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]
O that you would tear open the heavens and come down, so that the mountains would quake at your presence– as when fire kindles brushwood and the fire causes water to boil– to make your name known to your adversaries, so that the nations might tremble at your presence! When you did awesome deeds that we did not expect, you came down, the mountains quaked at your presence. From ages past no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who works for those who wait for him. You meet those who gladly do right, those who remember you in your ways. But you were angry, and we sinned; because you hid yourself we transgressed. We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy cloth. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away. There is no one who calls on your name, or attempts to take hold of you; for you have hidden your face from us, and have delivered us into the hand of our iniquity. Yet, O LORD, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand. Do not be exceedingly angry, O LORD, and do not remember iniquity forever. Now consider, we are all your people. [NRSA: Isaiah 64:1-9]
We begin Advent as a spiritual Journey
Our starting point is our current condition. Looking around and within ourselves. Things are not perfect. We are not perfect, but we have hope. Our hope is in Christ!
• We have been blinded by enormous data,
• we have been swallowed up by conformity,
• we are already investing beyond our control,
• we have the demons that test, tease, and torment us.
• We feel grip of grief. We know the repetition of confinement.
• We think what is evil; we do what is evil.
• We welcome evil into our hearts, minds, and souls.
• We watch what is sinful round the world,
• we grow a custom to brokenness and violence in the news,
• we are desensitized in the entertainment we consume. It’s ok, it’s not real, it has no effect on me.
• And yet it does. It all make evil more normal and digestible
How do we break through?
We come at Advent and recognize we are but a lump of clay before God. But we are not just any lump of clay. We are the lump of clay that God loves, molds, and patiently reworks. God has unfinished business with each of us, as with all of us.
Advent begins a spiritual journey that starts our knowing or remembering that we are the clay and not the Potter.
Here is our prayer for this first week: . Yet, O LORD, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand. Do not be exceedingly angry, O LORD, and do not remember iniquity forever. Now consider, we are all your people.
• Knowing Christ in our hearts and out hearts in Gods is our destination,
• we need to acknowledge we have a way to go.
• But we have been given, The Way. Out, the Way through, and the Way home
Thankfully, while God has every right to be furious with us, God loves us more than we can imagine.
The journey is one of yielding to potters hand, vision, and will for us.
Packed for the journey
Every trip, even in unknown adventures needs resources. Has in the tank, snacks for nourishment, and. Map if we lose out way. The counterparts for our spiritual journey as the same. We find direction, energy, and nourishment from our Christian fellowship, worship, study, and service.
These are the tools, activities, and necessities for us to gather, trust and use.
Our first steps are
1. to confess,
2. repent, and
3. remember we ARE plagued with the struggle of sin and weariness.
4. And we are taking first steps back to the heart of worship, heart of faith, to the heart of God.
Step one: Remember “I am not the potter. I am the clay.”
Yet, O LORD, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand. Do not be exceedingly angry, O LORD, and do not remember iniquity forever. Now consider, we are all your people.
Prayers of confession: (portions from various UMBoW prayers)
Almighty and merciful God,
we know that when we offend another, we offend you.
[We choose other paths, we move away from you.]
We are aware that we have often allowed the shadow of hate
to cloud our souls, hiding the light from our [weary and disinterested] eyes.
We have said unpleasant and hurtful things to our brothers and sisters
when they failed to live up to our expectations.
[We have said things that are pleasant to ourselves and others, but in so doing we have said and done hurtful things to you]
Grant that we might find that spark of love that ever burns within us,
[Fan the flame of your Spirit]
[We long for the grace we know in Jesus Christ]
the love that you have shown to us even when we failed you.
Fan the embers of that love until it roars again
in flames of love, peace, and reconciliation.
Forgive us our sin and help us to forgive those who have sinned against us.
Lead us into new life through your Son Jesus Christ,
who died for the sins of all. Amen.
[Based on (MICHAEL J. O’DONNELL, U.S.A., 20TH CENT.) but with additions]
Posted in #2020 on November 22, 2020
The point is this: the one who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the one who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work. As it is written, “He scatters abroad, he gives to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.” He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way for your great generosity, which will produce thanksgiving to God through us; for the rendering of this ministry not only supplies the needs of the saints but also overflows with many thanksgivings to God. Through the testing of this ministry you glorify God by your obedience to the confession of the gospel of Christ and by the generosity of your sharing with them and with all others, while they long for you and pray for you because of the surpassing grace of God that he has given you. Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift! [NRSA 2 Corinthians 9:6-15]
This thanksgiving, little will be different for all the hype and warnings. People will find ways to share a meal of some size and flavor, People will talk about
- football, and the
People will experience both the joys of traditions and the pangs of conflict.
The first Thanksgiving was a three-day celebration, developed out of a) conflict, b) theft, c) survival, and d) giving thanks to God for 1. forgiveness, 2. learning to work together with our enemies, 3. relationship building and 4. celebration around sharing food, and milestone for looking back< and >looking forward.
Even if we are separated by distance this year, we will find ways
- to remember,
- to hope,
- to fuss, and
- to love one another.
Paul writes these words to the churches around the of Corinth and in this passage is speaking about two matters. First, Paul is asking all the churches around the Mediterranean where the gospel is being preached and churches are springing up, to contribute to the needs of the church members experiencing a famine in Jerusalem.
For nearly 10 years, Paul goes about calling churches to see the needs beyond themselves and to help feed those who are physically hungry as Jesus had commanded his disciples to do.
This passage speaks to why we support foreign mission ministries that are outside of our own community. We who know Christ, know that God will provide for us both. Sometimes we are in the midst of a pandemic, famine, or storm and God will send others to us, and other times we are those called to help those who are.
Paul reminds us all that God is generous and calls us to be generous.
God is praised when we show our gratitude by sharing our love, devotion, obedience, and giving.
- We show our love to God by caring for those God calls us to serve.
- One of Paul’s affirmations for the church is to LIVE as GENEROUS PEOPLE.
- Be known for being gracious, generous, and obedient to God.
Secondly, There are series of truths we need to remember about God
- God is generous – giving us earth, water, air, spirit, live, AND that most special gift.
- God love us – God doesn’t need us, but God chooses to work through our work and words.
- God is praised when we love generously – loving both God and all others.
This Thanksgiving, the thing that I hope you will choose to make different is not about protocols or travel plans.
- This is the year that we make Thanksgiving about God rather than just a meal.
- This is the year that we make time to Praise and honor God with appreciation.
- This is the year that we focus more on the present need for Christ in our lives than traditions past.
Verse 15. What do we do this year that’s different than the rest?
Have the food, call the family and friends, watch the games and tell the family stories… but first deal with verse 15 of 2 Corinthians
- Thanks Be to God.
- God’s Indescribable Work.
- God’s gift of Christ for the world around me to know through me.
- Make God the focus on Thanksgiving.
- Typically, we say “I am thankful for my relationships, my home, our food, and work, or our belongings…. But where is God in this list?
- The power words in our affirmation of gratitude most often include “I” and “my”.
- Paul is challenging us to turn our thanks toward God first:
- God its because of you I have my family
- It is because of your I have a home
- It is your work that is my life’s purpose
- It is you that guides me at work, at school, in life.
- Every bite I eat, may it be for your work,
- I belong to you, do with me what you will, for your work, I am yours.
- In this way, The appreciation is not for what is ours or is mine, but that we are Gods., Hear the difference?
- We are most thankful for the gift that there are not enough words to describe, be we commit the rest of our lives to live out our appreciation.
- We are saying not only with our words “Thank you”, we are also putting our daily life into God’s hand, our work, our money, our time, our school, our worries, our sins, our success, our opportunities —- at God’s guiding spirit.
- Finally, is the gift: The gift is our grace, hope, salvation, and life that is paid by Christ, wrapped in the church as the body of Christ, and given to us.
Paul is calling the church to :
- Praise God with our words
- Preach God with our thoughts and actions
- Trust God’s gift as truth, power, and purpose for us, our family and friends, strangers, enemies and all people.
There is a difference between saying a prayer, cutting a turkey, complaining about politics, watching the game and taking a nap. — that stuff never changes.. the change we MUST make is to
- Shift the ideas of our heads and words to God’s heart & God’s word.
- See and Trust God to use our lives, relationships, and opportunities to share the wonderful “Gift of Christ” in our circles of influence.
- To experience the up wrapping and applying of the gift Christ is as God works to transform the world, through us.
- Say Thank You by Sharing Christ…
- See and Trust God to use our lives, relationships, and opportunities to share the wonderful “Gift of Christ” in our circles of influence.
Tonight we will have our church family Zoom meeting! No, it’s not ideal but we will not be gathering to share a meal at these tables, but we will begin at the table, sofa, or tv tray at our own home.
Share your email address, log on to zoom, the meeting ID will be in the comments. We want everyone to gather, even if you are not joining us online, pick up the phone and call someone and share this time with some in the church, in your family, a neighbor, make some connection to share the holy time of giving Thanks to God.
Your homework between now and 5pm is to make a list of what GOD has done, what has God provided, What has God opened in your life?
What doors has God help close?
Are you grateful, are you relieved, are you sad? Grieving? Are you appreciative? Are you scared? We gather as the body of Christ to give our whole self to honor God, to trust God, to find a new God’s save grace and loving gift unfolding in our spirit.
- a) How has God been working in your life and
- b) what do you want God to know?
Prayer of Thanks, asking for accountability, Offering praise, and Thanksgiving. Lord have mercy on us, your people.
Posted in #2020 on November 15, 2020
Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God. You turn us back to dust, and say, “Turn back, you mortals.” For a thousand years in your sight are like yesterday when it is past, or like a watch in the night. You sweep them away; they are like a dream, like grass that is renewed in the morning; in the morning it flourishes and is renewed; in the evening it fades and withers. For we are consumed by your anger; by your wrath we are overwhelmed. You have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your countenance. For all our days pass away under your wrath; our years come to an end like a sigh. The days of our life are seventy years, or perhaps eighty, if we are strong; even then their span is only toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away. Who considers the power of your anger? Your wrath is as great as the fear that is due you. So teach us to count our days that we may gain a wise heart. Turn, O Lord! How long? Have compassion on your servants! Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, so that we may rejoice and be glad all our days. Make us glad as many days as you have afflicted us, and as many years as we have seen evil. Let your work be manifest to your servants, and your glorious power to their children. Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and prosper for us the work of our hands— O prosper the work of our hands!. [Psalm 90:1-17: NRSA]
- Who are we to you who is ageless, all mighty, all powerful? We must be light the grass.
- Anger and Wrath –
- You have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your countenance.
- Not only are we speck, no a fly, on a frog, on a knot, on a log, in the bottom of the see, but you know our fears, our failures, and weaknesses.
- What do we matter? What is our value to God?
- Who are we to ask anything of God, Who are we to the Almighty, What does God need from us?
- Not only is God Mighty, Aware of our sin, God has no reason to be patient with us.
- Our prayer is for compassion.
- We cry out to God because even though God could crush us, ignore us, and eliminate us, God loves us.
- The Prayer request of Ps 90 is for God to start tomorrow fresh in God’s steadfast love.
- That we might start anew
- This is possible by seeing our sins, acknowledging our fear, confession our pride, owning up to our
Greed, Shame, weakness, failures, etc..all that tries to separate us from the Love of God.
- Let the rest of our days count more than the days of sin that have past.
- God’s accounting is “graceful forgetting.” God chooses to blot out what has been broken, evil, destructive, abused, all of the prizes any victim might grasp-to, God’s desire is to start fresh, make us knew as the new day, as the new grass, and the new life in Christ that we celebrate today!
- Goal of having a wise and faithful heart with God
- Let the world see your transforming work in our lives. Let the world hear you in the words we speak, and the ideas we share, and the work we produce.
This Psalm is laying our what life with God is like:
Being near God is like standing on the edge of an active volcano, feel the heat, the steam, the molten rock, the consuming power and threating explosion of power. Just standing that close to mouth we could not stand and yet, God is calling us to him.
Being near God is like standing next to a two story electrical generator, sitting at the base of a nuclear reactor. The awesome power to create also has the power to destroy.
There is a fascinating new computer program called gpt-3 and it understand the English language and generates results in various languages, including different computer codes, it can write an essay in the style of Abraham Lincoln, it can construct a novel with all the dialogue of all the random characters that it needs to tell its story. It is not available to the public because it can write essays, college acceptance letters, and legal briefs, medical diagnosis, that would challenge the legitimate work of students, attorneys, authors, and doctors. And it generates these types of products as quickly as you might do a Google search for something. It simulates conversations with historical figures, renders photos of people who do not exist. It draws on nearly 2 trillion records a data sources and generates what it ‘creates’ with enormous speed and accuracy.
I find is fascination and terrifying. A portion of the debate about using this machine is who holds the copyrights of what it produces and who gets the credit or blame for its answers. I do not marvel at it as something that could replace us, but something that could easily cause many people to stop thinking and working for themselves if a computer can generate a product with no effort but to enter a few words of a request. Its access is limited because the threat of misuse is too great.
And it no way comes close to the knowledge of God, but some would give us their own minds to save the labor and reduce the risk of failure, and the easy of not having to strive, grow, fail, and figure out solutions.
God is not a virtual mind, God is the author of creation, the builder of plants and stars, the architect of physics and mathematic and all that the world’s claims is science discoveries, not scientific creations.
Who wants to be around a God that is all power, all knowledge… it’s too much to bear/stand.
God is more than strength and knowledge, God has made us and desires to be with us.
- God is
- transparent yet revealed,
- and most of all, God cares for us, gives us grace, because God loves us.
God who is the source of all the universe, is concerned without relationship.
God knows our sins, failures, fears, weakness, shortcomings, excuses, meanness, jealousies, our greed, shame, selfishness, misuse of gifts, powers, time, life, faith, and all that God has called good that we have used from some other reason than God’s reasons.
If God didn’t care about us, then sin would not be a ‘thing’ in our lives.
Sin is the measure of how close we are to the heart of God.
Hopefully, we stay close and face in the God directions
- We do this through the Means of Grace/ Wesley’s understanding.
- Preventative Grace that helps before we know better
- Christ’s sacrifice on the cross that saves keeps the door open to God for us to return
- Sanctifying Grace includes all the ways we work to keep heading in a God direction
- Toward, Perfecting Grace that is finding ourselves at the feet, in the arms, at the heart of God
The Psalmist doesn’t know Christ, but knows Christ through God’s gracious willing to start new.
That is the reason we know to pray and cry out to God, SAVE US. HEAL US. BLESS US. RENEW US. RESTORE US.
We are able to call out to God, because God wants to help, hear, and bless us.
Why? Because God loves us.
- In this particular song, the writer wants God who looks at our sins, laid out on the table before God, to not be the measure of our life, the fruit of the time, resources, talents that God has entrusted to us.
Just as in the parable of the vineyard owner who gives out the talents while he is away, to one 5, one 2, and the other 1.
When the owner returns the first two have invested and use wisely what has been entrusted, the other buries the talent because he only see the fear, wrath, anger.. there is not relationship of grace that knows, even if we mess up trying God is wise, patient, gracious, and loving enough to see how we use the fruitfulness of God’s love in our lives.
- In this particular song, the writer wants us to remember that God would rather have us make our days count, our use of God’s time, space, and resources for God rather than fear God, love God in return
The wise choice for our life: Choose for the God who knows our sin, to hear our repentance and desire to try again.
- The wisdom to know when to scramble the eggs so that they are not cold
- When to you start the coals so they are ready so we are not waiting on the chicken to get down,
- Know where to spend the nest egg of savings, knowing when to invest in a volatile market.
- Knowing when to plant and when to harvest, when to water and when to fertilize
- The wisdom to confess and see that God would rather we learn from our mistakes than be spiritual or physical dead in our sins and failures.
Our Goal is having a wise and faithful heart working with God’s grace.
- Let the world see your transforming work in our lives.
- Let the world hear you in the words we speak, and
- the ideas we share, and
- the work we produce
- The Test? Ask someone Do you hear God in what im saying?
- Do you see God in my work?
- Do you know God is working through my thoughts?
- Do you sense God has given me another chance?
- Do you hear Jesus in my words
- Do you know the Spirit is guiding my decision?
If not, here is our prayer: Lord have mercy on me a sinner, renew me like the leaves on the tree, grass on the lawn, flowers in the ground, let me be connected to your grace anew, that the world might see, hear, and know your love through my love for you.
Alas for you who desire the day of the Lord! Why do you want the day of the Lord? It is darkness, not light; as if someone fled from a lion, and was met by a bear; or went into the house and rested a hand against the wall, and was bitten by a snake. Is not the day of the Lord darkness, not light, and gloom with no brightness in it? I hate, I despise your festivals, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them; and the offerings of well-being of your fatted animals I will not look upon. Take away from me the noise of your songs; I will not listen to the melody of your harps. But let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. [NRSA: Amos 5:18-24]
The prophet Amos served God’s people as an obnoxious alarm clock, giving the people a much-needed wake-up call from God through Amos’s words to the people. And he was faithful to his job, but he was not known for being a a fun guy at the party.
This chapter starts with Lamentation. To lament is to be passionate about expressing grief or sorrow. In the biblical culture, there were even people who had the job of being in charge of lamenting at a funeral, a team of people who would weep, wail, and lament. We usually settle for a team that will prepare a ham luncheon after the graveside. For the most part we see lamenting as a negative. People will say, “Don’t cry our I will give you something to cry about.”
Amos is one who is passionate about reminding God’s people that they are going to have something to cry about if they don’t change their ways.
The message is about a nation being corrupted from within. The people had forgotten God’s ways and expectations and Amos was reminding that we pay a price for NOT living in a relationship with God individually and collectively.
Amos probably had billboard all over town and ads on social media that read:
- “All if lost, we will be forsaken, with no one to raise her up.”
- The city of many will become only a few.”
- “Justice has been turned to wormwood [or bitterness.]”
At other times he had Meme and commercials that said:
- Trust God! Not King or the neighboring Kings.
- Seek the Lord and live.
His marketing plan didn’t win any awards, but he got some people’s attention and God touched some people’s hearts.
But most ended up in exile, enslaved, and far from home, even though they were warned repeatedly.
Amos made an important case that is worth remembering:
God who made the universe, the sun, the earth, the season, day and night, has given us all things for God’s purpose and not our own purpose. All life is the Lord’s and is intended for the Lord’s glory and praise.
Amos reminds the people that God see the evil of those who sin
- Those who profane justice will receive none.
- Those who speak evil will be consumed by evil.
- Those who trust lies, will not recognize the truth.
- Those who use the weak and oppressed will become weak and oppressed.
- Those who think they have built strong buildings, incomes, portfolios, and see the fruit of God’s work as their own, will end up with nothing.
- Those who have taken bribes will be pushed aside for those who love integrity.
- The destruction will come to those who seek, trust, and do what is evil
The People would ask then, as we would now:
What can we do? How do we make things right?
- Be prudent
- keep silent
- Seek and love what is good, Godly
- Avoid evil and all sin.
- Protect life,
- Establish justice at the gate,
- Trust the Lord, The God of all creation, God will be gracious to those who remain faithful.
Amos reminds the people that God hears the oppressed
- God hears the cries of the cities
- God knows the fear in the streets,
- God sees our failure to trust God instead of trusting our goods, services, and worldly wealth…
- God promises I will pass through the midst of you….
God’s Answer: The Day of the Lord?
Have you heard people say, “It would be good if Jesus would just come on and return and take us home. We are tired of all this crazy.” I know I’ve said that myself
But Amos asks us are we sure about that?
The Day of the Lord’s return will be darkness for the majority and light only to a few.
The title of my sermon is “If 2020 were a bible verse” It will be like 2020, as if you were running from a lion and met a bear, you run into the house and a bitten by a snake lying in wait.
Amos reminds: Is not the day of the Lord darkness, not light, and gloom with no brightness in it?
Amos tells the people that God has no interest in our festivals, celebrations, world series, super bowls, and championships, tailgates, parties, and showers.
- I take no delight in your solemn assemblies.
- God is not impressed by our being polite and forsaking what is Godly.
- God doesn’t need our burnt offerings,
- God doesn’t need our holidays and decorations.
- God doesn’t need to be entertained or soothed.
God is about justice… God is about loving and hoping for love in return and when we use God’s good gifts and we see our very lives our successes, our wealth, our victories, our trophies, our rewards, our power, our accomplishments, our wealth, our life… we are unjust before God.
God does not need kings and false gods and graven images, — those of our creation for our pleasure.
WE ARE GOD’s CREATION for GOD’s PURPOSE AND PLEASURE
The Day of the Lord is about Justice rolling down like the crimson tide, and God’s Goodness and What God has determined is righteousness flows like an ever-flowing mighty river.
The day of the Lord for Amos is God’s accounting for God’s Righteousness being reflected through us, those who seek, teach, practice, promote, sell-out, or trade for God’s righteousness will find them selves in exile.
Exile is being outside the garden, not at home, not free to live, worship, work, and thrive, but to be captive of others who don’t love us, but see our conquest, property, victims, etc. [NRSV: Amos 5:13-27, Key 18-24]
So is Amos speaking to us, or just to those old testament people?
Here is the measure. When Christ returns, he is wanting to see the fruit of our faithfulness and not the fruit of our ledgers.
- God is wanting to see that we speak the truth and expect the truth from others.
- God is anticipating finding people singing God’s praise that they learned from our witness at worship, and at home, at work, at school, everywhere.
- God is expecting to see how we have learn to love our enemies
- God is returning to find the investment bearing interest in grace God has extended to us, through us.
Amos is sounding harsh, but he is showing Grace.
Do you want Christ to return this moment or do you need a little more time to get your spiritual room cleaned up, your witness sharpened and honed.
Do you want Christ to come save us from the crazy 2020, but what God finds is us worried about politics, stock markets, building, worldly values and selfishness, pride, greed, being non-offensive and protected from germs.
- Oh for the day that we were as committed to wearing the Gospel as some wear a mask.
- Oh for the day that we were is eager to chastise someone speaking in hate or hiding in fear, as if we might for not wearing a mask
- Oh for the day that we hear the words of Amos, not just for Israel long ago, but for my very own life and for your very lives.
And claim the grace that Christ has not yet come and repent,
- Be prudent about God’s goodness and rightiousness
- keep silent, about our opinions and acheivments
- Seek and love what is good, Godly
- Avoid evil and all sin.
- Protect all life, all who are forgotten, pushed aside, rejected and aborted
- Establish justice at the gate for all people and not just a few.
- Trust the Lord, The God of all creation, God will be gracious to those who remain faithful.
If Jesus is coming today, I hope its this afternoon so I can begin to make these changes 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. [NRSA: Matthew 5:1-12]
The Roman Catholic tradition of honoring and venerating persons as Saints is to recognize that there are some persons who’s lives, and witnesses reveal God’s work and actions in concrete and remarkable ways. The added tradition of asking these persons to pray for them is similar to the practice we have when we ask our family, friends, and pray warriors add their prayers to our own.
There are ways that their tradition elevates these Saints above all the rest of us is one of the differences that are not helpful to us, but I ask you to look at what we share in common about the first two points: 1) recognizing God’s works in the lives of others, and 2) relying on others to share the burden of our spiritual journey.
The familiar selection from Jesus’s sermon on the mount, was shared on a hillside because no one building could contain the gathering of thousands, in the norther edge of this was a singular place that this enormous crowd could gather to hear Jesus without being in direct view of those who in the government or establishment would not initially come to interrupt or stop. In this very open, yet secluded spot, Jesus paints images of what the saints, the disciples, the followers, the church was to be known for doing with their lives.
The saints are all those who do things like those Jesus describes:
- The poor in spirit
- The lost in sadness
- the simple,
- those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
- the merciful,
- the pure in heart,
- the peacemakers,
- those persecuted for doing what is Godly,
- those reviled, persecuted, or defamed, for the purpose defaming Christ in your witness.
If the example of saint living is not for the exceptional example, but for all who followship Christ. The veneration of Saints by the Rom. Cath. Might be the ‘excuse-factor’ for us to not take this list seriously.
The Yoke of Christ is easy, when we share the faithful work with Christ who is ALWAYS faithful.
Think of poor example: imaging a sports team, let us say it’s a high school team, but one of the team members is a current member of the professional all-star legion hero of the sport, is playing on their team. If you take field or court and that caliber of player is on your team do you want them to help your team? Do you want to learn from their experience? Do you want to model their skills of preparation and planning for the game plan, or would you rather they sit the bench?
It would not be fair would it, but would it be helpful if your team continued to slip up, show up ill prepared, or failed to execute the plan as practiced and hoped? Sure, it would, but that is what it means to be on Christ’s team. Alone I would fail, continually; with Christ, is my only hope.
But Jesus is not taking the field with us in the way an athlete might, but there are those who are showing up in our daily lives that we have something great examples to both learn from and lean on in being the church. We rely on other Saints, and in the process, we are the Saints that others will turn in at other times.
The best news of the nine examples in the Sermon on the Mount are not a check list. We do not have to master the who list. Each of us, firming committed to know Christ is with us, working together as a collective pool, team, or church can do all things, for Christ is our strength. Do you see how these fits?
In preparing to cease the day for Christ we have cloud of witnesses both on our team, and those in training in the grapefruit league.
The saints are all those who do things like those Jesus describes:
- The poor in spirit — those who know they have more to learn, give, and trust in Christ.
- The lost in sadness – those who have compassion and will be compassionate
- the simple, — those who know our greatest wealth is nothing that world calls value
- those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, — not just the hunger, but desire with passion to know and love Christ.
- the merciful, — those willing to step in and bridge with kindness without praise or glory
- the pure in heart, — those who are not using God for their own power not to please others
- the peacemakers, — those willing to see options, look for the doors in the wall, those with hope.
- those persecuted for doing what is Godly, — know all this is not easy, but willing to trust with it is inconvenient or we are not rewards nor respected by the world for our trusting God.
- those reviled, persecuted, or defamed, for the purpose defaming Christ in your witness. – basically the same as the one before.
Here is where we need to see Christ at work in others. It inspires our faith and journey. Witnesses for us
It reminds us that we are called to inspire others with our faith and journey. Witnesses for others.
Today we remember those who have died this year, members, non-members, who have been spiritual role models for our faith, and for our world..
Today we remember that we are not waiting to be seen and names as witnesses, we are on Christ’s team and need to know that all this is not only possible, but is the fulfillment of what it means to be the church. We are on the same team. We don’t have time nor energy to listen to a world that would divide us. We are called to be at Christ’s table, on Christ’s team, in Christ’s fellowship, we are living body of Christ for the sake of the world.
As we look around all the fruit of 2020, we can see that we have not been faithful to the task. We need to 1) Repent , admit we have not been faith 2) Affirm/Reaffirm Christ in us, 3) come to the table and quench the hunger and thirst of our spirit. 4) hear the words of Jesus and the witness of the saints and get back to being, FOR THE WORLD, the presence of Christ! That will turn the world right side up!
Will you come to the table.
As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise. [NRSA: Galatians 3:27-29]
It is important for us to know some context of this area. More of a recognized state or region of the people who have Greek and Roman heritage. Thus, making it a place of blended culture and religions.
The region in what we now know as central and southern Turkey was in Paul’s time known as the region of Galatia. Historically a Greek formation, the Celts, were later occupied by the Roman empire in our period of the Apostle Paul and his missionary work in this area. It was more than a city, but rather an area with thirteen divisions. It is from the accounts in both Paul’s letter to the Galatians and in Luke’s recording in the Book of Acts, that we learn about this region.
Paul was extraordinarily successful in connecting the know cultures and religions and using those as entry points to show the inadequacies of the local gods with the One, universal God by belief in His Son. Paul is likely to have been building upon some missionary work from Peter and Sillas as his typical approach was to start with the Jewish communities at local synagogues, which were rare in the region of Galatia.
But what of any of this speaks to us?
Paul offers Christ to a diverse and divided culture that has been bouncing through generations of sweeping religious, political, and cultural changes. It is in this context that we see Paul being particularly helpful in transforming devotion into discipleship, and loyalty into faith and belief.
What if the world, the nation? Georgia? North Georgia? Our communities? Or our fellowship was so clothed in Christ, that the first thing we see in one another is Christ.
When you introduce yourself through writing, what is the first detail you would share about yourself?
- Would it be career?
- In some type of relationship?
- Having kids or grands?
- Would it be gender, or some other physical descriptor?
- Would it be your hobbies or talents?
- Most would say it differs by the context.
- Facebook: “Human, husband, father, pastor, writer, #humorinlife #foodie #techie #zippermerging #zoomevangelist”
- Twitter: “a sinful child saved by Christ, pastor, husband, father, writer, techie, foodie, neighbor, voter looking for humor, and humor in life. clergy.pro
- Business Card: “Sharing Christ and the Journey”
And how would you describe Rock Spring in 100 words?
Is their any church that would not consider starting with the words, “We are a friendly church” no matter if we were or were not.
Many times we are, Sometimes we are not, and sometimes most are friends, but always a handful on any give Sunday are distracted with something else in lives or on their heart.
- Would we share our missions because we are proud of our accomplishments or how much Christ has done for and through us?
- Would we list our activities we like or think others would like or how Christ shapes, guides, and challenges us?
- Would we describe what we enjoy about our worship, or how God is blessed by our praise and fellowship?
- Would we tell about how easy it is to visit and join, or how much work and devotion it takes to continue growing, serving, and following Christ?
Paul starts reminding the church: You are the baptized in Christ. You are clothed in Christ.
- Baptism is the sign of our adoption as sons and daughters of God, through and with Christ.
- Baptism is the moment we celebrate our life being more than our own.
- Baptism is our joining the family as heirs of the witness, work, and reward that God would bestow.
- Baptism is our spiritual birth into our heavenly citizenship.
- Baptism is not just something we hope people have done before they die, it is the belonging-relationship that we celebrate while we are living.
Paul is reminding the church that we are first responders to the fires burning in peoples hearts and minds, we have something better than Kevlar and Nomex, we are clothed with Christ who has died for us and lives for us to be in God, forever.
Paul encourages the church painting the warm quilt of love, faith, and prayer that surrounds us in the cold world, and the from the emptiness of being lost or alone. We are clothes with Jesus Christ who renews and restores and walks with us in all of life and death.
Paul is teaching the church to put on the arm, put on the baptism, put on the quilt, put on the strength, wisdom, and faithfulness of Christ because without it we are wearing the [Emperor’s New Clothes/ ‘naked’] instead that the world is selling as truth, safety, and meaning.
Once we wear the team uniform of Christ we are no longer divided; we become united in Christ.
If we are clothed by opinions, ideologies, data-points, peer-reviewed conclusions: all these change for day to day and as the context and balance of power shifts in the world. We are clothed in the life of Christ, don’t forget, don’t let go, don’t exchange it.
Think of all the descriptors in our lives: We rally around being in different camps: bulldogs, hound dogs, elephants, eagles, tigers, lookouts, Biscuits, owls, gophers, moccasin shoe, pickles, and our family favorite: Mighty, Fighting Okra from Delta State in Cleveland, Mississippi.
We divide up by age groups: Gen Z, Millennials or Gen Y, Gen X, Boomer, WW2ers, Depressists. They all sound terrible. But we try to make generation distinctions to hopefully better understand when we actually labeling and dividing people with names.
The is one race. We are humans. We have different cultures, pigments of skin color, and varieties of traditions and assessments of our identities as individuals and groups. We are all creations of God’s handiwork, created, loved, and saved by God.
- We have some shared features, but all have different fingerprints, and DNA markers that show God creates, not simply to mass produce, but value us one at a time, here is our weakness and strength.
- We are free to choose to love God or run from God. But living and seeking God acknowledges our questions, failures and fears and ability, through the grace in Christ, we have a way together, in Christ.
- We are valued by God both 1) the unique person we are and 2) the whole fellowship we become in Christ.
This week’s realization: The following is not politically bias: In the most recent weeks, I have had more occasions to speak with people who are anti-church, anti-religion, religious in practice-but not thriving in spiritual fruitfulness. I offer a both/and observation. There are flaws in our country, but we continue to be the nation that immigrants desire to leave their home to live. There are divided opinions and bias news surrounding us from every side, but other nations continue to turn to us for support, technology, and protection. There laws that need to be added and improved, but our system of government has built a nation that can welcome, respond, and adapt because it is a both/and relationship: Holding fast to our roots AND continues to amend our flaws.
Paul is telling a region of none Jewish people to believe in a God who is working through the Jew’s messiah, Jesus, God’s Son, to bring hope, meaning, salvation, love, power, grace, and is continuing this work through ALL who are baptized and clothed with Christ. Not destroying the framework but building upon it the work of the church, that whole world may know God through us.
Whether is to church OR state, the foundations have provided the framework, that without it we would not have the opportunities we enjoy today.
- The State will never love us, only use or appease us.
- The state will never be our salvation.
- The State will never die that we might live, rather calling us to suffer for its life.
- Remember who’s uniform you have been saved to wear?
- Remember which team that has died for you?
- Remember it Christ that truly unites us and not common law, identity, or opinion.
- Be Not afraid, God is with us. Repeat these words of assurance with me: “Be Not Afraid, God is With us!”
- Don’t let the worldly division sum up your identity or communities. Be those clothed in Christ.
- Let the world see Christ, just as they have seen your sport team colors and generational style
- Let the world look to those who are clothed in Christ, as sinners who are made who by Christ.
- Let the world see God’s presence in the living our faith and sacrifice to follow and grow.
- Let the world see in this context, this time in history, the eternal love and power of Christ today!
- Be Not afraid, God is with us. Repeat these words of assurance with me: “Be Not Afraid, God is With us!”
In his letter to the Galatians, he appeals directly to their well-known love of freedom and independence (5:1) and repeatedly contrasts freedom of the spirit through Christ with the slavery offered by pursuing worldly pleasures. He even specifically cites behavior and sins long associated with the Galatians such as jealousy, drunkenness, liberal sexuality, and idolatry (5:19-20) and contrasts these with the freedom from vice and corruption offered by Christianity (5:22-24). His appeals worked well, and the Galatians were converted, exchanging Sabiazos’ and Cybele’s protection for that of Jesus Christ. Herm notes that “the Christian communities under the jurisdiction of the Drunemeton were among the oldest founded” by Paul and Galatia grew into one of the most vital Christian centers of the region (43).
The Galatians by this time were almost thoroughly Hellenized and had further substituted their Celtic-Greco customs with Roman beliefs and attitudes. Christianity replaced their old religion, and the temples were turned into churches. This same paradigm was repeated, with the addition of military force, following the Muslim Invasion of Anatolia in 830 CE when the populace was converted to Islam and churches became mosques. By this time, there was little left of the original Celtic-Greco culture of Galatia. Its name survives today primarily through the biblical epistle of St. Paul and, possibly, the suburb of Galata outside of Istanbul, Turkey. [Mark, J. J. (2019, October 24). Galatia. Ancient History Encyclopedia. Retrieved from https://www.ancient.eu/galatia/%5D
For none of us lives for ourselves alone, and none of us dies for ourselves alone. If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living. You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. It is written: “ ‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bow before me; every tongue will acknowledge God.’ ” So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God. Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister. [NRSV: Romans 14:7-13]
What are the best foods each holiday?
- Best tailgate food?
- Best Halloween candy?
- Best Thanksgiving side dish?
- Best Christmas food?
Look, we have just divided ourselves into different groups based on our preferences, heritage, and practice.
In the context of election if there is someone who will or has vote/d in all of the opposite candidates, why argue with them and divide your relationship? Which is more important to press someone to belief, or hold fast yourself and allow them to learn from your faithfulness?
- We get impatient
- We are lured to believe what we here,
- We trust opinions without review, and
- We stand on principles that are not grounded in God.
First, Paul is saying, don’t divide and create enemies over trivial things. Don’t close the door on a relationship just to be right. INSTEAD, be righteous in your own thinking and actions, AND surrender yourselves to CHRIST, and let God be the judge of things.
Part Two – be open to love everyone.
If God only loves and be-friends us when we are good and blameless, then God would have condemned us all long ago.
John 3, while we were yet sinner, he sent his son, to give his live for ours. Even though rejecting the sin, God embraces us in the hope that we learn from the life, and sacrifice of Christ and come to understand, believe, trust, and devote our lives to God, to Gods purpose.
Our denomination never lived into the motto, “Open hearts, minds, and doors” rather than hold one another accountable, and we adopted a new motto.
Part One – (Out of order because we typically think it is an afterthought or that we don’t need Spiritual growth or even Spiritual Maintenance.
Part One is that which we must master first: Accepting Christ has died and now lives for us personally, AND that we are surrendered to him with our own sin and struggle.
- Both parts are vital.
- Jesus both teaches the crowd of thousands AND feeds them.
- Jesus invited us to follow AND calls us to disciple others.
It’s not either-or. Our calling is to feed, clothe, and provide for those in physical needs, AND it is all to spiritually feed, spiritual clothing, and provide the spiritual Community for all.
Context of Romans: Paul, who wrote many letters as the social media of his day, shared this letter as his final letter. From this more mature place he becomes STRONG in CHRIST for himself, and TOLERANT of others less mature, so that his faith become his witness.
If I continue to sin, who, are we to judge any other person. Paul is clear that our job is NOT to be a spiritual judge. But we ARE to be passionate about building up the opportunities to transform our relationship as disciples. and leave the rest to God, who deals with us individually knowing the struggles and journey of every person. ( some laborers work all day some mid-day other the last our but all received the same reward.)
The Mature and reflective Paul
Even if some is wrong, be mature enough to to keep the relationship open, live out what you know to be true but do not make enemies.
Two people can be both wrong, and will also stand before God, whether they believe in God, accept God, or not.
Allowing someone the room to be wrong, but close enough to learn from being close
We belong to the lord
Whether people believe in God, God continues with love, hope, and waits in patience for each of us to come to know and to worship or reject God.
Ref. Isaiah 45:23> “every knee will bend and tongue confess or acknowledge” God is not only real, but also the author of life, love, and authority.
A mature player knows that tick tack toe ends up in a scratch more often than not and the two places that typically allow someone to win most every time. In card games, any strategy game the experienced player has the opportunity to teach the opponent to become a better player so that the game eventually is more Challenging and satisfying, OR they only play to win, which has glory at that moment only.
God is not gaming us, but is inviting us:
to AVOID being a stumbling block to others,
to be discipling others by welcoming and tolerating others,
and particularly ‘difficult’ relationships
As your neighbor the Charlie Brown Spiritual advice question: Q?
“Am I a Spiritual Blockhead?”
- Is my attitude
- or my behavior
- or my words keeping someone from seeing and know Christ lives in me?
A “Christian” high school played Frances’s volleyball team last night and just before the game, the other school was celebrating their victory over their last football game. The announcer said, “We are honoring our team for demolishing the competition.” Are we saying things that others hear, and doing things that others see, and closing relationship before they start or shuting doors, minds, and hearts from Christ.
- Don’t be a blockhead,
- don’t be a stumbling block,
- don’t be focused on the log with a speck in our own eye,
- be mature Christians.
- Be seasons in your own faith.
- Encourage, invited, inspire, inform, but don’t beat the sheep into submission. The Good Shepherd goes out looking until the lost are found and rejoices at THEIR return.
1 After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth to prevent any wind from blowing on the land or on the sea or on any tree. 2 Then I saw another angel coming up from the east, having the seal of the living God. He called out in a loud voice to the four angels who had been given the power to harm the land and the sea: 3 “Do not harm the land or the sea or the trees until we put a seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God.” 4 Then I heard the number of those who were sealed: 144,000 from all the tribes of Israel. 5 From the tribe of Judah 12,000 were sealed, from the tribe of Reuben 12,000, from the tribe of Gad 12,000, 6 from the tribe of Asher 12,000, from the tribe of Naphtali 12,000, from the tribe of Manasseh 12,000, 7 from the tribe of Simeon 12,000, from the tribe of Levi 12,000, from the tribe of Issachar 12,000, 8 from the tribe of Zebulun 12,000, from the tribe of Joseph 12,000, from the tribe of Benjamin 12,000.
The Great Multitude in White Robes
9 After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people, and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. 10 And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” 11 All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 saying: “Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God forever and ever. Amen!” 13 Then one of the elders asked me, “These in white robes—who are they, and where did they come from?” 14 I answered, “Sir, you know.” And he said, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. 15 Therefore, “they are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple, and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence. 16 ‘Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat down on them,’ nor any scorching heat. 17 For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; ‘he will lead them to springs of living water. ’‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’ ” [NRSV: Rev 7]
This part of John’s vision, his portent into heaven is a glimpse. It does not answer all our questions, but it is intended to give us assurance and calls for endurance in the faith.
- From the tribe of Judah 12,000 were sealed,
- from the tribe of Reuben 12,000,
- from the tribe of Gad 12,000,
- from the tribe of Asher 12,000,
- from the tribe of Naphtali 12,000,
- from the tribe of Manasseh 12,000,
- from the tribe of Simeon 12,000,
- from the tribe of Levi 12,000,
- from the tribe of Issachar 12,000,
- from the tribe of Zebulun 12,000,
- from the tribe of Joseph 12,000,
- from the tribe of Benjamin 12,000
Exodus 24:4 NIV https://www.biblestudytools.com/exodus/24-4.html Moses then wrote down everything the LORD had said. He got up early the next morning and built an altar at the foot of the mountain and set up twelve stone pillars representing the twelve tribes of Israel. [NRSA]
Summary of Numbers 2
1 The LORD said to Moses and Aaron: 2 “The Israelites are to camp around the tent of meeting some distance from it, each of them under their standard and holding the banners of their family.” [NRSA]
- On the east, toward the sunrise, Judah are to encamp under their standard 74,600.
- The tribe of Issachar will camp next to them. 54,400.
- The tribe of Zebulun will be next. 57,400.
- All the men in these three number 186,400. They will set out first.
- On the south will be the divisions of the camp of Reuben under their standard, 46,500.
- The tribe of Simeon will camp next to them, 59,300.
- The tribe of Gad will be next, 45,650.
- All the men in these divisions, number 151,450. They will set out second.
- Then the tent of meeting and the camp of the Levites will set out in the middle of the camps. They will set out in the same order as they encamp, each in their own place under their standard.
- On the west will be the divisions of the camp of Ephraim, 40,500.
- The tribe of Manasseh will be next, 32,200.
- The tribe of Benjamin will be next, 35,400.
- All the men in these divisions number 108,100. They will set out third.
- On the north will be the divisions of the camp of Dan, 62,700.
- The tribe of Asher will camp next to them, 41,500.
- The tribe of Naphtali will be next, 53,400.
- All the men in these divisions number 157,600. They will set out last.
Total Men 20 and older
All the men in the camps, by their divisions, number 603,550. (Plus women, children, and the Levites)
The Activity in Heaven – Praise and Welcoming Home
- Praise — holding palm branches Glory – singing, shouting, praying
- Wisdom – knowing and believing Thanks – accepting, affirming, appreciating
- Honor – respect Power – dependent on God
- Strength be to our God – Trusting God’s will and ways
- for ever and ever – eternity, (always and forever)
The Seal on the Foreheads
- The seal is a mark of authority
- It is the record of story
- It is the transference of authority
- It is being included in the story
- This Seal is the Mark of God, the marks of grace, the living-sacrificial lamb. Jesus the Christ.
There instructions to write the message: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and strength” were specifically instructed to post them on the house, wear them on your forehead, memorize them in you mind, heart, and soul. SO, that we might live our these instructions wherever we are.
Whose That Yonder Dressed in White?
- Those in white robes entering heaven, were more numerous that one could count. There is part of your answer about who goes to heaven. “from every nation, tribe, people, and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb”.
- Heaven is a diverse collection of those who worship God, through Christ, but it is not diversity that is their ticket into heaven. They are entering as those wash and made whole through Christ.
- And Christ’s gift of grace is offered to the whole world. Only those who live the marks of faithfulness, those who wear “Christ’s seal”
- Just as the lamb upon the throne shone of the marks of sacrifice, so are the marks and signs of both those who have suffered the tribulation, persecution, and journey of life and still find Christ as their salvation and hope.
Do you see yourself in Heaven?
- If you and I are not much on praising, singing and worshiping God, we might not feel at home in heaven?
- If you and I are only thinking about God’s power but not trusting God’s power, we might not be at home
- If others don’t see the seal of Christ as plainly as they see our face, then we might not find a robe?
- If we are not daily, giving ourselves to Christ for strength, healing, forgiveness, power, and love, we only see a glimpse through John’s vision but have assurance of heaven includes us.
So what do we do?
- We do on earth what its made whole in heaven. The key is in the Lord’s prayer
- Give us your daily bread for our body and our spirit.
- Forgive us by the same standard we forgive others
- Face temptation and tribulations in Christ’s strength and not our own understanding or work
- Give our heart, soul, and strength to the Lamb, Jesus Christ, to make this day holy, and the next..
- Until Christ returns and offers the white robe and palm branches in the countless multitude.
White Robes are those who have been included in the family
Baptism, swaddling clothes and burial bands, made clean and bright by God who make us whole.
The Rag Man, Walter Wangerin, https://ecdu.dionc.org/dfc/newsdetail_2/2350072
“But then, on Sunday morning, I was awakened by a violence that shook me to the core of my being. Light – pure, hard, insistent light – slammed against my tear-stained face and demanded that I awake. When I was finally able to open my eyes, I blinked against the light and squinted in the direction of the pile of trash where the Ragman’s body had been. As I looked, I saw the last and the first wonder of all. The Ragman was there, yes! But he was no longer dead. He was alive! There he stood, folding the old army blanket carefully and laying it atop the neatly arranged handkerchief and jacket. Besides the scar on his forehead, there was no other evidence of what he had previously taken upon himself. There was no sign of sorrow or age, no evidence of illness or deformity. His body was whole and strong and all the rags that he had gathered shined for cleanliness.”
Again I ask: Did they stumble so as to fall beyond recovery? Not at all! Rather, because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious. But if their transgression means riches for the world, and their loss means riches for the Gentiles, how much greater riches will their full inclusion bring! I am talking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch as I am the apostle to the Gentiles, I take pride in my ministry in the hope that I may somehow arouse my own people to envy and save some of them. For if their rejection brought reconciliation to the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead? If the part of the dough offered as firstfruits is holy, then the whole batch is holy; if the root is holy, so are the branches. If some of the branches have been broken off, and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root, do not consider yourself to be superior to those other branches. If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you. [Rom 11:11-18]
Wendy and I recently watch an old classic movie “Mrs Miniver”. If you have not seen it I encourage you to check it out. It’s filmed black and white, but reflects the grey life before World War One in England in a middle class family.
The name sake of the film has a common fellow willing the contest with his rose that he has name name for his friend, Mrs Miniver.
It reminds me of my maternal grandmother. She too was industrious, compassionate, and resourceful like Mrs. Miniver. See loved raising and tending to roses, and often grafts prize roses into existing rose bushes to experiment with many varieties in her very small back yard.
The passage today is about the church being grafted into Jewish roots, through Christ, for the world whole world.
In the lifecycle of church denominations, social perspectives, and upheaval in government, we need to remember BOTH or roots and our opportunities.
Our roots are in Christ, what was the messiah for the Jews and the witness of Grace for the Gentiles. As I child I thought the Gentiles were just another geography group that. Attlee led with Israel, who must have come from the land aNd tribe of “Gentle.”
But Gentiles were not a tribe or separate government, but the category of ‘other’ compared to being Jewish. This there were those who children of Israel, and everyone else.
The olive tree was pruned to the roots and the church became the new branch that was grafted into the witness of God.
Paul’s words in chapter 11 are to both groups. Jews were called to trust and believe Jesus was their Messiah and the small group who did believe were joined with those non-Jewish, none children of Israel, who would now receive the blessing and benefits of the promise of God to Abraham, because they too believed Jesus was not just Messiah, but believed with their hearts that Jesus, is God in the flesh, offering grace and salvation for a future of living in God.
13-15)I am talking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch as I am the apostle to the Gentiles, I take pride in my ministry 14 in the hope that I may somehow arouse my own people to envy and save some of them. 15 For if their rejection brought reconciliation to the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?
A. The new branch, has its life connected through the roots of promise, covenant, and faithfulness.. with the purpose to 1) trust with their hearts, as a 2) witness to BOTH Israel and the world.
B. The pruning of Israel was to make room for where faithfulness would bear fruit.
The prophetic word is that God’s plans will continue, will we be ACTIVELY LIVING, BELIEVING, AND TRUSTING part of the blessing and trust, OR will we be blind to the voices of the world and words of the faith.
The thing I learned about roses from my grandmother is that they need a great deal of nature and pruning. The basic bush would serve as the foundation of most any variety, but without pruning the old root would show return and graft would fade without continual growth and maturing.
Long after she moved from that house I returned and looked in the back to see if the roses were still there. None of the prize roses, in the wild runner were twisted thick together along the fences.
The message for us has two parts. Are we serving as the old stump for what is God is doing and Are we pruning that which is not glorifying God?
Most directly: we have two tasks 1) are we staying connected to the foundation of our faith, are we still trusting Christ promises and expectations, and 2) are we growing toward God’s witness in the world or just taking up nutrients from those who are bearing fruit for the kingdom of God?
What does that look like in my life: 1) we can’t be part of Christ’s work and be separated from scripture. And 2) we neither can we stay the way things were NOR male things our way just be different.
Here is the test? How are we reconciling the holding in to Christ with the call of the Spirit to follow as the wind?
How are we both holding fast and living grounded in God AND responding to an ever changing world in need of salvation and redemption?
The basics: we hold one hand in the hand and heart of God through Christ, while we extend the other to show and live for the world that faith in world that seeks salvation, wholeness, and answers that it will only satisfy when they too are connected to God, through us.
The problems we will face:
1. No matter who wins the election the division, hatred, and condemnation of our neighbors is incompatible with our faith in Christ.
2. No matter how the general conference votes next year, we are called to stand firm in God, with a world that is running from God and from each other.
3. No matter what we hear that we consider to be “news” it is incomplete and empty without the Good News of God’s grace in Christ.
4. The unity’s that God seeks is not by worlds measure, but by being United in God’s promises, blessing, and salvation.
Anything less than these and we too risk being blinded, hateful, divided, excluded,and lost.
Posted in #2020 on September 27, 2020
The word of the Lord came to me: 2 What do you mean by repeating this proverb concerning the land of Israel, “The parents have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge”? 3 As I live, says the Lord God, this proverb shall no more be used by you in Israel. 4 Know that all lives are mine; the life of the parent as well as the life of the child is mine: it is only the person who sins that shall die. 5 If a man is righteous and does what is lawful and right— 6 if he does not eat upon the mountains or lift up his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel, does not defile his neighbor’s wife or approach a woman during her menstrual period, 7 does not oppress anyone, but restores to the debtor his pledge, commits no robbery, gives his bread to the hungry and covers the naked with a garment, 8 does not take advance or accrued interest, withholds his hand from iniquity, executes true justice between contending parties, 9 follows my statutes, and is careful to observe my ordinances, acting faithfully—such a one is righteous; he shall surely live, says the Lord God. 10 If he has a son who is violent, a shedder of blood, 11 who does any of these things (though his father does none of them), who eats upon the mountains, defiles his neighbor’s wife, 12 oppresses the poor and needy, commits robbery, does not restore the pledge, lifts up his eyes to the idols, commits abomination, 13 takes advance or accrued interest; shall he then live? He shall not. He has done all these abominable things; he shall surely die; his blood shall be upon himself. 14 But if this man has a son who sees all the sins that his father has done, considers, and does not do likewise, 15 who does not eat upon the mountains or lift up his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel, does not defile his neighbor’s wife, 16 does not wrong anyone, exacts no pledge, commits no robbery, but gives his bread to the hungry and covers the naked with a garment, 17 withholds his hand from iniquity, takes no advance or accrued interest, observes my ordinances, and follows my statutes; he shall not die for his father’s iniquity; he shall surely live. 18 As for his father, because he practiced extortion, robbed his brother, and did what is not good among his people, he dies for his iniquity. 19 Yet you say, “Why should not the son suffer for the iniquity of the father?” When the son has done what is lawful and right, and has been careful to observe all my statutes, he shall surely live. 20 The person who sins shall die. A child shall not suffer for the iniquity of a parent, nor a parent suffer for the iniquity of a child; the righteousness of the righteous shall be his own, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be his own. 21 But if the wicked turn away from all their sins that they have committed and keep all my statutes and do what is lawful and right, they shall surely live; they shall not die. 22 None of the transgressions that they have committed shall be remembered against them; for the righteousness that they have done they shall live. 23 Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, says the Lord God, and not rather that they should turn from their ways and live? 24 But when the righteous turn away from their righteousness and commit iniquity and do the same abominable things that the wicked do, shall they live? None of the righteous deeds that they have done shall be remembered; for the treachery of which they are guilty and the sin they have committed, they shall die. 25 Yet you say, “The way of the Lord is unfair.” Hear now, O house of Israel: Is my way unfair? Is it not your ways that are unfair? 26 When the righteous turn away from their righteousness and commit iniquity, they shall die for it; for the iniquity that they have committed they shall die. 27 Again, when the wicked turn away from the wickedness they have committed and do what is lawful and right, they shall save their life. 28 Because they considered and turned away from all the transgressions that they had committed, they shall surely live; they shall not die. 29 Yet the house of Israel says, “The way of the Lord is unfair.” O house of Israel, are my ways unfair? Is it not your ways that are unfair? 30 Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, all of you according to your ways, says the Lord God. Repent and turn from all your transgressions; otherwise iniquity will be your ruin. 31 Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed against me, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! Why will you die, O house of Israel? 32 For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, says the Lord God. Turn, then, and live. [NRSA: Ez 18:23-25]
- Ecclesiastes 3:17 I said to myself, “God will bring into judgment both the righteous and the wicked, for there will be a time for every activity, a time to judge every deed.”
- Hebrews 10:30 For we know him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” and again, “The Lord will judge his people.”
- Hosea 12:6 But you must return to your God; maintain love and justice, and wait for your God always.
- Proverbs 21:15 When justice is done, it brings joy to the righteous but terror to evildoers.
- Proverbs 28:5 Evildoers do not understand what is right, but those who seek the LORD understand it fully.
- Matthew 5:38-39 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ 39 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.
- Psalm 37:27-29 Turn from evil and do good; then you will dwell in the land forever. 28 For the LORD loves the just and will not forsake his faithful ones. Wrongdoers will be completely destroyed ; the offspring of the wicked will perish. 29 The righteous will inherit the land and dwell in it forever.
- Romans 12:19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.
- Isaiah 30:18-19 Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show you compassion. For the LORD is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him! 19 People of Zion, who live in Jerusalem, you will weep no more. How gracious he will be when you cry for help! As soon as he hears, he will answer you.
- Micah 6:8 He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.
- Psalm 106: Blessed are those who act justly, who always do what is right.
- Deuteronomy 16:20 Follow justice and justice alone, so that you may live and possess the land the LORD your God is giving you.
- Leviticus 19:15 “ ‘Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly.
- Psalm 33:5 The LORD loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of his unfailing love.
- Isaiah 51:4-5 “Listen to me, my people; hear me, my nation: Instruction will go out from me; my justice will become a light to the nations. 5 My righteousness draws near speedily, my salvation is on the way, and my arm will bring justice to the nations. The islands will look to me and wait in hope for my arm.
What is Justice?
Justice bears fruit of God’s righteousness.
We experience justice when we are doing what God has determined what is right – this is known as righteousness.
If we live, aware that God has revealed how to live rightly with one another, and we follow God’s idea of what is righteous, we find God to be forgiving, gracious, and we find the wholeness of our purpose.
Typically, we general divide it up Justice into an either-or condition. In doing so, we empty it’s true power.
We do need to distinguish our understanding of civil justice and divine justice. At times they can be the same things, but not always. When civil justice does not reveal what God has determined is good and right for humanity, but we will come back to this in a moment. For now, I ask us to focus on divine Justice.
Recap: Divine Justice is living, behaving, and conducting our relationship in the way God has instructed, we call Justice. When someone has been injured by another person, the just thing to do is to show mercy, help make them whole, and do so in a spirit of love and mutual respect.
In a civil case someone might grudgingly pay a fine and give restitution to a victim but there is no expectation that God will be revealed in the process, and there is no expectation beyond the payment or the terms of the contract or sentence. The parties are likely still enemies even though the justice has been served.
For divine justice, many times, we separate the righteousness from the justice: we say things like, “She is a good woman.” “He is a good citizen”, or “They are kind.” In so doing, we can confuse the good in our goodness with the righteousness of God’s goodness.
In our civil context, the laws of one country might define what is good in that nation that is not considered good in another. And as a further extension, when individual people have different ideas of goodness, that might be good for the one person or even good for both parties, but not aligned with God’s righteousness at all.
We are called to be more than good citizens, we are called to be Godly neighbors.
In the very familiar parable of the good neighbor, it is the person who shows compassion, mercy, and self sacrifice that Jesus confirms with the disciples and crowd. So as we think about Justice, our actions, attitudes, and relationships are to be in God’s eyes even if the world’s expectations differ.
Divine Justice is always understood through God’s Goodness and no other context. Throughout the scriptures, the examples of God working through our human experience has the goal of revealing our trust and dependance on God’s direction for us. Therefore, the big difference between those who define Justice being civil or contextual and independent of faith in God only know a slice of what is just.
Round Two. Even within Divine Justice, we typically split the meaning in a hybrid of civil, contextual AND partially divine.
- A: There are those who are high on keeping the rules, laws and teachings of scripture, but are unkind to their neighbor and might be more unkind to their enemies. OR
- B: There are those who are high on caring for the person who is poor, the widow, the orphan and the oppressed but don’t want to some slack on keeping the rules, statutes and laws of righteousness and settle for the world’s good mark of neighborliness.
Question: HOW Do we keep both parts together. Righteousness and Mercy
The prophet Ezekiel gives several instructions in his conversation with God about Justice:
Learn from the witness of others… Children learn from parents by their good example or from their bad examples.
Be a good example for others… once you find God’s righteousness, be a light, a witness, a teacher, a model of mercy.
At the core is the need to repent and start fresh
To repent is to not only acknowledging or own up to our sins, injustice, and self-driven motives and actions, we are promising that we will devote ourselves to the righteousness God is expecting. Looking for the do-over, mulligan
Which is better to have someone say the words “I apologize” or to have the person treat you will respect and love?
The power is not in OUR words, it is in doing what GOD expects of us. We begin by confessing and then working by God’s help and grace to keep God’s righteousness as our guide.
Repentance is when we see that we are sinful, broken, wrong, hurtful, and have not done what God expects AND tell God and those we have been unjust toward, AND we begin to stop doing what we were doing and living God’s ways, by God’s rules, to reveal God with our living in all our relationships.
How do you impose divine Justice on someone who has been unjust toward you? Typically, most things in the civil, in the world’s control are swayed by power and money. That is why we pay fines and restitutions.
But take my favorite example of collecting speeding fines on Burning Bush road. For how many years have officers been writing tickets to have people slow down on that road and yet people continue to speed on that road? The people on live on that road, who drive through those curves to get home to their families. I think it would be better to have speeders and their families out gathering trash on the roadside while cars zoom past and see what physical danger lurks around each corner firsthand. If you believed a family was standing at the road’s edge just around the corner it would be a better deterrent because it connects the danger of harm or life and property rather than just the loss of money or access to the roadway. In this case the Just thing is to connect the unjust behavior with the reality of life and death consequences. This connected command to not kill to the unjust actions that speeding on those blind curves creates.
Ezekiel is relaying a conversation with God to the people of God.
- Don’t settle for being good, be godly
- Do keep God’s righteousness as the guide.
- Learn from the good and bad examples we have conducted in the past, knowing God is ready to forgive and offer new life.
- Another confusion is the difference between Fairness and Jusitice.
Which would you prefer: Fairness or Justice?
FAIRNESS: While we are created with equal value to God, we are born uniquely ourselves, and therefore some with greater strength, some with more talents, some with compassion, and some who are weaker, stubborn, and some less aware of the needs of others.
Repeat: we are equally love by God, but are created uniquely different from one another. So what would farness look like? Everyone would need to have the same strength, same talents, some capacity to reason and learn, it’s not just fair access to wealth and power.
Justice: is not getting evening or balancing the material resources, that is the civil, contextual answer.
JUSTICE: We do live in a universe where God is Just, and seldom fair.
When politicized Justice, we risk making it about civil goodness but the power is not likely God’s, it’s some political power.
God’s message for Ezekiel is to that showing Justice is our way of showing one another hos God’s purpose, work, will, statutes, commands, and examples bring hope, light, fellowship and God’s intended relationship with one another.
We hear the word justice throw around more than usual these days.
Our test is this: Is the justice being sought something that reveals God’s righteousness, or just power for a person, a movement, or the government. If it does then it is missing God and will be imperfect and incomplete.
The world in which we live we will always experience unfairness. Justice for the weak, the forgotten, the lost is to be found, remembered, and valued in the community. The BLM movement in its inception was to accomplish these things: a people who were feeling unheard, forgotten, and undervalued in society, collectively gathered a voice. The question of justice is to measure if GOD’s righteousness is found and witnessed. If not then its not justice.
FAIRNESS vs CIVIL JUSTICE vs GOD’s JUSTICE
There is not another diverse nation in the world, now or in history, that have more civil rights and protections for those oppressed anywhere, at any time. But there is not an assurance that we are in the right, if we are not reflecting God’s goodness, what is God’s will, What is God’s heart.
Justice for those who are oppressed, but it is also for the unjust to learn how to become just, to learn how to not oppress. If the widow has a home, the hungry have food, the lost have a community, the naked some clothes, but they don’t see God’s goodness transform those who oppress, overlook, overpower, neglect, or do harm.
- Just is for the restoring of nations not simply a system of fairness.
- Once we receive justice, there is no more oppression.
- One someone is convinced of God’s righteousness and the consequences of God, then justice is complete.
- God is good at forgetting the past, on purpose, that is the grace part,
- God is hoping we will start fresh everyday, not holding the past over one another.
- God expects us to choose right, and hopes we repent, but does hold us accountable..
God’s Justice has Grace and Accountability.
So what do we do with this passage?
Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed against me, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! Why will you die, O house of Israel? 32 For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, says the Lord God. Turn, then, and live.
- Ask for forgiveness, for sins against others AND God.
- Know God desires to give us life and not death,
- But if we are not finding God’s righteousness AND justice.. then we will die from our sin.
- Hear the Good News Christ died for us,
- Turn and live in Christ Jesus, our hope and salvation.