Archive for December, 2020

1SunChristmas Isaiah 61:10-62:3 “Dressed for the Wedding”

The average Georgia wedding cost $32,400 in 2020, which is down from #33,900 in 2019.

I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my whole being shall exult in my God; for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation, he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, a

The average Georgia wedding cost $32,400 in 2020, which is down from #36,600 in 2019.

Wedding Statistics

  • Destination weddings average $32,000, while
    • hometown weddings average $27,000.
    • First marriages weddings average $30,000, while
    • second weddings average $14,000.
    • Millennials typically spend $30,000, while
    • members of Gen Xers spend $20,000
  • New Jersey has the highest average cost at $53,400, with Utah taking the lowest spot at $19,700.
  • The average wedding dress costs around $1,500.
  • Wedding photography costs an average of $2,400, while videography averages $1,799.
  • The average cost of a wedding cake is $540, but can vary widely.
  • Venues normally charges approximately $30,000 for a standard wedding with 300 guests indicated micro weddings cost an estimated $2,750 for up to 30 guests or $4,500 for up to 50 guests.
  • Couples budget, on average, spend 25% more than they budget according to Wedding Wire’s 2020 Newlywed Report.
  • All these expenses and what is appropriate for the one person Required to officiate and make it legal?

Today our passage from Isaiah invites us to think about garments.

My uncle Mike use to tease us saying when we very little, “Did you know you have garments all over your body. Does you mother know you are covered in garments?” ..Thinking he was talking about germs or cooties, we didn’t know what to think.

Hear Isaiah 61 and following

I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my whole being shall exult in my God; for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation, he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. For as the earth brings forth its shoots, and as a garden causes what is sown in it to spring up, so the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise to spring up before all the nations. For Zion’s sake, I will not keep silent, and for Jerusalem’s sake, I will not rest until her vindication shines out like the dawn and her salvation like a burning torch. The nations shall see your vindication, and all the kings your glory; and you shall be called by a new name that the mouth of the LORD will give. You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the LORD, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God. [NRSA: Isaiah 61:10-62:3]

The Prophet Isaiah calls God’s People to Rejoice!

— I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my whole being shall exult in my God;

Can you picture your whole being, present in praising God? Too often we are self-conscious about what others are seeing our hearing of doing and saying. Our minds are thinking about one thought while we are going through the motions of ritual or exercise. We rehearse the words and concepts but can separate what is good and righteous when we need the advantage to confront the opposition.

Rather than living ways that categorize our time and energy, we could be fully present in any moment, be empty of all other distractions. We do experience moments, where our hearts, minds, and bodies are focused, this is one of the reasons we gather for worship. To set aside the time, this location or stream, to share the same song, words, prayers, and spiritual presence.

Isaiah is describing something more ordinary than a day of worship. Can you picture yourself in the presence of all those who are gathering to worship God today, right now? Those in our community, in our state, region, nation, and around the globe? Add to that fellowship are those worshiping in heaven, from times past, present, and future.

My grandmother Ruby used to say, it does not matter if you wear your suit or a dress to church if you are wearing your best. Give God your absolute best.

Isaiah must have spoken to Ruby and countless others who are reminding us that being in the presence of God is our purpose, is our mission, in our life. When we go to this moment, give our absolute best to be present for God.

Too quickly we drift into miscellaneous dress codes and comparisons, and mistake fashion for praise. Think instead this way. If you getting married and you wanted your spouse to see you at your absolute best, what would your way to celebrate that first impression?

Isaiah knows God is much more interested in being made whole, presentable, accepted than our getting dressed up for the special occasion.

— for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation,

— he has covered me with the robe of righteousness,

The appropriate clothes to wear to be in God’s presence are the clothes that God has given us.

Have you ever received some gift from someone who cares very much for you and that gift was something to wear, but even though it is not something you would have selected for yourselves, Mama says, We are going to see your aunt Shirley, “Wear the shirt she gave you.”

What is that about?

Is it proving a point? Or is the wearing of the garments an act of gratitude and appreciate? It is.

Bride grooms have it easier… than the brides.

— as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.

One of the things that I think is so funny is that if a woman sees someone wearing the same dress that she has selected she and the other woman have this awkward moment where they share both inward feelings and outward conversation to help resolve that fashion faux pas.

