Archive for May, 2020

Romans 12 “Hold Fast to Good”

I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect. For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another. We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness. Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” No, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.” Do not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good. [NRSV]

We gather to worship today, on the occasion of the birth and empowering of the church. As we know from the second chapter of the Book of Acts of the Apostles that the Holy Spirit is poured out empowering people from around the world to hear the Gospel, in their own language and in their own hearts and they take that Good News home and the promise of Jesus that he would send the Holy Spirit to empower the followers to become teachers, leaders, servants and called to do even greater signs and wonders in the work, worship and service of Christ, as the church.

It is rather unimportant that we attempt to relive an occasion that we did not experience. Rather we are called to draw on the power of the Holy Spirit to be the Church in 2020. We are the church, called to gain the heart and ear of the word that we might be for the world Christ, present, alive and giving witness to the love and power of God. Pentecost is not our heritage Sunday; it is not our homecoming. Pentecost is our reaching out to the world in the power of the Holy Spirit.

What are we called to share the world: Paul gives a lengthy list! His list is not only long it is overwhelmingly demanding. We are tempted to shy away from it and only take bite size pieces. But on Pentecost Sunday, we need to eat and digest the whole thing.

Our returning out from the cocoons of our homes for these past two months, into a world that has been changed. We will have to be diligent not to forget the lessons we are learning in a reverse journey from the one of Israel’s wandering in the wilderness. We are now leaving the starkness of home to risk being in the wilderness of the world. Our temptation is to get back to normal. But never before has the world been so centrally focuses in thought and action. And driving force has been fear of a virus. I tiny virus and the thread of death. Now that is a motivating combination. Is this what takes to get the world’s attention?

Now that we have shared the mind of the virus, we know what it looks like to share the mind of Christ. What if the whole world was listening each day for the Good News and message of hope? What if we measure that count of persons who have been reunited with God and their neighbor, the number persons forgive, the number of lives and hearts saved from addictions, illnesses and all manner of brokenness. To be globally focused on one thing, and that one being Jesus Christ.

When every knee would bow and every tongue confess, Jesus as Lord and Savior.

If a virus can inspire the actions, we have witnesses and participated in, what would be if our witness was as infectious as the COVID-19? And instead of tracking the loss of life, we celebrating the new life, hope, and grace?

Paul is giving the church at Rome, encouragement about Christian living a witness that would become influence, infectious in a positive way. Here is the challenge he shares with disciples, then and now:

  1. We are a living witness of Christ’s sacrifice
  2. Our Spiritual Worship is lived out in our faith
  3. We do not act and think as the world measures what is valued and most important.
  4. We Live by God’s standards and expectations
  5. We find renewal in our minds through God’s word and heart.
  6. We decern from God what is Good, True and Whole
  7. We strive to be Humble
  8. We use sober judgement
  9. We understand faith in Christ is express in various ways, based on our degree of faith, some will be simple, others complex
  10. We know each person has value, gifts, talents and responsibilities, even if they differ, all are necessary to God.
  11. We love genuinely
  12. We passionately avoid evil
  13. We treasure what is good.
  14. We love one another
  15. We respect and honor each other
  16. We are passionate in living our faith
  17. We are made strong through the Spirit
  18. We serve the Lord.
  19. We rejoice in God’s home
  20. We are patient in suffering
  21. We continue in prayer always
  22. We contribute to one another’s needs
  23. We show hospitality to strangers.
  24. We bless and do not curse those who harm us
  25. We share each other’s joys and sorrows.
  26. We seek harmony and work to live peacefully
  27. We guard against pride,
  28. We are intentional to be friends with the friendless
  29. We are wise enough you can always be growing and learning
  30. We do not follow evil’s example, but overcome it with God’s goodness
  31. We know others are always looking up to your example
  32. We Leave wrath and vengeance to God

Who could do all these things, all the times?

None of us, yet these describe the bullseye of the target of our Christian living.

What does it look like we are allowing the World to define our purpose and identity?

