Archive for May, 2017

1 Peter (4:12-14,)  5:6-11

finalexampass

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that is taking place among you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you are sharing Christ’s sufferings, so that you may also be glad and shout for joy when his glory is revealed. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the spirit of glory, which is the Spirit of God, is resting on you.

But they will have to give an accounting to him who stands ready to judge the living and the dead. For this is the reason the gospel was proclaimed even to the dead, so that, though they had been judged in the flesh as everyone is judged, they might live in the spirit as God does. 7 The end of all things is near; therefore be serious and discipline yourselves for the sake of your prayers. Above all, maintain constant love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaining. Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received. Whoever speaks must do so as one speaking the very words of God; whoever serves must do so with the strength that God supplies, so that God may be glorified in all things through Jesus Christ. To him belong the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen. [NRSV]

I do not remember being excused from taking final exams in my schooling career. Some of the final days of each term were easier than others. There is something fundamentally missing if we exclude the final exams.

I realize it has become the incentive to study and work hard all along and if you do so throughout the term, the final would be a redundant pressure, and yet, real life is filled with final exams that we ‘wish’ we could skip, but we are not given the pass.

Do you remember any particular finals?

I remember feeling overloaded with information that I questioned its importance on the remainder of my life.

I remember wondering in some classes, would I have an “A” and others would I have a “D” and be grateful.

My studiousness improved the longer I went to school.  Kindergarten to the senior class, two years at Oxford, two years at Emory, three years at Candler, five years at Gammon at the ITC. 25 of my 53 years have been spent in school. 53 of my 53 have been filled with tests and exams that question, measure, and challenge my faith.

If I gave myself a grade on my spiritual maturity I would prefer to be compared and measured with the hitters in baseball. Where a good season might be in the .300-.400s. comparing that is still failing compared to the A,B, C etc scale.

What I can say, is that my needs improvement is improving, the more exams I prepare for, face, endure, and reflect upon in my life.

For our Students and for us all

Real life/Faith is not excused from exams, tests, & trials.

Verse 7 begins with a call for the end of all things as the context in which we live.

Live as if the final exam is tomorrow.

  1. Be Serious: Be responsible for your own actions
    1. Don’t sign up for the blame your neighbor course
    2. Don’t be uninformed or excuse yourself from
      1. learning and
      2. growing
  2. Discipline Yourself
    1. No one else can have faith for you
    2. The prayers of others are not enough
    3. Take the mindfulness of #1 and apply it with accountability
  3. Maintain Constant Love for one another
    1. The extra credit is to matriculate in practicing love for each other
    2. The place to get on track, when we fall off the wagon, is to love
      1. and keeping practicing love,
      2. even if you don’t feel it,
      3. love will come to life.
  4. Hospitable without Complaining
    1. Hospitality: Doing what it takes to connect, welcome, share, interact, with others
    2. Even when we have reason to complain, do not let that stop us from showing hospitality
    3. Even when we disagree with one another, err on the side of hospitality, (not just a southern thing.)
  5. Be responsible with God’s grace as a good steward
    1. We thrive on Grace but know that with freedom that Grace afford
    2. Arrogance, Apathy, Anger, Selfishness, Coveting, Untruthfulness, and the like cloud and distance us from living in Grace.
      1. If the teacher allows you to rework your paper if you received a failing grade, don’t wait to fail in the future. God see us as we are.
  6. Use the gifts you have been given
    1. Don’t wait to get started for the new equipment
    2. Don’t hesitate to procrastinate
    3. See that God gives each of us, what we need to begin in faith.
  7. If you talk, speak God’s word
    1. Not everyone’s gift is speaking, but if you do, make clear that your message is true in reflecting God’s Word and not our twist on God’s word.
  8. If you serve, rely on God’s strength alone
    1. Not everyone is good at responding and acting when it comes to sharing your faith, but know that God does not take a summer break from expecting us to trust God’s strength and not rely on ours alone.
  9. The Goal: All this, so that God get’s the glory in all things through Jesus Christ

The Catch/Hook: Final exam is the same as daily exams.

  • Do you wait and study only when you must?
  • Do you procrastinate?
  • Do you get lost in the getting prepared to learn and lead and are so organized but never find God’s strength or grace?
  • Do you give us when it get’s difficult?
  • Do you find yourself distracted?
  • 1 Peter is a prayerful call to action and accountability
  • The Teacher has left the room but will show up at any moment, what type of student will you and I become?

Hear the Good News!

Jesus is our strength and teacher

Jesus is our grace and hope

God’s Holy Spirit is our guide and power

If Christ’s return is today, tomorrow or 10,000 years from now, the final exam is in progress.

 

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1 Peter 3:13-22

Now who will harm you if you are eager to do what is good?  But even if you do suffer for doing what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear, and do not be intimidated, but in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord. Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and reverence. Keep your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who abuse you for your good conduct in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if suffering should be God’s will, than to suffer for doing evil. For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God. He was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit, in which also he went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison, who in former times did not obey, when God waited patiently in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water. And baptism, which this prefigured, now saves you—not as a removal of dirt from the body, but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers made subject to him. [NRSV]

  • Always be ready to make your defense 
  • an accounting for the hope that is in you;
  • do it with gentleness and reverence. 
  • Keep your conscience clear, 
  • baptism, which this prefigured, now saves you—
  1. not as a removal of dirt from the body, 
  2. but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, 
  3. through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 

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John 14:1-16 “Beyond Belief”

Bbelief.png“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way to the place where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?”  Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.  If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, “Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves. Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it. “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. [NRSV]

Access and Frustration

Jesus shows us two important revelations in the passage.  The first, and more obvious, is about Jesus’s relation to our heavenly father and along with that is our access to God through Jesus. The second is the human side of Jesus, revealing his frustration with his closest followers and allies not understanding or seeing God in their presence.