But if a group of women are all asked to wear the very same dress as attendants to their friend who is the bride, who will be wearing the best dress in the house, these same women will claim it as an honor to wear the same dress to the wedding. What’s up with that?

Or consider the lilies and daffodils that are waiting to break through the cold ground of today to announce the coming spring of rebirth!

— For as the earth brings forth its shoots, and as a garden causes what is sown in it to spring up, so the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise to spring up before all the nations.

Isaiah calls us to be a Garden ready to blossom.

I recall the first time I spent a season of planting corn on the family farm, we planted acers of seeds in the brown clay. The rains came and the days past, and small green leaves transform barren land into an enormous lawn. Most days and nights past and the lawn became green stalks, and green stalks produced small ears of corn, and the tassels came forth and changed in color to report that time of harvest.

Or the digging of holes to be filled with thorny sticks, that with time, water, and nurture became beds of roses of deep and brilliant colors.

God is planting in us, investing in us, nurturing our spirits, that our lives become those moments of beauty and praise.

What does Isaiah teach us to do with this knowing that God is preparing us?

  •  For Zion’s sake, I will not keep silent, and
  • — for Jerusalem’s sake, I will not rest until her vindication shines out like the dawn and
  • — for her salvation like a burning torch.
  • — the nations shall see your vindication, and
  • — all the kings your glory; and
  • — you shall be called by a new name that the mouth of the LORD will give.

Why get dress up? Why give our best? Why nurture our spirit? Why save us from our sins?

It is for God’s sake, that we are blessed, loved, corrected, saved, and made whole.

-You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the LORD, and

When I sang in our church youth choir our director asked us to describe a diadem. The word that Isaiah uses in this passage describes what we are to God. We did not have Google to look it up, we actually had to go home, find a dictionary, look it up and the first one to find it and call the director at home did not have to lug the choir’s risers up after the next practice. (The promise of food is an inspiration to many, but the avoidance of manual labor inspires a young teenage boy.)

Isaiah paint the spectacular picture of the jewels and precious metals and symbols of authority and sovereignty of the most special crown of crown.

–a royal diadem in the hand of your God.

To God, we who are divided, broken, empty, selfish brutes, God saves us to be the witness of God’s authority, and the fruit of God’s love.

Just as the king or queen would wear a majestic crown, a diadem, we are the witness of God’s greatness, but being all in, fully present, totally committed, and devoted to God.

As we conclude this crazy year, we may indeed have more struggle and journey ahead, but we know the path to the father’s heart, leads through Jesus Christ, and the power of the Holy Spirit. These are our means of grace. We know to close ourselves in God’s goodness, because left alone, we become a broken, hot mess.

  • We know that under these clothes of God’s goodness, we are vulnerable, afraid, and lost.
  • We know that our best impression only lasts a moment, and God’s claim upon us is to be eternal.
  • We are called to be the crown, the jewel, the witness of God’s power and mercy.
  • May we surrender our will and worries, our weakness and wisdom, trust God with our whole self.

Lord have mercy on me, for your sake, let this and every day, may me life be yours.

  • God be in my eyes and my vision.
  • God be in my hands and my doing.
  • God be in my mind and my thinking.
  • God be in my rest and when I wake.
  • God make me the joy of your salvation. Amen!

, ,

Leave a comment

“Christmas Eve in 2020” Titus 2:11-14

Unwrap Christ with Zeal and a Passion to Share Jesus Christ

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all, training us to renounce impiety and worldly passions, and in the present age to live lives that are self-controlled, upright, and godly, while we wait for the blessed hope and the manifestation of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. He it is who gave himself for us that he might redeem us from all iniquity and purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds. [NRSA: Titus 2:11-14]

“Open House for Christmas”

Some of my earliest memories of Christmas Eve have been shared with church families from around the state: Cliftondale, Forest Park, Eatonton, Breman, Oxford, Elberton, Emerson, Gainesville, Covington, Atlanta, Fairburn, Blue Ridge, Jackson, and now Rock Spring. Every Christmas Eve of my life I have spent in church. Other churches opened their doors on Christmas Eve before my memory. So here we are in 2020 with our virtual doors open on a messy, cold, and windy night. It seems fitting to experience Christmas Eve in 2020 in ways that are less than ideal as a reflection of the reality we have shared this year.

