myoikos

The Crew: Susanna: Fellowship, Stanford, Genetic Biology, Palo Alto, CA; Duke University 2020 Luke: Student, USAF, Scott AFB Frances Brantley: Student, Baylor School, Chattanooga, TN; Daughter and Sister Wendy Williams Brantley: Hook Marketing, CEO; Mom and Wife John Brantley: Clergy, UMC Elder at Rock Spring UMC, oikos:itsahouseholdword, CIO of Hook Marketing. King of Kotimme.com [Clergy, Author, Writer, Seeker and Poet]

Homepage: http://www.clergy.pro

Mark 4:35-41 “Do You Not Care?”

stormy blue sea in sunlight
Photo by Ben Mack on Pexels.com

On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” [NRSA: Mark 4:35-41]

The lesson in today’s reading from Mark is that God cares so very much for us that nothing can separate us from God’s love. It is the heart of what Paul shares with the church at Rome.

What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. [NRSA: Romans 8:31-39]

Mark recalls Jesus’ instruction to disciples when they are thinking about themselves more than God.

Here poses our first question: if it comes to the moment of our own death, would you rather be in the boat with Jesus or somewhere else, with someone else? Therefore we hear Jesus using this moment in the storm, a moment of fear and uncertainty, so ask: Are you worried about yourself or God?

The honest answer is, “Me”! [Spiritual ] It’s me, It’s me oh Lord, standing in the need of prayer, not my brother or my sister but it’s me O’ Lord, standing in the need of prayer.

Mark paints a scene that we can all identify, a boat on the sea, in a storm, wind and waves, and the impending doom and death of everyone, (reminds me of the movie 2012 where the cruise ship is facing a tidal wave of exponential proportions, and everyone is in absolute panic mode, except for Jesus who is sleeping on a big pillow, on a fat mattress, a cushion of peaceful rest and sleep.

Unbelievable scene of Jesus and the disciples. From their point of view Jesus has checked out, nodding off on the job, and unaware of the danger, terror, fear, and threat of death that faces the whole boat.

The familiar question we would ask our tour guide:

  • Why are you asleep now?
  • Don’t you see we are in trouble?
  • We are scared; we are afraid, and
  • we believe we are going to die in this storm.  

But the twist in the story is not that Jesus was pretending to sleep, peeking out of one eye to test the disciples. The twist is that core of the believers we do not believe that God was with them.

The Storm looked bigger than God.

  1. I know I’ve let the uncertainty about the church look bigger than God.
  2. I have seen the depth of corruption in government and given up hope of real change.
  3. I have look at the bank account balance and wondered how we would figure out all the spinning plates and responsibilities.
  4. I have looked at a bump in the road and considered giving up on the journey.
  5. I have questions and fears at every appointment and with every new pastor!

We’ve been in storms, jams, crisis, problem, court, debt, sickness, times of under certainty, confusion, and chaos and felt that sinking absence of God.

  • Where are you?
  • Have you forgotten me? Forgotten your promises?
  • Don’t you see where I am?
  • Don’t you know how bad my situation is and has been?
  • How can you have the luxury of peace, sleep, and rest, when my life is filled with fear, doubt, and hopelessness?

Yes, we have lived this moment on the sea with the disciples!

Stop for a moment think of those who find themselves in this boat and they have NO idea or perception that Jesus is on the boat, much less asleep on a cushion?

Point Two: The Disciples finally remembered to turn to Jesus.

Yes, there were still afraid, doubting, questioning, and out of their senses, but they had enough good sense IN the crisis to turn to Jesus.

Point One: Disciples don’t always believe and trust and Point Two: When we come to our senses, we start looking for Jesus.

The Final point, #3, is that Jesus connects our fear, worry, anxiety, pain, loss, emptiness, chaos to our faith, to our belief, to our trust.

There is where we run ahead and turn back to Paul’s offering to the church at Rome:

  • Can political chaos stop God’s love for us? No! So Turn to God instead of the government.
  • Can the money love us? {It can buy use a boat, and truck to pull it, but when the boat is in a storm and payments for the truck are due and the transmission falls out just when the warranty expires, there is no love}
  • Are our family and friends always understanding and strong enough?
  • Will our homes protect us from a category 5 tornado’s full wrath?
  • Will our acts of kindness be enough to curb evil hearts when we are in trouble?
  • Can we simply do our best and count on justice in the world?
  • Are we guaranteed an exact number of days in our life?

Jesus wakes up from his nap, sees the fear, the storm, and begins talking theology when there is a need for physical salvation. Jesus uses this moment of our being our line, out of control, out of sorts, out of our minds, to remind disciples, like us, our number one task is to believe, to trust, to leave the storms of our lives to God.

This story in the boat, reminds me to first give thanks that I’m in Jesus’s boat.

Those who have taken Disciple Bible study will recall that in Rembrandt’s famous painting of Jesus and the disciples on the sea in the storm there are 14 figures in the boat. Jesus, the 12, and Rembrandt himself.

This passage calls me to surrender myself to God’s strength, God’s love, God’s word, God’s power, God’s grace, God’s timing, God’s purpose.

In Wesley’s Covenant Prayer: we find the Nestea-Plunge into the arms of our creator, savior and sustainer.

“I am no longer my own, but thine. Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.

Put me to doing, put me to suffering.

Let me be employed by thee or laid aside for thee, exalted for thee or brought low for thee.

Let me be full, let me be empty. Let me have all things, let me have nothing.

I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal.

And now, O glorious and blessed God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, thou art mine, and I am thine. So be it.

And the covenant which I have made on earth, let it be ratified in heaven. Amen.” [John Wesley]

This is a challenging prayer to pray. We want to say it with conviction, purpose, and commitment, but we are hesitant to actually carry through with it, and yet it is the safest, strongest, and most affirming prayer to enter in the storm.

  • Lord, have mercy on me,
  • Help my unbelief.
  • Thou art mine, I am thine.

And with the confidence of Jaun-Luc Picard, we add, “Make it so.”

  • So will the church split?
  • Will that world heal?
  • Will our nation be united?
  • Will the change in pastors be a blessing?
  • Will the new churches be a blessing?
  • Will there be enough?
  • Will we be healed, saved, blessed, remade, renewed?
  • Jesus knows our every weakness
  • Jesus sees the waves, knows our pain, experiences our fears, is torn by our lack of belief and faith,

And still calls our to the source of our doubt, fear, chaos, pain, and unbelief and speaks words of salvation, comfort, and life:

“Peace, be still”

  • Pray with me: Lord Jesus we offer our brokenness, fears, and shame, it is worth nothing good to us, but we have come to our senses and come running to you for our hope and salvation.
  • Give power, depth, height, breadth, to our faith that we may go, do, know, ask, speak, listen, stand, kneel, live, die, and be joined with your forever.
  • Send us to reach those who don’t know you are on the boat
  • Help us to see your hand in our hands,
  • Carry your word and kingdom through our feet and words
  • Let nothing stop us from the belief and love you have hoped and dreamed for us all. Amen!

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At Home in a Tree House

Mark 4:26-34

He also said, “The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know-how. The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come.” He also said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.” With many such parables, he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; he did not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything in private to his disciples. [NRSA: Mark 4:26-34]

The kingdom of God is like a flock of bird finding the home in a tree. 

One of my favorite parsonages as a child we only lived in for six months. The parsonage was built because the DS told my father the old house was too small to move a family into. (That DS never thought Mac would later become a DS.) The new parsonage was fun not because it was a brick ranch with lots of square feet and new appliances, it was a special place because there were plenty of building supplies leftover to build a treehouse.

My treehouse was nothing like Nelson’s Treehouses on television, it was a platform with crude walls and slanted roof, with a trapdoor and pull system to lift supplies up the six feet into the air. The rope ladder could be rolled up to keep friends safe and jealous neighbor bullies at bay. 

One of the early books I remember enjoying was, “We Were Tired of Living in a House” by Liesel Moak Skorpen, Joe Cepeda. It was a new book in 1969 and I was eager to imagine the new house we would next be moving to live in. 

Through the years I have lived in houses that church has provided our family. It is an interesting benefit of making it easy for pastors to move frequently and to remain, typically within sight of the church. When my father started his ministry the after the appointment was about two years. And now with housing allowances and longer tenures, we hold to an itinerate system of moving from church to church throughout a pastor’s career. With 53 years of my life having lived church-provided or funded housing. It is personally interesting to think about where we call home.

Mom always had a piece of needlework framed in every home, that reminded us of the quote, “Bloom where you are planted.” (Context/History)  [Is ‘Bloom Where You Are Planted’ in the Bible? Danielle Bernock, Crosswalk.com, Contributing Writer] Its Origin and Meaning: The sentiment can be found in Scripture, but not the exact words: “bloom where you are planted.” The popular phrase means to be fruitful, make the best of life when it throws lemons at you, and do what’s right, even when it’s hard. Is ‘Bloom Where You Are Planted’ in the Bible? Its Origin and Meaning: The phrase “Bloom Where You Are Planted” gets thrown around a lot. Many think it originated from the Bible, and others know this isn’t true. The sentiment can be found in Scripture, but not the exact words. An American graphic artist and illustrator made the phrase famous with her book, Mary Englebreit: The Art and the Artist, but she didn’t originate the phrase. An American radio broadcaster, Paul Harvey used the phrase a decade before Mary’s book, yet he was not the originator of it either. So, where did it come from? “Bloom Where You Are Planted” has a similar origin to the Celtic Cross — we only know some things and cannot confirm others. What Does “Bloom Where You Are Planted” Mean?

“Bloom Where You Are Planted” can mean various things depending on its usage.

To be fruitful, blossom, become all you were created to be. Make the best of what you have when life throws lemons at you. Do what’s right, even when it’s hard. Each has its place and even corresponding Scripture, which I’ll elaborate on.

1. Be Fruitful

Saint Francis de Sales (1567-1622), when he was the Bishop of Geneva is recorded as saying this: “Truly charity has no limit; for the love of God has been poured into our hearts by His Spirit dwelling in each one of us, calling us to a life of devotion and inviting us to bloom in the garden where He has planted and directing us to radiate the beauty and spread the fragrance of His Providence.” As you can see, it’s not a direct quote of the idiom but carries its meaning.  I believe the words of St. Francis de Sales were inspired by words in the Bible. In the book of Genesis. After God created Adam and Eve, He blessed them and told them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it” (Genesis 1:28). Another Scripture describes a believer’s fruitful flourishing by trusting in God. “But blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit” (Jeremiah 17:7-8). Scripture and other writings such as these encourage us to be all God has made us be. 

2. Make the Best of Life

Using the phrase in this way encourages resilience. Sometimes life is hard. Things don’t always go according to plan. Even in less than wonderful situations, we have control over how we respond. Blooming where we are planted is to make the choice to respond in a positive manner. It’s in agreement with another familiar phrase about making lemonade when life throws you lemons. When many Israelites were exiled to Babylon, they were in a less than a wonderful situation. But God told them, in a way, to bloom where they were planted for that time. “This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: ‘Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper” (Jeremiah 29:4-7).

3. Do What’s Right

Doing what’s right when it’s hard is — hard. Perhaps that’s why Paul gives this instruction in 1 Corinthians 7: 20-24, which is another place we find the sentiment of blooming where we are planted. This passage does not sanction human slavery, especially in the way slavery was practiced in the West during the 17th-19th centuries. Instead, this passage is a call to honor God above men. “Each person should remain in the situation they were in when God called them. Were you a slave when you were called? Don’t let it trouble you—although if you can gain your freedom, do so. For the one who was a slave when called to faith in the Lord is the Lord’s freed person; similarly, the one who was free when called is Christ’s slave. You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of human beings. Brothers and sisters, each person, as responsible to God, should remain in the situation they were in when God called them” (1 Corinthians 7:20-24).

“Bloom Where You Are Planted” Doesn’t Mean to Stay Stuck

Blooming where you are planted doesn’t mean you can’t improve yourself or must stay stuck in an awful place. Let me remind you of the line above, “if you can gain your freedom, do so” (vs. 21). The Bible is full of words encouraging us to grow and change. There are times to bloom where we are planted, and times for us to be transplanted so we can bloom even better elsewhere. Just follow the Lord where he leads. The sentiment of the phrase “Bloom Where You Are Planted” has been around for centuries, but the first publication of the exact phrase cannot be verified.

Make you home in the Lord: The kingdom of God is a the place we are to feel at home. 

Music notes with solid fill

 This World Is Not My Home, by Jim Reeves

This world is not my home, I’m just passing through, My treasures are laid up, Somewhere beyond the blue

The Angels beckon me, From Heaven’s open door, And I can’t feel at home, In this world anymore

Oh Lord, you know, I have no friend like you, If Heaven’s not my home, Then Lord what will I do

The Angels beckon me, From Heaven’s open door, And I can’t feel at home, In this world anymore.

Source: Musixmatch Songwriters: Mary Reeves Davis

We have an important character to examine in this parable. The invitation is not to see a tree that is home to one bird but to all the birds of the air.

There are many types of birds, but the invitation is to share a common home. In our modern wisdom, we have come to believe that that means we are working to find some least common denominator of tolerance of the widest sample of diversity, but that is not our invitation.

The invitation is for us all to find our home in God. Period. Drop the mic and should stop here. 

One of the great opportunities of moving in ministry is the opportunity to review the items that fill our house and ask the question does this connected me to God’s or to the world? I’m I holding on to memory because I’m scared, afraid, or lonely, OR am I keeping reminders of the faith story that each of us is personally sharing throughout our lives?

There are experiences such as natural disasters, pandemics, death, as well the choices we make and the challenges we accept or avoid, make up our idea of home, and where we belong. 

The real message for the church today is this, in what tree do we find our home? Is it God’s tree, the world’s tree, or the world’s tree that we slap on God’s name?

The test to answer where we make our home is measure by God and not what is popular at any given time in human history. Are we building a home that draws on God’s blessing, FOR God’s blessing!

Our measure is NOT to find everyone the same branch, God gifts, entrusts and blesses us differently.

Our measure is NOT to use God’s purpose for the world’s purpose, for then it ceases to be God’s.

Finding our home in God is the present we seek. Find it by building your life in Gods word, with other birds like us who belong to God and not the world.

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Use the Treasure in the Pot

2 Corinthians 4:1-18

Therefore, since it is by God’s mercy that we are engaged in this ministry, we do not lose heart. 2 We have renounced the shameful things that one hides; we refuse to practice cunning or to falsify God’s word; but by the open statement of the truth we commend ourselves to the conscience of everyone in the sight of God. 3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5 For we do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake. 6 For it is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 7 But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us. 8 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies. 11 For while we live, we are always being given up to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be made visible in our mortal flesh. 12 So death is at work in us, but life in you. 13 But just as we have the same spirit of faith that is in accordance with scripture—”I believed, and so I spoke”—we also believe, and so we speak, 14 because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus, and will bring us with you into his presence. 15 Yes, everything is for your sake, so that grace, as it extends to more and more people, may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God. 16 So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. 17 For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, 18 because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal. [NRSA]

A CLAY JAR

A piece of clay that has been fashioned into a bowl, a mug, or a vase is many things.

  • It is an expression of the potter.
  • It is more than the sum of it’s parts,
  • It is more than a lump of dirt and water,
  • It is both durable and delicate,
  • It is fragile, yet useful,
  • It is one of the precious images Paul uses to remind us, and the churches in Corinth, that we are precious treasure of God.

Clay can never form itself as wonderfully, purposefully, or longingly as can the potter.

This is one of the power messages of Good News you and I must share with a world that hungers for meaning and is willing to create alternate realities rather than simply trust God is that very potter of our lives.

Do you ever feel like a clay pot?

Winnie the Pooh is always appreciative of having a useful clay pot near by, in the hope that it contains honey, or that it will soon be filled with honey.

It is Paul’s pray, and one that we also share, that we remember that we are the clay pots that are

  1. Useful
  2. Filled with a treasure greater than golden honey
  3. Our time and lives are to maximize the opportunity to share God’s treasure with those we interact each day.

As Clay Pots, there are times we feel like the roughness of a clay pot. One that has been fired by trial and suffering heat or pressure, but has not been glazed. We feel ordinary, worn, or even fractured.

When we focus on the vase, bowl, mug, the body, the bills, the money, the demands, we think our usefulness is measured by the world’s use or uselessness of our lives, INSTEAD of trusting that GOD has determined our PURPOSE and USEFULNESS and fills us with God’s Power, Spirit, Truth, and Grace to transform a broken, fragile, power-hungry world.

  1. The First lesson to remind you neighbor is this. God makes us.
  2. The second is that God fills us.
  3. The third is God desires to work through us, making us the vessel of God’s presence.

The Body of Christ…

  • God is more plainly revealed in the life, body, teaching, death, and resurrection of Jesus, showing us that God is in charge, command, and in love with us all.
  • God can transform all things to God’s heart and will.
  • God can use each of us, no matter the age, style, durability, or fragile nature we perceive.
  • God is calling us to be the container.

Our Containers may be

  • We are afflicted in every way,
    • but not crushed;
  • perplexed, but
    • not driven to despair;  
  • persecuted,
    • but not forsaken;
  • struck down,
    • but not destroyed;  

But here is the Good News: We are carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies

Always

When are we carrying the death and life of Jesus?

  • When we feed, cloth, be friends, remember the forgotten,
  • seek the lost, search for the weary,
  • knock on the table of those who are using God’s name for power, politics, and personal gain.

The old American Express slogan, “Don’t Leave Home without It” is just a good of a reminder that everywhere, in everyday, in every situation, we are the useful pots, the containers of Jesus for the world.

The Hitch in the Get Along

  • The catch is, we either don’t believe this to be true everyday,
  • We take it for granted and think it is something we can pick and choose to share , or
  • We don’t trust God’s power, word, and heart.

For weeks I have ask you to pray for someone that you can disciple, and share your faith. On one hand it is a poor attempt to suggest that there might just be one person, when there are thousands within our areas of influence that we would dare pick one. But this is just the thing:

Most of us don’t use the powers and gifts entrusted.

We are more focused on protecting our own pot, our own body, our own stuff, our own problems, and we miss the point of “God with Us”, Emmanuel, the Good News, the treasure that is entrusted us to share.

Which leaves us with the question to URGENTLY answer:

If you and I are those God is expecting the share the Good News, what do we have to report?

Why do you say URGENT, hasn’t it been thousands of years since Christ arose and might it be a thousand more? It might, but not for me and you.

We do not know the number of our days.

“ Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day”

  1. How many conversations about the weather and politics can we waste talking with one another about what is certain instead of what is perplexing?
  2. How many trips to work and town to do something necessary that we do not reach out to those who are afflicted with the blindness of what the world has to offer.
  3. How much breath do we withhold in an effort to avoid persecution, social shaming, and ridicule?
  4. How many times do we take a stand and risk being struck down for doing what is right for the kingdom of God?

Thank Goodness Paul is only talking to the church in Corinth and not the church in Rock Spring, Georgia! (Oh but his words touch us all, in all time, ALWAYS.

Speaking of Always, let’s compare Sunday afternoon to Eternity.

  • What is the most pressing thing we have today?
  • What is waiting for us in this week ahead that we are responsible to do, lead, or complete?
  • What can be placed on the back burner, or until we have more time, money, energy, or feel more like it?

I have an idea for social media this week:

Instead of posting the usual, or just reading others post and liking or skipping them. Let’s use this powerful tool to share a more powerful message.

  • Let’s share how God is at work in our lives
  • Share what songs and verses are guiding your day.
  • Share what conversation are drawing others closer to God

If you are not only social media, get on the phone, in the car, our out in person and start telling story, sharing the treasure, resume feeding and clothing, visiting and making friends in Christ, start knocking on hearts and heads, ask people how you can pray for them, how God can bless them.

  • Use these clay bots that we are
  • And share the treasure that God has invested in us
  • And transform the world and tell the good news…

Because keeping quiet is not the method that is working very well.

If we stay silent, if we keep it too ourselves, it is as if we only an empty, useless pots and that is not at all what God has blessed, saved, calls, nor expects us to be.

Are you with me? Let’s stop focusing on the pot and sharing the treasure we’ve already got.

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Does my life reveal I am born anew?

Photo by Bob Montanaro, Subject created by God.

Isaiah 6:1-8
In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lofty; and the hem of his robe filled the temple. Seraphs were in attendance above him; each had six wings: with two they covered their faces, and with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.” The pivots on the thresholds shook at the voices of those who called, and the house filled with smoke. And I said: “Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!” Then one of the seraphs flew to me, holding a live coal that had been taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. The seraph touched my mouth with it and said: “Now that this has touched your lips, your guilt has departed and your sin is blotted out.” Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I; send me!”

Psalm 29
29:1 Ascribe to the LORD, O heavenly beings, ascribe to the LORD glory and strength. Ascribe to the LORD the glory of his name; worship the LORD in holy splendor. The voice of the LORD is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the LORD, over mighty waters. The voice of the LORD is powerful; the voice of the LORD is full of majesty. The voice of the LORD breaks the cedars; the LORD breaks the cedars of Lebanon. He makes Lebanon skip like a calf, and Sirion like a young wild ox. The voice of the LORD flashes forth flames of fire. The voice of the LORD shakes the wilderness; the LORD shakes the wilderness of Kadesh. The voice of the LORD causes the oaks to whirl, and strips the forest bare; and in his temple all say, “Glory!” The LORD sits enthroned over the flood; the LORD sits enthroned as king forever. May the LORD give strength to his people! May the LORD bless his people with peace! [NRSA]

Romans 8:12-17
8:12 So then, brothers and sisters, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh– for if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ–if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him. [NRSA]

John 3:1-17
3:1 Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. He came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.” Jesus answered him, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be astonished that I said to you, ‘You must be born from above.’ The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” Jesus answered him, “Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things? “Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. [NRSA]

Life in the Spirit.

One of our core beliefs is that we are created by God and that we have both a physical and a spiritual nature.  Regarding these two natures, we have two motivating factors, one is that our bodies will not last for eternity, these bodies will wear out, become diseased, infected, or not hold up to the conditions we experience, and we will all experience death in this body.

(Segway to Memorial Day– )

The second driving force is that our Spiritual nature is equally as real and in need of care as our physical body. Our Spiritual self is nurtured, fortified, and made whole by God’s Grace. This grace is most plainly seen and experienced in Jesus’s restorative work of dying for our sins, but we most often experience this grace through God’s Spirit guiding, inspiring, correcting, and calling us to practice our faith and trust.

The stuff that gets in the way of our bodies maturing, being nurtured, strengthened, and becoming whole, is directly affected by our making poor choices, apathetically taking no action, as well as those that impact our lives by no action of our own.

We eat well or we do not. We rest and exercise or we do not. We avoid risk or we run into it, or it runs into us. We know that we make personal choices about our physical health.

Think about our spiritual health in the same way. We believe or we do not. We follow or are ignored. We trust or we test. We rebel and reject, or we devote ourselves to nurture, exercise, fortify and care for the spiritual self.

Revisiting the Texts:

Throughout the scripture we see that this struggle to become spiritually whole, spiritually healthy, connected most fulling to God, comes from God’s help, God’s strength, God’s restoring and setting us up time and time again.

Isaiah shares a vision from heaven when God sends a holy divine being, a seraph, to touches Isaiah’s lips with a hot coal. This act of cleansing and redemptive sounds horrible, but it is a dramatic image of the to be made whole and clean is not the perfecting of our own thought and behavior, but an action of grace that God makes possible. Thank goodness, lip cleansing is not a ritual of the church. Maybe we would take more seriously our words and thoughts if we connected sin and restorative cleaning.

Psalm 29, the congregation celebrates the need we have to turn to God’s Spirit to complete our spiritual development.

In Jesus’s conversation with Nick, (John 3) is an honest awakening conversation to the dual nature that is core to our identity and reality. It is the mutual, maturity of both our physical and spiritual self that makes us whole, happy, connect, included, good, and righteous.

What does that mean and how would that happen?

Let’s put on our academic and contemporary hats, and realized that modern theology of missiology, our popular understanding of what it means to love our neighbor, invites us to not require people to give up their cultural or personal beliefs to become the culture that we have come to know as normal and acceptable. The danger is that we begin to believe that goodness, righteousness, and Godliness are a lowest common denominator of a sliver of truth that we can all agree about based on our expectations.

Isaiah is called to speak the truth that is make good, clean, true but the redemptive work of God’s spirit and grace.

Psalm 29 calls us to see God is the one who define what is holy, righteous, and good.

Romans 8, Paul is teaching the church that it is God’s Spirit that we follow and not the popularity of whatever the contemporary thought that is acceptable for the day.

John 3, Nick is trying to figure out a physical problem in the name of solving a spiritual crisis. And Jesus moves step by step, helping an open-minded, faith-seeking, leader in society look at life with more than a physical ‘eye’ and perspective. Look through the “eyes” of the spirit. Think of Yoda inviting master Luke in his training to use “the force” to control the physical world.

The So what is this:

We will never be able to solve hunger, disease, political division, the misuse of power, stop the forces of corruption, greed, abuse, and perversion of what is good and Godly, without God’s help.

We trying doing just the physical and expect the spiritual to follow.

It is the combination… We are physical and spiritual children of God and the task is to love those in the world, even as God loves, but to do so with the guidance, power, direction, equipping, and practice of God working through us.

What does this look like in my everyday life?

Our work as the church has two parts: We feed, clothe, comfort, make friends, and include people, FOR THE SPIRITUAL PURPOSE of helping each other follow the Holy Spirit.

  • Moses led the people but following God’s call
  • Isaiah called people to account for not following the Spirit
  • The congregation practices singing the reminders that God is able, faithful, and persistent in working through us.
  • Paul is teaching the church to share God’s righteousness
  • Jesus is teaching Nick to see the task is not about keeping the law, the rules, the commandments alone, it is keeping our faithfulness in God to guide us.

Our shared ministry is not to keep ourselves pretty, neat, clean, and separate from the world, rather it is fully live IN THE WORLD, with the purpose, mission, goal of bringing people to Spiritual awaking.

  • If you want to see people get along,
  • If you want to see an end to racism
  • If you want to see economic justice
  • If you want to see families grow together
  • If you want to see an end to poverty and hunger
  • If you want to see evil defeated,

The answer is to TRUST GOD’s SPIRIT to lead us and not expect the world, governments, organizations, wealth, or any worldly power to solve what only God can do!!

If you want things to continue to be out of control, then stead the current course and keep handing the responsibility to those who do NOT seek God’s Spirit to solve, and Chaos and Evil will continue to reign!

  • Who’s has the power of the Holy Spirit to transform the world? Those who follow the Spirit
  • Who’s holds the patent of what is Good, True, and Righteous? God Almighty, Alone!
  • Who’s task is to help they world find God’s Spirit as our collective hope and salvation?, Those who trust the Spirit
  • Who are those who trust the spirit? Those who are born again.

AM I BORN IN THE SPIRIT?

  • Am I aware of my spiritual nature?
  • Am I feeding the Spirit in me?
  • Am I nurturing and practicing the gifts of the Spirit
  • Am I praying, Studying, Teaching, healing, translating, interpreting, calling to accountability the world that is one-track minded and heading over the cliff?
  • Am I expecting someone else to do my job?
  • Am I going along for the ride afraid God is not able to overcome the evil and problems?
  • Am I going to keep quiet, keep to my family, and stay under the radar?

The context of John 3:16-17 is that you and I are able to transform the world when we follow God’s Spirit, Trust God’s Power, and allow our minds and bodies to be guided by the Spirit, FOR THE PURPOSE of revealing God’s heart and will.

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So what do we do with Pentecost

Ezekiel 37:1-14Psalm 104:24-35 Romans 8:22-27 Acts 2:1-21John 15:26-27, 16:4-15

50 days since Easter and we gather today to celebrate that Jesus continues to be live, with a physical presence, that has been entrusted into all of us, who place our faith and trust in Christ. God is using our physical and spiritual bodies, in this world, at this very time, to be the witness of the God’s will and heart, for the world to experience through us.

Traditionally we think of Pentecost as the birthday of the church. • But we do not typically have a cake, • there is no special meal, and we do not exchange presents or • send cards to one another. In 38 years of ministry, I have never once given, nor received, a Pentecost card, it is a Holy Day that Hallmark and the other card companies have under served. If the shelves at Walmart and the various drugs stories and shops could exploit the birthday of the church, as being filled, and guided by the Holy Spirit, • we should see little torches with flaming tongues, • there would be card that say: “He is Rise, Risen indeed, in a dozen different languages. • We could draw names and give one another gifts that would help us identify our spiritual gifts and develop our spiritual bodies. • It should be a great day to start bible studies, • being new churches, • travel to different places and share the Gospel with strangers where are in town from some other celebration, and • a day to learn new songs of praise and hymns of celebration.

? Why has Pentecost not caught on in the same way as others Special Days?

Celebrating Christmas has only been a thing for a thousand years. And most of our traditions are less than three hundred years old.

Easter, on the other hand, has been celebrated since the beginning, as timeof worship, praise, and going to compel others to know Jesus, as the one that is greater than sin, fear, evil, and even death. 

Pentecost is a time to celebrate the Holy Spirit. – What should we be celebrating?

[NRSA:  Genesis 1:1] In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, 2 the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. 3 Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light.

The Holy Spirit is not an afterthought. 

From the beginning of creating order out of chaos, a wind from God, swept over the face of the earth, the waters. The Holy Spirt is part of God that moves through our physical nature, at the direction of God, doing the work of God, for the good of the creation. Gn 1

The Prophet Ezekiel is lead the Holy Spirit in the Valley of the dry bones, and the Holy Spirit brings the dry bones to life and gives what was empty and lifeless meaning, power, and new life. Ez 37

The congregation sings of the Holy Spirit’s power to restore life in Ps 104“When you hide your face, they are dismayed; when you take away their breath, they die and return to their dust. When you send forth your spirit, they are created; and you renew the face of the ground.”

Jesus tells the disciples to look forward to learn from the Holy Spirit, “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you” JN 16

Paul instructs the early church concerning the Holy Spirit, Rm 8“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”

So What are we celebrating? 

Number 1 is Wisdom

Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit that is from God, so that we may understand the gifts bestowed on us by God. 13 And we speak of these things in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual things to those who are spiritual. 14 Those who are unspiritual do not receive the gifts of God’s Spirit, for they are foolishness to them, and they are unable to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 15 Those who are spiritual discern all things, and they are themselves subject to no one else’s scrutiny. 16 “For who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ. [NRSA: 1 Cor 2:14-16]

The wisdom of the Holy Spirit is the discernment and judgment to know the difference between what is God’s will and God’s heart and not what is just pleasing the world’s ever-changing values of what is true, good, and right.

Wisdom is God’s work in our individual and collective life as followers, to recognize God’s call and direction in our lives.

Number 2 is Council and Comfort

I have no idea if Carol King intended to be songwriting about the Holy Spirit, but her words are helpful for those who are: 

When you’re down and troubled, And you need some lovin’ care, And nothin’, nothin’ is goin’ right,  Close your eyes and think of me, And soon I will be there, To brighten up even your darkest night, You just call out my name, And you know, wherever I am, I’ll come runnin’, To see you again, Winter, spring, summer or fall; All you have to do is call, And I’ll be there, You’ve got a friend

If the sky above you Grows dark and full of clouds And that old north wind begins to blow Keep your head together, And call my name out loud, Soon you’ll hear me knockin’ at your door, You just call out my name, And you know, wherever I am, I’ll come runnin’, runnin’, yeah, yeah; To see you again, 

Now, ain’t it good to know that you’ve got a friend, When people can be so cold? They’ll hurt you, yes, and desert you, And take your soul if you let them, Oh, but don’t you let them, You just call out my name, And you know, wherever I am, I’ll come runnin’, runnin’, yeah, yeah, To see you again

You’ve got a friend, Ain’t it good to know you’ve got a friend

[Songwriter: Carole King, You’ve Got a Friend lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC]

Number three: Understanding and Knowledge..  

The ability to read scripture and understand the message across differing culture and periods of history. And to hear both the dependable truth, as well as the fresh expressions of that truth.

4th: the Spirit helps us appreciate and experience AWE and PIETY

Awe at the mystery of birth, new sprouts in Spring, the ability to know God’s presence that is something we enter into and not just something we create or cook up. The Knowing and not knowing at the same time..

And connected to that understanding of Piety is the practice of placing ourselves in awe of what God will reveal to us and through us. That means• we serve because we want to see God’s love manifest in our relationships. • we study the bible because we want to hear God speak to us.• We pray because we want God to hear us and us to hear God• We sing because we want to show our appreciate and devotion to God and thank Christ and connect with all those who call on God’s name.• We serve to make the connection of God’s love with the world: Piety

Piety is practicing the things that help us maintain our awe of God working through us.

If there is a take-away for Pentecost Sunday, • it needs to be the AWE the God wants to use you and me to show the presence of the kingdom to Rock Spring and the worlds where we reach out to each day. • The Wisdom that God is trustworthy,• The Knowledge that we are the heart of God’s messengers, those who bring hope and healing, those who care and connect, those who interpret and help others understand, … • The Comfort and Connection all the things that are the work of the Holy Spirit align perfectly with what you and I are called to do and be.

So• If you could use some more connection with God• If you see that more wisdom would help your daily life• If you know there are things you do not understand but would like to know• If you could use a friend and guide that will never leave you.• Today is the day to ask the Holy Spirit to move in, or move us closer to God. 

God is giving us knowledge, comfort, direction, understanding, awe and ways of staying spiritually strong and clearly connected and is giving us the power to do all these things. In the Holy Spirit, you and I have what we need, APART from the holy spirit, we wither, dry out, and die. 

Verses: for today

The hand of the LORD came upon me, and he brought me out by the spirit of the LORD and set me down in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me all around them; there were very many lying in the valley, and they were very dry. He said to me, “Mortal, can these bones live?” I answered, “O Lord GOD, you know.” Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD. Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. I will lay sinews on you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the LORD.” So I prophesied as I had been commanded; and as I prophesied, suddenly there was a noise, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. I looked, and there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them; but there was no breath in them. Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, mortal, and say to the breath: Thus says the Lord GOD: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.” I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude. Then he said to me, “Mortal, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are cut off completely.’ Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord GOD: I am going to open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people; and I will bring you back to the land of Israel. And you shall know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people. I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you on your own soil; then you shall know that I, the LORD, have spoken and will act,” says the LORD. [NRSA: Ezekiel 37:1-14]

O LORD, how manifold are your works! In wisdom you have made them all; the earth is full of your creatures. Yonder is the sea, great and wide, creeping things innumerable are there, living things both small and great. There go the ships, and Leviathan that you formed to sport in it. These all look to you to give them their food in due season; when you give to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are filled with good things. When you hide your face, they are dismayed; when you take away their breath, they die and return to their dust. When you send forth your spirit, they are created; and you renew the face of the ground. May the glory of the LORD endure forever; may the LORD rejoice in his works– who looks on the earth and it trembles, who touches the mountainsand they smoke. I will sing to the LORD as long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have being. May my meditation be pleasing to him, for I rejoice in the LORD. Bless the LORD, O my soul. Praise the LORD![NRSA: Psalm 104:24-34, 35b]

We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. [NRSA: Romans 8:22-27]

When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability. Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language?Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs–in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.” All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” But others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.” But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel: ‘In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy. And I will show portents in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and smoky mist. The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day. Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’ [NRSA: Acts 2:1-21]

“When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father, he will testify on my behalf. You also are to testify because you have been with me from the beginning. [..] “I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you. But now I am going to him who sent me; yet none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your hearts. Nevertheless I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will prove the world wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: about sin, because they do not believe in me; about righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will see me no longer; about judgment, because the ruler of this world has been condemned. “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you. [John 15:26-27; 16:4b-15]

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John 15:1-8 Growing Watermelons

watermelon fruit
Watermelon by Brian van den Heuvel on Pexels.com

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples. [NRSA: John 15:1-8]

Who owns the vineyard?

God is the owner of the vineyard, the plants, the soil, pays the taxes, cares for the property, cares for the vine. We are called to be fruit of God’s labor.

Who is the Vine?

Jesus

Who are the branches that bear fruit?

Us, the church, the people of God, Christians, Disciples, folks in this room and watching this stream.

God’s Perspective:

When someone takes your hard work and uses you’re your idea, your product, our your effort to produce work for themselves? What if they not only use your labor, but do so in a way that brings harm to others? Even more so, they take credit that is yours, blame you for the harm and shame, and they become justified by the law of the land by discrediting your work but sticking you with the blame for their theft and abuse? How does that reflect on you? How is this different from God’s perspective when we claim what is our property, our ideas, our value, wealth, power, or the like?

To God belongs all things, all people, all the history and future.

We are the branches… we already established that, but our question is about fruit production.

Imagine you and I are watermelons in the field. We are connected to the vine, the source, of God’s love in Jesus Christ, fed the nutrients of the Holy Spirit, nurtured by those in the faith and body of Christ. Know, we are not of the seedless variety. We are connected to God, through Christ and the Holy Spirit and the church, to be more than a plump specimen of survival, we are to produce seed that become other vines and branches.

What is the expectation of branches in the parable that do not produce fruit? Do they remain part of the vine system? Do they continue to thrive and mature? No, they are pruned. They are cut off. They are not helping to extend, reproduce, expand, and branch outward and they are no longer useful to God.

This is such a harsh statement? Where is the grace? Where is the loving God?

It’s in the call upon each disciples to use the spiritual seeds that you are designed, born, and already have in your spiritual DNA.

Reality of Fruitfulness

Frankly, we are in a season of pruning, no control over the global pandemic, no control over the decisions of our denomination, no reason to trust our political leaders, no reason to believe in justice when the system is broken. We are hopeless, depressed, and afraid. And in these times of uncertainly we tend to be withdrawn, hunker down, and retreat.

In these times we are not planting seeds and not sharing the faith, assurance, love, grace, truth, and power that has been given us through Christ, the Holy Spirit, nor the church.

We can busy ourselves with finding the appropriate person, system, institution, or corporation to blame, or we can recognize that none of these are charge with the same power, tools, gifts, blessings, and authority to scatter the seeds: some on the path, some in the poor soil, and some in the good soil. But the task is to be planting, sharing, and scattering the seed we already have been given.

Blame and Shame never plant seeds of life.

Where there is no fruit, there are no seeds, no future, no life, no hope. What is the reverse of that story? IF we have hope, we have faith, if we trust the life given to us, we see the future God has for us, and it begins in the tools, stories, adventures, suffering, and life God has already given us, and will give us.

The vine and branches are connected:

If, and only when, we are connected to God through Christ do we KNOW we are receiving life, Jesus’s question to disciples like us and the world, are you just getting plump or are to preparing seeds?

The power is conveyed through our connection with Christ, but our goal is not simple to live, rather we live to share God’s story. It is fruit we have been prepared and saved to share.

Two Months Ago

This returns us to our invitation, of now 8 weeks ago, 2 months, of responding to the call to bear fruit. We need to be checking to see how our seed supply is doing for reaching beyond ourselves to the world around us.

What are our Seeds to Share?

What are our seeds? From the Bible are both stories of faith, examples of love and forgiveness, rules and commandment of boundaries, examples of living connected to the vine of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

The seeds are

  • in the scripture we live,
  • songs we sing,
  • the stories we tell,
  • the lessons we study,
  • the sermons we preach,
  • the experiences we share,
  • the struggles we persevere.

Tell the person next to you: I already have the seeds for sharing my faith!

Where and When to plan the seeds?

  • Brothers fighting for approval.
  • Sisters working for appreciation.
  • Neighbors divided over politics, members splitting hairs over theology,
  • the sick, forgotten, and excluded long to be included and overcome their brokenness.
  • The weary seek rest,
  • Those grieving, seek hope and life.

Remember Zacheus: He is the tax collector who has oppressed everyone in town, no one welcomes him at their door, he is seeking Jesus and Jesus invited himself to the man’s home and table. Zach encounters Jesus, and leaves knowing that every evil deed can be mended through Christ. He new business is to work justly and personally makes right what he himself has done to harm others. Jesus does not give him a law or commandment, he plants love and grace in a sinner’s heart and the vine transforms the branches. He begins bearing fruit of grace. Zack, sees the power of his sin and selfishness, and forsakes that lifestyle for a life of restoring connections that once were broken and dead.

Hear the Good News

Did you know that God desires for us to be whole more than to be guilty? Confess our sins and be free and made new in Christ. Zach, already had the seeds to bring justice and to restore what was stolen and extorted.

Jesus knows our Struggle in this World

Did you know God gives us these bodies in this broken and sinful world so that it truly means something when we give away all that we could have to have everything we truly need in Christ.

The seeds of faith that are already part of who we are, are NOT ours alone

The Alternative to growing, spreading, sharing, and bearing fruit, is simply existing, biding our time, or even more harmful, using God’s connects for our power, our success, our glory, our prize, our will.

Lord Have Mercy on Me a Sinner.

This the best prayer to start and finish the day… The context is that as long as we are in this world, with the temptations and freedom to choose our life is an ongoing choice to stay connected AND bear fruit.

Are we bearing fruit? If not, then wake up people.

We are preparing for fruit we might never see: But if we never see any fruitfulness then we are dying on the vine, in the heat of the day. Question from the parable: What happens to the melons that are beginning to rot, or have stopped growing before they mature? They are removed to make room for the branches that will bear fruit.

The Seeds in our Pocket.

One of the early sermon illustrations from 37 years ago came from William Barclay’s commentaries, and he recalled an old English rhymn: “It’s not what I would do if millions were my lot, its what I WILL do with the pence I’ve got. “What are the seeds. Seeds are the miracles of potential. Given the opportunity seeds, as pieces of God’s work, planted through out hands, become the new generation of livelihood for the vineyard.

Just about the same time I started preaching the GA Satellites wrote a song:

https://genius.com/The-georgia-satellites-keep-your-hands-to-yourself-lyrics

Georgia Satellites: “Keep Your Hands to Yourself

[Verse 1] I got a little change in my pocket going jing-a-ling-a-ling; Wanna call you on the telephone, baby, I give you a ring; But each time we talk, I get the same old thing; Always, “No huggee, no kissee until I get a wedding ring”  [Chorus] My honey, my baby; Don’t put my love upon no shelf, She said,”Don’t hand me no lines and keep your hands to yourself”

[Verse 2] Ooh, baby, baby, baby; Why you gonna treat me this way? You know I’m still your loverboy I still feel the same way; That’s when she told me a story ’bout free milk and a cow; And said “No huggee, no kissee until I get a wedding vow”  [Chorus].

Verse 3] You see, I wanted her real bad and I was about to give in; That’s when she started talking about true love; Started talking about sin; I said, “Honey, I’ll live with you for the rest of my life”; She said, No huggee, no kissee until you make me a wife”

There is much talk about loving our neighbor, but it is a combination of loving our neighbor who happens difficult to love. This is the work to which we are called and connected to Christ to live.

How do we plant seeds when someone eats them for their dinner?

Watermelon is not on my list of food to reach my healthy weight, but once I reach that goal, it will be choice on my plate, what is already on all our plates, is to get access to the seeds that are within us and put them to work.

I chose the watermelon as the image for today because we tend to forget that its not just about our own sweetness, and goodness, it is the seeds that are produced in our lives that enable and empower others to be connected to Christ.

A Hands on Opportunity

If you don’t know where to start sharing your faith, start with a seed or small tomato plant or other fruit bearing plant and go and offer it to a neighbor, help them plant it in their yard, for find a place to keep the pot on their porch, deck or patio, and show them how and when to water and nurture, advise them on what problems to anticipate and how you might avoid them, and check back in when it time to see the fruit. And you have the model of what to share with someone about their faith…

The Journey of Discipleship is like that of gardening:

  • We share what we have known as a gift to others,
  • We invite them to work in northing faith in their own life,
  • We give them tools, knowledge, and experience of what it good and evil,
  • We hold them accountable and celebrate the journey with them.

The Power of a Lawn Mower

God gives each of us the details to fill in the blanks… but if we secretly planted a watermelon seed in someone’s backyard, and it happen to spring up, they might cut it down with the mower thinking it was a weed. And the effort is wasted.

  • Share what you know, God will fill in the rest.
  • Stay with the growth and God will give you words and build the relationship.
  • Hold accountable as support, just as God holds us accountable in judgement!
  • And the vine will thrive through us, and through others, and others, and more until Christ returns for the harvest.

Are you ready to plant seeds of faith, love, grace, hope, joy and life? Then let’s get busy!

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Introduction to EFUMC

Video Hello, My name is John Brantley, my wife is Wendy Williams Brantley, our children are Susanna, Luke, and Frances. Our golden retriever is named Turner, our sailboat project is the ‘turtle.’ We love to travel; we are lifelong Braves fans, and welcome you to participate in our NCAA brackets, as part of our Easter season tradition.


I was born in Metter, Georgia as the son of a United Methodist minister who showed me a deep love of the church, prayer, and making disciples. My childhood church families gave me every example of why to and not to go into the ministry, yet while on a UMW/UMM mission to Monterrey, Mexico at the Juan Wesley Seminary, I was called to return home, share the gospel, transform lives, and lead others in becoming disciple-makers for the kingdom. Through the United Methodist Church and over 30 years of service as an elder, I come to you with joy and anticipation.


My hobbies are travel, music, foodie, techie, sailing, photography, forging, and just above caddy at golf. For the past ten years I have shared my sermons online and other writings at www.clergy.pro You will find that I love to be creative. I fully appreciate great traditions and find stability in them. From that comfort, we can grow and experiment in learning new things and fresh ways.


Locally there are over 5000 people who live within 2.5 miles of the EFUMC and over 30,000 in Gilmer county. Central to our task is to make a home for as many of our neighbors to share in ministry and fellowship. I have founded two ministries particularly help that I call “Pizza with the Pastor” and “Talk on Tap” as personal avenues of reaching new people who are not part of traditional church life. Part of my calling to ministry began in a mission context, and so, I have been blessed to lead teams in Peru, Brazil, Venezuela, Honduras, Moscow, and Culebra Puerto Rico. Together we will make disciples that transform the world and at home, through Jesus Christ.


Our family is spread about; Susanna is doing her post-doc research at Duke University Hospital; Luke, is a captain, and analyst in the Air Force recently, married Liz, a physicians assistant, working on her dermatology certification, and Frances, is our high school senior, has just this week decided to attend UGA to study international studies and Chinese. Wendy is my best friend and wife. She has been a leader in marketing and advertising in the Southeast, she devoted full time to care for both of her parents in our home, and now works in insurance, and will soon be starting on her master’s in history with her love of the WWII era. She is currently completing a book about her journey in the care of her parents.


I bring my passion and commitment to equip and challenge EFUMC to continue to grow and be the very best witness it can be in Gilmer county and the world. We look forward to building strong relationships and doing great work for the kingdom.

We have shared a great long-tenure of ministry with the congregation at Rock Spring.

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Luke 24:36b-48 Jesus is Hungry

Fish, it’s what’s for dinner.

While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. He said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet.

While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate in their presence.

Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you–that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. [NRSA]

You are witnesses of these things.

This is a helpful story of repetition to strengthen our faith. This is yet another time that Jesus appears after the resurrection. And his purpose is the same as before.

He greets them with the breath of the Holy Spirit and the presence of a Holy Peace. And again they were terrified.

Why are you still frightened? Why are you still afraid? Why do you continue to have fear and doubts?

It is here that we can join with those disciples as disciples today and Jesus asks the very same of us!

Again Jesus offers the signs of his crucifixion, his side, his hands and his feet.

The next verse nails the point we know too well: “While in their joy, they were disbelieving and still wondering.”

We gather in the good news of the power and truth of the resurrection. We celebrate, we sing, we rejoice, we find comfort in our gathering to worship and praise, and in 30 mins we will hesitate in making a faithful choice or decision. We will ignore someone we should have reached out to help. We will have talked through when we should have listened. When challenged we will justify our thoughts and behaviors are just, kind, and righteousness, and not listen to our neighbors.

To further prove Jesus was not a ghost, a vision, or the collective fruit of their imaginations and hopes, he asks for something to eat.

Those who have died have no need to eat.

Those who are spirit only do not hunger or thirst. Here. Jesus is spiritually filled AND yet hungry. And asks for food!

David Brennet, The good Jewish, Italian, or even Southern mother we force anyone who comes in the house to eat, even if they have eaten, say they are not hungry, get a plate of food, if you say you are hungry get a feast.

Jesus says he is hungry.

Proof that he is alive and in full human/Divine form. This is the foundation of the covered dish dinner Jesus asks for food and the bring what they know best, fish.

This appearance Jesus not only gives assurance and proof he reminds us of the

Assignment!

Then he said to them,

1. Let’s knit the lessons of the Old Testament and the promises of prophets and laws of Moses to see the fulfillment of God’s word and messengers.

2. He opened their minds to the scriptures, this is not our understanding of being “open minded” as much as it is to read and heard Gods work with both fresh ear and deep faith, to see Gods new message is not actually new,

3. Hear the Good News in the Hard Truth. Explaining the cross and the debt for sinus’s been paid.

4. Go call for repentance and forgiveness in Christ name.

5. To all nations, starting at home.

What verses of the Bible do you turn to when you are teaching someone who is becoming a disciple they explain who Jesus is, what Jesus has done for us, and what God is expecting us to do as the living presence of Christ?

Shout them out loud! What are you shy or don’t know where to start? We have one job and we have clouded it with what entertains and pleases us in worship? We worry about light bills and building maintenance. We focus on what time we ga5er at the church…. none of which in itself teaches discipleship, none of it completes the assignment.

Church is calling a sinful world what it is and inviting us all to become what God has intended from the beginning. What God makes possible when we have messed things up in our lives, when we have handed authority of life anywhere other than to God…

We start in the closest circle and head for the ends of the earth.

Where to start

Below are ten passage I invite you to study, learn, memorize them or memorize where to find them when you need them. Feel free to add more, but start here as a set of tools for the work of disciplining

Dad bought me a socket set to work on my first car. A car that I paid $300, drove 100,000 miles and sold for $300. I’d love to have that Impala back for $300. 8 miles to the gallon, no air, and ugliest green you have ever seen. But I could work on it. I had the tools, now my Tahoe is in the shop 9 days and has a team of folks stumped.

I need someone with the right tools and experience. When it come to discipleship we have the tools, and we have the presence of The Holy Spirit, the power of Christ, and all it take is making the experience possible for our neighbors, and then the rest of the world. It won’t happen sitting in worship. We’ve got to get busy, cause Jesus is coming and what are we going to show when he gets back.

Key verses for Discipling

John 8:31–38: So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?” Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. I know that you are offspring of Abraham; yet you seek to kill me because my word finds no place in you. I speak of what I have seen with my Father, and you do what you have heard from your father.”

Matthew 28:16-20: Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

2 Timothy 2:1-2: You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also.

Luke 9:23-24: And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.

John 13:34-35: A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

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Acts 1:8

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

Romans 10:14-17

How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

John 15:16-17

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. These things I command you, so that you will love one another.

Colossians 1:28-29

Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.

Hebrews 3:12-14

Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.

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John 20:19-31 “Hands and Breath of Peace and Faith”

When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”  When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.  If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So, the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.” A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name. [NRSA: John 20:19-31]

a kid with multicolored hand paint
Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Pexels.com
  • Show Me You Hands
  • Breathe On Me Your Peace
  • Help My Unbelief
  • SO, that I have life in Christ!

If you are a card player you know that one of the basic rules is that you never show your hand to the other players so that they do not have an advantage. Part of the strategy is to hold your cards closely. Many people do that with their thoughts and feelings. It is typically a good business idea to wait and see what your customer wants or what your competition is doing.

Before the fearful disciples asked, Jesus, reveals his hands. He shows them the marks of the nails from the cross. He shows them the proof and evidence that the person standing before them is the same person who was crucified and sealed in a tomb three days prior.

What does it mean that Jesus shows us to reveal God’s hand. Not only his physical hands, but he reveals God’s heart, God’s plan, and God’s expectations.

In the midst of their fear, Jesus breathes the breath of peace. One of the best ways to reduce our blood pressure or to deal with a stressful situation is the be attentive to our breathing. Thankful breathing is one of the basic motor skills we do not have to think about all the time, but in our fight or flight times of fear, we breathless or the quality of our breathing is shallow and hurried.

Jesus steps in the room.

  •  Breathes peace into the room and shows his hands.
  • What would it look or feel like if in a time of frustration, anger, fear, doubt, or grief… we had someone interrupt our normal and automated actions and call us to faith and peace?
  • Here are two gifts that Jesus gives to the disciples that we as Resurrection People must give to one another and to the world.

It is clear we are living in this season of fear in our health, fear in political uncertainties, fear of global economies, and in the unknown of what these larger fears make on our family’s security, mobility, happiness, and unity. Part of Jesus’s witness is to become those who speak and breathe the Holy Spirit into our daily lives.

Speaking the Holy Spirit

  • Is a prayer,
  • An invitation,
  • Framing the context,
  • Reminding the faith
  • Singing the chorus
  • Causes us to focus on where we find our strength,

Returning to the pace and rhythm of being in fellowship and union when we know God is present.

Exercise of Breathing:

  1. Inhale for four counts and exhale with five long with the last stretched out.

Blood oxygen measurement… take your pulse before and after,

  • Step it up but slowing down and Adding to the physical shifting intentional breathing, the prayers of request and release.

Breathing are prayers for peace going in

Breathing out and prayers for forgiveness going out

  • Place your hand in someone else and pray and breath aloud, taking turns one speaking and one listening and then swap roles. (Now some have stress about what to say if you don’t know repeat either Jesus Loves Us or Lord have mercy.)

You can show God’s hand by breathing and prayer with someone.

You have seen mothers and fathers in baby deliver classes breathing together and talking through pain and suffering.

Jesus shows his hands… There are appropriate and inappropriate touches, and we are more and less comfortable with touching people we trust or not, but offering to show our hand, is a gift of trust for someone else.

Jesus knows what the disciples need and offers his breath, prayer, hands, and touch. Did you know that the only time some people have positive physical contact with someone else is when they see their family/friends, visit the doctor, AND when they come to church and fellowship?

Even more than praying and breathing it is becoming vulnerable for the world, to find the peace, faith, and relationship we already know.  

Jesus could have come in a said to the disciples I am so disappointed that you are hiding just when I need you to be out bolding sharing the Good News.

He, Instead, comforts the fears, fills them with the Spirit, and THEN calls them to faithfulness. We must be able and willing to reach out as recovering sinners, into a world of sin, and join with others to share the faith, proof, breath, power, word, guidance, and strength that we find in Christ, in the Spirit, for God.

The big picture is that we are living in Christ…

We are living in Christ when we are showing the world and one another the love God in midst of our fears and failures.

Part of the message Jesus is giving to the disciples is handing over the reins of the church, we are now the body of Christ, God’s work is now being entrusted to our hands, our words, our prayers, our breath, our song, our witness because the world continue to run after sin, darkness, greed, fear, power, wealth, and self.

Remember the old VBS song, He’s Got the Whole World In His Hands. Not everyone had taken the offer of our guidance and grace. We are all called to believe and guide one another to trust God to Handle our lives and the universe.

  • Take a breath,
  • Remember the peace
  • And reveal what Christ has shown you by faith
  • That the world might know life in Christ, salvation, love, joy, and peace!

When is the last time you finger painted, played in the dirt, modeled some clay, use your hands to share faith, peace, and the Spirit… that they may come to trust and believe in Jesus Christ.

Remember the challenge to mentor and disciple at least one person this year… now is the time to get your hands dirty.

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What’s Next? Post Lenten Journey

couple of travelers walking in green forest in daytime
Photo by Vanessa Garcia on Pexels.com

Read: Genesis 8.6 (NRSV)

We come back to Noah. His first task was to build and fill the ark as an agent of salvation. They endure the forty days and nights of rain on the ark. The second task begins after they get out of the boat. At that moment begins the new work of rebuilding our lives in Christ every day. We are a people who are defined by the Easter message of life and love. It is our message of salvation and our message to share.

Action Plan: Take some action every day to be accountable for building your life in Jesus Christ filled with the Holy Spirit and surrounded by the love of God.

Prayer: God be with us until we meet again. Amen.

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