  1. Win at all cost
  2. Being spiritual is just a show to satisfy our fears and weaknesses.
  3. Measure yourself and others based successful or failure we are.
  4. Live by the standards of what is popular at the time.
  5. Renew yourself by knowledge and self-awareness
  6. Decern from media, government and fashion what is Good, True and Whole
  7. Live by the motto, survival of the fittest.
  8. Trust the judgements of those who seek to take advantage of you.
  9. Live life based accepting all faiths and trust their God have authority over you.
  10. Know all persons not necessary, only those who help and serve our needs
  11. Let love gratifying of ourselves at the expense of others
  12. Love what is evil
  13. Avoid what is good
  14. Love another only those you tolerate or need.
  15. Respect and Honor those who can help you.
  16. Be passionate in self fulfillment
  17. Be strong in the eyes the community
  18. Serve yourself and those you look up to serve
  19. Rejoice in your accomplishments above all else
  20. Be impatient in Suffering
  21. Dismiss prayer as foolish self-consoling
  22. Contribute to one another’s needs only if you benefit from doing so
  23. Show hospitality to friends and family, if you like them.
  24. Curse and attack those who harm you
  25. Share your joys and sorrows and ignore others.
  26. Create disharmony and seek to rebel against everything that displeases or bothers you
  27. Always be proud,
  28. Hang out with the only those who benefit you
  29. Learn and accomplish only what you are interested in now
  30. Hate what is good and do as much damage as you can
  31. It matters not if others are looking to your example, you come first
  32. Dish as much wrath and vengeance, its your finest talent and calling

If you listen to the loudest voices in the marketplace, on the TV, online and surrounding our everyday life, which voice to do hear the most? Do we hear Paul’s list or the world’s list being preach and pounded in our hearts and minds?

Which list will do the most Good? What list creates the best for all people? Which feeds your spirit? Which list will bring you everlasting hope, joy, love and life?

It gets clear that one list, which difficult to take on all at once is better than the other!

I think we can condense the list to make it more concise without losing the details.

Draft 2: With humility, sobriety, patience, joy, worship, service, genuineness, spiritual empowerment, passion, harmony, and wisdom, we are living sacrifices to Christ, with Christ, for the world by loving, praying, trusting, treasuring, respecting, honoring, blessing, and witnessing God’s word, will, heart and measure in our daily lives. Leaving the temptation to measure with the world’s values, working to avoid evil, and leave justice and vengeance to God.  

Draft 3: With all intension, passion, and devotion, we live for and with Christ for the world, through our faith in God’s will and love in our daily lives. We leave God to deal with evil, justice and judgment.

Draft 4: Will at that is God by God’s measure, we live for and with Christ, trusting God’s understanding, leaving God to deal with evil, justice and judgement.

Draft 5: I Trust God, with all that I am in Christ, to reveal to the world God’s loving will and goodness.

Draft 6: Trust God, through Christ, to be God’s witness for evil in the world.

Draft 7: God, in Christ, lives in me, to overcome evil.

In a world driven by greed, power, blame, distraction, entertainment, being served, callous to violence against spouses, neighbors, children, the poor, that calls on someone else to be good, kind, compassionate, and generous from arm-chair distance over social media or expect governments, institutions or various organization to do in our place.

At some point, we stand up and draw the line in the sand, Paul is saying to the church in Rome.

“In God, I stand, In Christ I live, God is alive through me working to overcome the evil in this world.“

Q: When we are ready to make this stand, we are ready to become followers of Jesus Christ in word AND deed.

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Ephesians 1:15-23 “Above Every Name”

I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, and for this reason I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers. I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power. God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come. And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all. [NRSV]

This text is part of the introduction section of Paul’s letter to the church at Ephesus. He praises their faithfulness, wisdom and hope. He is grateful for their generous support of his ministry. And we may find it difficult to hear the first portion about any specific church today. While we would hope that were like that church the Paul describes. Some read Paul’s letters with a style of writing what he hopes for the church and not necessarily the reality of the church, based on the instructions and corrections contained in the following parts of his writing to the church. But I suggest that to sort out that discussion is not the focus of our reading today.

It is who we are at the world-wide, timeless church of Jesus -the Christ, present for the world that Paul affirms for our faith.

He reminds us of the Gospel Message:

God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come.”  

Christ is the Authority:

The church has handed over the reigns of our authority contextual academic criticism and theological reflection, we have given up on deep commitment and lifetime covenants, exchanging what is trending, fun, entertaining and simple. Not that faith has be complex, but we have made the wall the define us so low and world-like that it is difficult to know when we are faithful and when we are not.