 One of my favorite years was the open house at the parsonage in Eatonton, Mom had not only had us baking, cleaning, and decorating for the congregation to come to the house between the two Christmas Eve services, we were suppose to be singing and remembering lines for a Christmas program that year. Anxiety levels were high. Christmas joy was not in sight. It was simply busy business and far from celebrating Jesus.

The note that mom had left on the hand towels that afternoon was not removed when the doors opened for the neighbors, friends, and congregation. All through the evening guest at snacks, toured the collection of nativity scenes in every room of the house, they also made mini pilgrimages to the guest bathroom. After the events of the evening were over Mom was in the guest bathroom and let out a horrible scream. She found her own note that had not been moved: “Keep you damn nasty off the towels.” For years people asked if we every dried our hands on those towels.

But that year, was moment, we had to ask what was more important, the festivities or faith? This entire year has been a testing of our faith in God, in our society, in our neighbors and with one another.

Our Need to See God is Open for Business

Titus in those early days of the church also needed to be reminded: For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all, training us to renounce impiety and worldly passions, and in the present age to live lives that are self-controlled, upright, and godly, while we wait for the blessed hope and the manifestation of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.

  • Grace has appeared in acts of service and kindness that we have shone through one other.
  • Sometimes we, myself surely included, have missed important opportunities, but we have also learned how important our faith, our ministries, our loving-kindness is needed.
  • Tomorrow begins our season of Christ; of giving birth and rebirth of the hope, joy, love, grace, and salvation Christ has promised, delivered, and continues to reveal.

Titus was weary and needed to hear it; so do we.

Titus needing encouragement and training to decern Godliness from worldliness.  This season of pandemic and political carnage reminds us that we need to encourage, train, and retrain one another in the areas of self-control, righteousness, and what is Godly, while we wait for hope to be revealed.

Christmas 2020

Most of us, have the idea of what we will do when we do not have the pandemic to deal with every day.

  • This is a goal, but are not there yet, and do not have specific end date. We are living in a time of waiting.

This parallels our waiting for Christ. We do not just put off being good and righteous until Jesus shows up. We are called to share the gospel even in the waiting. Share the hope because we have not arrived at the promised land. Share grace because we are surrounded by fear, greed, lies, and lawlessness.

  • Christmas comes for Mary and Joseph at an inopportune time.
  • It messes up their plans and dreams.
  • It changes their lives forever.
  • We can say the same of the era in which we find ourselves.

This year, 2020 Christmas is more than a story retold

Christmas is the challenge to see Christ revealed, his love birthed in the darkest night, in the threatening doom, in the weariness and apparent free reign of what is evil and broken.

We are being called to share Jesus NOW, in the middle of the mess, in times of uncertainty and division, in unsettle times, for these very reasons:

It is Christ, himself, that redeems, restores, renews, and makes us right, true, and whole.

Titus needed to hear it: “He it is who gave himself for us that he might redeem us from all iniquity and purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds.

This Christmas and with every day, we can unwrap the mysteries of faith, sing the joy of the Gospel, share the Good News, EVEN for world that driven inward and fleeing from God.

  • We can sing the hymns, carols, and songs of faith that break through the dark of the night.
  • We are lift high the light of Christ when all around us is vile, empty, or dark.
  • We share gifts of kindness all year long, but especially when we are so sequestered and separated.

Being Zealous for Good, for God, for Christmas

Zeal is great energy, enthusiasm, and passion in pursuit of a cause or an objective.

  • Our cause is Christ and our objective is to let his light shine through all we do.
  • Where you hear fear, hate, and lies: Stand up and speak hope, love and truth
  • Where you see despair, empty, and want: Show acts of hope, fullness and wholeness
  • Where you know patterns of behavior, poor-choices, and sin: Give and Seek help to make good habits
  • Where you are tired, frustrated, and afraid, Give yourself to the Christ again, and again
  • Where you are lost, seek God’s spirit to Guide
  • Where you are broken, give yourself to restored in God.