It is worth exploring Jesus’s frustration with the disciples. (“Show us the Father”?) Do you not believe or do you not understand. It is very human to be frustrated why people are reluctant or hesitant to believe in Jesus. The gift Jesus gives is how he presses through what is to himself obvious to continue explaining until the understand.

This Mother’s Day, we honor all those who have been a mother to us. Some of those are our birth-mother, others are grandmothers or great-grands, some are friends and some are not necessarily beloved, but those who stick with us when all others have left us.

Jesus reveals a mother’s love of working through frustration to make certain the heart and mind connect with God’s heart and mind.

The Core Theme: Access

Not only does Jesus make plain his divine relationship, but he moves beyond simply saying, “I am God” to say, you know me, you have access to me, you are connected to me, and being with me, you are with the heart of God. God is with you now. “Emanuel”

Recalling the angel’s words to Mary when Jesus was promised to her, “his name will be Emanuel” God is with us.

Motherhood can also be both frustrating and accessible.

There is a daily model with life-long practice of wanting your children to understand, know, “get it” so they can make the best choices

And yet, a mother has to allow each child to make their own way, learn from both the good and bad.

Jesus Presses the Disciples to Understand

AND, reminds them that understanding the gateway to pro-active, engaging, faith-walking belief.

A Mother’s hope

is for us to trust God with not only our thoughts but also in our actions

is for us to reflect God’s presence, even when we are failing

is for us to trust God’s power, in our strength and in our weakness

is for us to know the answer, but even more, to test the truths in our choices.

Whatever you ask, In My Name, 

This is not attaching God’s name to our wish list,

it is asking for what is God’s will.

Mom’s learn when to let the brood go on their own, hoping they will fly on the food and practice that has been shared.

Jesus lets disciples go on their own, hoping they will ask for what God seeks to reveal in their lives.

Thank and Praise the mothers who have revealed God’s presence

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John 10:1-10 “Entrance Gate”

gate_lock“Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers.” Jesus used this figure of speech with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them. So again Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.[NRSV]

I am the gate.

Comedian, Jim Gaffagin, reflects on heaven having a pearly gate and wonders why Heaven is a gated community. He suggests that they probably had to go to hell to find a contractor to build it.
A gate implies a fence, a wall or some image of division, and the doorway is the expected and intended place of entrance.
Jesus is our gateway to grace, to eternity and most importantly, our gateway to God.
This reference connects to the sacrificial lamb that was roasted and eaten by the Israelites the night before the journey toward the promised land. The blood of the lamb as a sign over the doorway, marked who would be saved and who would die.

Jesus said, he was that gate.

There are walls and boundaries, physical and perceived, that divide us and separates.
There are times, in the name of safety, that we are thankful for fences and particians:
Between the road the playground
The privacy door in the restroom
A understanding of mutual respect and the unintentional wandering of a stranger
There is a place for gates and fences.

The metaphor of a gate.

A gate is a path of access
A gate is an openning, in what is a barrier
A gate is permission
A gate is not always open and not always closed
A gate is grace and judgement
A gate is freedom and restriction
A gate is point of passage.
Jesus said, “I am the gate.”
We come to a holy meal, communion, where Jesus offers himself, still today and eternally, as a gateway to grace
a gateway to forgiveness
a gateway to starting over
a gateway to trusting God
a gateway to life
a gateway to trust
a gateway to, or back to, God.
Jesus joins us at the table, that opens the gate, that has the sacrifice of the lamb as our entry, and himself as the tangible door to enter into a life of sacrificial living for God.
Here is the powerful part of the story: through Christ, through his body and blood, opens us into the life of being gate-keepers. Those who open the door for others or those who close the door.

Is the gate open or closed?

Do we stay huddled in the comfort of what pleases us, makes us feel in control, OR
Do we open it wide and offer all that is good and evil come in under our watch
Do we open hearts or close hearts
Do we close minds or open minds
Do we open the scriptures and trust them
Do we close them and replace them with our own choosing
Do we slip into becoming the door
Christ invites us to be those who place the hand of someone else on the latch,
and allow Christ to welcome them in.
It is not our place to be the door,
rather we are to lead others to the door.
If we remain inside the fence there is no way to go out to welcome others
If we remain outside the fence, there is no need for a way to God, we choose to serve another.
We cross the threshold, back and forth, knowing our place is at the table and in the world.

In or Out: What side of the gate?

What doors, gates, minds and hearts are you and I personally directing toward God?
Our denomination is racing toward a crossroads and we have lost sight of the gate.
Rather than finding the true Christ, we make our own door way in and are committed that our way is the better way.
Lord have mercy on me a sinner
I come to your table and confess I have brought no one to your heart and hand today.
I come as a bandit, and a thief, taking and claiming what is not mine, comfortable in what my mind tells me without concern for your word and comforted in your word without understanding what it means.
This passage calls us to stop looking for a door the left or the right, but to search for the gate that IS Jesus Christ.

Jesus is the gate, we trust the gate.

It is my calling to proclaim to the church that our Jesus, who welcomes us to the table also sends us our into a would that rejects and would persecute us for opening grace and power to them in Jesus name.
Our calling is not to make people believe, but lead people to Christ, lead people to the gateway that has given us hope, transformation, and salvation.

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