The result is that we don’t think we have to deal with authority. We base God’s loving authority on the cruelty of those who have misused authority in God’s name or in God’s image for their own purposes and blame God for the evil in the world.

The setting of Ephesus was the powerful center of worship of the Roman goddess Dianna at the temple of Artemis. This was a place one would go to make offerings for favor in futility, in family, crops, and wealth. Make your donation and you will be blessed with abundance. The Roman government found great wealth and devotion. The church would have been such a small size organization in the middle of Sin-City. (How many churches are located ON the stripe in Las Vegas? zero) The church at Ephesus was off-off-off “the Strip.” And Paul is speaking about the authority of Christ and the Church.

Which has the greater authority today? The United States of America or the Throne of God? Which can tax, imprison and offer your life? Both? But which one loves you? What one created the other? God is not the creation of humanity, God is the creator, designer, love, and judge of the world and all the nations of the world, in our time and all times. God trumps the United States of America. (That is not a back-hand political comment, that is the truth.)

As the church we given up so much of our authority and calling in the name of being fair, kind, and inclusive. These are not ours to relinquish but have given permission to not trust God’s authority in our lives. And we wonder why the church is not the center of our social life as it has been in the past.

We question who more and more people in our country less faith have, less understand, and less respect for the church… and it comes when the God’s People concede that there is a greater authority than God.

We have more freedoms than did the church at Ephesus and yet Paul is calling them to be faithful to God’s authority when there were so many reasons not to in that environment. Paul is not saying, “let’s just all get along.” He is not saying, “Why can’t we be friends.” He is not singing, “We are the World.”

Paul is saying God has power and dominion over all things. Period….and his list continues:

  • With Power and Dominion
  • Above every other name
  • In that age
  • And in our age
  • And in the age to come.

God is the top dog, the chief above all chief, the supreme head of the universe. Not because God is on a power trip, but authority comes from creation, design and love.

In particular, Paul encourages our trust in Christ’s Authority:

And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.”

Because Jesus has given his life for ours, we follow his lead and call upon our lives.

The authority of Church is given by God, through Christ and continues through the Holy Spirit..

The problem we face is that at times we abused that authority

We allow others to abuse that authority

And rather than risk being wrong we hand over the power to governments, academies, armies and those who hunger for power who have the squeaky wheels of our collective attention.

  • Authority? We would rather be entertained.
  • Authority? We’d rather not be responsible.
  • Authority? We’d rather abdicate and take our chances that someone else will get it better than we would do.

That is not how God works.

  • God is the author of Authority.
  • God entrusts that Authority in Christ
  • Christ entrust that Authority in the Church and the ongoing body of Christ, present it the world
  • The Holy Spirit is our strength and guide to use God’s authority, AS the Church, for the work of God and glory of Christ.

The So What of this passage is to remind us that God is still in control; God remain the authority.

  • If we ever wonder why things are unfair,
  • If we wonder, why nations are at war
  • If we wonder, why people suffer under different governments
  • If we wonder, why there are those who hunger and thirst
  • If we wonder why there are terrorist, tyrants and evil in this world

The answer is that someone is not trusting God’s gracious and awesome authority.

What do we do about it.

  • We start with ourselves and our church. We stand for Jesus Christ.
  • We give our own affirmation, allegiance and trust to Christ.
  • We encourage one another under God’s grace, commands and love as the guide of our hearts, minds, souls and lives.
  • We show the world through our individual and local witness what it to be the body of Christ.

If we are not shine the light of Christ as a lampstand for the world to see, there is wonder why are fearful, diminished and feel powerless.

Paul says to the church then, and now.

You and I are the body of Jesus Christ, we will not be silenced, limited, or stopped by anything.

Authority is not the preacher’s, nor the congregations nor the conference, the authority is God’s through Christ.

For all that our church faces in this world, we need to reclaim our authority to lead the world to Christ.

  • We have the commandments of God
  • The life and grace of Christ
  • And the power and guidance of the Holy Spirit,
  • Don’t give up doing things the world’s way.

More next week…

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John 14:15-21 “See Me In You”

“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. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you. “I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.” [NRSV]

The promise Jesus makes to us as disciples is be connected to the very Spirit of God.

The Holy Spirit is God’s presence in our spirits, our true self.

We are not simply the sum of amassed knowledge that artificial intelligence can replicate. We have an additional dimension to our self. In Christ, this spirit is born. Through Christ we are awaken and reborn as a spiritual –  new person.