And here are on a hallowed night:

  • Tonight and tomorrow, practice telling each other you are glad you have time share the love of Christ in new and creative ways. – yes, we miss some traditions, but our calling, our Christ is not on vacation.
  • Tonight and tomorrow, unwrap the scriptures, open your hearts in prayer, sing your strongest chorus and celebrate Christ’s arrival and revealing in your life now. – not just when things get easier or more familiar.
  • Tonight go to sleep anticipating what God has planned, hoped, and dreamed your Christmas will be.
  • Tonight rest in the peace that Christ’s birth, death, and resurrection have given and will give all who claim life in him.
  • Tonight know Christ is with us, call us to give hope and life to the world in its darkest hour.
  • Tonight Christ lives in you, and me, connecting with a world that hungers and thirsts for Christ.
  • Tomorrow is a day of Zeal, Passion, Beginning, and tonight is our anticipation of that gift made whole in for us.

Leave a comment

Advent4 Romans 16:25-27 “Mystery Revealed in Doing” Tis the Season to be Trusting and love God and not the as the World

Now to God who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but is now disclosed, and through the prophetic writings is made known to all the Gentiles, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith — to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever! Amen. 

[NRSA: Romans 16:25-27]

Who knew the conclusion to a letter could be so powerful! Paul’s letter to the church at Rome,

The purpose of Jesus being born and revealing God’s heart, mind, word, and will is for us to clearly see that we would completely trust and obey.

Compare with the introduction to Paul’s letter to the churches at Rome [NRSA: Romans 1:1-5]

Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy scriptures, the gospel concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be Son of God with power according to the spirit of holiness by resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for the sake of his name,

Paul’s opening is basically a repeat of the conclusion. Bookends to hold up a proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. What does that have to do with our Advent journey?

What are the bookends in our lives?

I was recently reminded of a Peyton Manning who had shared his perspective about the occasion an athlete retires. Typically, on an announcer show, a most recognizable photo of a player during their career and the years of play are shown under their name. Joe Namath, 1965-1985, Hershel Walker, 1985-1997; Peyton Manning, 1988-2015. Peyton’s comment was about the dash between the numbers. The Dash represents the career of success and failures between the two numbers. The bookends are important, but the dash is more important.

Part of Advent has been establishing the bookends, the context, the itinerary of our spiritual journey. This fourth week we best focus on the main thing.

We have reminded one another to praise, to prepare, and to practice maturing our spiritual self. The last leg of this trek is to pause.

Traditionally Advent is the time

  • we hear about John the Baptizer and his call to prepare the way for the Lord,
  • we hear God’s call upon Marry, who is both humble and faithful, to carry and deliver the Son of God.
  • We hear about Joseph and his uncertainty about the unfolding events,
  • And maybe we hear about the shepherds who are both frightened, comforted and compelled by the host of angels.

But this year, I invite you to place those stories in the position of the bookend that help define and refocus us as Christmas is now less than a week away.

Hear Paul’s words to the church as we reflect on 2020 and look forward to the power of God with us in 2021.

  • God who is able — Who is ABLE to overcome pandemics? political strife? fears and even death?
  • to strengthen you — Where will you and I find the strength to overcome these things and more?
  • according to my gospel and — Did we know this promise is in God’s word? Read them? studied them? shared them?
  • the proclamation of Jesus Christ, — Have we told others about Jesus, his strength? grace?
  • according to the revelation of the mystery — Do we trust what’s been shown to us? experience?
  • that was kept secret for long ages — Can we look back and see God patiently at work?
  • but is now disclosed, and — Can we find God being revealed now?
  • through the prophetic writings is — Have we looked for the pieces and fitting them together?
  • made known to all the Gentiles, — God loves us who love Him but also those who do not.
  • according to the command of the eternal God, — is it an idea, a suggestion, a nudge, or a command?
  • to bring about the obedience of faith — This is the heart of it all — God is seeks our response.
  • to the only wise God, — God who knows what is best for us
  • through Jesus Christ, — Who makes clear, knowing our sin, failures, faults, & weaknesses. Died for us.
  • to whom be the glory forever! — God desires an eternal relationship, love, faith, trust, obedience.

The history of God’s work with the world is revealed in the bookends of Paul’s letter:

The heart of the story is fleshed out with us, throughout human history.

We have God’s strength, guidance, word/teaching, grace, hope and life — when we give obedience.

Oh it was going so well until we get to the Trust and Obey part.

