Archive for December, 2017

Galatians 4:4-7

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

The Gifts of Christmas

How unusual it would be to have a grand birthday party where no one brought gifts to the honored guest, rather the one having the celebration had gifts for each of the guests.

The Good News is that Jesus is born bringing Gifts to each of us.

For months we have prepared to share the gift of Jesus Christ:  Thankfully we have a season and not just one day to begin sharing the gift of Christ, that is our faith and our hope and salvation

The Prize Closet

I have a dear friend who is the best and most attentive giver and sender of cards. She would carry in her purse no less than a dozen cards for just the right occasion to express love, loss, prayers, compassion or cheer where ever she sent. She was once having surgery and handed her husband her purse i the pre-op waiting room and she told him to give a card to one of the people in the waiting room while she was having her surgery.  She was prepared to give the gift.

My grandmother had a special gift drawer where magical gifts materialized when someone needed a last minute gift for a forgotten occasion or a guest revealed it was their birthday or an unexpected guest showed up when others were opening Christmas presents. Tommye would disappear to the secret drawer and retrieve a small treasure for the surprise occasion.

Some folks may have a top shelf, others might have a closet or other special collection of gifts for every occasion.  All good things can be taken too far, but it is a great tradition and practice of anticipating the sharing of gifts.

The danger of gifts is that we see and value only the object in place of the relationship expressed in the gift.

The Angel Tree

We have some very generous folks who gave great gifts to young boys who are forgotten by so many but were given not just one, or two, or three but fives gifts: Nice gifts. I affirm that your generosity was shown in the assortment of games, toys, clothes, teddy bears and various gifts that were requested. The director shared the boy’s appreciation of the gifts and that love and thoughtfulness that strangers would be so generous. He reminded them that we may not have met, but were are not strangers because we share the same love and trust in Jesus Christ.  (That is the gift given and received!)

Church and Money

We try not to be a church that talks about money too much. But we do need to talk about the spirit of faithful generosity that shares 60 prayer quilts in the last 52 weeks.

We see the generous gifts that have helped retire hundreds of thousands of dollars of building debt in record time.

We see the sack lunches, the pottery – mud for Culebra to share hope and rebuilding of lives,

We have given one another generous gifts that we enjoy and remember that gifts are given and share not out of duty or requirement but given as expressions and extension of love, faith, and hope.

The Galatian Gifts

The Gift of Freedom

The Gift of Family

The Gift of Inheritance

Freedom: Christ comes and gifts us the gift of freedom from slavery to the law. We are not measured by rules instead of by love and grace.

Family: We are not only set free from rules we could never fully keep, to being adopted as family. We are made to be equal to the household/family. We are not junior worker-bees, we are brothers and sisters in the royalty. (We have different jobs, skills, gifts and talents entrust, but we aril equally valued and needed.

Inheritance: Not only are we free from forced faith and made equal partners, we share in the work and have shares in the company.

What does the gift look like?

What we do as the church is living out God’s business in a family owned business as equal partners with equal value and voice.

  • God is revealing to the whole world, one person at a time, God’s love, power, mercy, and grace
  • and has invested all his business in us
  • to do God’s work
  • with each other as co-owners and co-workers.
  • Paul reminds the church at Galatia and us:
  • We are gifted to freely share our faith
  • We are gifted with a family to support and be supported
  • WE are gifted with a life that is eternal, fulfilling, hopeful and directed by love.

So who do we share our gift of Christ with?

  • Someone who is locked in rules, fear, and spiritual blindness
  • Someone who my have all the civil right but no joy nor hope
  • Someone who complains, judges, hates and cowers
  • Someone who knows so much that don’t need Christ
  • Someone who is more interested in fairness than grace
  • Someone who is alone and finds no only to be family
  • Someone who’s family is so dysfunctional they don’t know what family can be
  • Someone who wants to look of a perfect family without the sweat equity of honor, respect and trust.
  • Someone who hope is in stuff rather than spirit.