The purpose of knowing and being connected in Holy Spirit is to that God does not want us to be left out, alone, powerless, or afraid. God remains with us because God is all about the relationship.

The Difference in Knowing About Jesus and knowing Jesus.

In the old standard Interpreter’s Bible there is the story of a student who runs into a previous professor from a decade ago at conference meeting. The student waits in line to speak with the professor, he introduced himself as a “one of your students.” To which the professor looked puzzled, thinking through the thousands of students in his tenure. He replied, “Sir, you may have attended my lectures, but you were not one of my students.”

We can know countless information and proof of the historical Jesus, but we can miss knowing Jesus for all the facts. Do you realize there are no letters or documents signed by Jesus? We have no original copy of the Ten Commandments. We don’t even have original copies of the Bible, not one of them penned by its author, and yet we place our faith in the scriptures and our lives in Christ and our hope in the Holy Spirit? How could we be so foolish or faithful?

The difference is that these resources of our faith lead us to meet the person of Jesus, the witness of God, the movement and strength of the Holy Spirit in people lives. It is not History’s job to prove Jesus, that falls on our shoulders. It is not the Academic Academy’s job to validate our claims and truths, that is the work of God in the Holy Spirit.

Graham Greek writes of a character in “The Power and the Glory” known as the whiskey priest who attempts to describe how God is at work as the Father and the son the Holy Spirit. He alludes to the rural western town where the barber is also the shop keeper and the deputy sheriff, wear differ hats as needed. The divine reality is that God wears all three hats at the same time, beyond all time.

God so longs for our heart/mind/soul/self to be loved, and love in return through all creation that God is working in us in every generation. Scripture is timeless because it God speaking to humanity. A humanity that sins, fails and fall short. Scripture is truth because it reflects God’s guiding those God chooses and those who choose God to tell the Good News of God’s workings. Scripture is power because it is the Holy Spirt speaking through the hearts, soul, minds, and self of the faithful to witness to all generations that God creates us in love, saves us through grace, and empowers and guides us to witness that love and grace to all the world: Father, Son and Holy Spirit are/is with us.

How do know the Spirit is in us?

the On the day that we are born anew in the Spirit, is the moment that we realize God is in Jesus, and Jesus is in the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit is in us, and we are in God, through Jesus in our Spirit.

The ability to make this connection is what the image of God is all about. God’s nature is not limited by physical features; God nature is beyond history, beyond matter, beyond science, beyond time. For God to be all knowing, seeing and loving, means that God is more than our perspective.

For me personally, I grew up hearing sermons, lessons, hymns, anthems, studies, songs, cantatas, programs, devotions and stories of faith in church, outside of church, at home and in my own devotion progress. While I was baptized as an infant, it was not until my thirteenth year, while at the chapel at Camp Glisson did I know in my heart that all these information had a connecting point that included me.

There have been other times that God has claimed and made a stabbing hold on my spirit to mark my journey. It is not only a new birth is the a new life with new milestones.

Today’s passage is about markers in this spiritual journey.

I have learned through thirty-six years of professional ministry that there are those with much less training and practice that have a deeper and more mature journey than my own. But we all share the same spirit. Jesus gives the promise of God’s Spirit to live in us, that we are awakened and born anew, and it comes through a process.

  • Love
  • Commandments
  • Revelation

We typically would think it is in reverse. If we had a powerful revelation, our own Damascus Road, or burning bush, or tree in the middle of the garden, or some powerful sign of healing that we would be devoted to keep God’s commandments. But it is just the reverse in Jesus teaching.

  • We learn that we are loved by God, not oppressed by God.
  • The tree in the Garden was given to make it simple, we misplace trust.
  • The law was given to keep us in bounds, but we rebelled.
  • The kings and prophets were given to define us, and we devalued our neighbors and enemies.
  • Jesus arrives and offers himself as our stand in for our oppression, lost trust, rebellion, pride and separation.
  • The Holy Spirit is given as part of our Spirit that we might know God is eternally with us, now and for eternity.

As I looked out my window, I saw the mighty wind blow the leaves and branches and trunks of trees, but I sat safely in my house, climate controlled and secure. Am I so protecting myself that I am not away of the Spirit I see in others?

Being in the Spirit, is being willing to face the winds with God’s help.