God desire good and blessing for all, but we are living in a

  • playground,
  • workplace,
  • homestead,
  • political agreement
  • neighborhood

..where not everyone Trusts and Obey and we wrestle with whom to trust.  We see the power of disobedience

What does it mean to Trust and Obey God? Look at the bookends we have discussed the past three weeks.

  1. We are not the potter; we are the clay.
  2. We need to repent of our sins and be made new through Christ
  3. We need to be maturing and growing in spirit.
  4. The Dash – “Dashing through the snow” Calling one another to live like
    1. We are being shaped by God and not the world
    1. Loving our enemies and the lost because it serves Christ and not ourselves
    1. Wake up and get to work growing and sharing Christ with others.

Trusting and Obeying is the DOING these.

This fourth week we gather to invest this next week…

Before any traveling, cooking, shopping, wrapping, decorating, or celebrating: Is what I’m focused on right now something that is drawing me toward God, keeping me stuck where I am, of moving me away from the heart of God.

  1. Actively do, say, and think what draws us to God and not to the world
  2. Intentionally seek out those we need to forgive and seek their forgiveness
  3. Wake up each day with this prayer: “Good Morning God! What do you want me to do today?

Leave a comment

Advent4 Romans 16:25-27 “Mystery Revealed in Doing”

Tis the Season to be Trusting and love God and not the as the World.

Now to God who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but is now disclosed, and through the prophetic writings is made known to all the Gentiles, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith — to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever! Amen. [NRSA: Romans 16:25-27]

Who knew the conclusion to a letter could be so powerful! Paul’s letter to the church at Rome,

The purpose of Jesus being born and revealing God’s heart, mind, word, and will is for us to clearly see that we would completely trust and obey.

Compare with the introduction to Paul’s letter to the churches at Rome [NRSA: Romans 1:1-5]

Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy scriptures, the gospel concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be Son of God with power according to the spirit of holiness by resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for the sake of his name,

Paul’s opening is basically a repeat of the conclusion. Bookends to hold up a proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. What does that have to do with our Advent journey?

What are the bookend in our lives?

I was recently reminded of a Peyton Manning who had shared his perspective about the occasion an athlete retires. Typically on an announcer show, a most recognizable photo of a player during their career and the years of play are shown under their name. Joe Namath, 1965-1985, Hershel Walker, 1985-1997; Peyton Manning, 1988-2015. Peyton’s comment was about the dash between the numbers. The Dash represents the career of success and failures between the two numbers. The bookends are important, but the dash is more important.

Part of Advent has been establishing the bookends, the context, the itinerary of our spiritual journey. This fourth week we best focus on the main thing.

We have reminded one another to praise, to prepare, and to practice maturing our spiritual self. The last leg of this trek is to pause.

Traditionally Advent is the time

  • we hear about John the Baptiser and his call to prepare the way for the Lord,
  • we hear God’s call upon Marry, who is both humble and faithful, to carry and deliver the Son of God.
  • We hear about Joseph and his uncertainty about the unfolding events,
  • And maybe we hear about the shepherds who are both frightened, comforted and compelled by the host of angels.

But this year, I invite you to place those stories in the position of the bookend that help define and refocus us as Christmas is now less than a week away.

Hear Paul’s words to the church as we reflect on 2020 and look forward to the power of God with us in 2021.

  • God who is able — Who is ABLE to overcome pandemics? political strife? fears and even death?
    • to strengthen you — Where will you and I find the strength to overcome these things and more?
      • according to my gospel and — Did we know this promise is in God’s word? Rethem? studied them? shared them?
        • the proclamation of Jesus Christ, — Have we told others about Jesus, his strength? grace?
      • according to the revelation of the mystery — Do we trust what’s been shown to us? experience?
        • that was kept secret for long ages — Can we look back and see God patiently at work?
        • but is now disclosed, and — Can we find God being revealed now?
      • through the prophetic writings is — Have we looked for the pieces and fitting them together?
      • made known to all the Gentiles, — God loves us who love Him but also those who do not.
    • according to the command of the eternal God, — is it an idea, a suggestion, a nudge, or a command?
      • to bring about the obedience of faith — This is the heart of it all — God is seeks our response.
      • to the only wise God, — God who knows what is best for us
    • through Jesus Christ, — Who makes clear, knowing our sin, failures, faults, & weaknesses..died for us.
      • to whom be the glory forever! — God desires an eternal relationship, love, faith, trust, obediance.

