The Crew: Susanna: Fellowship, Stanford, Genetic Biology, Palo Alto, CA Luke: Student, USAFA, AFIT, Dayton, OH 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]
Posted in #2020 on February 22, 2020
“You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, “You shall not murder’; and “whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, “You fool,’ you will be liable to the hell of fire. So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first, be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift. Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are on the way to court with him, or your accuser may hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. Truly I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny. “You have heard that it was said, “You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right-hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to go into hell. “It was also said, “Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I say to you that anyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery. “Again, you have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, “You shall not swear falsely, but carry out the vows you have made to the Lord.’ But I say to you, Do not swear at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let your word be “Yes, Yes’ or “No, No’; anything more than this comes from the evil one. [NRSA]
More than just the top 10
“Well, I haven’t murdered anyone.” Cut me some slack..
Jesus is speaking about Sin. It’s not just saying bad words, it’s thinking the worst, thinking ill of someone or even yourself, it is not thinking of your selfishness when pointing out the flaws of others, it is not just behavior of infidelity, it includes the thought of infidelity. We don’t stand a chance!?
Fans of Romans Chapter 6:1, What then are we to say? Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound? , well if I’m getting the penalty for thinking wrong, then I ought to get to taste it fruit of my sins.
Matthew’s Gospel is directed to those who knew a lifetime of keeping the law and following the statutes of the temple priests, judges, Pharisees, and Sadducees. The bottom line is Sin is not about cutting corners, getting by, getting around the rules, it is more than the ten commandments.
• Sin is real.
• Sin is easier than we make it out to be.
• Sin is something we all struggle to overcome.
Even if we narrowed the task to follow the teaching of Jesus
• We don’t love our enemies.
• we don’t feed or clothe all those who are in poverty.
• we don’t put others ahead of us all the time.
• we don’t always turn the other cheek.
• we don’t sell all that we have and follow Jesus..
Revisit the meaning of SIN.
Sin is that which we do, think or allow to occur that moves us or others away from the heart of God.
Romans 12:3 For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.
Disciple Study Question
There was fellow several congregations ago, in a Disciples Bible Study class, declared,
• “God has it out for us.
• It’s too hard to keep all the laws, rules and parables.
• We are set up to fail!”
• So there is no use trying to be good.
• We need to give up on being righteous!
• We are just fooling ourselves.
• “I give up! Why even try?”
The answer is not what we expect. Just as Jesus tells in plainly, let your words be simple, direct and true. Give a yes or a no. The truth is that without Jesus we don’t stand a chance.
But we try to get around it or ignore it:
“My attorney advised me to say, I have no recollection of the events that occurred on that date and of the words I might or might not have said.”
“I don’t know who broke the vase in the living room, we know how you told us not to play in the house.”
“Let’s Make Deal”
We have a habit of the sin exchange
Here is the deal:” I won’t call you out so that you don’t call me out.” In our text today, Matthew recounts Jesus calling us all out!
There is where we need to hear the Good News Part!
Sin is so unmanageable that we MUST trust the grace of Jesus Christ to be our strength.
Our only hope is to trust the loving grace Jesus has for us and to place our faith completely in him.
Not as an excuse to keep sinning and wait until the end for the clean slate deal,
One church I served painted the “Sarum Prayer” around the wall at the edge of the ceiling and read the prayer in worship every week. It is an old pray. 13th century, but a mighty and powerful prayer:
God be in my head, and in my understanding;
God be in mine eyes, and in my looking;
God be in my mouth, and in my speaking;
God be in my heart, and in my thinking;
God be at mine end, and at my departing.
I offer some Contemporary Alternatives or Additions…
God be on my phone, and in my texting; God be in my car, and in my traveling; God be in my dreaming, and in my doing; God be in my face, and in my resting; God be in my gut, and in my striving.
God be in my home, and in my workplace; God be in my habits, and in my adventures; God be in my worries, and in my celebrations; God be in my to-do list, and in my procrastination list; God be in my success, and in my failures.
God be in my days, and in my nights; God be in my rest, and in my labors;
God be in my fear, and in my witness; God be in my words, and in my thinking. God be in my loosing, and in my winning.
God be in my boldness, and in my silence; God be in my troubles, and in my times of ease; God be in my attitude, and in my responses; God be in my duty, and in my leisure; God be in my going out, and my coming home.
Or another Hymn to sing and remind of our need for Christ: Learn it and sing it:
“I Need Thee Every Hour”, by Annie Hawks
The United Methodist Hymnal, No. 397
I need thee every hour, most gracious Lord;
no tender voice like thine can peace afford.
I need thee, O I need thee; every hour I need thee; O bless me now, my Savior, I come to thee.
This hymn by Annie Sherwood Hawks (1835-1918) reflects the same general characteristics as those of the other four 19th-century women hymn writers discussed during Lent. The women all employ first-person accounts that grow our deep personal piety, resulting in a language of intimacy between the singer and the Savior. A New York native, Hawks displayed a gift for verse at the early age of 14, contributing poems on a regular basis to a variety of newspapers. Though she composed over 400 hymn texts, “I Need Thee Every Hour” is the only hymn of hers that is still sung today.
Following her marriage to Charles Hawks in 1859, much of Hawks’ life centered on the domestic aspects of rearing three children. She was a member of Hanson Place Baptist Church in Brooklyn, N.Y., where Dr. Robert Lowry, a prominent writer of gospel songs, was her pastor. Lowry encouraged the gift that he saw in Hawks’ poetry.
The point of Jesus teaching disciples how slippery and familiar sin in our lives, it the overwhelming readiness Christ has to plainly and simply be our salvation, our hope, and our renewal.
The final words I leave for us to remember are from Luke 18:13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’
It is in the loving mercy that we stand. Will you join me in the arms of Christ? Amen!!
And so, brothers and sisters, I could not speak to you as spiritual people, but rather as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for solid food. Even now you are still not ready, for you are still of the flesh. For as long as there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not of the flesh, and behaving according to human inclinations? For when one says, “I belong to Paul,” and another, “I belong to Apollos,” are you not merely human? What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you came to believe, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. The one who plants and the one who waters have a common purpose, and each will receive wages according to the labor of each. For we are God’s servants, working together; you are God’s field, God’s building. [NRSA]
• We are servants in God’s field
• We are called to work together – some planting, some watering, some fertilizing, some harvesting
• We are the instruments of God’s building.
As you know one of my priorities has been to keep our congregation as informed about the denomination status and issues. Sometimes this is helpful and at other times we only commiserate in frustration of what we don’t know and what we can’t control. Your Administrative Council is becoming more informed and studying the issues that we will be facing in the months ahead so that nothing comes as a surprise. So look forward to the fruit of their work, conference and district ‘town hall meetings’ and the ongoing prayerful challenge we share to be the body Christ at Rock Spring.
With that reminder, I offer this passage this morning for our encouragement:
The Apostle Paul writes to encourage the church at Corinth, Greece that is faced with many divisions with it this lesson that we are blessed to have in our day.
Early in his letter, he reminds the church: (1Cor2.14-16) The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments, for, “Who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.
1. Spiritual matters are foolish to those who not following the Holy Spirit.
Therefore, do not be worn out by those who think our faithfulness is foolish in their opinion and in their understanding.
2. Paul reminds that “We are servants in God’s field”
a. This is a two-part reminder. First, in following Christ, we are servants and followers.
b. Second, our scope of responsibility is to God and not to the world’s foolishness.
3. Third, we are called to work together with one another, IN the Holy Spirit.
a. THIS IS the point of reflection for today for us. When we are not working together, it becomes clear
b. That we are not working in the Spirit
c. We are not working in God’s field, or scope, or arena
d. Recall from (Gen 11:4) Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”
i. The Tower of Babel is the landmark case of God scattering the work when people put themselves head of God’s plan, God’s scope, God’s field of work.
e. Paul calls out those who have been baptized by one Leader or the other, and the alliances that follow as one teach being right and the other being wrong.
i. Paul says earlier: “I’m glad I baptized none of you so you don’t drag me into this mess.”
f. POINT: When we who are in the one Spirit, share the ONE mind of Christ, Working together in the same field for God, Though we may have different gifts, talents, and skills, share the same work that should be united in God and not dividing God’s people, not dividing God’s witness, not dividing God’s work.
The fact that the church is in the process of division and divorces is self-affirmation that we are out of bounds.
4. Notice: Unity is not that we all agree on the same word, it is we are all doing what is in God’s best interest and not our own.
a. Said another way, the goal is not a unity of what’s in our Book of Disciplines, rather UNIFIED in serving God.
The Course Correction
So what difference is this all to us. Are we not just the victims of the politics of others? No, we are all parts of the same body. Different parts and members but with the same mind of Christ.
When we are divided into Christ’s name, it becomes clear that we are NOT operating with the same mind of Christ.
Just as with the fig tree
(Luke 13: 6-9) Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree growing in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it but did not find any. So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, ‘For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?’ “ ‘Sir,’ the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.’ ”
The purpose of a fig tree: to bear leaves or figs?
The purpose of the church is to bear fruit for the kingdom:
• When we say, well it would be better if this fig tree could bear blackberries AND figs. Foolishness
• When we say, let’ just find something else to eat if the figs aren’t in our season. Foolishness
• When we say, I don’t like figs anyway, who cares.
• We have the task of making disciples of Jesus Christ, not agreeing in politics.
• We have the calling of showing the world how to work together as SERVANTS, not as those being served or pleased or approved. We have that covered in the grace of Jesus Christ.
Paul writes for us and the church in Corinth:
• Serve God not ourselves
• God’s field not our own
• Our unity of trust in God is our witness to a world who calls us foolish
• God is bearing figs not politics, not agendas, not policies, not opinion polls, not ideologies.
Lord, I am your fig, the fruit of your blessing and grace.
If am I posing as a fig but am actually something else, have mercy on me a sinner, nurture and fertilized me another season of your grace.
May I do the part for your church that You have called and created, that you have died and been raised, that you have loved and infused me with your blessings, become your fig for a world of fools who are hungry for you. Amen.
Posted in #2017 on February 9, 2020
Since, therefore, the children share flesh and blood, he himself likewise shared the same things, so that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by the fear of death. For it is clear that he did not come to help angels, but the descendants of Abraham. Therefore, he had to become like his brothers and sisters in every respect, so that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make a sacrifice of atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself was tested by what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested. [NRSA]
Jesus Moves Toward Us
In the 21st century world things progress more rapidly that we can comprehend. In the field of technology there is the suggested Mohr’s law that progress changes exponentially every two years. But we are quickly approaching a subatomic limitation for our devices and machines to get any faster or any smaller. With switches in microprocessors approaching single digit nanometer we assume that there is a finite limitation that will halt progress. But as with every unimaginable breakthrough comes the new medium and new energy source that turns the old technology on its head and we are seeing a near endless progression in the advancement of things.
The new Apple Mac Computer, fully loaded from the factory comes in at $54K if you add the keyboard and mouse that are not included. And on the day of its delivery to customers there are much faster and much cheaper machines being sold. All this chaotic pace of change is to ask an old fashioned question.
Is it necessary or even helpful to apply the model of progress, change, advancement and efficiency to the words, concepts and power of our faith?
People have been finding their way to the very heart of God through Jesus Christ for over 2000 years. Did it take the followers back then any longer to give their hearts to Christ?
Did it require any special technology to have find access to the teaching of Jesus?
Did it call for specialized agents, teachers, and tools to feed the sick, give drink to the thirst, befriend the forgotten, care for the widow, orphan, and stranger?
Did the words of Jesus hold less power then than they do know for all our advancement in biblical study and theological reflections?
Does Context Matter?
I would say in the past 35 years of my theological study, 8 years spent in direct research and study at seminaries, hundreds bible studies, over 3,600 sermons prepared and delivered, I would say a great deal of influence from the academic world has pressed hard for preachers to understand, appreciate and value the fluid contexts in which we serve and work. But I have begun to question part of this teaching.
What does it mean for Jesus, the son of God, Jesus the Christ, God who empties himself of his immortality, his omniscience, his omnipotence, his multidimensional comfort in the realms of heaven and be born, go through puberty, deal with family and community, be confronted with institutions, religions, authorities and powers physical and spiritual so that we could see and know God more clearly?
It means that God values us, you and me, and everyone out ‘there’ enough to enter our context, so that we could know God’s context in our lives.
I believe we have had a great deal backwards. We are not called to soften, entertain, or make God’s call, expectations and invitation any less or any different now than when, he first revealed himself.
But we live in a world of Thomas-es who want to touch, see, feel, experience for ourselves. We don’t want to take someone else’s word, especially if it is old, outdated, and not in our own context.
That is somewhat like saying if only Jesus were Chocolate-chip-mint Ice cream. That is my favorite flavor and if God would see fit ‘himself’ into my container, context, understanding, limitations, then I would be more likely to believe or trust.
So while it is vital for Jesus to come to our Context, God has no need to be as fickle and flexible as our attention deficiencies.
We are comfortable in our Slavery
Slavery: There are people who are treated as slaves in this world.. not because of the color of their skin, but for a lack of education, power, influence, and a disbelief that slavery exists in our context.
Workers who make pennies a day, make it possible for so many of our products to be inexpensive deals. The next time we purchase something think about the salary, working conditions and benefits you would want to receive for making those items and remember the bulk of the profits are in transportation, stockholders, taxes and tariffs.
China workers, Africans working in African for Chinese government funded projects. Labor given to build infrastructure in lands that are not part of China, but are taken advantage.
We are being made slaves of political division.
Women and girls in human trafficking.
We are called to be free from slavery. We are called to set the captive free. We are called to celebrate liberty in every nation.
Our question for Context and many forms of Slavery, are no Match for..
The Power of Fear
God come to show us his heart and word. He gives us the power of the Spirit and the gift of Salvation through his sacrifice so that none of us live in fear.
And yet.. we all know some fear.
Fear of death and dying.. Even though we know that God has made a way to him and fear is no longer and end, but rather a doorway closer.
Fear of a new place, a new school, a new job or home.
Or fear of no place, no job or no home.
Fear that what we have known to be safe and dependable is being shaken and changed,
Or a fear of having to replace comfort with confirmation of our faith and trust in Christ.
I know that my grandmother feared the day they would close her church, Wesley Chapel, the fourth church on a charge of churches in the South Georgia conference of the UMC. She saw the number drop from over a hundred, to the twenties, to 12, to 9, and at the point it was three, despite paying the apportionments and salary portion herself, she felt like it was her responsibility to keep the doors open. But that is just the thing. Jesus didn’t die on the cross for us to keep the doors unlocked, he lives in us so that we will walk through those doors and make disciples of the world who find their home in Christ just as we have done.
The Fear we face this year: Are we upholding memories or upholding the folks who don’t know they are sinners like us, who want church to be their convenient favorite flavor and song and style,
So What Are We To Do?
The heart of this passage asking us to show by our trust and faithfulness. Are we fans of evil that is comfortable, easy and popular or are we committed to a more difficult path?
Are we here to be served, taken care of and made to feel safe from a world that has little respect of hope for us?
Are we here to be witness of fear, timid-ness, and doubt or
Are we the those whom Christ has called, challenged, empowered and standing strong as we go into the world for the sake of Jesus Christ?
I say any other choice is our defeat.
Hold up this measuring rod for one another: Am I being tested in my faith? In my witness? In my service? If so, we have to encourage one another and not divide one another
If not, we are call to receive Christ anew, to hear his call, to claim and reclaim the challenge, and to be steadfast in God’s work through us.
Alone I will fail, Together in Christ we can endure all things. Be strong in prayer, strong in worship, strong in loving and forgiving, strong with encouragement, strong in listening and studying God’s word. Strong in singing and being the presence of Christ right now.
When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way, they persecuted the prophets who were before you. [NRSV]
• Jesus calls disciples
• Jesus calls followers
• Jesus calls for everyone who follows to become a disciple.
• Jesus calls everyone who follows a higher standard of actions and attitudes.
The most famous part of the sermon is the “Blessed” section.
What is the designation of being blessed?
In the context of the teaching, Jesus is making self declarative statements.
That is, the seal of approval is given through the attitude behind the action of goodness.
1. The poor in spirit, receive the kingdom of heaven.
2. Those who mourn will receive comfort.
3. The meek will be given the world.
4. Those who long for what is right will be fulfilled.
5. Those who show mercy will receive mercy.
6. The pure of heart see the heart of God.
7. Those who make peace, are God’s children.
8. Those who are persecuted for the work of Christ find heaven.
9. The summary blessing is for those to remain true to God when the world calls them evil.
10. The summary is that followers and disciples of Jesus need to count on being persecuted for their faithfulness.
If we are not confronting evil we are complacent. LORD HAVE MERCY ON OUR WEAKNESS!
If we are keeping quiet about our faith, then we are missing out on the blessing of our faith.
• In every world religion, there is some challenge for people to be kind, compassionate, good-hearted, caring people, to at least those who belong to that group.
• In every world religion, there are affirmations of caring for the widow, the orphan and the poor.
• In every world religion, there are teachings to live with devotion to the god of their worship.
• What is different in Jesus’s teaching?
If we look at this list as more than general suggestions, but not just a checklist, we hear Jesus teaching a way of thinking, a perspective of living and behaving that draws us TOWARD GOD, THROUGH our RELATIONSHIPS WITH OTHERS.
ATTITUDES as BEHAVIORS as a WAY OF LIFE
Every blessing comes when we live out the ideas in our heads and hearts through the lives of other people.
• The poor in spirit: Those who know they don’t know it all, might have room to grow, mature and journey more.
• Those who mourn: Those who open their eyes to the things that are broken and can weep with those who hurt.
• The meek: Those who don’t seek the things of this world as their salvation, know salvation comes through Jesus.
• Those who long for righteousness: Those who seek God’s way over their own way.
• Those who show mercy: Those who can live their faith AND be kind, compassionate in the process.
• The pure of heart: Know their best self by trusting God’s vision of their life and motives.
• Those who make peace: We are God’s children when we trust our heavenly father’s justice, judgment & grace.
• Those persecuted for Christ: We cannot withstand persecution unless God stands with us, that is heaven/garden
• Those who are steadfast: When the world calls our actions and thoughts evil, are a good measure of doing good.
• Those being persecuted for their faithfulness to God is living out our heaven citizenship over our earthly one.
The Hard Part
Here is the worst part of the list: It’s not a cafeteria, pick-and-choose, list to select from at our pleasure.
It is an all-inclusive list. The blessing of the buffet is ours, but we are to work on the whole menu.
Blessing as a measure of being on the right track is seen in each lane.
Blessing of our work is completed comes when we wear every hat in the officer’s handbook. (Not just church leadership roles)
The picture Jesus gives is not for us to focus on one area and stay in that lane, rather drive on the interstate on the highway to heaven. The goodness is that the same attitude behind our motives is the same attitude:
Philippians 2:2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.
One love, one spirit, one mind
Deuteronomy 6:5 Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.
• If we can comfort those who mourn, we can all so feed those who know their hunger for more of Christ.
• If we can endure showing grace and compassion, we can endure being ridiculed and judged by the world.
• If we can long for truth and righteousness, we can also be pure in our motives and grace-filled in our service.
THE BOTTOM LINE
• You and I are followers and disciples of Jesus today.
• We are blessed with many things in this world, but God has a greater blessing than all the stuff, money and power.
• We are blessed with relationships, but these relations are empty if they are lacking the sharing of our faith.
We are blessed with opportunities that only a few have in the world, and to not use what we have for God is to waist our heavenly inheritance, in the present.
• TRUE BLESSING comes from God, for bringing to life the ideas and teachings that come from God.
• TRUE BLESSING comes not from the world’s list of value, but in the value of being God’s hands and feet.
• TRUE BLESSING comes when we move from HEARING the Word and BECOME the Word for the World.
The SO WHAT?
We know this, why are telling us what we already know?
Because part of our job is to hold the mirror of accountability that reflects God and ask:
1. Are people being spiritually fed through my actions and words? What can I do then?
2. Do people turn to me when there are hurting, sad, disappointed or grieving? What should I do?
3. Do people around me know God’s kingdom is my priority or the world’s priority?
4. Do people see and hear God’s word through my daily life?
5. Do people see that I am kind/compassionate or do present a grumpy, judgmental, too busy advertisement?
6. What do people see about God’s heart through me?
7. Do people trust me to bring people together or do they trust me to take sides and defend?
8. When was the last time I was persecuted, judged or penalized for expressing my faith? Am I overdue?
9. When it is easier to going along with the crowd even though I know it’s not right or not best, I roll with the tide?
10. People know I will put God first, over all else. Except for game day, family, money, career, or something else?
WHEN OUR ALL OUR ACTIONS AND THOUGHTS REFLECT GOD, JESUS, HOLY SPIRIT
Our work is done, in the meantime, we have much to work on, and MUCH to work with because in Jesus’s teachings we are promised the world, mercy, heart, family, heaven, goodness, faithfulness, comfort, Jesus, Spirit, and God himself.
This familiar list of attitudes is a reminder, a measure and a wake-up call to look at our head, our heart and our actions and ask: Can I see God? Can others see God? If so, I have great news to praise and share. If not, Lord let’s get work today.
Now when Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee. He left Nazareth and made his home in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, so that what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: “Land of Zebulun, land of Naphtali, on the road by the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned.” From that time Jesus began to proclaim, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John, in the boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him. Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people. [NRSA]
The call to follow is an invitation to
- Call others
We talking about the need to listen last week
We hear the week before what it means to follow
The most important part of this challenge is the call to impact the lives of others
Q: What am I doing that others see, hear and know that Jesus is healing, calling, working through me?
Step back to the do no harm rule:
What am I doing that is harming my witness and getting in the way of others experiencing Jesus in me?
What can I do? To disciple others.
Discern one person before the end of the month that God is calling you to reach out to disciple.
Pray for them every day
Find multiple ways to reach out to them and show the love and power of Jesus Christ
Persistence and variety. Many gifts and avenues
Call theirs friends and co-workers
She scriptures that invite learning and following
Take them to follow with you in your faith journey
Make it easy, no pressures salesmen.
Some will follow others will be reached by someone else.
Repeat each month.
Goal of your own 12 disciples..
A year of reaching our own dozen for Christ.
Now go and make Disciples of Jesus Christ
( next week food for the journey)
The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is the one I meant when I said, ‘A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’ I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel.” Then John gave this testimony: “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. And I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ I have seen and I testify that this is God’s Chosen One.” The next day John was there again with two of his disciples. When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God!” When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus. Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, “What do you want?”They said, “Rabbi” (which means “Teacher”), “where are you staying?” “Come,” he replied, “and you will see.”So they went and saw where he was staying, and they spent that day with him. It was about four in the afternoon. Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus. The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah” (that is, the Christ). And he brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas” (which, when translated, is Peter ). [NRSA]
The beginning of becoming disciples
From the Text: we see the prophetic promises
• fulfilled from Isaiah through a John the Baptist
• Jesus is baptized and calls us join him in that adoption
He invites followers to listen to him
Jesus calls followers to follow
Followers listen to Jesus
Even as leaders we follow Jesus
… Last week we all heard a good example of what it means to radically listen and radically follow Jesus invitation. Todd reminded us that to follow Jesus might take us away from our family, away from our comforts, away from our plans. We appreciate and admire someone’s journey when they follow so radically. But as passionate was their story.. I ask you today to where and to what is God invite you to go and to do today?
We don’t all have a calling to the Bush of Africa
A. But one thing that Todd shared is that he and his wife we listening to God
B. And they heard go, and then go back, and then stay and keep listening.
The question for us today is
1. Are we listening? Are we asking for God’s leading and direction or are we relying on what God told us two years or two decades ago and have not genuinely stopped to listen, in light of where we current are.
2. Do we not listen because we don’t want to hear something that might lead away from our comforts of what is familiar or easy…
3. John heats and tell Andrew, Andrew listens and follows, Andrew reaches out to his brother with what he had heard.
4. He bring Simon, Simon listens and is transformed. Simon now becomes Peter, the Rock Man, we people of the Rock, Rock Spring….
There are two profound part to give our attention tot his morning:
A. Jesus continue to call us now, through others
B. Jesus continues to call other, through you.
What are we hearing Jesus needs us to be, do or go?
What are others hearing and seeing from Jesus through us?
Both demand our attention if we are follow Jesus
I said two weeks ago and will say again,
Now more than any time in our lifetime, Jesus Long’s for us to
• follow, and
The shift from living in anticipation of faith
theological we shift from anticipation of Jesus to a season of living with Christ, listening, following and sharing with others.
All of us don’t need to go to the Bush, but all of us need to be following Christ’s call.
Where ARE you in this journey?
I think everyone here has heard of Jesus
We come together to sing, study and hear the words of Jesus’s teaching
Where do we see Jesus day? Or do we?
What is Jesus saying to you this week or today?
Are willing to take the day for Jesus or simple a few minutes now and then
How am I responding to Jesus’s call to follow
How am I bringing others
How am I being transformed
How is Jesus using me, you, RS in this day?
This is where we benefit from fellowship… small group, prayer partners, faith friends
Someone or group that is small enough to listen to one another
Strong enough to to provide accountability
Loving enough to challenge us to allow Christ to continue transforming us together?
• If I know what Jesus asks me to do and I’m doing it, you have good news we all need to hear
• If you know but are not doing anything about it then get to it now
• If you don’t know it’s time to pray study ask, seek Jesus from those who have heard
• If you have tried and failed, learn why and try again
• If you are scare to start because you know things will be different in your life hear the stories and witness of those who have heard
• If you don’t know where to begin, here John’S question of Jesus: where are you,that I can come listen and get to know you and learn your call for my life.
Today is the day for doing, acting, responding and not just thinking
Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. For darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the Lord will arise upon you, and his glory will appear over you. Nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn. Lift up your eyes and look around; they all gather together, they come to you; your sons shall come from far away, and your daughters shall be carried on their nurses’ arms. Then you shall see and be radiant; your heart shall thrill and rejoice because the abundance of the sea shall be brought to you, the wealth of the nations shall come to you. A multitude of camels shall cover you, the young camels of Midian and Ephah; all those from Sheba shall come. They shall bring gold and frankincense, and shall proclaim the praise of the Lord. All the flocks of Kedar shall be gathered to you, the rams of Nebaioth shall minister to you; they shall be acceptable on my altar, and I will glorify my glorious house. Who are these that fly like a cloud, and like doves to their windows? For the coastlands shall wait for me, the ships of Tarshish first, to bring your children from far away, their silver and gold with them, for the name of the Lord your God, and for the Holy One of Israel, because he has glorified you. [NRSV]
A prophetic word from Isaiah reminding and foretelling of God’s Light and Hope is coming.
- The image of nursing mothers
- A radiant light in the darkness
- Camels, Doves, and Flocks
- some come bringing God and Frankincense
- they will come from far away lands, from the ends of the earth
- all because of the Glory of God’s works, the Holy One of Israel.
This is a prophecy calling that we see fulfilled
- in the night sky as shepherds watch their flocks by night,
- The Glory of the Lord is shone in the darkness to the least, the last and the lost.
- The Nations shall bring gifts of Gold and incense, Frankincense to Glorify my Host, My House
700 Years priory to the Birth of Jesus, Isaiah is preparing the people in darkness to look for a great and glorious light.
- You and I are those who know the whole story.
- We know what the Light of the World is all about
- We look at the darkness of sin, lies, deceptions, divisions, and corruption and we see the power of REVERSAL
Matthew 2: 6-16
“And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel.’ ” Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.” When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road. Now after they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, “Out of Egypt I have called my son.” When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men. [NRSA]
- Where we see DARKNESS, DEATH, SIN, and BROKENESS
- We have the Glory of the Heavenly HOST singing and working with us.
- Where we see 1 Night/day, 1 child/person, 1 church, our witness is intended for a world of folks struggling in darkness.
- We have the GIFTS of the WORLD’s wealth to be used for GOOD
- Where the are those working against us, God has another plan, another way
- Our paths may differ from our expectations, but God has GOOD, HOPE, Light, LIfe for us
Arise, God’s Light is Shining through US!
- We were not in the fields
- We didn’t travel from far countries
- We didn’t look into the manger that night
- We can see the power the darkness in our world
- We can see the ends of the earth on our screens
- We can see the fulfilling of God’s continuing Story, shining and giving light in a world filled with politics, corruption, and division.
- We have all the pieces and see how God fits them together throughout time for times like the days and nights we living through now.
This the day of Hope!
- What the world intends for evil, God brings new life.
- This is our mission, this is our calling, this is our charge, this is our responsibility
- Where there is darkness, we shine the light of christ
- Where there is not enough, we bring the wealth to the feet of Jesus
- Where there are reasons to fight among ourselves God way will not be stopped, the question is will we be looking for worship with sheep,
- Will we be those who following the political voice, or follow the songs of angels and the prayers of wisemen.
In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!” When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. [NRSV]
The angels pronounce Jesus as:
1. Numerous people have saved us and maybe we too have saved others from hunger, fear, grief and loss.
2. Many have been our political Lords and leaders, most all of us have been entrusted with leading others.
3. But none of us is the Messiah.
The angels proclaim that not only has God’s leader come to the world, not only do we find a savior for our sins, we also find God with us, Christ-mas. Emanuel, The power love and joy of God is revealed in Jesus the Christ.
And not only has the Long awaited Messiah come to live amount us, we have in him the greatest Joy!
What is the the great joy?
There are many joys we experience in our lives:
Family, Children and grands
Home, Vocations, Careers and the fruit of our labors
The beauty of each season
The treasures of traditions and memories
But what is the greatest joy?
I believe we don’t often live as if we have found the greatest joy
Recall in Jesus’s parable of the Great Pearl, once found the person traded all they had to purchase the Great Pearl.
So often we continue looking for more than what we have found by faith in Christ.
Just as the disciples of John the Baptizer who had heard and seen the words and deeds of Jesus but when he did not fulfill the idea they held, the questioned and doubted the news concerning Jesus.
We live knowing the joy of Christ, yet with live without the “mas” part of Christmas throughout the years.
“Mas” being the dwelling presence of Christ in our daily life and nightly rest. Christ-mas, Christ-with-us.
Tonight is a family occasion as a church community, but it is also I personal time of affirmation and reaffirmation. I come to the place where my strength ends and Gods joy begins, you and I kneel as those who gathered in the fields around Bethlehem, like those around the manger , we kneel before our Lord and,
And find ourselves filled with the Love and Power of God.
Come to the Throne of God, come to the heart of God, come to source of life and love and be made new, set your spirit aflame by the presence of the Holy Spirit.
Tonight we have come to our journey’s purposeful end:
To find Jesus Christ alive, renewed and coursing in our breath and bodies.
You and I are the witness of God’s savior, Lord and Messiah.
You and I are entrusted to live out the work and joy of the Lord
If you have never proclaimed Jesus Christ as your savior then claim him now
If you have said the words but lost the power and drive of the Holy Spirit give yourself again, our king awaits us
If you have that spirit passion then reach out to those who are lost, searching, wandering, squandering and afraid and offer them his great Joy
God wants to move in with us, today and every day and for eternity
The world is filled with broken, angry, selfish and hardened hearts
Join the angels, shepherd, magi and family of God until the world know the great joy by
heart and faith,
in song and deed,
in day and night
Join me as we come to his table set for us all
Join in the bread and cup of forgiveness and eternal joy.
Death is no more our fear
God is our life, our light, our power and our love.
This is the great joy!
And God has blessed us with this gift to have and to share.
Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock! You who are enthroned upon the cherubim, shine forth before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh. Stir up your might, and come to save us! Restore us, O God; let your face shine, that we may be saved. O Lord God of hosts, how long will you be angry with your people’s prayers? You have fed them with the bread of tears, and given them tears to drink in full measure. You make us the scorn of our neighbors; our enemies laugh among themselves. Restore us, O God of hosts; let your face shine, that we may be saved [NRSA]
Let the congregation say it again: “O God of heaven, let your face shine, that we may be saved, amen!”
The Psalm is a song of lament and a confession of sin, as well as a prayer for salvation.
how long we have we babe know sorry, fear, separation, defeat, calamity, trouble and loss. We have cried so among tears, they are our drink.
how long have we been seen as less than enough, how long have we been taken advantage, how long have we been the butt of the joke and ‘that’ ring or on our road or street?
how long have our enemies had more than we have had, how long have we been defeated, belittle and bullied? How long have we lived by our enemies standards and expectations?
now is the time to call upon the lord. Now the day for us to remember who’s family we belong. Now is the season for us to turn to Gods power, as we have found ourselves broken and powerless.
These are the word of lament.
These are the words of confession.
What is left to be done?
The Congregation calls for God to show up.
the congregation calls for God to shine upon their darkness and brokenness.
Come Lord with your mighty presences.
We need to see you face.
We need you to be with us, here and now
The call in this act of worship is for God to shine his presence, his might and his light on our darkness, fear, shame and selfishness…
we could never have done enough, know enough, worshipped enough, we are not enough, without you or God…come Show up and restore us.
This is the congregation crying out for what we already know and find in Jesus Christ.
The worshipers would gather in the temple cry out to God. “ O God of Heaven, Let your face shine, and save us.
People were ask for the tangible, physical, powerful presence of God to be present and to restore them from their sin.
Jesus, as Messiah, was not a surprise nor and afterthought of God, even way back then people knew from life’s of emptiness and brokenness that only God could show up to save us…
this is the good news of Christmas!
God is showing us Gods glory, power and life for us to be saved, restored, redeemed and made wholle.
“I don’t need anything for Christmas” not true!
I need Jesus to shadiness his face upon us and make us new and that becomes our peace, joy, love and faith.
another way to say, Lord of Heaven, give me your mighty power that I might be renewed, save, rekindled, for you and your glory, not mine but your.
This is the Christmas gift we seek, and share.. Merry Christmas and may Christ save and restore you today!
Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord their God, 6 who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them; who keeps faith forever; 7 who executes justice for the oppressed; who gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets the prisoners free; 8 the Lord opens the eyes of the blind. The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down; the Lord loves the righteous. 9 The Lord watches over the strangers; he upholds the orphan and the widow, but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin. 10 The Lord will reign forever, your God, O Zion, for all generations. Praise the Lord! [NRSA]
- At the core of celebrating Christmas is the telling God’s story
- It is not a New Story
- It is a Story of Good News for a Broken World
- It is Your Story to Live
It may be somewhat strange to turn to the Psalms to hear the Good News of Christmas. Be reminded that God who has been calling all people to trust him, has the same heart of love shown in creation, revealed through out shared history, made plane in the manger in Bethlehem, is the same love and message of hope for the world.
Question 1: Do you know God’s Good News in your life?
The Good News that Jesus makes plain is fortold in the worship songs, the Psalms. Here in Psalm 146 the song retells that our HAPPINESS comes from God and not our things, not our money, not our success, not our accomplishment, RATHER – Our Joy and Hope come from God..
If you and I are looking for Joy and Hope in others things and other relationships they will all disappoint us if God is not in them.
Look around, in the world, in our community, in our church, in our homes, in our own hearts: We do not always place God first in our hearts, minds and soul.
Question 2: Are you persuaded and guided by God’s Hope?
If you believe God is at work in the world today and in your life, you have the very message that God has been trying to share with the world. It only takes a moment to see the brokenness and fear that leads people’s hearts, minds and spirits to know — Faith, Hope and Love are precious gifts that need to be shared and unwrapped.
I have to believe that most everyone of us would want to answer, “YES!” I am persuaded! I believe God loves the world and God desires the world around me to see, hear and experience God’s love through my life. (your life). But in how many short minutes or seconds before our pride, our greed, our selfishness, our demons, our dependancies, our fears tempt, test and tear us away?
Question 3. Do you remember that it is God’s Story in us and not the reverse.
Psalm 146 calls the people of God, while in worship, to remember the eternal power God has for us, who believe and serve. The words are comfort to those held captive, those blind, and those oppressed. The Lord lifts up the stranger, the orphan and the widow. The Good News to which Jesus preaches in his first home-town sermon.
The part of the sermon that gets him run out of town is that God is not saving the lost and empowering the powerless to do their own thing, God is blessing us to be God’s servants, witnesses and messengers.
The Psalm is clear that God is not about supporting wickedness, pride, greed, fear, brokenness and sin. God has come to free us from these things, but not to return to them as our master.
The 4 Question is this: Who is entrusted to tell and live the story?
Is it those who test the Lord loving-kindness or those who follow God’s ways? The Psalms sings: Praise the Lord! (Not look what I want, what You want, what I need, what you need… The seperation we experience and witness in the world is that we turn our hearts away from our hope and salvation.
As a culture-of-church we have become more of an institution, an organization and a entity of operations. We talk about OUR ministry, OUR building, OUR mission, and OUR church. We hear the Psalmist remind us, that we about God’s ministry, God’s heart, God’s temple, God’s work and God’s witness.
As a culture-of-church we have grown to expect someone else to do the work and us to receive the ‘Cliff-notes’ gift-pack that makes it easy to receive. When we expect to be served, we are not serving. When we anticipate the transaction of getting because we have given. Whew think of ourselves as entitled to the benefits of membership, we need to revisit the words of the Psalms: Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord their God.
In our journey toward Christmas and rekindling the presence of Christ in ourlives, know this:
- God is calling us to worship him
- God is calling us to repent of our sins, fears and selfishness
- God is calling us to trust him
- God is calling me (state your name) to be the witness to the world
- IF THIS IS OUR TO DO LIST: We need Christ to be our
- Our Strength
- Our Good News
- Our Word
- and OUR HOPE
Prayer: Lord make us yours, be our strength, draw us to your word and call, and open the hearts and minds of everyone we meet to receive you through our words and witness of your power, love and grace. Amen.