If our starting place to find the Holy Spirit is to be in love, we look to God’s self-vulnerability of creating people, male and female, and entrusting us with the possibility to love and trust or to reject and rebel, hoping we would choose relationship and trust in God, who loves us enough to give us that choice.

God loves us.

When we see that God loves us despite our flaws and failures. When we see that we are God’s children, the creation of God’s love, and all people are so created, we see God not only loves me, and you, but everyone. A love that immense is awesome beyond our capacity to express or understand, and yet this is what God has and is doing for us. God loves us. God so loves us that he gave his Son, himself for us, to not only prove that love but give love to our life.

And when see this love is real, the commandment become our response. But our failings continue as the choice to trust God is challenged in everyday.

God reveals his Spiritual Presence. Living, growing and giving witness in our heart, soul, mind, self.

If you have not seen God at work in someone’s life there are dozen in this church who can share with you how God is at work in their life.

If you have heard and seen God in the lives of others but you question about God in your life, this is where this passage speaks to us all. Hear the Good News.

God loves us. Not even evil, death or anything will stop that love, as seen in Christ

And God wants to move in with us wherever we go. The invitation is God’s – let God move you.

God be in me, Let your Holy Spirit feed and guide me. God give my faith life and fuel to burn passionately for you. Be in my mind, in my soul, in my thoughts and in my actions. Come Holy Spirit reveal yourself in me. Amen.

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John 14:1-14 “The Faith of Proof”

The proof that frequencies have a physical effect on matter in Hydrogen and Sand moved by sound. https://youtu.be/tFAcYruShow

“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. [NRSA]

Our culture, even more than in the time of the first disciples long for PROOF.

The disciples are looking for proof. What is the proof of eternal life? What is the proof of heaven?

Are their streets of gold and pearly gate? Is it forty acres or one-mile square? Are their clouds, harps and banquet tables? I have long thought myself, that the great gathering of those who have died in Christ are raised to worship God would have a grand center of worship around the throne. In that congregation are stadium seats, reclining seats, with in-seat speakers and surround sound of the highest fidelity. The seating chart will be an unlikely arrangement. My guess is that while all the seats face the throne, those seated to our left and right are most likely those we least expect to be seated near. Therefore, we are given the commandment to love our enemies because we will be together for a very long time. Those seated in front of us are those who we didn’t expect to be there and those seated behind are those we looked forward to seeing the most, who have had our back in this life. I believe heaven is a grand reversal of much of what we expect and anticipated. But I don’t plan to be disappointed at all.

In our grief we look forward to being greeting and surrounded by loved ones that we miss who have gone before us. I too look forward to this with hope. But one clear thing that Jesus explains to disciples is this: That Jesus has gone to prepare a place for us. And he will return to take us home.

The Proof of Science and Reason

What would cause us to find our way home? Our culture has seen an amazing advancement in the power of science and reason to affect the world. When faced with a tiny virus, and the threat of suffering and death, science and reason have convinced the world to shelter-in-place as a global community. When is the last time the church did something that caused the whole world to respond in unison?

We need to acknowledge the voice and trust of science and reason are passionately challenging our voice of faith, tradition, and God’s own self. Even when the quantum physic scientist drills down into the basic sub-atomic energies and sees the systemic order and mystery of every part of the universe and its interconnectedness and still calls it random chance, we know that voice is choose something other than the heart of a gracious God of love.

When we listen to the Academies and Congresses of power and see how the world responds to say that the Church has oppressed humanity in the past, is not guarantee that they have or can oppress the world even further away from God’s heart.

Science and Reason are not our enemies, but they are not greater than God. They are part of how we explain and understand the world around us. But it is God has created all thing in God’s order, in God’s timing, with God’s purpose, out of God’s love for us.

We need to be aware where the world has placed its trust, but we do not need to be afraid. We have God who remains God.

Two Simple Promises

Jesus does not want disciples to live in fear. This is clear from the prophets foretelling the Messiah, to the angles at Jesus’s birth, to his words to followers and disciples before and after his resurrection. When Jesus, who knows us best has gone to prepare a place for us, has our very best interest at heart, knows what we need. Therefore, the accommodations of heaven will lack for nothing we need. Secondly his promise is personalized. He knows what each us needs. Don’t worry about heaven or your time of being here or there. God has got you covered, here and now as well as then and there.

