members, family, and friends. Somewhere along the way, a simple gift became a chore and the tradition change to about 100 written cards. The issue was the growing gap of ingenuousness between the original gift to the present.

What had been a creative chore, became a dreaded task not to forget or offend.

What is the appropriate message to share at Christmas?

  • For some, it is the annual family letter. If I have one good thing to say about Facebook, is that it seem the longer FB is around, the fewer Christmas letters I receive.
  • For some, mention every attribute of a Bing Crosby festival but offers wishes for happy tidings and warm companionship with everyone.
  • May You feel God’s presence in the candles, that softly spread their glow at Christmas and may you experience the wonder of His abiding love, as He guides you, through each day of the coming year.

  • For others, the cards convey perfunctory words of acknowledging goodness and an unclear image of peace.
  • Thinking warmly of each of you and wishing your family an extra measure of comfort, joy and hope.

  • We have tried to send Christmas cards, but we typically send them out during the Christmas season, rather during the weeks of Advents.  [as late as St Patricks Day]

What about the Cards from the John the Baptist Card Collection?

  • Front: May your camel’s hair coat be scratchy and you locust be toasty, may your voice be one crying out I the wilderness this year. Inside: Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.
  • Front: Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near! Inside: 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.
  • Cover: His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor. Inside: He will gather his wheat into the granary, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire. 
  • Best Cover: You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Inside: Bear fruit worthy of repentance.

John the Baptist reminds us to ask each other: for what are we preparing? Christ, ourselves or something else.

Our response is to say, “80 percent may be for me, my family, my idea, my traditions, my memories, my warm fuzzy feeling, and 20 percent is for you Jesus.” You complete the percents for yourself.

I have shared by Christmas list with Santa, I have begun to buy gifts for others, I have begun to get out decorations, I have begun filling my calendar with events, I have begun singing along with Christmas favorites, but

Can anyone tell Jesus is the driving cause of my actions, or have I left that to chance and hope others will guess what leads my heart and life.

It’s not about “Merry Christmas” it is about Jesus.

  • John the Baptist is not so worried about offending the Jewish leaders, as he is making certain everyone knows to be humbled before Christ.
  • Jesus is the King whose roads need to be made ready, not the government
  • Jesus is the is the one worthy to give himself for us
  • Jesus is worth shouting boldly about to the world

So what?

Advent, Preparing, Reclaiming the task of preparing: The example is baptism.

REPENT: Turning around and Remembering we are claimed by God, made new in Christ, forgiven and made whole through water and the Spirit. 

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