Archive for August, 2020

Luke 9:51 In My Mind I’m Gone to Jerusalem

Garden of Gethsemane

*A Koinonia Fellowship is focused on the God’s Presences

When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.” [NRSA: Lk 9:51]

Why one verse?

This verse is the central turning point in the Gospel of Luke. Everything in the first half of Luke is leading to this moment, and everything following leads to the cross.

We all are grateful for the formative works of grace, the loving relationships, the moments of study, service, and worship that shape our lives to the point in which we recognize God’s love for us personally. Our moment of salvation was accomplished in Christ millennia ago, but there are moments in our own relationship with God in Christ that we accept and acknowledge this in our lives personally.

And within this moment we may at first begin this transformation spiritually, physically, or mentally, but today we make the turning point in Jesus’s life and ministry and learn more about our own journeys.

This one first holds the most dramatic actions of Jesus “setting his face on Jerusalem.” 

It is not that Jesus has learned everything at this point, and no further testing or temptation would follow, it is the defining moment that we dedicate the remaining days on this earth to the work of God in our lives.

I had grown up going to church all my life. I mean my earliest memories are being with church families, doing church activities, worship and fellowship dinners. I played at the church, I ate at the church, I took naps at the church. I had a desk in my father’s office made where I did my work while he did his. I am privileged, not because I’m (white-middle-class-educated-male), I’m privileged because I have been surrounded by people devoted to serving, worshiping, seeking Christ from my earliest years. 

On one hand, there are those who are overloaded by this and rebel after a childhood of church. 

I found strength from Sunday school teachers, youth leaders, confirmation leaders, choirs, drama teams, worship teams, and summer camp… In fact, it was a camp Glisson that I put all the pieces together and recognized all the words, songs, and services were calling me personally to the heart of Christ. 

Every day since that Thursday evening, I have been growing toward God’s heart. Now some days I have grown stagnate and even run the other way at times, but I have never been out of God’s sight and grasp. 

The mission trips, the call to ministry, the school work, the line of congregations, dissertation, and daily work of being a United Methodist minister can point back to a pew, on the second row on the right-hand side of the chapel, where the heart was turned toward Christ. 

Your journey has been different from mine, and no one person’s journey is to that of someone else. My advisor at Gammon Seminary, Jonathan Jackson, was a classmate of Martin Luther King Jr.  He shared that he struggled to be like Martin but could never live up to the dedication that Martin expressed and he felt that he had failed himself and God. In his heart he heard God speak, clear as day, telling him. I only needed on Martin and I only need one Johnathon Jackson, set your path on becoming Johnathon. 

Jesus spent much time preaching, healing, teaching and traveling, until Luke 9:51. When he set his face on Jerusalem, he had a singular mission. 

What did it mean to head to Jerusalem?

For Jesus particularly it meant the precious gift of the cross and his glory and grace for us. But, why did thousands journey to Jerusalem through the years and millions still today?

Why Jerusalem?

  • Jerusalem is the place where Abraham offers his adult son, his only son, as an offering to God. 
  • Jerusalem is the place of the temple, the art, the holy of holies, the dwelling place of God where God’s people came to worship, make offerings, and find the home that was guided by the Holy Spirit to rest. 
  • Jerusalem is the place of pilgrimage. The spiritual journey of walking in the steps where generations of previous worshippers and servants have traveled to learn, find, and celebrate God’s power and grace.
  • Jerusalem is filled with demarcations of other religions and that is no different as Egyptian, Babylonian, Roman, and Muslim faiths and cultures have known its power and significance. 
  • Jerusalem for Jesus was the fulfillment of God’s love revealed on the cross.
  • We could have political discussions about Jerusalem today, and 
  • Jerusalem for us is the tourist destination for some, territory to defend and protect for others, but what is it for us in Rock Spring?

Jerusalem is a witness of God’s promises and presence fulfilled

  • It is the call to worship
  • It is the reminder that God has a purpose for us in Christ
  • It is the living history to shape our present and our future.
  • It is the promise of restoration, resurrection, and return to take us home.
  • Jerusalem is the place that Christ has promised to first reveal himself when he comes. 

Off all the signs to anticipate it is not weathers, wars, and fammon: THE sign is the coming of Christ for the children of God, for the church, for the elect, for the righteous. 

What’s the big deal about Jerusalem?

If we say we have no need for Jerusalem, we have no need to be looking for Christ.

The Koinonia Fellowship is the people of Christ who anticipate Christ’s return today and every day until he comes.

  • Jerusalem continues to be a place of learning and preparing
  • A place of prayer and service
  • A place of worship and spiritual connection…

The key is looking there for the moment Christ’s face is revealed again to us. 

  • We know Jesus in the words of a song
  • We know Jesus in the words of scriptures
  • We know Jesus in the hands of loving service
  • We know Jesus in the symbols and rituals of our faith
  • We know Jesus in the fellowship of the Church…

But there is coming the moment that Jesus’s face will be set upon those who he will come to take with him to the place he has gone to prepare for those who believe and trust.

It is much more important to seek the face of Christ than the signs of the end.

  • For all those who wonder if the wars and rumors of wars,
  • The unrest in ours and all the nations of the world
  • The signs of nature and politics that begin to fit into place,

Therefore, our task is to not wait to find for ourselves that moment of turning and yield, giving ourselves to accepting Christ

And for those who have accepted we are called to lead, encourage, and disciples others who are struggling to find Christ for themselves.

The church may be in a stressful and even oppressed time, yet we are all-the-more needed to help a word that is lost in politics, fear, worry, shame, sin, and self to find that Christ indeed has died and lives for them.

Imagine facing these weary days without the promises of Christ? We cannot be true to Christ and ignore the spiritual hunger and spiritual blindness of those wandering through these days. 

Our mission, work, and calling is now and always to make disciples of Jesus Christ, which means helping people turn their hearts to Christ, the cross, Jerusalem, and grace God has revealed for us all.

Leave a comment

John 4:1-30 Crossing Limits to find True Living

Now when Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard, “Jesus is making and baptizing more disciples than John” —although it was not Jesus himself but his disciples who baptized— he left Judea and started back to Galilee. But he had to go through Samaria.  So he came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph.  Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon. A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” (His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.)  The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.)  Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, “Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.”  The woman said to him, “Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water?  Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?”  Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.”  The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.”  Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come back.” The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, “I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!” The woman said to him, “Sir, I see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.”  Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews.  But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”  The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us.” Jesus said to her, “I am he, the one who is speaking to you.” Just then his disciples came. They were astonished that he was speaking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you want?” or, “Why are you speaking with her?”  Then the woman left her water jar and went back to the city. She said to the people, “Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?” They left the city and were on their way to him. [NRSA: John 4:1-30]

This passage is about crossing lines and boundaries to include people in the kingdom of God.

One example we look back 100 years, with the 19th amendment to see the constitution amended to include women voice their power through voting. This was an important crossing a boundary for women and men. We take for granted that all citizens have the right to vote. It was unjust to limit any citizen’s power of choice and accountability.

  • It takes persistence and taking disappointment and turning it into momentum,” she said. “These women were masters at protesting, but they were never just protesters. They used all the tools of democracy and learned to use the system to change the system.” Elaine Weiss, author of “The Woman’s Hour: The Great Fight to Win the Vote.”

Today, a hundred years, hence, why would anyone cheapen the work done to secure that vote buy opening our elections to fraud.  I genuinely believe those who fought for the right to vote would not want anyone to water-down the fruit of their suffrage. The change occurred because women and men followed up the protest with social and political action for the common good of the nation.

While sitting in a waiting room I happen to watch one scene from the most recent version of the movie, Wonder Woman, (Warner Bros. 2017). Which conveys the classic battles of good verses evil and the reversal of power between women and men.

Jesus is living in a world where men did not talk with women in public, in different cultural context, in the middle of the day, and yet this is very scene we see Jesus speaking with the women at the well.

It is assumed by most bible scholars that the only women who went gather water in the middle of the day were those who had been shunned by the other women, that she had some past, history, reputation that by her choice to avoid the other women or by being excluded by other women, she was at the well at noon.

Jesus orders her, give me some water. Next Saturday is annual conference, and we will have the historic opportunity for that body of the church to meet virtually for the first time. Dylan is our church delegate and representative. We are both registered and ready to login this Saturday for an all-day online meeting. Wow!?

Had it not been for Covid-19 we would again be meeting in Athens, Georgia for this meeting. Going to Athens is probably why Dylan agreed to be our delegate, (joke.) It is typically extremely hot in Athens in the middle of the summer and they bishop always reminds the conference to stay well hydrated. A few years ago it was unbearably hot, and many people had passed out from the heat, and the bishop said these words, “There are plenty of places in Athens to get a drink and I want you all to drink a lot.” I do not think he had in mind that Athens has the most per capita bars in the state, and that in that context he was telling the delegates to go drink. He caught himself and corrected. “Water, people, go drink a lot of water.”

I would gather that it was hot in the noon day sun when Jesus met this woman at the well. He was thirsty. She had the bucket. This is where an enormous conversation of grace, invitation, and salvation are opened for this woman, the disciples, for us, and the world.

  • Jesus is geographically at the limits
  • Socially at the limit
  • Politically at the limit
  • Gender limits

It is at this four-way junction that two people meet as strangers and leave as brother and sister.

The conversation Jesus has with this woman is ultimately about truth.

  • The Truth of being at a crossroad.
  • The Truth about social and political boundaries
  • The Truth her life
  • The Truth about God and her relationship with God.

This is where we meet this passage:

  • Think of the political differences in our own congregation and even in our families.
  • Think of the social differences in our community and even our church family.
  • Think of the community differences that divide us.
  • Think of the sins that diminish our joy, the baggage we carry ourselves that keep us from getting too involved.