The second promise

Jesus makes the most clearly defined statement in scripture concerning himself:

  • I am,
  • the way,
  • the truth,
  • the life.

In the old testament,

Moses ask for God’s name to take to pharaoh. God says my name is: I am. Jesus adds to the name three others: Way, Truth, and Life. I am Life; I am Truth; I am the Way; I am.

These are names in which we trust.

There are some who ask, “Does that mean all the other religions lead people to hell?” My answer is this, “I am not judge, that is life to God and Jesus. I do believe that for those who have found God’s heart in various ways on earth will find themselves face-to-face with Jesus who is our trust salvation.”

I believe that many people who think their good deeds, good intensions, and leveraged attempts to buy faith will be disappointed that they have traded their lives here for torment of loneliness in the time to come.

Our calling is to share that which we know to be the way, the truth and the life to the great “I am” and trust God to reach those who do not believe us. But know that God desire to use our love and trust to reach others in this life.

The Word Made Flesh

God models this himself in Jesus. Jesus offers himself. Some will listen and believe others will not. God is not in the business of forcing faith or grace, but is patient, grace-filled and hopeful that we will come ot him through Christ.

Jesus offers his word, and if don’t take his word, take his works.

Also know God is expecting us to do even greater things that Jesus did with his life. (excluding the salvation piece, that’s Jesus alone does for us all.)

Jesus does answer the question of PROOF with a call to faith.

The Proof is turned on the disciples. His command is to Do the things that further his work, and God will provide and that will be the proof. Which makes our actions and God’s work, again with the actions of faith? We do them with the anticipation and hope that Christ will be revealed in and through us.

If we do not do the things of God toward others, then we close the heart of God and make it more difficult for us both to find God’s heat. The proof is in the faith.

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John 10:1-10 “The Risk of an Open Gate”

Church of the Transfiguration
Mt Tabor, Church of the Transfiguration.

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]

Sheep Herding Risk

Very few if any of us will shepherd sheep. We are much more likely to have cows, dogs, or cats. We may not have a herd, but we know the risk of opening the door or the gate and allowing out pets to go out. All manner of dangers awaits out the gate or door. from the mechanical, mischievous, and manageable ones. The coyotes that boarder our properties lay in wait. Driver speeding though neighborhood and country roads are distracted. Air borne contagions blowing at our windows and doors.

We found ourselves on the verge of leaving our shelter-at-home and wonder about the risk of opening ourselves to the risk of being exposed to infections and re-infections of the virus, and all manors of evil, sin, brokenness, grief, hurt and suffering.  If I were charged with herding sheep today, the herd would be at great risk. I lack the experience.

God’s Risk

Have you ever reflected upon the great risk God has entrusted in us? God has no desire nor need for smart robots to do God’s work or give God praise as a programed creation. God has made us from love, hoping that we would choose to love and trust God in return, and to show that love and trust to one another. We certainly fail, and God is gracious. God offers himself as the gate and door through that love and trust.

God risks children in the garden of Edan to be trusting of God’s graciousness and single command. The Tree in the middle of the garden is the central figure of that divine-human trust. God provides without request everything that we would need, surrounded in love and relationship, and asks of us to trust God more than we trust ourselves.

The sin in the garden is upon hearing something different from God’s instruction, that we forfeit our life in the moment of curiosity, disobedience, or selfishness.

What if the story had Adam and Eve exploring the garden together, and when confronted by the diversion of the slick talking snake, that they asked each other before acting alone? Of if divided on what to do in a giving situation asked God directly, what to do or what are the consequence of our choices, thoughts and actions. If we have learned anything in this time of quarantine, may it be that we need each other more than we ever realized.

I am the Gate

As our eternal remedy to sin and misplaced trust and the forfeit of our lives, Jesus offers himself as the gate, the way, back to God.

We think back the garden of Eden passage and know that after the failing to trust and communion, God sends Adam and Eve out, and set an angel with a sword to close the entrance back into the garden. 

While this is a fearful and passionate scene, their thoughts, actions, and choices bore fruit of rejecting God, trusting themselves above God’s heart and instruction. The consequence should have been death. But God continue to love them, and loves us even when we sin and reject by our thoughts, actions and choices.

All those who came before were not the way.