The history of God’s work with the world is revealed in the bookends of Paul’s letter:

The heart of the story is fleshed out with us, throughout human history.

We have God’s strength, guidance, word/teaching, grace, hope and life — when we give obedience.

Oh it was going so well until we get to the Trust and Obey part.

God desire good and blessing for all, but we are living in a

  • playground,
  • workplace,
  • homestead,
  • political agreement
  • neighborhood

..where not everyone Trusts and Obey and we wrestle with whom to trust.

What does it mean to Trust and Obey God? Look at the bookends we have discussed the past three weeks.

  1. We are not the potter, we are the clay.
  2. We need to repent of our sins and be made new through Christ
  3. We need to be maturing and growing in spirit.
  4. The Dash – “Dashing through the snow” Calling one another to live like
    1. We are being shaped by God and not the world
    2. Loving our enemies and the lost because it serves Christ and not ourselves
    3. Wake up and get to work growing and sharing Christ with others.

Trusting and Obeying is the DOING these.

This fourth week we gather to invest this next week…

Before any traveling, cooking, shopping, wrapping, decorating, or celebrating: Is what I’m focused on right now something that is drawing me toward God, keeping me stuck where I am, of moving me away from the heart of God.

  1. Actively do, say, and think what draws us to God and not to the world
  2. Intentionally seek out those we need to forgive and seek their forgiveness
  3. Wake up each day with this prayer: “Good Morning God! What do you want me to do today?”

Leave a comment

Advent3 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24 “3 Rules for Christmas”

LSU training in the off season

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise the words of prophets, but test everything; hold fast to what is good; abstain from every form of evil. May the God of peace himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do this. [NRSA: 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24]

Normally we think of Christmas as a time to forget someone the rules, but 2020 has been a challenging year, and Christmas may be the best time to remember our guiding three rules.

Wesley’s core teaching about Christian living are to 1 do no harm, 2. Do all the good you can. 3. practice the disciples of spiritual growth.

Do No Harm:

  • Tpically, this is a no-brainer, we don’t want our words and actions, or our silence and inaction to harm others.
  • Sometime we are advocate for others when we speak up and find proactive ways to help others.
  • Sometime we are to refrain from talking so that others may speak for themselves.

WE ASK IS MORE HARMFUL TO SPEAK OR BE SILENT?

  • There are times that we spend, and times to save.
  • There are times to be reckless in our loving, and times to cautious in waiting and watching.

WE ASK IS IT TIME TO BE INVOLVED PERSONAL OR WAIT FOR a FUTURE TIME?

  • In some circumstances it is impossible to avoid harm.
  • If we choose to help one person, we no longer have resources to help another.
  • If we choose to be friends with people who belong to one group, we may be excluding ourselves from being intimate with another group.
  • In choosing who you are going to marry and spend a lifetime together, there may be one person who is thrilled while the other is disappointed.
  • Before we can actually choose, we need to qualify and name whom is being harmed.
  1. In matters of personal safety,
    1. do I hang out with people who are not a good influence in my life as my friends.
    2. do I hang out with people who are not a good influence because they need a good friend.
      1. Some times we are not strong enough to be the friend in a risky situation.
      2. Sometime we are not truly friends until we can share each other burdens.
  2. In choosing, it is important to be honest with God, ourselves, and others and for some people we say, I can’t be your friend at this time because I’m too tempted to be around you while you are behaving as you are. I can connect from time to time but I can’t be there for you at the moment. I hope one day soon that I can.

Behind this honest connection is not just an excuse to get our of being in a difficult relationship, it is stating that I need to not be tempted, confessing that I’m not strong enough to be in a risky situation, because I will make poor choices given the opportunity. This is also a confession to God, that I have a greater need for God to be guiding my life. Both persons need the benefit of friend, but it is too risking at the moment.

What is the better choice: Telling someone you know who needs a support and friend that needs your friendship or do you risk both of you missing out of what your time together could be?

There is a better answer: We are going to commit to being friends but we both needs some accountability to protect each other. This is where God works through use as mediator for others, in small groups, in support groups, in mutual counseling and many other ways.