Jesus’ remedy for all this division is to reveal the truth about what on the inside.

Our guilt, shame, brokenness, hurt, grief, history, reputation, emptiness, failures, and all matters of sin.

With all that mess on the table, there is the invitation to drink the water of eternity.

  • Do you want to live forever in guilt?
  • Do you want to live be carrying the burdens of shame, fear, hurt and grief?
  • Do you want to filter every joy through the past judgement of others?
  • Do you want to only be satisfied in this ONE moment of thirstiness? Or be satisfied for eternity?

In this passage there are no signs of miracle, there is no ritual of drinking. there is no further conversation between the woman and Jesus.

  1. She leaves her water jar at the well and runs to tell those who had rejected, persecuted, harmed, and been harmed by her and to her,
  2. She has an overflowing word of truth guiding her actions
  3. She has an earthy vessel filled with joy worth sharing
  4. She will be physically thirsty again, but she will never be the same spiritually.

This passage begs of us to ask “Is my spiritual jar filled with the love of Christ or am I focused on the emptiness of by clay jar, my body, my world, my brokenness?”

This passage calls us to say, if we are filled with the good news of Jesus Christ in our live how are we responding to world around us?

This passage calls us to see past our failures and differences and find the common ‘living-water’ in Christ.

Therefore, it is the same story and invitation as always: Christ has come to give himself for us that nothing separate us from the love of God. Not politics, not social media, not customs, not cultures, not history or present day. God offers us this living water as well. Drink it up!

Every time you drink a glass of water say this prayer: “I know that Messiah is coming, he will proclaim all things to us” and hear Jesus say, “I am he, the one who is speaking to you now.”

Leave a comment

Luke 4:1-14 Lead by the Spirit

Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing at all during those days, and when they were over, he was famished. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.” Jesus answered him, “It is written, “One does not live by bread alone.’ ” Then the devil led him up and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And the devil said to him, “To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” Jesus answered him, “It is written, “Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’ ” Then the devil took him to Jerusalem, and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written, “He will command his angels concerning you, to protect you,’ and “On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’ ” Jesus answered him, “It is said, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’ ” When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time. Then Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country. [NRSA: LK 4:1-14]

Do you remember being held by the hand when you were young?

Crossing the street?

Guided through the grocery store away from the sugary sweet cereals? 

Taken into school, the doctor’s office, or some place you’d rather not be on that day?

At times, being held by the hand is a comforting experience.

Holding hands with a spouse or some one special in your life.

As an adult holding the hand of a child in your care.

Facing difficult news or a time of suffering, holding someone’s hand is a way of communicating connection, empathy, and affection.

As an adult child, I look back and wish I could hold my father’s hand, and be guided by my grandmother in stressful points along life’s journey.

I recall a witty youth director asking if we believed in “Pre-marital-interdigitation?” [hand holding] it was using a larger than usual vocabulary word to being a conversation about signs of affections.

This passage is a rare occasion where we see someone leading Jesus by the hand, and leading Jesus by the Spirit.

Led by the Spirit

Often overlooked in this passage is the supernatural method of traveling from place to place by means of the Spirit. We understand the Spirit to be God’s invisible presence that gives breath, power, direction, and guidance to us.

Jesus and the Devil visit three locations. A dry and barren place in the wilderness near Jericho where Jesus had been spending over a month in prayer, fasting, and preparation for his ministry. The second was an extremely high mountain vantage point where the two could see the kingdom and empires of the world. The third spot was atop the temple in Jerusalem. 

Is this passage a figurative narrative? Are they simply visiting this perspective in a mental exercise of “What if?”

 4:1-14

Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing at all during those days, and when they were over, he was famished. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.” Jesus answered him, “It is written, “One does not live by bread alone.’ ” Then the devil led him up and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And the devil said to him, “To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” Jesus answered him, “It is written, “Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’ ” Then the devil took him to Jerusalem, and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written, “He will command his angels concerning you, to protect you,’  and “On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’ ”  Jesus answered him, “It is said, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’ ” When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time. Then Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country. [NRSA: LK 4:1-14]

Do you remember being held by the hand when you were young? 

Crossing the street? 

Guided through the grocery store away from the sugary sweet cereals? 

Taken into school, the doctor’s office, or some place you’d rather not be on that day?

At times, being held by the hand is a comforting experience.

Holding hands with a spouse or some one special in your life.

As an adult holding the hand of a child in your care.

Facing difficult news or a time of suffering, holding someone’s hand is a way of communicating connection, empathy, and affection.

As an adult child, I look back and wish I could hold my father’s hand, and be guided by my grandmother in stressful points along life’s journey.

I recall a witty youth director asking if we believed in “Pre-marital-interdigitation?” [hand holding] it was using a larger than usual vocabulary word to being a conversation about signs of affections. 

This passage is a rare occasion where we see someone leading Jesus by the hand, and leading Jesus by the Spirit.

Led by the Spirit

Often overlooked in this passage is the supernatural method of traveling from place to place by means of the Spirit. We understand the Spirit to be God’s invisible presence that gives breath, power, direction, and guidance to us.

Jesus and the Devil visit three locations. A dry and barren place in the wilderness near Jericho where Jesus had been spending over a month in prayer, fasting, and preparation for his ministry. The second was an extremely high mountain vantage point where the two could see the kingdom and empires of the world. The third spot was atop the temple in Jerusalem. 

Is this passage a figurative narrative? Are they simply visiting this perspective in a mental exercise of “What if?” 

Is this passage a literal account of the pair visiting different locations in moment of an instant?

What do we know about the Spirit?

The spirit is not bound by the rules and limitation of the physical world. We are so very worldly minded that we might be quick to not hear this account as the literal hyper-drive of motility. But to assume this was only a mental journey, dismisses God’s ability to bring order out of chaos and breath life into dust. 

Most likely, even if we read this with a more literal perspective, we assume this type of activity is for Jesus and the devil only? 

Isn’t it odd that the devil is the doing the leading, in the spirit.

This suggests that God’s spirit and all it’s power and mystery is not limited to those who are good or even mature in the ways of God. The devil uses God’s words, tools, and mysteries to twist our imager of God.

This is a particularly important detail to remember. 

The power of evil people, evil spirits, evil organizations, and institutions to use the words of goodness, value, and even love to give a twisted view of God’s work in the world, and in our lives.

As we interpret the good and evil we experience in the world it is important to be clear on who is leading us, and where.

How do we decern the difference?

In Jesus’s example he repeatedly compares scripture with the reality presented and measure the current reality with the timeless power of God’s word. 

The three twisting of God’s word by the devil are: • If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.” • “To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.”• “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written, “He will command his angels concerning you, to protect you,’  and “On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’1. The first is a command to prove to the world, but the world’s standards.2. The second is a command to use authority for one’s self-interest, power, and glory.3. The third is to ignore the reality of the human experience and skip the struggle.

Three things that are the antithesis of God’s work of love, grace, and salvation through Jesus. 

In the span of our lifetime, we are collectively experiencing an unprecedented season of what it means to be Children of God, Christians, living a faithful life. 

We are conforming to the world’s expectation for the church to be irrelevant, calling our purpose and calling one of privilege and exclusion, and making it easy for us to say and do nothing or suffer the chastisement of shame, blame, and division. 

We are going on six months of saying that it is unhealthy for us to gather in public as a church, but the public can be trusted to go to the home supply, grocery, protest, and businesses that have “sin-taxes.” We have taken for granted the freedom of worship and assembly. While we have complied in the name of health, is it possible for us to fulling do the work of the church from home for the rest of the forceable future? As soon as vaccines are developed and tested, isn’t it likely we will have the next virus or flu that will keep us separated and subjugated to the world definition of vital or essential? 

Don’t miss interpret my words that I deny the threat of contagions and infections, but step back and see how quickly we comply with the most radical transformation of the church in the blink of an eye for a risk factor ofless than one percent of the population. We were not as motivated by starvation, war, and political genocide. 

If we think for a moment about the greatest risks for death: When we have heart disease, diabetes, obesity, emphysema, and being over eighty, have always been at-risk groups even before covid-19. Certainly, those with these conditions are already at greater risk and faced with a deadly virus with added features, it would be something to work to avoid, but at what cost. It is seemingly impossible to find the number of people ding from these conditions this year that are not attributed to precisely infection by Covid-19. 

If I have the typical symptoms of the above conditions and went to the doctor for healing and relief and tested negative, how likely would the doctor say, well you are likely ‘asymptomatic’ go quarantine yourself. 

Hear the words of the devil in the context of Covid-19: • Do no harm is more important than do all the good you can.

It is more loving to shut down the church, than the church risk spreading the illness because if infections increased you have caused people to suffer and at worse contributed to their death, shame for even considering non-compliance.• Let’s trust the authorities. Who grants and verifies authority? Of the CDC? WHO? White House? Media? Numbers? • Science knows best in all matters of social assembly• The only agenda is the health of the world• Only Some people are important• My opinion has more authority than God.

Jesus’s respond to the twisting of Words.

First, remember that the devil was using the occasion of Jesus’s weariness as a timely moment to break through Jesus’s work.

The devil was leading Jesus. (Jesus doesn’t give in to the devil, but that doesn’t stop the devil from trying to influence him.)

Jesus turns to scripture: 

One does not live by bread alone.’• We are more than bread and food. We are children of God worth God’s love, sacrifice, grace, and redemption.• God is most interested in our eternal relationship and not just the struggle of our physical moment.

“Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’• There is one authority that is greatest. • That is who are to trust with all of our heart, mind, and strength.

“Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’• People, organizations, and powers, will try to lead us astray• Choose to be lead to the green pastures and still waters of God love.

So what of our being lead by the world instead of God 

We are more than the life of this body. • We will all face death and it is most important to be in love with God, neighbors, and enemies

We can’t control temptation, but we can trust God with our lives• God is greater than all other authority. Worship God

If there is a time that we need to worship, praise, study, pray, encourage, be spiritually strong it in times of our greatest weakness and threat.• The World will always test, tempt, twist, and make it easy to worship our will over God’s will

The Big So What: • We trust God’s word in helping us determine if are doing more ‘harm’ or more ‘good’ staying at home or living in the world?• Is our worship limited to the building and to Sunday?• Who is the greater authority in our daily lives? In times of crisis? • Who do we follow? • How long can we be lead by the devil before we give up, give in, or forget God and God’s word as our strength , authority, and foundation?

Words to Remember

You are more than your body. You are created in the image of God, to be God’s treasure.

You are called to worship God and not two masters, rulers, -a divided house cannot stand.

You are very likely to trust yourself and the world if left along – encourage one another and be strong in the Spirit.

What do we know about the Spirit?

The spirit is not bound by the rules and limitation of the physical world. We are so very worldly minded that we might be quick to not hear this account as the literal hyper-drive of motility. But to assume this was only a mental journey, dismisses God’s ability to bring order out of chaos and breath life into dust. 

Most likely, even if we read this with a more literal perspective, we assume this type of activity is for Jesus and the devil only? 

Isn’t it odd that the devil is the doing the leading, in the spirit.

This suggests that God’s spirit and all it’s power and mystery is not limited to those who are good or even mature in the ways of God. The devil uses God’s words, tools, and mysteries to twist our imager of God.

This is a particularly important detail to remember. 

The power of evil people, evil spirits, evil organizations, and institutions to use the words of goodness, value, and even love to give a twisted view of God’s work in the world, and in our lives.

As we interpret the good and evil we experience in the world it is important to be clear on who is leading us, and where.

How do we decern the difference?

In Jesus’s example he repeatedly compares scripture with the reality presented and measure the current reality with the timeless power of God’s word. 

The three twisting of God’s word by the devil are: • If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.” • “To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.”• “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written, “He will command his angels concerning you, to protect you,’  and “On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’1. The first is a command to prove to the world, but the world’s standards.2. The second is a command to use authority for one’s self-interest, power, and glory.3. The third is to ignore the reality of the human experience and skip the struggle.

Three things that are the antithesis of God’s work of love, grace, and salvation through Jesus. 

In the span of our lifetime, we are collectively experiencing an unprecedented season of what it means to be Children of God, Christians, living a faithful life. 

We are conforming to the world’s expectation for the church to be irrelevant, calling our purpose and calling one of privilege and exclusion, and making it easy for us to say and do nothing or suffer the chastisement of shame, blame, and division. 

We are going on six months of saying that it is unhealthy for us to gather in public as a church, but the public can be trusted to go to the home supply, grocery, protest, and businesses that have “sin-taxes.” We have taken for granted the freedom of worship and assembly. While we have complied in the name of health, is it possible for us to fulling do the work of the church from home for the rest of the forceable future? As soon as vaccines are developed and tested, isn’t it likely we will have the next virus or flu that will keep us separated and subjugated to the world definition of vital or essential? 

Don’t miss interpret my words that I deny the threat of contagions and infections, but step back and see how quickly we comply with the most radical transformation of the church in the blink of an eye for a risk factor ofless than one percent of the population. We were not as motivated by starvation, war, and political genocide. 

If we think for a moment about the greatest risks for death: When we have heart disease, diabetes, obesity, emphysema, and being over eighty, have always been at-risk groups even before covid-19. Certainly, those with these conditions are already at greater risk and faced with a deadly virus with added features, it would be something to work to avoid, but at what cost. It is seemingly impossible to find the number of people ding from these conditions this year that are not attributed to precisely infection by Covid-19. 

If I have the typical symptoms of the above conditions and went to the doctor for healing and relief and tested negative, how likely would the doctor say, well you are likely ‘asymptomatic’ go quarantine yourself. 

Hear the words of the devil in the context of Covid-19: • Do no harm is more important than do all the good you can.

It is more loving to shut down the church, than the church risk spreading the illness because if infections increased you have caused people to suffer and at worse contributed to their death, shame for even considering non-compliance.• Let’s trust the authorities. Who grants and verifies authority? Of the CDC? WHO? White House? Media? Numbers? • Science knows best in all matters of social assembly• The only agenda is the health of the world• Only Some people are important• My opinion has more authority than God.

Jesus’s respond to the twisting of Words.

First, remember that the devil was using the occasion of Jesus’s weariness as a timely moment to break through Jesus’s work.

The devil was leading Jesus. (Jesus doesn’t give in to the devil, but that doesn’t stop the devil from trying to influence him.)