Jesus makes it plain to disciples. There are those who USE God’s trust and love are thieves and robbers. We like to blame the devil or find someone to blame for our irresponsibility with our lives. We want to blame our leaders, the wealth people and corporations. We find it easy to blame governments, but remember we are the one’s who selected to lead us.

Too many people are overwhelmed by the deep fighting in our political parties. One side blaming the other, day after day. Answer this question before we move on: If all the time, energy, and passion that we given to find the correct person or party to blame would be refocused on holding each other accountable to God’s love and trust. We would reopen to the doors of trust between each other, and with God.

The reality is we don’t. It is easy to point fingers, find flaws, and get rid of that which we in our own way. If you have a problem with me as a neighbor, as a friend, as a pastor, as a human being: is it better to gather our like-minded friends and supports and being to get me out their way or to sit down together, talk through our struggle and find the consensus of how to love and work together. I choose the latter and reject the former.

But how to do ever get to that place where we can restore trust, love, and relationship. Many times, we don’t but there is a way. Many times, we listen to others who offer what is easy in the moment, or less challenging of ourselves, and we steam ahead into campaigns of righteousness that robe our relationships of trust and love.

The church has placed on the second burning its goal of division in a time of pandemic. I pray that we have found in this time apart, a time of prayer, study and renewal, and return to impending threats of division with the confession that we have closed our hearts to those who think differently that we think and believe. In place of this division may we have a return to the heart of God and see that God has both an open-door policy of accepting sinners ALONG WITH an angel of accountability and consequence for misplaced trust. Our hope lies in the one who is the doorway, the gate.

The Gateway to Salvation

Those who enter by the gate of Christ find life, fulfillment, wholeness, belonging and salvation. If the great risk for God was for Adam and Eve to understand trust, love, and grace, then taking their lives for one action would end the whole expression of God. God is more interested in our relationship than our past. It is the great BOTH/AND.

God knows that we continue to make poor choices, we continue to surrender our lives for our own sake and not God’s.  God knows that we seek ill toward some. God know we are hesitant to forgive those who have trespassed against us. God know we only look at the manna we need for the day or a few days ahead, and that we grow tired and bored without the Garden, the trust, the ongoing work of the relationship.

God entrusts Adam and Eve with the work of faith and trust. All the other tasks and responsibilities were taken by God. The shelter-at-home has been a change at our household. We have shared more tasks and been forced to learn better communication and interdependence. We have find an ever great need to pray and seek each other’s grace, forgiveness and contributions. God is hoping in our time, that the Garden where we trust God and We work to be faithful, loving and trust of God and one another is fully known. Knowing how hard that is we have a clear picture of why we need the risen Lord in our lives.

The Big Risk

The gate is open to all. God has been about boundaries and grace throughout history. The Ten Commandments are boundary markers that let us know when we have crossed the lines of God’s expectation for our relationship with God, family and the world. The consequences may appear to have differing degrees, but frankly each has a ripping and separating effect on our trust and love of God.

We need to reclaim the GRACE that God has both boundaries of our thoughts, behaviors, and choices, and the GRACE to come running to him to restore our broken trust, love and forfeits of our lives.

Robber and thieves are sneaking if they are good at their vocations. The work in darkness. They come when we are absent. The take when we are not looking or paying attention. They distract and are persistent without compassion or concern for the value of others and their belongings.

God is risking to love, trust, and restore us knowing that we are just as likely to work in darkness, to be absent from God’s presence, absent from supporting and encouraging one another. We are likely to tire with our attention, we are easily distracted, we give up on persistence and looking ourselves when pressed.

If that does not prove God’s love for us, there is the clearest gift, that God lays down his life in Christ, for us, as the bridge, the gate, the passage, the ability to restore our relationship. God is willing to give his life for ours. That is the supreme gift of trust.

The Instruction to Disciples

What do we take from this parable? We not only see what great love God has for us, we also see how we are to love and trust one another. We see how we become gateways to Christ for others. And it is a BOTH / AND relationship.

While we were yet sinners Christ died for us.. While we are deserving of the world’s criticism that just a bunch of sinners, God is still working to transform our hearts, our faith, our trust, our relationships.

The church is the body of Christ, BOTH crucified and risen. We have a marks of sin and we also have the life, the hope, the joy, the trust, and love of God that gives us life, and life that is abundant.

Join me in naming someone who need to hear this BOTH / AND message and tell them this week.

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