        (You can buy me a boat and a truck to pull it…)

Buy Me a Boat

Chris Janson

I ain’t rich, but I damn sure wanna be

Working like a dog all day, ain’t working for me

I wish I had a rich uncle that’d kick the bucket

And that I was sitting on a pile like Warren Buffett

I know everybody says

Money can’t buy happiness

But it could buy me a boat, it could buy me a truck to pull it

It could buy me a Yeti 110 iced down with some silver bullets

Yeah, and I know what they say

Money can’t buy everything

Well, maybe so,

But it could buy me a boat

They call me redneck, white trash and blue collar

But I could change all that if I had a couple million dollars

I keep hearing that money is the root of all evil

And you can’t fit a camel through the eye of a needle

I’m sure that’s probably true,

But it still sounds pretty cool

‘Cause it could buy me a boat, it could buy me a truck to pull it

It could buy me a Yeti 110 iced down with some silver bullets

Yeah, and I know what they say,

Money can’t buy everything

Well, maybe so,

But it could buy me a boat

To float down on the water with a beer

I hear the Powerball Lotto is a-sitting’ on a hundred mill

Well, that would buy me a brand new rod and reel

And it could buy me a boat, it could buy me a truck to pull it

It could buy me a Yeti 110 iced down with some silver bullets

Yeah, and I know what they say,

Money can’t buy everything

Well, maybe so,

But it could buy me a boat

Yeah, and I know what they say,

Money can’t buy everything

Well, maybe so,

But it could buy me a boat

It could buy me a boat

Songwriters: Chris Dubois / Chris Janson

Buy Me a Boat lyrics © Spirit Music Group, Ole Media Management Lp

  It’s not both/and,

Here is the Heart of Paul’s word for us, the church

it is that we are the Gift the World is freed by, claimed by and saved through

The Christmas Gift: Jesus Gives us the gifts so we will

  1. Know God loves us
  2. Know we are of great value to God
  3. Know that God’s work is our work and witness.

verse 7) So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God

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Luke 2:22-35 Christmas a Season of Holidays

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When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord  (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord” ),  and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.”  Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required,  Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:  “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace.  For my eyes have seen your salvation,  which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:  a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.”  The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”  [NRSV]
Rituals that mark and celebrate our faith.
Celebrating Christmas took 1000 years to develop traditions of formation. It is actually a collection of celebrations that being with the birth and include how Jesus being human connects with a suffering world, come to save us.

A season of Feasts

December 26 is the feast of St. Stephen—a traditional day for giving leftovers to the poor (as described in the carol “Good King Wenceslas”). As one of the first deacons, Stephen was the forerunner of all those who show forth the love of Christ by their generosity to the needy. But more than this, he was the first martyr of the New Covenant, witnessing to Christ by the ultimate gift of his own life.

St. John the Evangelist, commemorated on December 27, is traditionally the only one of the twelve disciples who did not die a martyr. Rather, John witnessed to the Incarnation through his words, turning Greek philosophy on its head with his affirmation, “The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us” (John 1:14, KJV).

On December 28, we celebrate the feast of the Holy Innocents, the children murdered by Herod. These were not martyrs like Stephen, who died heroically in a vision of the glorified Christ. They died unjustly before they had a chance to know or to will—but they died for Christ nonetheless. In them we see the long agony of those who suffer and die through human injustice, never knowing that they have been redeemed.

So it became their custom to celebrate the “Feast of Fools” around January 1, often in conjunction with the feast of Christ’s circumcision on that day (which was also one of the earliest feasts of the Virgin Mary, and is today celebrated as such by Roman Catholics).

The twelve days of Christmas saw similar celebrations of the topsy-turvy and the unruly. A “Lord of Misrule” was often elected at Christmas and ruled the festivities until Epiphany. A schoolboy was traditionally chosen as bishop on December 6 (the Feast of St. Nicholas) and filled all the functions of bishop until Holy Innocents’ Day. The Christmas season also sometimes saw the “Feast of the Ass,” commemorating the donkey traditionally present at the manger. On this day, people were supposed to bray like a donkey at the points in the Mass where one would normally say “Amen.”

Christmas as a Season has become the church way of saying that Jesus is to be

  • celebrated,
  • not on one day, but every day.
  • through a collection of traditions come opportunities to celebrate how Christ is revealed in a world turned upside down.

Tradition is not to be dismissed by Snopes, rather indicates — that our traditions evolve

2 Turtle Doves = The Old and New Testaments

3 French Hens = Faith, Hope and Charity, the Theological Virtues

4 Calling Birds = the Four Gospels and/or the Four Evangelists

5 Golden Rings = The first Five Books of the Old Testament, the “Pentateuch,” which gives the history of man’s fall from grace.

6 Geese A-laying = the six days of creation

7 Swans A-swimming = the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, the seven sacraments

8 Maids A-milking = the eight beatitudes

9 Ladies Dancing = the nine Fruits of the Holy Spirit

10 Lords A-leaping = the ten commandments

11 Pipers Piping = the eleven faithful apostles

12 Drummers Drumming = the twelve points of doctrine in the Apostle’s Creed

and Jesus on the Cross is the patridge in the pear tree.

The history of the carol is somewhat murky. The earliest known version first appeared in a 1780 children’s book called Mirth With-out Mischief.

 

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Luke 2:1-7 Placed in a Manger

mangerIn those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them. [NRSV]
God is Born in Human form
God is placed in a receptacle intended for feeding
In a world that has no room for God to be received, God comes through those willing to receive him.
It is into a world that diligently to ignore, disprove, discredit, disarm and deny a need for God, is given God’s most simple and direct appearance and encounter.
Those who are willing to receive, do find God.
We have had a three month season of preparing to place Jesus in the manager. I invite you to see yourself as manger holding Jesus Christ.
  • The manger is an instrument serving a purpose larger than it is away.
  • This manger is not simply a historical reference to a cattle feeding implement, it is God placing Jesus where others are spiritually empty.
  • The manger is a not simply a place to hold hay, it is the vehicle entrusted to hold the bread of life for a world of persons who hungers.

You and are about to begin a season of sharing Jesus Christ. The final step of preparing to be a people of faith-sharing is affirming that we are those who hold Christ for the world.

Do you have the gift of Jesus in your heart and mind?

Turn to your neighbors, left and right, and share with them: “I’ve got Jesus and I’m ready to share him.”

I remember making prank phone calls at my grandfather’s request. He would open the metro Atlanta phone book at random, point to a number and dial the phone, he would hand us the receiver and were we instructed to say to the party on the line: “Sir/Mama, on behalf of the Brown and Williamson Tobacco Company, Do you have Sir Walter Raleigh in a can? If you do, you should let him out.”  Which was a corny twist, that made my grumpy grandfather cackle with laughter with every call.

Not unlike the Forrest Gump line when Srgt Dan asks Forrest if he had found Jesus, to which Forrest replied, “I didn’t know he was lost.”

Having Jesus vs Sharing Jesus

Turn and ask your neighbors: Are you a manger?

Are you carrying Jesus ready to feed someone the bread of life?

Too often we looked to Jesus as our daily bread as though there were not enough mana to go around and we want to save Jesus for use in our own struggles and fears.

What an awesome opportunity you and I have to be the box that carries the gift of Christ until they unwrap and find Christ for themselves.

The Good News:

You and I don’t have to be gift

You and I don’t have to know all the answers

You and I are called to carry and share what WE know and experience Christ.

“I am a manger”

I carry the bread of life, Jesus Christ, so that not only am I nourished but those who I carry Christ to will also be fed and filled.

“I am a manger”

God is using me and using your life, your words, thoughts, your praises, you lessons, you conversations to give hope, grace, forgiveness and power to broken and hating world.

“I am a manger”

No one might expect God to be using my life and witness, but God is at work in us for those where we live, work, play and rest.

“I am a manger”

We carry Jesus to keep him or we carry him both trust and to share. Mary places Jesus in a feeding trough, he is not only her child, Jesus is for us all to be nourished and made whole.

“I am a manger”

I hold the keys of heaven. God is entrusting us with sharing hope for the world or we can double-down on fear, grudges, doubts, weakness, shame and all matters of brokenness.

“I am a manger”

The God who loves us, calls us to love our enemies and one another

The Jesus that saves us calls us to feed and fill those who hunger in a sea of sin and fear.

The Spirit that guides us leads us to those who need to hope.

“I am the manger”

“Here is my Jesus, Here is my God, Here is the Spirit, I am the manger”

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Luke 1: 46-54 “How My Soul Glorifies the Lord?”

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And Mary said: “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me— holy is his name.  His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation. He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, just as he promised our ancestors.” [NRSV]

From Peterson’s, “The MESSAGE” Lk 1.41-56 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby in her womb leaped. She was filled with the Holy Spirit, and sang out exuberantly, You’re so blessed among women, and the babe in your womb, also blessed! And why am I so blessed that the mother of my Lord visits me? The moment the sound of your greeting entered my ears, The babe in my womb skipped like a lamb for sheer joy. Blessed woman, who believed what God said, believed every word would come true! And Mary said, I’m bursting with God-news; I’m dancing the song of my Savior God. God took one good look at me, and look what happened – I’m the most fortunate woman on earth! What God has done for me will never be forgotten, the God whose very name is holy, set apart from all others. His mercy flows in wave after wave on those who are in awe before him. He bared his arm and showed his strength, scattered the bluffing braggarts. He knocked tyrants off their high horses, pulled victims out of the mud.  The starving poor sat down to a banquet; the callous rich were left out in the cold. He embraced his chosen child, Israel; he remembered and piled on the mercies, piled them high. It’s exactly what he promised, beginning with Abraham and right up to now. Mary stayed with Elizabeth for three months and then went back to her own home. [MES]

Mary Looks at her Self and See God at Work.

It is not every unwed expectant teen mother-to-be who looks at her situation and see’s God’s magnificent working in her life. But is this something we can transfer to ourselves, or is this only an example reserved for the mother of Jesus?

In preparing to share our gift of faith, we too need to be passionate about God’s work in our own lives.

I believe that the greatest hesitation to sharing our faith with another person is related to the doubts, fears, questions, and uncertainties we might have about our own faith, that makes us reluctant to “get all excited” about telling the news to someone else.

So before we sign off this example as something only the mother of Jesus can be “that” excited about, let look at the setting and context.

Mary has gone to be nurtured and protected by a beloved family member, not in her home community, who is going through a similar circumstance.

Separate these three factors:

1. A trusted family or friend who you would feel comfortable showing up at their house to wrestle through a difficult time or experience.

If you have one phone call to make: Who would you call that could be most helpful to you?

2. Mary visits someone out of town, there is the luxury of retreat and respite, in her visit with Elizabeth. She does not reach out to the most convenient person, but the most trusted to receive and give her space and council.

3. She reaches out to share her journey and struggle with someone who is going through the same journey. One of the great strengths of a 12 step ministry is the genuineness of sharing the journey to find encouragement and accountability from those who are also needing encouragement and accountability.

Who to share our gift of faith:

I’m guessing that even though you might have heard even half of the past eight sermons on faith sharing and hear the invitation to identify someone to share your faith with a Christmas gift, I’m guessing the majority have thought about the idea, but not decided or made a concrete choice of who to give you faith story update.

Look at Mary, the mother of Jesus for an example: She goes to a trusted person, who was not in her everyday circle who would welcome, encourage and guide her.

Imagine ourselves in this context and it is easier to answer the question, “How does my soul glorify the Lord?”

I had an opportunity to share my faith with one of my best friends this week.

In this case, he did the traveling to see me, but we could have just as easily talked on the phone, Facetime, or I could have traveled with me. What each of us took the time to share how God has been working in our lives. Where we have failed and fallen short, where God has shone up to bless and save us. My friend Shawn is always a call or message away. We had a real heart to heart sharing where we each needed to confess, encourage and celebrate the passion where God shows up in our lives. 

The Good News: we share is not how faithful ‘we’ are, rather how God is.

Mary’s magnificent hymn is not about how great Mary is, it his about how great God is in her life, in her situation, in her problems, in her opportunities, in her struggle.

This is the song we are called to sing and share:

Make your list and check it twice:

  1. Who are you going to call when you need encouragement, renewal an accountability?
    1. Where have you needed God to show up most?
    2. Where have you seen God working
    3. What is God about to do that is going to shape the next part of your life.

2. What are you struggling with That God can or has transformed that you can be passionate about?

  1. Talk about where God is working
  2. Share about what God is unfolding next

Now it’s almost Christmas: Christ-Mas (God with Us – Worship)

 

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Psalm 85 The Crossroad of Ugly and Grace

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Invitation: Attend to Intersections (Loving-kindness/faithfulness, Righteousness/peace)

You, LORD, showed favor to your land; you restored the fortunes of Jacob. You forgave the iniquity of your people and covered all their sins. You set aside all your wrath and turned from your fierce anger. 4 Restore us again, God our Savior, and put away your displeasure toward us. 5 Will you be angry with us forever? Will you prolong your anger through all generations?6 Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you? 7 Show us your unfailing love, LORD, and grant us your salvation. I will listen to what God the LORD says; he promises peace to his people, his faithful servants— but let them not turn to folly. Surely his salvation is near those who fear him, that his glory may dwell in our land. Love and faithfulness meet together; righteousness and peace kiss each other. Faithfulness springs forth from the earth, and righteousness looks down from heaven. The LORD will indeed give what is good, and our land will yield its harvest. Righteousness goes before him and prepares the way for his steps. [NRSV]

Intersections

The hermeneutical point of every sermon is the crossroads of our story and the story of Jesus Christ.

In that regard, every sermon is basically the same message in the context of where we are and where we meet God’s grace in outlives.

Intersections are locations

We are at the crossroad of Peavine and 95 or (Rock Spring Drive)

From a public relations point of view, we need to lobby to have the section of road between the post office up to Catlett be renamed Rock Spring Drive instead of 95. Not only is part of the crossroad already named such, it connects with our church by that same name and the community’s name and if the Baptist have a road, we need to have a crossroads in the community with our name on it as well. Making known our presence in the context.

Intersections are where journey’s inter-mingle.

One of the great seasons for faith sharing is Christmas and even more in the season prior to Christmas. The Christmas pre-season begins November 1st. It is All Saints day and the day the Halloween items go on sale and the Santa sect celebration begins to unfold.

This season between November 1st and December 31st we are more likely to be in contact with more people, spending more resources, traveling to more over-lapping circles of opportunity. This freeze can’t be sustained for 365 days of a year, but it is important to know we are are in the prime of our year of opportunity for intersections.

Where our stories, lives, work, play, celebrations over-lap with other people and others cults and cultures we are more chances to share our faith with more people.

Intersections have the opportunity or congestion and conflict, and we don’t need to let that become our excuse to avoid the crowds, and thus, the greater opportunities.

So it’s time to use the non-Christ stories to intersect with your Christ stories.

As someone who is celebration Santa Clause to explain how Santa’s celebration gives us opportunities to share grace, 1. Giving gifts to people who deserve no gift. 2. Care for those who are forgotten or rescue or save those who are lost. 3.

The Ugly Sweater Crossroad

“That is the ugliest sweater I have ever seen.” A Conversation Starter. 

Partner Practice Time: Find your partner and take terms having these conversations:  Start with the sweater, transition to faith, share the Good News of CHRIST-mas!

  • In a world filled with signs and acts of ugly, it is a good thing we have a season to see the good beyond the surface.”
  • That is a crazy sweater. Where there are so many crazy things going on in our lives, it is good to have a reminder that God brings order out of chaos.
  • That is the most obnoxious sweater, it’s good news that God loves us even though we obnoxious ways.
  • That sweater is in bad taste, it reminds me that God’s word is sweet like honey.”
  • “That sweater is just sad.”
  • That sweater scares me,” Be not afraid, the angels told the shepherds that Jesus comes to bring hope to our frightened world.

Faith Sharing with a stranger can start from the common opportunity as ugly, crazy, obnoxious, bad, sad or scary place we might find ourselves, and THAT is confirmation of the Goodness of the Good News we share in Jesus’s name.

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