Jesus turns to scripture: 

One does not live by bread alone.’• We are more than bread and food. We are children of God worth God’s love, sacrifice, grace, and redemption.• God is most interested in our eternal relationship and not just the struggle of our physical moment.

“Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’• There is one authority that is greatest. • That is who are to trust with all of our heart, mind, and strength.

“Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’• People, organizations, and powers, will try to lead us astray• Choose to be lead to the green pastures and still waters of God love.

So what of our being lead by the world instead of God 

We are more than the life of this body. • We will all face death and it is most important to be in love with God, neighbors, and enemies

We can’t control temptation, but we can trust God with our lives• God is greater than all other authority. Worship God

If there is a time that we need to worship, praise, study, pray, encourage, be spiritually strong it in times of our greatest weakness and threat.• The World will always test, tempt, twist, and make it easy to worship our will over God’s will

The Big So What: • We trust God’s word in helping us determine if are doing more ‘harm’ or more ‘good’ staying at home or living in the world?• Is our worship limited to the building and to Sunday?• Who is the greater authority in our daily lives? In times of crisis? • Who do we follow? • How long can we be lead by the devil before we give up, give in, or forget God and God’s word as our strength , authority, and foundation?

Words to Remember

You are more than your body. You are created in the image of God, to be God’s treasure.

You are called to worship God and not two masters, rulers, -a divided house cannot stand.You are very likely to trust yourself and the world if left along – encourage one another and be strong in the Spirit.

Leave a comment

Deut. 6:1-9 “Love is It”

Now this is the commandment—the statutes and the ordinances—that the Lord your God charged me to teach you to observe in the land that you are about to cross into and occupy, so that you and your children and your children’s children may fear the Lord your God all the days of your life, and keep all his decrees and his commandments that I am commanding you, so that your days may be long. Hear therefore, O Israel, and observe them diligently, so that it may go well with you, and so that you may multiply greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, as the Lord, the God of your ancestors, has promised you. Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead, and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. [NRSA: Deut 6:1-9]

Love is the answer.

The Greatest Commandment: You shall love the Lord your God with all you heart, and with all you soul, and with all your might.

The Key commandment, the one rule that binds them all. Is to love God.

It is the simplest instruction. Love God, Trust God, Depend on God. Follow God. Love God. Say these aloud to God with me: 

·         I love you God

·         I trust you Lord

·         I depend on you Jesus

·         I believe you are my Savior

·         I follow you Holy Spirit.

·         I love you God.

The First instruction is to learn, remember and to recite the nature of our relationship with God.

“God I love you.”

This instruction is simple and direct profession of faith. But it goes a bit further than just loving God.

The instruction is to love God with our whole heart.

Think of the pie charts from school and business meetings. If the whole pie is dedicated to loving God how much is left to love others people and other things?

If the whole pie indicated the amount we are the devote our heart and soul to God what part is lift for being a fan of something else?

If the whole pie reflect that all our energy, strength, and resources are going to God, how much is left over for things other than God.

SURELY THIS IS NOT WHAT GOD MEANS!

If this one commandment is to summarize all the others, it does mean that we devote the fullness of who we are to God, as a sign of our love, trust and devotion.

Reality Check

Who can do this? This is where grace comes to the rescue. We have all sinned and fallen short! 

This is the heart of our target. Some days we do better than others, but our goal remains the same, to love God completely.

There are other things that fall under loving God. 

·         Trusting God’s word. 

·         Caring, protecting, and witnessing to our families, to the community and to the world.

·         We love God by caring for God’s creation. 

·         We love God by seeking justice and showing mercy. 

·         We love God by feeding those who are hungry, 

·         clothing those who are naked, 

·         friending the lost, lonely, and hopeless. 

·         We love God by gathering to worship

·         We love God by using the body, the spirit, the talents, the mind, the gifts, the time entrusted to us to show both God, the world and ourselves what it means to live as a person of love.

There is no great love, than a person to give their whole life for another

THIS is what makes Jesus’s death on the cross the most powerful witness of love

To give to us, those who squander the treasures and time of our life looking for purpose and meaning and God has already revealed that purpose to us. 

To love.

Favorite Prayer in Seminary: “O God, you love is so big, thank you for your bigness.” Amen. 

What does it take for us to do a better job remembering our purpose, goal, and JOY is to love God?

·         Keep these words in your Heart.

·         Teach by modeling these words to each generation

·         Keep them when you are at home and wherever you travel

·         Close and Start the Day with them on your lips

·         Wear them on your hand

·         Wear them on your head

·         Write them on your door and gate.

A modern translation might be: memorize them and recite them in your household, as you begin and end the day. Keep them on your home screen, in your bathroom mirror and in your car rear view mirror. Wear them as you would wear clothes and jewelry, teach them to everyone you meet and live by them everywhere you go.

Love God with all of your heart, soul, and strength.

The Power of a Post-it Note

·         Put one on your bathroom mirror and remind God ever time you wash you hands, brush you teeth, shave or make up your face.

·         Put one on the dash of your car

·         Put one in your wallet on your debt and credit card

·         Take a picture of one and make it your screen background

·         Have you ever written a reminder on your hand hoping it won’t sweat off before you get the list of things from the store?

Having a visual reminder increases connection of memory and action dramatically.

Having a visual remind, a physical touch, and audible sound is the strongest way to remember to act in a certain way.

Try this: Clap you hands, and say “I love your God, Help me to love you more.” A good strong clap, awakens our nerves and sets to memory our words with out actions. The next time you clap you hands or hear others clap their hand, you will bring together a reminder to love God and love God more.

If not clapping, snap you fingers, touch  you ear, squeeze you finger, some action to have reinforce the reminder, 

·         Sometime we need it in front of our eyes: 

·         Sometimes we need to hear the words:

·         Sometime we need to connect our breathing with love so we remember how often we are to love.

Writing on you hand and head

Personally, I have never been a fan of tattoos. In saying that I risk alienating many people. I don’t love anyone any less for having one. I have seen tattoos fifty years after they have been installed and they communicate something very differently. I have see people live with names of people they have divorced. I have seen people cover themselves with images that have one meaning at the beginning that are a regret that are carried daily. What most these days are very detailed, colorful and great works of art, there seem to more reasons not to carry such a permanent billboard for most of the images people receive.

But I can also heart this passage from Deut 6 and see how people might literally take to heart the instruction to write God’s commandments on their hand or head. But I have only seen a fraction of tattoos that ink this commandment or images reflecting God.  While tigers, reptiles, birds, and skulls are all part of God’s creation, I’m not hear these images inked as a testimony of our love for God. 

I risk opening this conversation because some people will take this instruct literally and see the process of using their bodies as a place to witness God’s love in that is unseen in their hearts, minds and souls. And so if a tattoo is telling the world of your devotion to God then that is bold and definitive witness.. But most religious tattoos are in places easily hidden. I know the art of Tattooing is ancient, one of the reasons why it is considered to be taboo, (taboo tattoos) is the practice associate with temple worship of pagan gods with fertility practices. As your pastor, I’m not saying never get a tattoo. I am saying this passage calls us to let the world know who we love with our whole heart, whole soul, and all our strength. And if the world can better see God’s love in you with a reminder in inked in your skin, then that’s a permeant way to say to God, to yourself and to the world: I love you God! Just know there is pain, risk of infection, cost, and in fifty years It might not be as legible. 

Throughout the generations Jewish families have a mezuzah at the front door with a small scroll reminding them of this passage. Some traditions literal tie box with the a scroll of this passage on their forehead. We are more familiar with WWJD bracelets and other pins, rings, jewelry — all are tangible ways to remember.

So what do we do with this passage today?

We remember our highest purpose and the meaning of our lives is to love God.

If you are or know someone who is searching in this “time of craziness” help them get on the track of learning to Love God, for the first time or renewing that love.

We Love God, and ask God to help Love even more.

We encourage one another, by reminding ourselves and others through physical and spiritual ways. We not only can pray, we can send someone a loving reminder, a gift, “agape” – something that has no expectation of love return, just a something that opens door to sharing love.

The more the world says to fear, hid, withdraw, prepare for the worst.. the more you and I need to encourage one another to love.  The more evil abounds, the more love we need to conquer it.

This is the promise of God; the simple commandment. Love and it will go well. Hate and it will not go well.

When I feel the hate, fear, dread, worry, rage…. Make that my prayer: Oh Lord Jesus my savior and friend: make this evil remind me of your love and teach me to love as you have loved. Love is the way. Love is the answer. Love is our foundation. Love is our salvation. God’s love is big enough for whatever the world want to throw our way. “I love you God.” 

Leave a comment

MT 5:43-47 Loving you is going to hard

You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? [NRSA: Matthew 5:43-47]

Koinonia Fellowship is hard

a.       We are already doing what is hard these days, why tackle something else that is hard?

b.       It is the one thing that God has commanded us to do.

c.       It is the motivation on God’s part that provides for our own salvation.

d.       Finally, we see what heaven is like, every time we love someone who is difficult to love.

e.       And if do don’t want to love then we are not likely to enjoy, being the body of Christ, heaven, nor eternity with God and the al People of God.

Typically this is how the conversations start: 

Q: Preacher, When it comes to loving our enemies, the favorite example, “do you mean we are suppose to love someone like Hitler?”

A: the easy to say, but difficult to do answer is: a 100% yes!, but..  

Interruption: 

If you are sharing a conversation with someone and they respond to you by saying, “Yes, but ..” then 99% of the time they think they are being polite or kind, and follow up explaining why your wrong with their perspective. It is a good way to start or continue an argument or have someone stop communicating?