Do you give money to someone who is hungry on the side of the street? Is it doing more harm to potentially contribute to someone’s perpetual poor choices or not give them something and hold them accountable.

  1. It is actually more comforting to the donor or helper than a transformation of life for the recipient. The answer to the question is both have good, but neither is a solution. If someone is hungry and asking for help at least it is easy to identify a need in our community. Many more people live meagerly and we don’t know, we don’t see it. Someone on the corner is visible. On the other hand a handful of change or fist full of Benjamins will not be enough to solve all the typical struggle that lead to someone in that situtaion.

The way to look at the choice of what is harm is to be in conversation with God about our world around us.

There are concrete times that God has said to me: This persons needs that $5 in your pocket much more than you. And other times, God has said, not now, even if you gave them $100 there are not in a place to make wise choices. The difference is who is defining the harm.

Do No Harm, is to be defined by God and the only way we know is through rule number three:

Do all the Good you can.

We like this one because it adds a qualification that the first rule does not state, but both are implied. That is that perspective that tempers what we are able to do.

Do all the Good, holds the same struggle that at times we are not sure what the good is and it become filtered by what WE say is good, or what it Good for us.

Sometimes, doing that which is good for God, is not good for us personally, at least in the moment.

  • These are the times that we experience personal sacrifice.
  • These are times that we learn about our relationship with God and how much we trust or question God.

Examples:

  • Just as a parent might choose for a child to go on an adventure they would love to experience, but they stay home so the child can know the blessing.
  • Just as co-workers choose to work together for the company’s success
  • As teammates struggle are personal harm to secure the win for the team, the coach, the school, the fan, parents, etc.

Just as in measuring what is Good, we are called measure Goodness by God’s standard and direction.

Good for our friends, work, political parties might be 180 degrees from God’s call upon our lives. The way we discern what is GOOD, is through practicing rule number three.

3. Practice the Disciplines of Spiritual Growth

This is where the church is at its greatest help, because even the evilest person with the evilest intentions and goals, can justify what is harmful to them and their cause, and what is good for them personally and for their efforts.

In truth, Rule #3 is the backbone and strength that make keeping Number 1 and 2 possible.

What are the ways we practice our spiritual development. What spiritual exercising build our spiritual nature.

  1. Prayer – Meditation
  2. Study
  3. Worship
  4. Fasting
  5. Confession
  6. Christian Fellowship
  7. Rest
  8. Holy Communion
  9. Serving
  10. Generosity
  11. Chastity
  12. Disciples Making

If you are conditioning for a sport or team:

  • there are skills to practice,
  • repetition of practice with regularity,
  • planning and forecasting,
  • eating well and resting
  • celebrating and nurturing the individuals and the team.

How well would the game go if an athlete is devoted to doing one or two of these things well, how would that effect their own performance and their contribution to the collective work of the team.

This final rule is the one that will make the most different in our understanding and experience of Christmas and our Christian living: Practicing the disciplines of spiritual growth.

What do I want for Christmas VS what do I need for Christmas to be the transforming-life-changing time of my life, your life, the life of the church?

  • WORK ON ALL 12
  • Help encourage one another in all 12
  • Don’t let each other off the hook for all 12

Practice all the tools that make us ready to do no harm and do all the good that we can. For in Christ I can do all things in Christ who gives me/us strength… be strong in the disciples, it be strong in the Lord, in the church, in the world, in our lives, in our relationship.

This is not the time just repentance, don’t just look at what’s missing, look at the missing parts and get fired up! This is time to put the spiritual sweat into the life God is calling us to live.

,

Leave a comment

Advent2 Mark 1:1-8 “Tying Laces”

closeup photo of brown lace up boot
Photo by Steve Johnson on Pexels.com

The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. As it is written in the prophet Isaiah, “See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way; the voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,'” John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” [NRSA: Mark 1:1-8]

  • It is interesting that Mark’s gospel begins with Jesus and John the Baptist.
  • The starting point is baptism. John’s invitation was a call for people to repent.

REPENTANCE

Moving spiritually closer toward God requires that we acknowledge our separation from God.

  • Some of the spiritual distance comes from our moving away from God by wilfully choosing what we know to be harmful to others, ourselves, and/or the opposite of God’s best for us.
  • Some come as we allow other relationships and responsibilities to come before God. It is not that the relationship and responsibilities are bad, it is that we look for strength, judgment, discernment from ourselves, or others ahead of God.
  • In this year we have particularly been asked to trust the science, trust the scientists. We appreciate those who devote themselves to using the mind, research, calculations, measurements, and follow the methods and practice of science. But even science is the discovering, understanding, and use of God’s creation. There are those who want science to be void of God and stand as an authority that needs no idea of God, this is not why God has given us the ability to reason, to be self-aware, and to imagine new solutions. If we study at the marvel of God’s creation and not honor that God is greater than our greatest minds, then we create our own God. (commandment #2)
  • Some the gap is created when we choose little, by little, our will over God’s: The fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden was just one piece of fruit. What difference does one tangerine, one apple, one pomegranate make in a garden of plenty?
  • God is gracious to forgive, but our failures to follow God’s direction and call in our daily lives in whatever form reveals the chasm we are from God. (Lazarus and the Rich Man)

John drew crowds of people from all around who came to hear him help them see their weakness and make changes. The sign of this fresh start was given through baptism in the Jordon.

  • Think about a good athletics coach, their job is not to only talk about the good things that the team accomplished, but they spend more time pointing out the problem, potential problems, studying tapes of past problems, assistant coaches to look out for offense and defense, all to make changes to improve each player and the team.
  • Even the very best teams, in every sport and league, are made of players that have mistakes, misjudgments, poor choices, grow weary, break the rules, miss opportunities, don’t score, and lose games and seasons.
  • Repentance is looking at the tapes and seeing where we failed and grace is knowing there are another game and other opponents the next day or week.

SANDALS and SERVANTS

John’s illustration is about a simple task that most everyone in this room and stream has done throughout their lives… tying shoes and sandals.

Do you remember learning to tie shoes? We have a different experience with our footwear. The task of washing feet was the task of the least person of status to prepare people for leaving the dirt of the world in the street and washing the feet to be clean in the house.

There are strong images of baptism in foot washing. Recall how Jesus surprised everyone when he washes the disciple’s feet.

There are several example of sandals, feet, and laces in the old testament:

  1. Gn 14 Abram tells the King of Sodom that he would take even a thread from his sandals so he would be faithful that the Lord’s work provides and not the wealth of other nations.
  2. Dt 25. If a woman’s husband died, her husband’s brother was to take her in and provide a family for her. If he would not, the woman would take offer her sandal and spit in his face.
  3. Ruth 4. If someone took off their shoe and give it to his neighbor, he was disowning their friendship and not welcome them as part of the community.

These three examples cover, tithing, marriage, and care of one’s neighbor, and now baptism. Key themes we weave together through laces.

John’s connection is that the Messiah was so much more qualified, able, AND worthy to look for, follow and trust, that John, himself, was not even worthy to carry his shoes or untie his laces.

The baptism John is offering is a helpful sign of washing away the past to start fresh, but it was only symbolic, and all the ‘work’ and the need to ‘wash’ happens as often in daily life. BUT, Jesus is coming to wash our spirit!

LACES and BETTER FIT

  • When we tie our laces we are drawing together the wide open gaps to a snug fit.
  • When we untie our laces we are making room and setting free our feet for rest and welcome.
  • What can set our spirit free to be fulling God’s People?

John the Baptist:

  • I’m famous, but I am not worthy to set you free,
  • I’m a good coach, but I am not worthy to hold your faith together;
  • I can draw a crowd, but I am not worthy to keep your family safe;
  • I can offer you a valuable message, but I am not worth enough to make you wealthy,
  • I am not able to hold the community together, BUT the Messiah can do all that and more…

Here John Proclaims the coming Good News: Jesus both holds’s us snug in this world and free’s our spirit and makes us both physically and spiritually whole.

  • You and I help each other see our sins and Jesus is the one who saves us
  • You and I care for those who hunger, and Jesus makes our spirit new and full.
  • You and I can do great things, but if we think they are possible without God, we steal the glory
  • You and I cannot do all things, but Christ can.
    • This is who we seek,
    • this is who we trust,
    • this is who we praise.

In this second week we review the tapes from this year’s season and see what we need to repair, renew, and restore… Through this we repent and make ourselves ready to meet Jesus who is our salvation, hope and joy.

Leave a comment

%d bloggers like this: