Archive for category #2017

3rd Base Coaching Romans 12:1-2

Once you have a regular rotation of prayer, study, fellowship and application in the areas outside your church, family and self, you have the experience to be a coach. Starting on third, you have three signals of encouragement.

1. Hands up — Stop You need to spend more time on Second

2. Hands down — Come to third and be ready to score.

3. Hands toward Home — Time to Bring it Home

Coaching is meeting folks in the third base part of life, community, work

and leading them in REVERSE

Imaging someone that is not already part of church, but it is someone you know, meet or work with in your life outside of church and family. It’s typically not easy start at home base with someone we don’t have an intimate relationship. So we meet at work, move toward invited them to join our family, then family to church, church to study or small group, to prayer and worship. This journey is leadership. We are coach and leading others in the journey where we have already been.

There are moments in history that transform our past into a new future. Some of these events we welcome and others we avoid. When mom and daddy are no longer with us.

When a child, grand parent, sibling or close friend dies… we are faced with a new reality in our understanding of life and death and our relationships with other family members as roles get changed up.

I remember having a black and white TV and how out lives changed watching the Vietnam war on the evening news changed our whole world.

I remember when I bought my first car, a green 69 impala named Lucy that got 8 miles per gallon and was my first expressions of freedom and exploration

I remember my pay check with taxes taken out and it changed by view of labor and government.

I remember the call just before walking in to preach at my first church, just a few months as a brand new pastor and received the news my grandfather had died

Or walking out for a Christmas Eve service to the test that mom had a major stroke

Or the news that we had a miscarriage.

I remember the first day waking up the a baby’s cry that we my own child

The church is under attack, not only our denomination but also the baptist, the catholic and The whole body of Christ.. by a growing majority that say we are backward, out of date and out of touch, saying we are just another passivity amount many that has no meaningful say.

And the trouble is we have grown accustomed to this new identity or we have ignored the slice of our perceived security is dwindling, critically.

Some would run away and leave us being interested in themselves about the rest of us.

Some would withdraw and want to ignore the whole responsibility and get by as best they can

None of this is Home Run living!

As a church family we are on the edge of one of those moments of transformation.

The world is steaming in one direction and the church is digging in to our hearts and heads trying remember that

1. Everything begins and ends in God

2. God’s purpose if my purpose, and Therefore I trust God to define my character

3. God places us in relationships of support, the church, family, friends…

4. Got is working through us when we are in the world, When we apply these gifts and skill in our responsibilities and opportunities we see God making Good on promises and using our lives for God’s glory.

So let me be clear where we stand.. it is not the world series, it is a crossroads of what is baseball? What does it mean to be the body of Jesus Christ in the world, What does the church stand, and breath and serve to become.

But here the good news, Jesus is not written us off! God is not down with us!

Now more than ever do we all need to be “HOME RUN” DISCIPLES.

WE DONT ACCOMPLISHING THIS BY:

Retreating to the past.

We don’t pass the buck to someone else

We step up and run the bases, gods way,

The hate, the emptiness, the clamoring for purpose and meaning we hear from then world round us is evidence that they do not have a better way,

They simply do not know, trust, share and grow in God as we know to do

BUT THE TRUTH IS The world is hungry for the Home Run life and it is up to us to live it and share it.

The truth is we have slacked off from going to bat for God.

Being honest with yourself as much as possible. Where are you in God’s game?

Are to at the plate just trying to get connected?

Are you at first looking for meaning and purpose?

Are you stuck sharing and caring for your family and friends, over helmed there?

Are you trying to make it though the day with your work, responsibility’s and money but are spinning your wheels?

You’ve made it through those bases but you are needed as third base coach?

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Psalm 146:5-10 [NRSV] PTL

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!

At the core of celebrating Christmas is the telling God’s story

  • It is not just you hearing Gods story.
  • My job is remind you of your work telling a hurting world

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Lk 14 Racism has no power in Christ

Parable of the Talents: To whom much is given, much is expected.

You are I have been given the absolute best gift, a life in Christ. God’s expectation of us is to lead by living this as a community of faith, the body of Christ, the church.

Far too many years the church has been working to please and be congruent in the world, yet we are called to be in the world and not of the world.

For too many weeks I have come before you acknowledging the reality of division in our denomination and world and the world has convinced the church that it too is to be guided by politics. This is not our calling.

Our calling is to be the moral voice, and backbone that informs and shapes the world. It is this higher goal, the greater gift, the largest sum of talents that God is calling us to be FOR the world.

So when we see the terrible injustice of racism in the world around us we need to see it as God sees it and not just a single politic talking or fighting point.

Racism is the abuse of power over another person or group of people based on the color of pigment in the skin, and/or the perceived value of a different culture.

The reality is that there is one race, the human race. God sees us all as children of God’s creation.

The world divides us for purposing of power and control with the goal of control and self-interests.

So, what are we to do?

Protest and Signaling, raise awareness. With great solidarity we want those who have no voice to be heard and held up. The origin of the BLM was not to say that lives black persons are the only lives that matter but call for black persons to be valued as others are also valued.

The difficult part is that the message has become a political fund raising, power brokering, leveraging organization that uses racism as its power source, which is nearly the same as the racism they are supposed to be fighting.

Here is the test about ending racism. If one group of people are using another group of people to gain power over them in the name of race, it is racism.

It’s would thing to be a noisy gong and clashing cymbals making waves, protesting and gaining attention. The more vital is what we do after the light is turn on and everyone see what is dark and light.

Have you experienced racism? I have and I am a white southern male.
As a pastor working with a near by black pastor who was starting a new church in the community. (a community that had doubled in size in three years to have 95% black citizenry.)
My white church was less than 200 members, had ample facilities for the small black congregation to meet on Sunday evenings at our building. The other congregation offered to rent and pay the entire year’s utilities for the opportunity to meet at a time the white congregation no longer used the building. It appeared to be a win-win.
My administrative council met to discuss and vote on this proposal for shared ministry. It was the first agenda item. The other pastor and I laid out the plan and the chair of the SPRC said, (and I quote) “There is no way those (n*word)are going to have the building over my dead body. Put that in the minutes.” He followed that with this: “Not only do I reject this proposal, I propose that we reduce the pastor’s salary by a 1/3 effectively immediately for suggesting this, all in favor?” They had a secret ballot and voted 15-1 not to accept the proposal and to indeed reduce the salary immediately. My DS did not offer support and said I should have known better. I moved to a smaller church. All of ordination piers to this day make more and have more contributed into their retirement, but none of them have make the same choices I have made.
(I share this not to make you feel a particular way about me, but show that DOING the right thing effects our live-in ways the world does not support)

It’s one thing to talk about racism it is another go with the consequences of making the stand. The answer is not making a louder voice, it is taking intension steps toward being the community of faith God has created, saved, calls and empowers us to be if we are will.

The frustrations that run so high come from what we are shown in the media. The media does not show us the hundred of black persons being killed in cities like Chicago every year.
The choice to see only certain example of injustice will never solve the problems of racism.

As every sincere research person in every discipline of study will affirm that any problem is simply one variable, not just one symptom, not only one factor. Racism is not only about skin color. It is about evil, misuse of power, corruption, deception, as well as economics, education, opportunity, and ideologies.

While having better laws, politicians and law enforcement in place does not guarantee the absence of evil, corruption and deception. And while we can promote better education, opportunities and economics, there is no certainty that evil, corruption and mis-use of power will be held accountable.

We are a globe community of sinners. At times we are all guilty, evil, prideful, power-hungry, selfish.. right? There many parts: Laws, leaders, enforcement, education, opportunities:

But there is something that need to be the foundation of all these and it is not something governments and civil organizations can solve.

It is singularly God who is needed. The core, root of racism is a failure of humanity to trust and follow God.

The answer is for God’s people to recognize God’s higher calling is not only entrusted to use through Jesus Christ, it si
But for better understanding, say that all the right people and rules are in place. The world, our society, our communities are expected to live at this higher standard… and here is how we get to the ACTION phase of dealing with Racism:

1. Take MLKjr at his dream and stop seeing each other as a white person or a black person. See each other as people.
2. To continue to use these words is a simple way to keep racism alive. (Green boy story)
a. So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. Galatians 6:9
b. Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Philippians 4:6
c. And do everything with love. 1 Corinthians 16:14
d. For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11
e. Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you. 1 Peter 5:7
3. As a community we become KOINONIA – “drawn together by intimate participation in Christ.”

In the weeks ahead we will explore what it means to be KOINONIA as Rock Spring UMC.

I ask you to pray this prayer for yourself, the church and the world. “Holy Spirit, draw us together as we participate in fellowship and community in Jesus Christ.”

Where we meet and share Christ we will not find the racism has any power for we are one in Christ, one in fellowship, and one in life.

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Hebrews 2.14-18 Therefore

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.

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Luke 16. Making a Name

Iceland. North American/ Eurasia Divide. 2017 at Midnight.

“There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man’s table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores. The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side. He called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these flames.’ But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony. Besides all this, between you and us a great chasm has been fixed so that those who might want to pass from here to you cannot do so, and no one can cross from there to us.’ He said, ‘Then, father, I beg you to send him to my father’s house– for I have five brothers–that he may warn them so that they will not also come into this place of torment.’ Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.’ He said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’” [NRSA}

The punch line 

“A poor man and a rich man each die one and they meets Abraham in heaven..”

This is how most religious jokes start. 

Actually they don’t meet at the pearly gates, they meet across a great Grand Canyon.  Lazarus is in the Bosom of Abraham. And the rich man is on the other side roasting in Hades.

  1. Here is the first punch line, in heaven the man who goes to Abraham is known as the rich man and the poor man is known as Lazarus.
  2. Here is the second punch line, the man who has everything that he needs here on earth, best to make sure, he not only has the faith that Lazarus has but also desires to care for Lazaruses at the doorway.

For those who have seen the Grand Canyon or even Cloudland Canyon, it is just too far of a distance to reach across and hand someone a drink of water.

The rich man pleads to Abraham to send Lazarus on a mission trip. A mission of mercy to those who are suffering on the other side of the tracks. 

One of the great things that go on a missionary travel trip beyond what is familiar to us is that it helps us see more clearly ourselves and our home turf and environment. I have had the opportunity to see extreme poverty in slums of Mexico, desert Peru, the rivers in Brazil, the mountains of Honduras, and rural outskirts of Moscow Russia. 

Every trip reveals three things: 

  1. we travel to help others outside our own community because we are blessed in ways our neighbors in these lands cannot.
  2. We meet people of different cultures who love their children and families, enjoy eating food, drinking water and breathing air.
  3. It sometimes takes crossing great chasms to see we are closer to Hades than Heaven in our daily lives. 

There are great opportunities to serve our neighbors in our community and around the world and we can reach in both directions because we have the honor and responsibility to do both as we wear whatever we choose and eat whatever we like.

  • The second punch line is that one fellow waiting to late to realize truly how blessed he was living. 
  • The first punch line reveals how we make a name for ourselves. Not by being poor necessarily, but when we are poor we can more clearly see what we cannot do for ourselves. 

One of the great things that he rich man cannot see is that he is asking the poor man to do something for him, the rich man is asking Lazarus to be his servant.  

The rich man has lost sight of caring for Lazarus as his neighbor 

He has also forgotten that he is to be a servant himself. 

The proof is in the pudding.

Scavenger Hunt > searching in the canned pudding story

The proof

The rich man asks on behalf of his family. 

Abraham’s reply is that you didn’t listen, you didn’t serve, you didn’t believe, neither will they.

The proof is ultimately in our willingness to trust God over the world, wealth and self.

Of course, we have the privilege of hearing Jesus tell this story to disciples like ourselves.  

The final punch line is that even though we have 2000 addition years of proof some of us are no closer to god in these days of great division.

Are you on the correct side of the great divide?

There is some assumption about Lazarus feeling snuggly satisfied that the selfish rich man got what was coming to him, but the truth in this story that Lazarus has nothing to say, no comment nor commentary. 

  • The only one making excuses
  • The only one taking and suggesting
  • The only one scrambling when that train has gone
  • Is the rich man 

The man with no name, no hope, no humility, no judgment, no shame, no chance

Is the one on the uncomfortable side of the chasm. 

<side note about those folks who ask if their will be Jews in Heaven, ask Abraham>

So what do we do with this parable?

Every parable teaches us about the kingdom of God. If we back up a few verses in Chapter Lk 16:15 “So he said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of others, but God knows your hearts; for what is prized by human beings is an abomination in the sight of God.” That is a powerful, powerful declaration.

What is an abomination in the sight of God?

“You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of others, but God knows your hearts; for what is prized by human beings…

  • A cup of cool water
  • Scraps out of our abundance
  • Recognizing we are called to serve nor be serve
  • Recognizing there are opportunities at our doorstep and around the world 
  • Recognizing there is an urgency to serve today, for tomorrow is not promised 

What is promised is a place of wholeness and rest in the bison of Abraham in the grace of Christ in the breath of the Holy Spirit and the heart to God.

Just two weeks ago I asked if you were willing to step up and reach someone who is lost 18 of us said yes.  

There is a chasm Andre wonder why our church faces a chasm

Why attendance is a conversation 

Why money is tight

  • If you are ready to offer that cool water to me who thirsts for Christ
  • If you are ready to serve the one who you’d expect to serve you
  • If you are ready with an assurance that God will save you, bless you, guide and fulfill you..  then get it there and love like Lazarus. 

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Colossians 3:1-11 “One Life to Live”

So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory. Put to death, therefore, whatever in you is earthly: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed (which is idolatry).  On account of these, the wrath of God is coming on those who are disobedient.  These are the ways you also once followed when you were living that life. But now you must get rid of all such things—anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive language from your mouth.  Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have stripped off the old self with its practices and have clothed yourselves with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator. In that renewal, there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all!  [NRSA]

You have been raised with Christ,

  • Seek the things that are above.
  • Set your minds on things that are above,

When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory. 

Put to death what in you is earthly:

  • fornication,
  • impurity,
  • lustful passion,
  • evil desire, and
  • greed,
  • idolatry.  

WARNING: wrath of God is coming on those who are disobedient.  

These are the ways you also once followed when you were living that life. 

BUT HOW? WHERE TO START?

But now you must:

  • get rid of all such things—
  • anger,
  • wrath,
  • malice,
  • slander, and
  • abusive language from your mouth.  
  • Do not lie to one another,
  • Stripped off the old self with its practices,
  • clothed yourselves with the new self,
  • being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator. 

In that renewal, there is no longer divided as the World divides, rather be UNITED IN CHRIST.

WHAT DOES UNITED IN CHRIST MEAN?

  • Personal Behaviors and Attitudes
  • the opposite of the world’s view of promiscuity – Fidelity, and Trust
  • the opposite of me first, or myself above God – Faith and Worship
  • the opposite of seeing people as objects for our happiness and power, all created by and for God
  • the opposite of evil – God’s Love and Law
  • the opposite of greed and idolatry Peace, Joy, Wholeness in God

Things to Deal with, throw away or get away from:

  • anger. No matter what people do we can’t HATE any away.
  • wrath, Using our influence and resources for selfishness.
  • malice, Intentional Harm (The Qualification of Do no INTENTIONAL harm)
  • slander, Not repaying evil words and thoughts for evil words and thoughts. (Deal with Racism by yielding power not correctness)
  • abusive language from your mouth.  
  • Do not lie to one another, Some times the truth is unfair, unpopular and even unclear, but lying to make some feel better or ourselves escape or protected cuts at the bonds of fidelity, trust, love, grace, etc.

We have one life to figure our future

  1. You and I have this life to determine if we will starve in the wilderness or eat God’s manna and trust God to make a way when our ways are dead ends.
  2. You and I have the breath of this one life, no matter where we have come from, to decide if God’s home is where we want to live.
  3. You and I have the free will and choice to choose God’s or to choose to rely on ourselves or others to make a way we believe is better. The consequences of choosing the other ways, than God’s way, all end with us being alone and apart from God.
  4. The Word to the Colossians and to us: We continually make the choice with our thoughts and actions to Trust God or ourselves.

While choosing God’s way, God’s heart, God’s love is simple to start. We have a daily choice of staying in that Grace of choosing another path. God never forces us to choose him not to stay with him.

Go back to the list:

Am I happy, content and whole:

  1. Because I have money and things enough for eternity? Sincere there is not eternity in my view, I want it all now.
  2. I’m just doing the best I can and I’m hoping for God to cut me some slack when the final exam comes, or will I recognize the need to call his name when trouble comes?
  3. I’d rather people all cooperate and get along and stay together even if I have to re-frame what God expects of us.

Why Make it So Hard

We make it hard on ourselves and one another. Jesus offers himself to us daily, the bread of life and the cup of salvation. Eat and Drink from the life that is eternal. Forget the slavery that goes with the fleshpots in back in captivity of some other allegiance.

Prayer: Jesus come into my heart and life right now and make me whole, make me yours, take my whole self- broken, confused and alone, fill me with our love and grace. Set my feet and my heart on you and the things of your kingdom. Have mercy on me, a waster of life and gifts and treasures and make me your own again today. Keep me in your will and change my heart, mind, and soul. Make my life a witness that leads someone else to your heart. Thank you! Praise you. Amen and Amen.

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Joshua 5:9-12 When the Manna Stops

The Lord said to Joshua, “Today I have rolled away from you the disgrace of Egypt.” And so that place is called Gilgal to this day. While the Israelites were camped in Gilgal they kept the passover in the evening on the fourteenth day of the month in the plains of Jericho. On the day after the passover, on that very day, they ate the produce of the land, unleavened cakes and parched grain.The manna ceased on the day they ate the produce of the land, and the Israelites no longer had manna; they ate the crops of the land of Canaan that year. [NRSV]
When dependable isn’t
As much as the people complained about Manna being boring God did all the work
God has something better
Our Part of God’s Work

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Luke 3:15-17, 21-22 Baptism of Our Lord Sunday

As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, John answered all of them by saying, “I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” [NRSV]

As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts..

It is my prayer that we see Jesus showing up in St Louis next month to make clear the direction of our Methodist future.

With the same uncertainly AND hope the people were anticipating the fulfillment of God’s promise to show up and lead the people.

Our text is about John the Baptist’s ministry of repentance for preparation. I offer that the United Methodist Church has been kicking-the-can on human sexuality for over forty years without repenting for not being better prepared for the struggle, division and need for spiritual leadership in this year. In these generations have we been looking for the gifts of discernment? Have we been open to God’s way of communicating grace and boundaries? How have we prepared to express the eternal love of God in an ever changing world?

The people in Israel were waiting for a Messiah, a king, who would right the wrongs of their current reality and restore Israel. Many were gathering to be baptized by John in expectation that something would soon happen — the Messiah was coming.

Is in John’s message, we are acknowledging that we have been quick to point fingers of blame and drawn out lines in the sand, WITHOUT, learning how to show the power of loving all sinners.

Epiphany is a season of claiming our “Greater Gifts”, and today we will be exploring how baptism, as a “first gift” from God, leads us in life toward paths of discovering and rediscovering God-given gifts, activating those gifts through the Holy Spirit, understanding how our gifts are interrelated to the gifts of other disciples in the body of Christ, and how important it is to stay true to the heart of our God-given gifts — the love of God in Christ.

So what about this gift of baptism?

Some of you may have never been baptized. Later in the service, we want to give you an opportunity to sign up to be baptized next week if you feel God calling. Some of you were baptized more recently; some recently confirmed the baptism of your childhood; and for some, perhaps it has been many years since your baptism.

What do you remember leading up to that moment? Or, what did your parents or guardians tell you about that moment? Who was present? What did it mean to them?

I told him I wanted to follow Jesus my whole life and I thought it should start with being baptized. In those moments, the sanctuary became a thin space. The heavens did not open, but I felt God’s presence all around. As Wesley said, “my heart was strangely warmed.” On January 9, 1983, I received the gift of baptism and was forever changed. As a matter of fact, I remember telling my good friend Kevin about the experience right away. He was also a Christian, and he told about his experience of baptism, showing me a silver cross around his neck. In our young friendship, our faith was not something we talked about. In that moment, we shared God’s gift to us, and our joy was complete.

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Phil 2:1-13 Share Faith in the Absence

man and woman divorce drawing torn apart

If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit but in humility regard others as better than yourselves.  Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death— even death on a cross. Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name,  so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.  [NRSV]

Sharing a Hymn of Faith

Paul draws on the words of a song of praise in the newly started Church in his letter. Just as we bring together the emotions, memories, and relationships through which we have shared when we sing, (copyright notation assumed)

  • Amazing Grace, How sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like, me I once was lost but now I’m found, was blind but now I see.
  • I come to the garden alone, while the due is still on the roses and voice I hear falling on my ear The Son of God discloses, and he walks with me and he talks with me and he tells me I am his own, and the joy we share as we tarry there, none other has ever known.
  • Shackled by a heaven burden, ‘neath a load of guilt and shame. Then the hand of Jesus touched me, and now I am no longer the same. He touched me, oh he touched me, and oh the joy that floods my soul, something happened and now I know, He touched me and made me whole.
  • Lord I life your name on high, lord, I love to sing your praises, you came from heaven to earth to show the way, from the cross to the grave, my debts to pay, from the grave to the sky, Lord I lift your name on high.
  • and {This is the day, tune} let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death— even death on a cross

We have no idea of the tune of the hymn/song Paul includes, but he brings a tradition of worship to help strengthen the disciple’s faith.

The Power of Singing our Faith

https://takelessons.com/blog/health-benefits-of-singing

Physical Benefits

  • Singing strengthens the immune system: According to research conducted at the University of Frankfurt, singing boosts the immune system. The study included testing professional choir members’ blood before and after an hour-long rehearsal singing Mozart’s “Requiem”. The researchers noticed that in most cases, a number of proteins in the immune system that functions as antibodies, known as Immunoglobulin A, were significantly higher immediately after the rehearsal. The same increases were not observed after the choir members passively listened to music.

  • Singing is a workout: For the elderly, disabled, and injured, singing can be an excellent form of exercise. Even if you’re healthy, your lungs will get a workout as you employ proper singing techniques and vocal projections. Other related health benefits of singing include a stronger diaphragm and stimulated overall circulation. Since you pull in a greater amount of oxygen while singing than when doing many other types of exercise, some even believe that singing can increase your aerobic capacity and stamina.

  • Singing improves your posture: Standing up straight is part of correct technique as you’re singing, so with time, good posture will become a habit! As your chest cavity expands and your shoulders and back align, you’re improving your posture overall.

  • Singing helps with sleep: According to a health article in Daily Mail Online, experts believe singing can help strengthen throat and palate muscles, which helps stop snoring and sleep apnea. If you’re familiar with these ailments, you know how difficult it can be to get a good night’s sleep!

Mental and Emotional Benefits

  • Singing is a natural anti-depressant: Singing is known to release endorphins, the feel-good brain chemical that makes you feel uplifted and happy. In addition, scientists have identified a tiny organ in the ear called the sacculus, which response to the frequencies created by singing. The response creates an immediate sense of pleasure, regardless of what the singing sounds like. Not only that, but singing can simply take your mind off the day’s troubles to boost your mood.

  • Singing lowers stress levels: Making music in any form is relaxing. Singing releases stored muscle tension and decrease the levels of a stress hormone called cortisol in your bloodstream.

  • Singing improves mental alertness: Improved blood circulation and an oxygenated bloodstream allow more oxygen to reach the brain. This improves mental alertness, concentration, and memory. The Alzheimer’s Society has even established a “Singing for the Brain” service to help people with dementia and Alzheimer’s maintain their memories.

Social Benefits

  • Singing can widen your circle of friends: Whether you’re in a choir or simply enjoy singing karaoke with your friends, one of the unexpected health benefits of singing is that it can improve your social life. The bonds you form singing with others can be profound since there’s a level of intimacy naturally involved.

  • Singing boosts your confidence: Stage fright is a common feeling for new singers. However, performing well and receiving praise from your friends and family may be the key to eventually overcoming your fears and boosting your self-confidence. With time, you may even find it easier to present any type of material in front of a group with poise and good presentation skills.

  • Singing broadens communication skills: According to an article in The Guardian, singing to babies helps prepare their brains for language. Music is just as important as teaching reading and writing at a young age to prevent language problems later in life. If you enjoy writing your own lyrics, honing this talent can improve your ability to communicate in different ways!

  • Singing increases your ability to appreciate accomplished singers: Sometimes, you don’t realize how difficult something is until you try it yourself. As you grow from an amateur to an intermediate student and beyond, you’ll be looking to the masters for inspiration. You might even find a new style of music to appreciate that you wouldn’t normally listen to!

Spiritual Benefits  

https://www.businessballs.com/health-and-wellbeing/singing-for-personal-and-group-development-1725/

 

  • Singing is actually a form of meditation, praise, and faith-sharing.
  • When we sing, we shift focus and thinking away from our selves/usual life happenings and concerns, towards something ‘other-worldly’.
  • Singing is a way of bypassing your ego to acknowledge your soul.
  • Singing helps us to ‘let go’, just as in other forms of meditation.
  • Sally Garozzo says, “When you surrender to your voice within, you transcend your physical self.”
  • A peculiar and powerful effect happens when you stop singing. There is a moment when you ‘come back into your body’? Singing is a very spiritual activity. It touches and stimulates some very basic instincts – primeval feelings – the effects of singing are at a deeply unconscious level, which in normal day-to-day work-type activities are impossible to reach.
  • Singing is also wonderful for relationships and connecting people spiritually and naturally:
  • Singing brings people together. People ‘feel the love‘ that singing generates.
  • Singing unites factions, religions, and races.
  • Singing creates positive energy and a happy mood and that’s infectious and transparently good for everyone.
  • The delights of singing go beyond merely enjoying the beauty of your own vocal talent. All of these health benefits of singing may make you want to join a choir or start taking voice lessons right away! It doesn’t matter whether you become a world-class singer or not; have fun with it, and do you what you enjoy!

Hymns/ Praise Songs, / Psalms and other /Translation of secular songs toward God

  • Use the message of our salvation is the core message,

But in the context of a song, use worship and songs of the faith to keep you on task and in tune with God and the work we share.

The Specific instruction in this text in what to do in the times of absence: I know what we do when we gather for worship on Sundays, but what about when we alone. at work school or in the face of temptation?

The instruction and encouragement are for us to sing the faith story.  Faith sharing through singing songs of faith in Christ.

Divide in groups of four and five, pick a first, second and third choice of your favorite song/hymn of faith… write them down and pick a spokesperson to represent your group.

Each spokesperson to come of front and lead us in a verse or chorus until we have sun all 10-15 or more songs.

WHAT DO WE DO IN THE ABSENCE of the fellowship?

  • Sing the songs of faith we sing when we are in fellowship/worship
  • As encouragement to ourselves
  • As a witness to others
  • as a praise to God

DO IT UNTIL

Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name,  so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father

Home Work: So get out there and start singing your faith, sing out loud, sing out strong, don’t worry if its not good enough for anyone else to hear, sing for God. [Carpenters, Perry Como]

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Healing Not Division Mark 3:20-35

HouseDivided

..and the crowd came together again so that they could not even eat. When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, “He has gone out of his mind.” And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, “He has Beelzebul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons.” And he called them to him, and spoke to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but his end has come. But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his property without first tying up the strong man; then indeed the house can be plundered. “Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”— for they had said, “He has an unclean spirit.” Then his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him. A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.” And he replied, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.” [NRSV]

It is worth noting that if you ‘Google’ the phrase, “a house divided” first reports quotations of President Lincoln’s “House Divided” speech and only as a second or third listing does the search report the words of Jesus found in Mark 3:20-35. (Matthew 12:25, Luke 11:17)

But keep in mind is President Lincoln, drawing on the passage from Jesus that his audience would have instantly recognized as such. Thus crossing the lines of faith and government calling on a divided people to look ahead, beyond the chasm of disagreement to the hope he expresses later in the same speech:

“The Presidential inauguration came, and still no decision of the court; but the incoming President, in his inaugural address, fervently exhorted the people to abide by the forthcoming decision, whatever might be.” (*)

He called for the people to have hope in finding unity whatever would be decided, North or South, slavery or no slavery, Left or Right.  Indeed this passage from Mark’s Gospel likewise calls us to focus much less on what divides us and cling to that which binds us.

This is an Interesting discussion and teaching on the division of the family.

Many things divide families: Money, Politics, Selfishness, Debt, Apathy, and Addictions

Many things threaten families: The things, ideas, beliefs and enemies that do not have the best interest of the who ‘whole’ family will always offer solutions that attempt to satisfy themselves over the family.

  • Half of all families end in divorce is confirmation that neither the church nor the society model a strong family model.
  • Drugs and Alcohol addictions and the lifestyles that follow never build up the family, except for those who band together to take advantage of one another.
  • The quest to have the things, the house, the toys, the style, the technologies and have us place our dreams and hopes in objects that rust, wear, fade, decay and must be continually replaced, repaired and remade.
  • The family is a threatened and undermined with the more individualistic our society and world becomes.

One lie we about technology is that it brings families together. While it is true that distance for the moments we choose to connect, there are more moments that family members are in close proximity to one another, yet each watch different screens, devices, and distractions. The lure is that these ‘things’ can help connect us, but they also isolate us.

Many things entice families:

Also, there are other relationships, temptations, desires and goals that entice both individuals and families to seek love, happiness, joy, and peace in things that are temporary, unattainable and evil, even in the name and intent of being good for the family.

Mark reminds us Jesus’ words that evil, satan, and all persons consumed by evil, will work divide the people of God.

  • This passage is about Jesus’ own family worried that Jesus was not getting enough to eat, (Mary must have been stereotypical mother… you need to eat Jesus)
  • Second the religious leaders threatened by the crowds and the teaching and healing Jesus was negatively affecting their crowds, teachings, and support, so they called him names and try to demonize Jesus, saying he was bad, he could do nothing good, he will be filled with evil, even, in fact, THEY were the ones doing this to Jesus.

What do you do when your own family, your community and your faith leaders are divided against one another and you as well? The tendency is more isolation and withdrawal. Wrong answer.

Here we finally get to Jesus’s teaching about how to overcome the division:

FORGIVENESS:

God is graciously ready to forgive the strongest of people who have done the most unthinkable things with two things occur: 1) They remember the powerful and wonderful gives of God’s grace is real and actually available for us all. 2) When the most self-righteous, the most self-reliant, the most selfishly focused person recognized they have not been doing what is faithful to God, to God’s people nor to themselves. We take God up on the grace, confess our brokenness and turn back toward a life in God.

God doesn’t force this on us, but stands ready and hoping we choose to reconcile to God, to return to the heart of God, to stop the divisive talk, the hurtful behavior, the attacking thoughts and untwist our hearts and minds and words toward God’s word and God’s love.

THE EXCEPTION: What is the unforgivable sin?

The sin we will not acknowledge as sin. The evil we re-name, re-frame, dress up to look and sound good and righteous but are not found in God. Thus we are saying God can’t make me whole, God can’t save me. God can’t be in my life. God doesn’t care. God is made up an idea to satisfy weak and illogical fearful masses. God is not with us.

When we think, believe, act and say these things God will not force us to believe, God will not make us believe or trust or repent. God is willing to allow us to move so far that we no longer recognize that God is still with us.

Here is the test? As long as I am offering my thoughts, actions, future, self to God all sin is forgivable, but if we don’t want it, God’s not going to force.

The gift is MEANING. It means something when e choose to let God love and claim us, even when we have rebelled and divided and demeaned and harmed ourselves and others by leading each other away from God.

The example follows that Jesus’s flesh and blood family come to take him home, to save him from the ridicule and threat and he REDEFINES family. The family is about being blood-kin in the saving blood of the lamb that was slain. The family is those who acknowledge we have sinned, been completely self-focused, self-identified, self-determined, self-made, self-righteous, self-absorbed, self-funded, self-driven, self-saving, STRONG but with the wrong strength.

  • The strong family is the family trusting God with our problems.
  • The strong family is the family that is revealing God’s story and hope to a divided world.
  • The strong family is the family uniting in following God’s call, word, and love.
  • The way out of the division in our family is to NOT write one another off but to reach out to one another offering Jesus Christ.

Sometimes we don’t know what divided or divides us, but we clearly experience the consequence. It is actually unimportant to blame and get back to the original cause. Our hope is in what we are becoming, together, in Christ.

  • Where there is division: We have the opportune time to confess our sins and seek God’s leading.
  • Where we separate” We have but to turn to Christ and invite our neighbor to join us in Christ.
  • When you hear someone say: She or He is nothing but evil, then join them on a journey to share the Heart and Word of God.
    • This is our calling.
    • This is our gift of grace
    • This is our family

Be filled with God’s word AND heart, be forgiven in Christ, Be strong in the word and Holy Spirit.

#wayforward #GC2019UMC #UnitedinChrist #allsinnersmatter

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