Return to the example

In this case, our answer to the radical question, “Are we we suppose to love someone like Hitler?”, will answer with this question: “is there someone who need to learn how to love more than a Hitler?” 

In this case, the yes is a Yes!, and the “but” is a qualification that it is not easy to follow through in action with the words about being loving. 

In the example of Hitler, there is nothing acceptable about his beliefs, leadership, behavior, or role in history. Someone filled with evil is not our excuse to judge them and skip loving them as the person of God’s creation that has become so twisted. 

Our role is not to judge, it is to be witness to a world of sin, evil, corruption and  destruction, a doorway to the grace of God.

How easy it was for people to adopt the group think, to fear retaliation, to not want to take a stand, to exchange the words of faith for the compliance of the community. But let us not be stuck on the character of history.

We have plenty of people that we would not want to have lunch with, not want to invite into our homes, not what to sit next to – even in church. If you started a list of people be careful because these may be the very people God is calling you to reach out with your witness of love and grace.

This is where the words of love come to life and reveal what we hope for in heaven.  

Daily we are surrounded with the push and pull of people calling for us to be politically intolerant of someone else. There is not a parable, teaching, or example where Jesus says for us to divide up people in the groups and to hate one and love the other. That’s the task of politics these days.. It is not our command, goal, or charge.

Action 1

The First step is to have a reversal prayer: When I hear some, I try my best to give that moment to God. Sometimes I fail, and social media is vicious. I am hopeful we will soon no longer be dependent on FB to provide our streaming. (we will share it on multiple platforms, but no longer require people to use FB to share our worship, that’s like only using wine in communion for those who struggle with alcohol, an aside.)

When we are confronted with someone difficult to love or to think of in a loving way, begin to look at them as God see them. God loves us while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us before we ask for his help. Someone who is our enemy be based on something about them, ourselves, or both. 

The prayer is this. “God help me to see the world from their perspective, your perspective, and see the sins and evil in my own life. Transform us all to your will and heart. Amen.” Or something toward seeing these three perspectives.

The second action is not just pray but make a first step toward loving.

An action is not simply a good thought and a hurried prayer. Allowing the words of our faith and heart to marinate with God’s word and love, prepares us to begin with INTENTIONAL steps of loving, reconciliation, forgiveness, invitation, opening dialogue. 

For those stuck on the Hitler example, there are times that were a mortally at risk for showing love. What would Germany have looked like if every person stepped forward in love rather than either joining the crowd or keeping to themselves?

The End of Days:

It has been the most frequent question I have been asked in the month of July. I offer the two things we do know from scripture: While no one know the hour or the day, we all can see the seasons and signs.

Behind that question is desire to have some order in the chaos we experience in the world. The more hurricanes, tropical storms and tornados, flooding and earthquakes in China, pandemic threats, political ultimatums, and the drama of being on the winning side, not to mention that threat to split our denomination…

a)       Its fair to ask is this it? If yes, then we just need to hang on and be faithful a little while longer, 

b)      If no, we don’t have to deal with the tribulation AND all this chaos.. 

People are asking this because they want to know is God going to show up and fix things?

Is God going to speak those words to justice and healing to the nations?

Is God going to let us suffer and die, ask the persons with leprosy outside the city?

Is God hearing our suffering and struggles, our fears and lack of control? 

Do God love us?

Is God’s love based on events of the world, or is God’s love for us greater than all the chaos??

Step 1. Reversal Prayer, Step 2. Taking the first steps in ACTing in love. Step 3.

Do not measure love by the world’s standards. 

We need God’s love most when we are not pacified by being part of the majority.

We need God’s love most when its not easy to see with our eyes and heart alone.

We needs God’s love when we are afraid, broken and pressed down more than when we can manage.

And if “WE” need that much love, then so do our enemies.

Go back to the idea of a list of enemies. Don’t list them all, but who are the first three people who you picture or name when you hear enemies. (Don’t list groups of people, name the first personal names that fill you heart and mind.)

1.       Pray for that person all day, all afternoon, all evening. Ask God to help you see the world and you from their perspective. Pray for God to transform their heart and your heart to find some point of grace between you.

2.       Pick up the phone, reach out in person/at a distance, write a prayerful email, send a love letter to that person telling them what you are praying for them and yourself. Make the first step.

2B. To not act, to not take the first step is to not trust God’s love to heal. Try and fail is rewarded, ignoring is participating in the lie that we are loving as we have been loved.

3.       The Reward for loving first, is the treasure of seeing who God deals with us in Christ. God has no idea if we will love back, God has been disappointed many times… And yet, it is that never failing love that is my only hope and grace. 

We don’t have to love people’s ideas, behaviors, choices… and we don’t have to give them what they want us to give them to prove our love… the love is what we are commanded to do by God, with God, for God. 

Failure is to not try loving because we are afraid, or have failed before. Koinonia people love because Christ loved us first, and continues to love us always. Hear the Good News and live it!

Leave a comment

%d bloggers like this: