Archive for category #2018

Romans 8:22-27 We’ve Got Spirit!

howboutyou

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

The Whole Creation is Groaning

Labor Pains, Growing Pains, vs Aches and Pains

 

School shoots, political thrashing, volcano eruptions, threats nations and neighbors. It is obvious in 360* view that someone, somewhere is groaning, complaining, fearful, and under attack. It is overwhelming!

Where do we turn? Where is our solid ground? Where is our safety net? Who can save us?

Where is our Hope? 

God is our hope and we most often experience God the the Spirit form. We talk more about God and Jesus, but the Spirit moving, speaking, singing, directing and guiding us is our most common experience of God in our lives.

Remind your neighbor. God’s Holy Spirit is in me. “I’ve Got Spirit, Yes I do, I’ve Got Spirit, how about you?”

This Sunday is Pentecost Sunday. It is a special day in the life in of Church we celebrate being people of the Holy Spirit.

Pente-cost: We celebrate this Sunday, fifty days since Easter, as a looking back in the grief, lostness and chaos of life without Jesus by our physical side, to see that the world continues to spare chaos and God is about creating order, purpose and relationship.

In our Weakness

Paul instructs us and the church in Rome:

  • While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. And while we are afraid, God is Strong.
  • When we are doubting God is holding fast. When we are confused, God is the foundation.
  • When we are beaten down, weary and give out, God knows our hearts and intercedes..

When we are in the painful place of uncertainty: and we are even as a global church, The  Holy Spirit is calling us to the heart of God, to the Word of God and to the be the people of God for a world in chaos.

God intercedes for Us

The Good News is the God is expecting us to do the trusting and God do the leading. Our trusting we call HOPE>

  • Hope is trusting what we cannot explain nor understand
  • Hope is trusting God, when there are alternatives to place our trust.
  • Hope is leaning in, depending on God to be God and for us to follow, 
  • Hope is not protecting what we have dominion and control over, it is give God what we think of as our own and trusting God to use all that we are.

Trust God (Hope) to Show up through the Holy Spirit.

When you hear the voice of crazy-making: Call for God to speak words of peace

When you have no words, let God speak through your ‘sighs’ and ‘groans’ let me hear you  sigh and groan. You’re good at it. Sometime we need to not speak and turn to God’s word to speak for us.

Before we join in another chorus of complaining and blaming, sing two verses of trusting God to speak through you. Don’t add to the world’s blaming and complaining..

Share God’s words and wisdom of hope, faith, trust, power, and grace.

Have you ever had an attorney speak for you… they will help keep you out of trouble when you want to speak for yourself. Attorney’s get a bad wrap, but in times of chaos they help guide us through the law, speaking in our best interest, this is how Paul reminds us to trust the Holy Spirit.

Stop fussing, don’t fear, stop pointing fingers and assigning blame, turn to the Holy Spirit and God’s word to guide us.

Fight the urge to be correct, to be justified in the moment, to win the argument, to take offense at a post on social media, to label and objectify a person or group…. Lean into the trust/hope that God is longing to speak through us.

Hear the Bad News:

The world is in chaos, because we have placed our hope in other voice.

Hear the Good News:

God continues to love us and call us to hope/trust through the labor, through the chaos, God is with us. Listen to God, Follow God, Hope for God, live for God.

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John 17:6-19 Covenant People, Covenant Church

I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you, and they have believed that you sent me. I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them. And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one. While I was with them, I protected them in your name that you have given me. I guarded them, and not one of them was lost except the one destined to be lost, so that the scripture might be fulfilled. But now I am coming to you, and I speak these things in the world so that they may have my joy made complete in themselves. I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one.They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, so that they also may be sanctified in truth. [NRSV]

The entering into and committing oneself to a continuing relationship. Christians see themselves as a people of a covenant with God. The New Testament or “New Covenant” is that covenant of the saving work of Jesus Christ through the grace of God and the response Christians make in their profession of faith and baptism. This understanding of covenant has been important throughout the life of United Methodism.

Source: A Dictionary for United Methodists, Alan K. Waltz, Copyright 1991, Abingdon Press. http://www.umc.org/what-we-believe/glossary-covenant

¶ 125. United Methodists throughout the world are bound together in a connectional covenant in which we support and hold each other accountable for faithful discipleship and mission. Integrally holding connectional unity and local freedom, we seek to proclaim and embody the gospel in ways responsible to our specific cultural and social context while maintaining “a vital web of interactive relationships” (¶ 132). At the same time, we desire to affirm and celebrate our relationships, covenants, and partnership with autonomous, affiliated autonomous, affiliated united covenanting, and concordat churches (¶¶ 570-574) as well as other partners in the Wesleyan and ecumenical Christian families. Our worldwide connectional relationship is one of the ways we carry out our missional calling beyond national and regional boundaries. For our connectionalism to become a living practice, we need to carry the worldwide nature of The United Methodist Church deep into the life and mission of our local congregations. Only when we commit ourselves to interdependent worldwide partnerships in prayer, mission, and worship can connectionalism as the Wesleyan ecclesial vision be fully embodied. Guided by the Holy Spirit, United Methodist churches throughout the world are called afresh into a covenant of mutual commitment based on shared mission, equity, and hospitality.

In covenant with God and with each other:

We affirm our unity in Christ, and take faithful steps to live more fully into what it means to be a worldwide church in mission for the transformation of the world.

We commit ourselves to crossing boundaries of language, culture, and social or economic status. We commit ourselves to be in ministry with all people, as we, in faithfulness to the gospel, seek to grow in mutual love and trust.

We participate in God’s mission as partners in ministry, recognizing that our God-given gifts, experiences, and resources are of equal value, whether spiritual, financial, or missional.

We commit ourselves to full equity and accountability in our relationships, structures, and responsibilities for the denomination.

We enter afresh into a relationship of mutuality, creating a new sense of community and joyously living out our worldwide connection in our mission to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

A Companion Litany to Our Covenant for the Worldwide United Methodist Church

Leader: In covenant with God and each other, we affirm our unity in Christ.

People: We will take faithful steps to live as a worldwide church in our mission to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

Leader: In covenant with God and each other, we commit ourselves to be in ministry with all people.

People: In faithfulness to the gospel, we will cross boundaries of language, culture, social or economic status as we grow in mutual love and trust.

Leader: In covenant with God and each other, we participate in God’s mission as partners in ministry.

People: We share our God-given gifts, experiences, and resources recognizing that they are of equal value, whether spiritual, financial, or missional.

Leader: In covenant with God and each other, we commit ourselves to full equality.

People: We uphold equity and accountability in our relationships, structures, and responsibilities for the denomination.

Leader: In covenant with God and each other, we enter afresh into a relationship of mutuality.

People: With God’s grace, we joyfully live out our worldwide connection in our mission to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

From The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church – 2016. Copyright 2016 by The United Methodist Publishing House. http://www.umc.org/what-we-believe/section-1-the-churches

Wesleyan Covenant Groups

WESLEYAN SMALL GROUP RESOURCES

• Books on the Class Meeting

• Covenant Discipleship resources

• Overview of Covenant Discipleship

• Introduction to Class Leaders

• In Mission Together

• Books on Wesleyan community

• Books and studies on discipleship

John Wesley, founder of the Methodist movement, succinctly described the plan of discipleship in what he called The General Rules. As Christians, we are to (1) do no harm by avoiding evil of every kind; (2) do good to all people; and (3) attend upon all the ordinances of God like participating in worship, taking Communion, reading the Bible, praying, and more.

Unfortunately, knowing that does not always translate into living it. Learn more about how Wesley’s concept of small groups as a place for accountability and spiritual growth have been adapted for today.

http://www.umc.org/what-we-believe/wesleys-small-group-model-for-today

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1 John 5:1-6 Water and the Blood

wearethechurchEveryone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the parent loves the child. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For the love of God is this, that we obey his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome, for whatever is born of God conquers the world. And this is the victory that conquers the world, our faith.  Who is it that conquers the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? This is the one who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ, not with the water only but with the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one that testifies, for the Spirit is the truth. [NRSV]

  1. When were you baptized? By whom? At what age were you baptized?
  2. What is the Spirit saying to the world through you as a baptized person in Christ?
  3. If you have not been baptized would you like to talk with John about Baptism?

Late summer in 1964, my parents handed me over to some old white-headed preacher in South Georgia, who I think was the District Superintendent at the time, who baptized me. The pastor asked my parents, my family, and the congregation gathered at the church to reaffirm their faith, to join in the promise to raise me in the faith. I believe I was less than three months old, but I don’t remember the details first hand. But I remember thirteen years later confirming that infant baptism. And in the past forty years have been lived on the roller coast of trust and doubt, obedience and sin, all grounded in life in Jesus Christ.

The water of salvation and the sacrificial blood of love have paved this ride. In the letter of first John there is in Chapter 5, the confirmation that belief in Jesus Christ is an ongoing choice of

  • Baptism as Incorporation into the Body of Christ.
  • Baptism as Forgiveness of Sin.
  • Baptism as New Life.
  • Baptism and Holy Living.
  • Baptism is the doorway to the sanctified life.
  • Baptism as God’s Gift to Persons of Any Age.
  • Baptism is appropriate for any day the community of faith is gathered.

 

Baptism by Water and the Holy Spirit.

Water is the cleansing from the fate of sin and death, the blood is that sacrifice in grace through Christ the we become part of the presence of Christ in the world, empowered and guided by the Holy Spirit.

“I am the church, you are the church, we are the church together…

” The Church is the people of Christ.   [UM Book of Hymns #475]

  • Stories of the Believers:
  • Witness of the Believers”

 

From the UMC.org site below:

Who tells you who you are?

We receive our identity from others, from the expectations of friends and colleagues, from the labels society puts upon us, and from the influence of family.

To become Christian is to receive a new identity. You no longer allow others to tell you who you are. Christ now claims you and instructs you. A Christian is one who has “put on Christ.”

Baptism celebrates becoming that new person. That is why the church’s ritual begins with putting off the old, renouncing sin and the evil powers of the world, and pledging our loyalty to Christ.

God Initiates the Covenant

We also believe that in baptism God initiates a covenant with us, announced with the words, “The Holy Spirit works within you, that being born through water and the Spirit, you may be a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ.” This is followed by the sign-act of laying hands on the head, or the signing of the cross on the forehead with oil. The word covenant is a biblical word describing God’s initiative in choosing Israel to be a people with a special mission in the world, and Israel’s response in a life of faithfulness. The baptismal covenant calls us to a similar vocation.

God Has Chosen Us

Christians have also understood the baptismal covenant in light of Jesus’ baptism. At Jesus’ baptism, God said: “This is my son.” While Jesus’ relation to God as Son is unique, for Christians baptism means that God has also chosen us as daughters and sons, and knows us intimately as a parent.

So the most important things about us, our true identity, is that we are now sons and daughters of God. That is why the introduction to the United Methodist Baptismal Covenant states, “We are incorporated into God’s mighty acts of salvation and given new birth through water and the Spirit.”

The introduction also says, “Through the Sacrament of Baptism, we are initiated into Christ’s holy church.”

Baptism Is the Door

From the beginning, baptism has been the door through which one enters the church. It was inconceivable to many that one could respond to God’s grace by reciting the renunciations, affirming one’s faith in Christ and loyalty to the Kingdom, without joining the fellowship of those who are committed to mature in that faith. As the “Body of Christ” in the world, baptism commissions us to use our gifts to strengthen the church and to transform the world.

Why Baptize Babies?

From the earliest times, children and infants were baptized and included in the church. As scriptural authority for this ancient tradition, some scholars cite Jesus’ words, “Let the little children come to me…for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs” (Mark 10:14). However, a more consistent argument is that baptism, as a means of grace, signifies God’s initiative in the process of salvation. John Wesley preached “prevenient grace,” the grace that works in our lives before we are aware of it, bringing us to faith. The baptism of children and their inclusion in the church before they can respond with their own confirmation of faith is a vivid and compelling witness to prevenient grace.

Baptism Is Forever

Because baptism is a sacrament of God’s grace and a covenant that God has initiated, it should not be repeated. However, God’s continuing and patient forgiveness, God’s prevenient grace, will prompt us to renew the commitment first made at our baptism. At such a time, instead of rebaptism, The United Methodist Church offers the ritual for the reaffirmation of baptismal vows, which implies that, while God remains faithful to God’s half of the covenant, we are not always faithful to our promises. Our half of the covenant is to confess Christ as our Savior, trust in his grace, serve him as Lord in the church, and carry out his mission against evil, injustice, and oppression.

Baptism Is the Beginning, Not the End

You have heard people say, “I was baptized Methodist,” or “I was baptized Presbyterian,” which could mean that in baptism they got their identity papers and that was the end of it. But baptism is not the end. It is the beginning of a lifelong journey of faith. It makes no difference whether you were baptized as an adult or as a child; we all start on that journey at baptism. For the child, the journey begins in the nurturing community of the church, where he or she learns what it means that God loves you. At the appropriate time, the child will make his or her first confession of faith in the ritual the church traditionally calls confirmation. Most often, this is at adolescence or at the time when the person begins to take responsibility for his or her own decisions.

If you experienced God’s grace and were baptized as an adult or received baptism as a child and desire to reaffirm your baptismal vows, baptism still marks the beginning of a journey in the nurturing fellowship of the caring, learning, worshipping, serving congregation.

What Is a Sacrament?

The word sacrament is the Latin translation of the Greek word mysterion. From the early days of the church, baptism was associated with the mystery that surrounds God’s action in our lives. That means that at best our words can only circumscribe what happens, but not define it. We cannot rationally explain why God would love us “while we were yet sinners” and give his only begotten Son that we should not perish but have eternal life. That is the most sacred and unfathomable mystery of all. We can experience God’s grace at any time and in any place, but in the sacrament of baptism we routinely experience that amazing grace.

 

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1 John 4:7-21 Love because we’re loved.

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Beloved, let us love one another because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us. By this, we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and do testify that the Father has sent his Son as the Savior of the world. God abides in those who confess that Jesus is the Son of God, and they abide in God. So we have known and believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them. Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness on the day of judgment, because as he is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love. [NRSV]

We love because he first loved us.

Those who say, “I love God,” and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also.

It would seem simple, easy and direct to follow the commandment to love one another.

At the heart of this is the most recent addition to the promises we make when we become a member of the United Methodist Church. We promise our prayers, presence, gifts, service, AND our witness.

This last step is what brings our faith full-circle. The first four are a progression toward the fifth which was assumed since we know what happens when we ass-u-me too much?

Love must be shared to be found.

The idea of sharing our witness is the intentional living a life of Love that does not assume people will automatically see Jesus in my actions.

We gather in worship today to play music/sing and worship for whose benefit?

If we say the number one reason is my me, what I get out of it, we would benefit more from re-learning why do “church” in the first place.

The church is a place that we gather to pray, grow in spirit, share our talents and practice our faith with one another. But we come to worship, the largest gathering of our church for

#1 God.

#2 Those around us and those outside the church

#3 For our own faith and strength.

We live in a consumer society that generally assumes its a three-in-one product, but that is not always true.

Getting the Horse in front of the Cart

vs 21 “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love”

Our witness is to a world that is afraid. Where we see and hear fear, we know love is absent or at best weak or at risk. We talked about making disciples and faith sharing for three months of sermons. Some of you have shared faith-sharing stories and I’m excited and proud of your boldness and progress.

When you hear me say, “I am afraid” I have lost hold of God’s hold on me.

We all know fear at different parts of our lives: new environments, as we grieve lost relations, when we cannot control a given situation, etc. When we meet people in moments of their fear, we have the very best opportunities to connect people with God.

It does not take long to hear someone share:

I’m scared,

I’m alone,

I’m afraid,

I’m lost,

I’m frustrated, etc.

it is a great time for faith sharing and witnesses of God’s love.

1 John Reminds us that God loves us. The example is most clear in the sacrificial gift of Christ, AND yet there are times we still let fear cheat us out of our inheritance.

Said another way: On our worst days and nights is the time we most need to be taught or reminded how very extraordinary it is to be loved by God and God’s people.

The tendency, when someone is scared, is to boldly retreat into protection and self-preservation mode or to rashly grab the reigns of self-made control mode. Neither example is relying on God’s love and strength to protect or order our lives.

God is love

There is no fear in love

When you see, experience or faced with those in fear, its time to practice loving as God loves us.

The Heart of the passage

We have the very best example of love in Jesus Christ

He takes our sin and makes us new, calling us to live lives free of sin and fear.

Some days we believe and trust this love

Other days we forget and trust something or someone else and we find the broken state of fear, hurt, rejection, guilt, shame, etc.

We belong to the body of Christ that reminds and encourages us to trust God instead of ourselves or our friends or our enemies, instead we challenges and inspire each other trust. God.

John Wesley’s Covenant Prayer is an example of the witness we are called to share:

Put on these words and trust God to make you whole, give you peace, surround you with love and share this with the fearful divided world around us:

I am no longer my own but yours. Put me to what you will rank me with whom you will. Put me to doing, put me to suffering. Let me be employed for you or laid aside for you, exalted for you or brought low for you. Let me be full, let me be empty. Let me have all things, let me have nothing. I freely and wholeheartedly yield all things to your pleasure and disposal. And now, glorious and blessed God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, you are mine and I am yours. So be it. And the covenant now made on earth, let it be ratified in heaven. Amen. [John Wesley, Covenant Prayer]

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1 John 3:16-24 Love: Trust in Action

scripture_glasses

We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us—and we ought to lay down our lives for one another. How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help?  Little children, let us, love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action. And by this we will know that we are from the truth and will reassure our hearts before him whenever our hearts condemn us; for God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have boldness before God; and we receive from him whatever we ask because we obey his commandments and do what pleases him. And this is his commandment, that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. All who obey his commandments abide in him, and he abides in them. And by this, we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit that he has given us. [NRSV]

Since the formation of Protestant Reformation and the Renaissance of the 1600’s, we have been growing from simply trusting doctrines handed down through the tradition of the church to explore what it means to have an individual understanding of faith. Examples: forgiveness is no longer found through visits to the priest, rather we recognize that we only have to ask God in Christ directly and forgiveness is given. The understanding that each of us is a minister in the priesthood of all believers and clergy are those called to specific roles within the church’s ministry. We have had the opportunity to read the Scripture in our own native languages instead of exclusively in Latin, Greek or Hebrew. [Note: Those who cling to the KJV have no perspective that the 1600’s since the texts were first written still had scripture and those since have had the benefit of other translations and discoveries, but alas that is an aside.]

The Risk of Self over Community

With the individualization of faith, we have expanded to points of risk.

For both those who say they don’t need the church or are threatened when the church is called to following the Holy Spirit in new directions.Don’t stand alone. Don’t trust your own heart and mind, is our life God’s?

1 John 3 is a reminder to not simple love as the concept in our head, but to actually love people. The goal is not to simply know the truth in our head or heart, but to stand up for and live Truth in presence of evil and deception.

Love in Truth and Action

Jesus laid down his life for us—and are we to lay down our lives for one another? { We hope that is just a figure of speech, and only in rare, once in a lifetime occasions, right? }

We can have all love figured out in our head; we can understand what is just and good, what is right and wrong and separate that from the life we are called to live in our homes, work/school, community, and world.

The risk of leaving the church behind for the individual is that we most easily become self-determined, self-validated, self-understood, self-comforted, self-medicated, but never truly loved nor made whole.

The deception is what “I” figured out at the expense of those

What good does it do us, our God, or our brothers/sisters who are in need, for us to know love, blessing, grace, and peace

Again with the Little Children language

Like, little children, let us, love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.

And by this we will know that we are from the truth and will reassure our hearts before him whenever our hearts condemn us;

UMC Lesson of the Week: Our hearts and minds are but ONE way to know the heart of God.

Wesley: teaches us that the primary way God speaks to us is through scripture. So, as UM’s we trust scripture as our primary reason that we know God is love, and how God loves us, and how God calls and expects us to love in return and to love one another.  All these things and more come from scripture.

But how do we use scripture?

Scripture first, through (3) Three lenses, a. TRADITION, b. REASON, and c. EXPERIENCE. Never through one or two, but balanced through all three.

  1. What the believers have understood and experienced since the beginning.
  2. What our reason reveals from the study, testing and measuring.
  3. What the Holy Spirit reveals directly to us in our experience of God at work

Only a, and focus on rule and history

Only b, and we focus on mind, opinions, and ideas

Only c, and we have no foundation, and risk separation

1 John 3: reminds us to:

  1. Place ourselves in God’s perspective when we look at tradition and rules of the church.
  2. Place ourselves in the mind of God when we view ourselves and our neighbors.
  3. Place ourselves in the Spirit of God when we venture out on our own strength and ideas.

God is Greater than our hearts:

  • God has seen more than we see
  • God has done more than our experiences
  • God has loved longer than we have
  • God has waited longer than we wait
  • God has died that we might live

Bottom line: God knows more and knows better than you, me or us.

Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have boldness before God; and we receive from him whatever we ask because we obey his commandments and do what pleases him. 

To trust God with our history, present and future is our goal and direction.

Am I on course toward God? or am I trying to fit a square peg into a God-shaped hole?

We believe in Jesus as God’s greatest act of love.

God loves us is not just the right answer to a good question.

  • God proves it, love us when we, build a tower with our will and call it God’s
  • God lives the word but coming to be one of us
  • God’s way is the way of reaching to us in sin, pride, greed, fear, and death and loving us even when we deserve it least.
  • That proves love in action.

 

Our response to this love, is to love

  • Our response to God’s commandments, is to trust and follow.
  • Our response to God living in us, is to live out our faith daily.

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1 John 3:1-7 Known as Loving Children

See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are. The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.  Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is.  And all who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure. Everyone who commits sin is guilty of lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. You know that he was revealed to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. No one who abides in him sins; no one who sins has either seen him or known him. Little children, let no one deceive you. Everyone who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. [NRSV]

This text embodies the simple yet life-changing message of salvation.

  • God loves us
  • God loves us even when we rebel and reject
  • Goes does not force us to love but hopes we will trust Christ
  • God knows we deceive and are deceived
  • God Be in God is to be whole, sin does not exist.
  • God calls us to be in the truth

Preventing Grace/Love: The Love the God has for us started before we were created, before we were born, before we came into this word, God was already loving us.

As United Methodist, we call this love the first part of our salvation. God loves the world, and all of us in the world. This does not mean that everyone is behaving, acting or thinking in ways that reflect God’s love. The starting point is God’s love for us, for us all.

As United Methodist, we call this love God’s preventative love. The love that goes first. As every loving parent loves the child before they are born, hoping and dreaming of the life and joy they will experience and become. (The truth of the human example is that not every parent loves their child. Not every parent hopes and dreams for the life that child might become. Not every parent knows how to love and certainly not love selflessly)

Our salvation is not based on our parent’s love, it is grounded in God’s eternal love, that Goes first.

This preventative love shows the example of love, trust, and hope for a shared relationship. Remember the first time you made yourself vulnerable to express to someone that you loved them and they rejected or ignored your feelings or declaration? It is emotionally painful, but we find other persons or other times that persons are ready and able to love and we try again.

Saving Grace/Justifying Grace: The second express of love that forms our faith and relationship as a Christian, as a child of God, is God’s second dose of loving us, not in our ignorance, but in our rejection of ignorance of God’s love. God sends his son, Jesus, to express human love and relationship.

Through sin: pride, greed, longing for self-reliance, and self-determination we declare: “I want” or “I need” or “I must” or “Look at what I made” and we in our immaturity and foolishness we express the world is for our purpose and our benefit. We grow and mature looking for rational and measurable ways to prove what we can measure, calculate, predict, plan and control and we leave little to no room for the love shared with God. It is self-love.

It is for self-loving people that Jesus came to show God’s love was extended first and continues to be offered even when we close the door to God’s love. God continues to love us; God continues to hope we will love in return.

The Cross of Jesus is God’s gift of grace that says, First I loved you when you didn’t know how to love and now I love you even when you reject, refuse, ignore or deny my love.

Note: For all the love God shows, God does not force love upon us. That would void any room for love in our relationship with God.

Christ is God’s second offer over love. This act of sacrificial love proves the nature of God’s love and the power and reality that sin is that which keeps us from returning love, trust, and faith in God’s love.

Can you remember a time when you reach out to help someone who may have hurt you in the past and you offer to try to renew or restore the relationship and yet they spurn, reject, ignore you even more? God’s love stands as an eternal love that spans all time and all generations. What Jesus did by allowing his life to be given for ours make a way for us to find God even when we burned our bridges.

As a child, I had the privilege of living near the woods, near a creek, both were filled with God’s creatures and seasons. The creek was deeper than I felt safe to wade across and I would find limbs and old board to try and reach to the other side, but being unable to reach the distance and not able to withstand the force of the stream, and unable to secure both sides without the current dragging my efforts away. I required someone who could bridge the distance.

Through the sacrificing love of the Cross, Jesus makes a way through sin, for me. He proves and paves a way to God, even where I have failed.

As United Methodist we acknowledge that God loves us, acting first and acting knowing our sin, through Christ.

Sanctifying Grace/Love: The third expression of love comes in the process of “abiding in God.”

You’ve heard a parent say something like: “as long as you are living in this house you will follow my word.” As a rebellious child we press the limits of these in our process of maturing. Especially if they “House Rules” are not loving. God’s law is eternally grounded in love.

We live in a give-and-take process of learning and practicing what it means to love as God loves. We grow practicing and testing what it means to trust God’s love, when we convince ourselves and others we have such great alternative choices. The choice eternally remains for us to choose how we see the world is better than God’s way, but that comes at the cost of our relationship.

Perfecting Grace/Love: The final expression of God’s love and grace is when we are in the heart of God.

There is not sin, no distance, no separation present; sin has no reality there. We are whole. We are promised this in eternity and we also experience moments in our faith journey in this lifetime. This is our shared journey.

The invitation of First John is to the community of faith, like ours, that knows God’s love, but we are called to be loved, love and grow in love in would that:

  • Loves it self
  • Love is defined by each individual
  • Love that not love but is temporary gratification
  • Love that is only physical and not eternal
  • Love that is contrived and manipulated.
  • Love that is not love AT ALL.

God is doubling down on LOVE being the language and path for our relationships.

We find it impossible to love some people.

Our seeming impossible to love in some circumstances.

This is where we point to the deception where the world is calling Love and Good and Truth that none of the above.

The most loving thing to do for one who is blind is to clear their path, help them when need help and let them practice seeing until sight is given in heaven.

The same is true in all our earthly relationships. (Do not home, do good, practice the path toward God.

What our of our differences in this broken and sin-filled world?? [ Look to 1 John 3:1-7 ]

See what love the Father has given us

that we should be called children of God, and that is what we are.

  1. Seek the truth of God’s love and know God loves us.

The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 

Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be, has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is.  

  1. When the way is unclear, know the truth looks like GOD’s love.

And all who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure. [WHOLE] 

  1. We complete the cycle of love, when we find ourselves in God’s love.

Everyone who commits sin is guilty of lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. 

  1. When we don’t trust God, our hearts are not in God’s.
  2. We live in a world filled with those who run from God, twist God’s word, and don’t love.

You know that he was revealed to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. No one who abides in him sins; no one who sins has either seen him or known him. 

  1. To live in God is to be free from Sin.
  2. To live in God is to be in the truth.

Little children, let no one deceive you. Everyone who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous.

  1. We are frequently and easily deceived and mislead others.
  2. Just because a group says this is love, does not make it so..

God loves us even in our sin, hoping that we grow out of sin, toward wholeness in him.

PRACTICAL UNDERSTANDING

Some people are born with an easier journey toward God

Some are born with a more difficult path

If the path is not leading someone to God, it is not the right path.

We come into the world that is sinful and divided, Our goal is to find our way to God’s heart

We cannot find our way to God’s heart without confronting our sin and the sins of the world.

If we excuse each other to remain in sin, we forfeit the God’s gifts of grace for self and others.

Where divided people call on the name of God that they are following the TRUTH

Know the power of deception is enormous, we must be willing to question ourselves and learn from one another, learning from our failure rather than fueling our division.

The final word in this passage is about deception, the final challenge is to NOT deceive nor be deceived.

  • The greatest threat to God’s love is that that we listen to a voice other than the voice of God.
  • The first story of faith in the scripture is the children and a talking snake, the children listen to the snake instead of listening and trusting God. Sin follows sin corrupts, sin divides.
  • 1 Jn 3 vs7 The Right path, the right direction, the way to God, has nothing to do with my opinion, nor my theology, not my understanding, nor my experience. It is about our continuing to find our selves right when we belong, together, IN God.

Where we are divided, we are separated from God: What must we do to return to the heart of God.

Here is the call for us to lay down our traditions, our brains, our opinions, our faith and place ourselves at God’s direction. God will complete all that follows.  (the sins we struggle with are not as much the Top Ten, but the little assumptions, fears and ignoring when God is with us, to love and help us, always.

john@brantley.net

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1 John 2:1-2 Children Need to Love Rules

ruleskidslove

My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and he is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. [NRSV]

Three perspectives about sin:

  1. I determine my reality and morality, you are responsible for your own.
  2. I occasionally sin, but not the “big ones” and if I do Jesus will get me out of hot water.
  3. I am a sinner, but Jesus covers me with Grace, so its ok to continue to do as I please and let Jesus step in when I need him. (Oh, that’s basically the same as number 2)
  4. I am a sinner and no matter how hard I try I will continue to be a broken vessel, in a broken world, and totally rely on God’s grace in Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit to renew and guide me, every hour of every day.

Most of the world lives with the confidence of option number one. I am the master of my own life and sin is either the infraction of a moral code or the ignorance or carelessness of someone else.

First John is a letter appealing to us in our weary state of sin to remember that sin is more than breaking rules, disobeying the law, or having anything to do with our definition of appropriate behavior.

Sin is..

[ http://www.umc.org/what-we-believe/we-confess-our-sin ]

We Confess Our Sin

Genesis 1:27 asserts that we’ve been made in the image of the Creator. Like God, we have the capacity to love and care, to communicate, and to create. Like God we’re free, and we’re responsible. We’ve been made, says Psalm 8, “a little lower than God” and crowned “with glory and honor.” We believe that the entire created order has been designed for the well-being of all its creatures and as a place where all people can dwell in covenant with God.

But we do not live as God intends. Again and again, we break the covenant relationship between God and us. We turn our backs on God and on God’s expectations for us. We deny our birthright, the life of wholeness and holiness for which we were created. We call this alienation from God, sin.

A distinction should be made between sin and sins. We use the word sins to denote transgressions or immoral acts. We speak of “sins of omission and commission.” These are real enough and serious, but they’re not the essential issue.

The issue is sin in the singular. Sin is our alienation from God, our willful act of turning from God as the center of life and making our own selves and our own wills the center. From this fundamental sin, our various sins spring. Sin is estrangement of at least four kinds:

Separation from God

Sin is breaking the covenant, separating ourselves from the One who is our origin and destiny. It’s trying to go it alone, to be out of touch with the God who is the center of life. Based on the story in Genesis 3, the church has described this break in dramatic terms: the Fall.

Separation from other people

In our sin, we distance ourselves from others. We put ourselves at the center of many relationships, exploiting others for our own advantage. Instead of loving people and using things, we love things and use people. When confronted with the human need, we may respond with token acts of kindness or with lip service or perhaps not at all.

For some people and some groups, we’re totally indifferent or actively hostile. Sin is a denial of our common humanity and our common destiny on this one small planet.

Separation from the created order

In our sin, we separate ourselves from the natural environment. Greedily we turn upon it, consuming it, destroying it, befouling it. As natural resources dwindle, as possibilities increase for long-term damage to the atmosphere and seas, we pause to wonder. But our chief concern is for our own survival, not for the beauty and unity of all God’s creation.

Separation from ourselves

We turn even from our own center, from the goodness, happiness, and holiness that is our divinely created potential. Sometimes it seems that there are two wills warring within us. As Paul put it, “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate” (Romans 7:15).

Paul continues: “Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24). Like Paul, we discover that we are powerless to extricate ourselves from sin. Though we work ever so earnestly at various means of saving ourselves—being good, going to church, reading the Bible—these in themselves cannot save us. Sin is not a problem to be solved. It’s our radical estrangement from God, a separation that only God can heal by a radical act of love. We yearn for this reunion, this reconciliation, this redemption, this salvation.

From United Methodist Member’s Handbook, Revised by George Koehler (Discipleship Resources, 2006), pp. 74-75

Sin is the reality of three important pillars/foundations:

  1. Sin is I think and act in ways that separate me from God and God’s people.
  2. Sin is the evidence that I am choosing and behaving in ways that distance myself from God and others.
  3. Sin is the evidence that I am not trying, working, trusting God to ‘save’ me in my daily life.

These correspond to the three rules of what it means to be a United Methodist:

  1. Do no harm
  2. Do all the good you are able to do
  3. Practice being in love a loving and trusting relationship with God and the people of God.

We live in a broken and sinful world.

  1. When people, groups, governments, cultures, businesses, families, parties, agenda organizations, classes, families couples, and individuals declare and decide they know a better way to order and understand our self, our world, God and all in the universe that is OTHER than God’s design and purpose, we distance ourselves, we move away from God and this separation is sin.

Not all sin has the same immediate consequence, but all sin is a movement away from God.

In God’s grace, we have the ability to repent,

1. to acknowledge that we are wrong, incomplete, not the designer but the created, and we choose or ‘re-choose’ to follow, trust and seek God’s way. Turning away from our own strength, heart, soul, and mind and affirming our reliance on God and the people of God who are also following God.

Repentance is our way of returning to God, move from separation from God, moving back, thinking back toward God.

While we might need to repent every day. The hope in 1st John is that we might not continue to sin the first place

The Three Rules of Methodist Theology are intended to help us keep from sinning.

  1. Do no harm
  2. Do all the Good you can
  3. Participate in worship, studying, and serving and practicing the things of God so that we continually grow, moving and living in God.

The great divide in our culture is who is on the ‘correct’ side of what God is doing and believing and revealing.

We look at scripture as our first and primary resource. Jesus is our best example and our means of repentance and grace we discussed above.

Jesus preached to groups and to individuals without regard to sin, rather because all are sinful. God is revealed and shows up in Jesus because we are separated from God.

With every person, who comes to Jesus, or Jesus reaches out to be with, he accepts in sin, forgives, and calls them to sin no more.

God loves us no matter what, and is ready and willing to forgive us, but expects us to not living in the safety-net of grace.

Get back on the high-wire and live life fully, trusting God to be the source of balance, force, and function.

The three rules are simple enough to learn and remember, but built into them is the affirmation that we know without God, we are lost in sin/ we are separated from God, our purpose, our meaning, and our fulfillment.

  • If someone says that don’t need God, they likely don’t know God and cross the boundary into resisting God’s grace.
  • If someone says that DO need God, they try to trust God at times, but generally, wing-it their own way until that breaks down or becomes overwhelming.  [ The need to practice the three rules is key ]
  • If someone says that need God but are not reflecting God’s heart, they may be saying or thinking they need God but are further over the boundary from God than they suppose.

1 John is affirming that Jesus is working on you, and me and all of us and the whole world.

Keep in mind that Jesus offended many people, ‘followers and ignore-rs.’  [Our culture is lost in the murky waters of what is offensive to the destruction of us all.]

1 John reminds us that Christ is interested in loving, saving and extending grace to us all. —All who will refrain from moving away.

The test:

  • Is my way of living, thinking, acting revealing my trust of God’s word and God’s love?
  • Is my way of living, thinking and acting revealing my self-awareness that without God I am alone and lost.
  • Is my way of living, thinking and active revealing God’s desire to rescue and prevent, but not without choosing God’s saving help.

Examples: Am I loving rules more than a relationship with God?

  • Am I loving my comfort over your discomfort?
  • Am I loving my interpretation compared with what God is about to reveal to me through your faithfulness?
  • Am I loving my understanding of love more than God’s word call me to go and sin no more?
  • Sin is walking in the dark with saying “I can see fine.”

God is the light that exposes the darkness in all of us, calling us to trust Christ actions AND words.

Our culture is in a relentless attack on the body of the church, the scriptures, and the understanding of what God’s will and purpose for us truthfully is.

There is a collective and corporate sin, darkness leading into darkness for fear of the light. For the light of Christ may reveal that those who love without the Word and those who trust with Word without love are both wrong.

Back to the three rules:

The first two are directed toward our personal actions, how we love and avoid hurting.

The third is the affirmation that the Bible, the church and the traditions of the faith filter and keep us away from sin.

The key is not to keep one or two of the rules to faithfully balance all three.

  • Am I faithful in following Christ?
  • Am I a sinner?
  • Am I a United Methodist?

Practice all three rules and you will find the grace of Christ drawing you toward God and your enemies in love. This is the measure. God is not only interest in you, God longs for us all.

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Mark 16:1-8 As You Go and Tell

Garden Tomb of Jesus

The stone is rolled away and the tomb is empty

When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. They had been saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.” So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.

Go Tell his Disciples, “There” you will see him.

A confirmation that the Church is the Body of Christ and a sure and dependable place and moment to share our living Savior.

My crazy grandfather used to tell me that I could not go swimming until I learned to swim. I would reply, “How can I learn to swim without getting in the water.” His reply, “Go ask your grandmother.”

It is in the act of doing that we come to experience Jesus as our Savior.

If I only think about Jesus, then my faith would be a theory that could exist just fine within my own understanding, and you could have your understanding and I could have mine and we’d be fine as long as we didn’t share where we had a conflicting understanding. (skip the opportunity for sarcasm.)

The specific instruction on the first Easter Sunday was to find Jesus, where and when you are telling the other disciples about the resurrection.

Our worship, fellowship, music, visuals, conversations, scripture, and are ways we gather to experience Jesus, living with us.

How do I experience Jesus?

  • I see Jesus: in the scriptures
  • I hear Jesus: in the music
  • I smell Jesus: in your questions
  • I feel Jesus: in your singing and responding
  • I taste Jesus: in the bread and cup and fellowship dinners, why I cook.

How do I prevent people from experiencing Jesus?

  • When I’m not sharing, the world sees the wines of complaining, division, fear, anger, selfishness, and pride.
  • When I’m not telling about Jesus, people hear whatever news, movies, celebrities, squeaky wheels will tell, print or post.
  • When I’m not telling about Jesus, people smell doubt, insincerity, and shallow words that don’t relate to people’s hunger and thirst for what is good and right.
  • When I’m not telling about Jesus, people continue to feel alone, confused and divided
  • When I’m not telling about Jesus, people taste the bitterness of a sin-filled worldview.

Q: So What do I tell people?

  • Jesus lives for a sinner like me
  • Jesus speaks through scripture and the church
  • Jesus smells fresh and hopeful if what I’m saying is mean-spirited, nope, not Jesus.
  • Jesus feels present and relevant to people.
  • Jesus tastes satisfying and whole.

So When and How Often do I have to tell about Jesus?

NOW!

Easter is the best day to tell about Jesus

  • Who will you tell see
  • Who will hear
  • Who will feel
  • Who will smell
  • Who will taste

Easter is the reminder of our real urgency that someone is

  • bound and
  • blind and
  • afraid and
  • confused and
  • misinformed and
  • betrayed and
  • some clouded by religion
  • alone making up something they call the truth
  • any of these, but they DO NOT have to be

Some have smelled the difference between the joy of our worship and the judging, barking, and silence

Some have tasted the world and are left hungry

A Word to Disciples

Back to the instruction, with the urgency: Easter is a day to come and experience Jesus as our Risen Savior so that every day that follows we are ready to be the living Jesus until he returns.

Use every way that we experience life to lead the world to experience Jesus in us.

When we are cady, controlling, fussing, griping, condescending, bothered with others around us we are in a danger zone of NOT allowing others to experience Jesus. We get in the way. 

The invitation is for this day, for Disciples to regroup in Jesus, as ‘THE’ way and be ready to live to experience Jesus with others

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John 12:12-16 Jesus is Coming to Town

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The next day the great crowd that had come to the festival heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord— the King of Israel!”  Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it; as it is written: “Do not be afraid, daughter of Zion. Look, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt!” His disciples did not understand these things at first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written of him and had been done to him. [NRSV]

Why Hosanna?

The words of praise. Hurray! Glory! Wonderful! come to mind, but this is a more unique word that Hebrew and recorded in Jesus’s native Aramaic. It is a phrase word. Just as the folks from Athens, GA might say: “How ‘bout them Jackets” (haha, twist intended) it would be a celebratory “Glory, Glory to ole Georgia.” If these phrases were encapsulated into a word we would the idea of ‘Hosannah”

Hosanna began as Lord, God Save us! and through the Gospel’s has come to mean, Highest Praise, who has saved us. So their use of the original context is twisted with the early church’s use of the old testament word.

So we have Palm Sunday as a pre-celebration that Jesus coming into the world, and in our hearts and lives, is the celebration of our salvation.

Which means if Jesus does not come to the world, to our heart, and to our town, then we are NOT saved. Here in is theological of preparing for a life as Easter People.

We usually only read this passage as an observer of a historical event, but it is shared in the Gospels as Good News and not just historical newspaper clippings.

Hosannah: Jesus has saved me, even though we celebrate the death on Good Friday and the Resurrection of next Sunday as Easter, we look at this story of entry into the city as a necessary part of the process.

We prepare for Easter knowing it is our victory march! The ASSURANCE of what WILL be and not just hope of what MIGHT be.

Why Palms?

The disciples did not gather to get Creighton’s Florist to order dozens of palms to be ordered, the palms were a response from the people who are making a traditional sign of welcoming the king.

This is a difficult time for us to respond in unison with any unifying act of praise and celebration because we have become a culture of suspicion, rebellion and divided support.

Some might hope, in our country that the “Stars and Stripes” would be an obvious rally flag. For some, it an illicit political protest.

I hope that you will do the spiritual work to see that the people might have divided reasons for welcoming Jesus as King.

Some who were in the crowd that day had experienced Jesus teaching, healing or miracles, while others knew only the oppressive Roman rule, and still, others were supporting glorious days of kings of the past hoping for the revival of political greatness.

Bottom line the palms are unifying symbols of many different individual reasons, some helpful and some dangerous.

Why a donkey’s colt?

Jesus came to town with is Colt? Would mean have met the expectation of many who were hoping for a new sheriff to clean house and restore order. When in fact, Jesus comes in humility to spiritually reorder the whole world and all time.

Think of the Jesus riding in a church parade. If this were a political parade there would have been legions of soldiers, a banner of the empire and emblems of Cesear. This is a church parade. Not everyone entered a float, but the people respond as if it is a political, flag-waving event.

Jesus rides in, not in a BEAST of an armored car, not on the back of a convertible, not even proud Clydesdale stallion. It’s more like he rides in on a pickup truck, not a four-door, HEMI, but a simple work truck.

But the symbol for some would be as if the self-proclaimed president was riding in ‘on’ a smart car.  You know that Consumer Reports does not the rate the “Smart Car” in their rating in a polite way of saying: “If you can’t say something good and helpful, don’t say anything at all.”

The palms and praises are the people’s response, Jesus message is the spiritual work that is being completed through the events of the week at hand. We call it Holy Week, but it is the week when everything we hold dear is lost and hope is out of our grasp… Oh, how we long for Easter, Salvation, Life, and Christ!

Wave OUR palms because we need to lead others out of hopelessness, fear, and sin into the joy that aways through the journey at hand.

This is what we share, this is why we praise, this is why we are the church, we are Christian, not for ourselves, but for OUR collective hope in the ONE who does save us. This week of Journey is the toughest part. Reach out to one who is in the hardest part o that spiritual and physical journey sharing the hope and joy that we KNOW is coming soon!

Again the call is to share the journey with those who cannot see this week is holy.

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Luke 2:15-19   Acts 1: 7-11 , Matthew 23:32-39 Matthew 14:25-30, Mark 15: 18-23 (Lynyrd Skynyrd at Church?)

skynners

(FULL Video link from worship on YouTube)

My story with Lynyrd Skynyrd is not too different from many young boys who lived in the south as a child of the sixties and seventies. I received my first guitar at the age of 12 and would listen to the anthems of the southern rock. Trying to listen to the radio and pick out the notes to the intro to “Sweet Home Alabama” and “Freebird”. Knowing all along that I could step in to play if they needed a back up, at least in my own mind. Flash forward to a couple of years ago I was going through my mother’s piano song books of church music, classical, show tunes and a few others like the collection of Bet Midler, Barbra Streisand, and the Carpenters, some she played in my youth. But as I went through the stacks of song books I found the classic collection of Lynyrd Skynyrd. What? Why did mom hide this contraband collection from my youth?

As I thumbed through the pages the idea of these songs being known as Southern Rock Anthems set the tone for me reinterpreting titles and lyrics as songs of God and faith. In fact some of the stories within the lyrics and the music speak for a generation and a culture within that generation, just as music does with every generation and every culture. (We are getting to the faith and God part, in a moment, hang in there.)

These Skynyd “anthems” of southern rock and roll are such because they speak the words of pride in once community, once way of life, for God and Country, The music speaks to the hearts of a people. Sometimes in rebellion of war and politics, other times lifting up the value of community and patriotism.

Which got me to thinking! (This is a the dangerous part.)

I clergy pier and friend, Bob Winsted, share some stories about his experience with Skynyrd band members. Bob and I had the privilege of experiencing the Holy Land pilgrimage and various small groups.

The piano player with Skynyrd band was Billy Powell. Billie was my friend Bob’s backyard neighbor in Jacksonville, Florida. He was also a friend with Leon Wilkensen and Ronnie Van Zant. They all went to Robert E Lee High school where Coach Skinner annoyed them about having long hair. Bob relays how they would collect Coke bottles and cash them in for the refund for the glass bottles and go give to coins to the old black blues player who sang out front of the local grocery story with his Dobro guitar. (They knew Curtis Loew personally, and were moved by his ballads. They wanted to heart the music, which wanted to feel the blues. They wanted to experiences the words and songs that moved them. Bob wanting to avoid going to Vietnam, joined the Navy and sign up to play in the Navy Band. This took him out of being the Skynyrd band, but it opened his music to play drums for Lou Rolls. Which prepared him for ministry playing USO tours around the world. Bob later had the honor of conducting the funerals of his high school buddies Ronnie and Billy.

So when I was holding this hymnbook of Skynyrd classics, the words jumped off the page into my eyes and ears of faith: The Skynyrd discography: “That Smell”: Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead. “I’m not the One, “ John the Baptist tells his disciples the same that he is not worthy to tie Jesus sandals. Peter stepping out onto the water with Jesus and only making it “Three Steps”

I share these stories to highlight how music and songs have an important part in shaping who we are and it is vital for us as people of faith to know what music shapes, defines, moves and inspires us.

The reason it’s okay to play Lynyrd Skynyrd in Church is because a) we changes some of the lyrics and b) there reflect something that has defined generations of people. Most important is to recognize that as we embrace each other’s music, we are also learning to understand, listen/hear, and appreciate each other.

To ride in the car, with my whole family, on a long, long, car trip to the beach, with Wendy, Frances, Mikey, Susanna, Luke and myself means that listen to Benny Goodman, The Weather Girls/Mother’s Finest, Dion Warwick, Ed Shereen, Rainbow Kitten Surprise and Taylor Swift, Judah and the Lion, the Head and the Heart, Mumford and Sons, and I would add in some Randy Travis, Eagles and Skynyrd. If we voted, who liked each other’s music best, we would have to leave the radio turned off.

So I ask you what are your anthems?

Hymns, Songs, Chorus, Praise songs, Classical hymns, Traditional Hymns, Contemporary Hymns, Praise songs, Praise choruses, anthems, special, arrangements, compilations, indie-contemporary, modern Praise and worship, post-modern praise, what’s on the radio, what’s being written and is not even popular yet?

Just as important it was for Bob, Billy, Ronnie and the Jacksonville FL friends to listen to the blues to shape their own anthems that touch and hold meaning for generations… So it is necessary for us to hear each other’s anthems and songs and music to touch and hold meaning for the generations that are coming.

So, to the homework,

  1. What are your anthems that shape your heart and view of this world?
  2. Who needs to hear that song that moves and shapes your heart and life.
  3. Musician do what they do because they get to share that experience every time they play and we might not have their talent, but we can share the words and notes that move us to love, to live and to salvation.

May we always be known as the singing Methodist. (Not that John Wesley was expecting Skynyrd)

Singing all the songs the world needs to hear because they have lead us through and guide us where we are headed.

Worship Song List for March 18, 2018

Luke 2:15-19 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this they made known what had been told to them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart.[NRSV]

Song 1 “Simple Man”
 (Lyrics tweaked very little)

Mama told me when I was young

“Come sit beside me, my only son

And listen closely to what I say

And if you do this it’ll help you some sunny day”

“Oh, take your time, don’t live too fast

Troubles will come and they will pass

You’ll find a path and you’ll find love

And don’t forget, son, there is someone up above”

“And be a simple kind of man

Oh, be something you love and understand

Baby be a simple kind of man

Oh, won’t you do this for me, son, if you can”

“Forget your lust for the rich man’s gold

All that you need is in your soul

And you can do this, oh baby, if you try

All that I want for you, my son, is to be satisfied”

“And be a simple kind of man

Oh, be something you love and understand

Baby be a simple kind of man

Oh, won’t you do this for me, son, if you can”

Oh yes, I will

“Boy, don’t you worry, you’ll find yourself

Follow your heart and nothing else

And you can do this, oh child, if you try

All that I want for you, my son, is to be satisfied”

“And be a simple kind of man

Oh, be something you love and understand

Baby be a simple kind of man

Oh, won’t you do this for me, son, if you can”

Man, be a simple, be a simple man

Oh, be something you love and understand

Man, be a simple kind of man

Matthew 14:25-30 And early in the morning he came walking toward them on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.” Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!”

Mark 15: 18-23 And they began saluting him, “Hail, King of the Jews!” They struck his head with a reed, spat upon him, and knelt down in homage to him. After mocking him, they stripped him of the purple cloak and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him. They compelled a passer-by, who was coming in from the country, to carry his cross; it was Simon of Cyrene, the father of Alexander and Rufus. Then they brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means the place of a skull). And they offered him wine mixed with myrrh; but he did not take it.

Give and Three Steps (Lyrics tweaked a lot, a whole lot)

We were out sail’n that day

The sea was storm’n away.

And the water was filling the boat.

And he’s tell’n me son,

Well, that He is the one

As I’m staring down at the floor.

he turned and called me Peter who

That was the rock I was looking for.

Stepped out on the water that day

Headed out towards my Lord.

“Oh, won’t you give me three steps,

Gimme three steps a-mister,

Gimme three steps towards my Lord?

Gimme three steps

Gimme three steps a-mister,

And you will see me forever more.”

Show me the Lord.

I was climbing the hill

Near at a place called The Skull

With a man name Simon, who

Stuck out his hand

And he was looking to help me through

He said, “Hey there fellow,

you not look’n so well

What you tryin’ to prove?

Cause the crowd over there

and a solider don’t care

And this might be all for you.”

“Oh, won’t you give me three steps,

Gimme three steps a-mister,

Gimme three steps towards my Lord?

Gimme three steps

Gimme three steps a-mister,

And you will see me forever more.”

Matthew 23:32-39 O Jerusalem

Fill up, then, the measure of your ancestors. You snakes, you brood of vipers! How can you escape being sentenced to hell?  Therefore I send you prophets, sages, and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town, so that upon you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar.  Truly I tell you, all this will come upon this generation  “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!  See, your house is left to you, desolate.  For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.’ ”

Sweet Home O Jerusalem

Big wheels keep on turning

Carry me home to see my kin

Singing songs about the promised-land

I miss the ole’ garden once again, all cause of a sin

Well I heard prophets sing about her

Well I heard ole Caesar put her down

Well, I hope God’s people will remember

A Godly man do need him around anyhow

Sweet home O Jerusalem

Where the skies are so blue

Sweet home O Jerusalem

Lord, I’m coming home to you

In Jerusalem they love the Gov’nor, boo-hoo-hoo

Now we all did what we could do

Now Caiaphas does not bother me

Does your conscience bother you, tell the truth

Sweet home O Jerusalem

Where the skies are so blue

Sweet home O Jerusalem

Lord, I’m coming home to you, here I come

Now Galilee has got some Disciples

And they’ve been known to feed one or two (yes they do)

Lord they get me going so much

They pick me up when I’m feeling blue, now how bout you?

Sweet home O Jerusalem

Where the skies are so blue

Sweet home O Jerusalem

Lord, I’m coming home to you

Sweet home O Jerusalem, oh sweet home

Where the skies are so blue and the praises too

Sweet home O Jerusalem

Lord, I’m coming home to you

Acts 1: 7-11 He replied, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” 9 When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. 11 They said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

Freebird (Words slightly tweaked)

If I leave here tomorrow

For I must be traveling on, now

Cause there’s too many places I’ve prepared to see

But, if I stayed here with you, now

Things just couldn’t be the same

Cause I’m as free as a bird now

And this bird you can not change

Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh

And this bird you can not change

And this bird you can not change

Lord knows, I won’t change

Bye, bye, baby, it’s still a sweet love

Though this feeling I can’t change

But please don’t take it so badly

Cause Lord knows I’m the same

But, if I stayed here with you, now

Things just wouldn’t be the same

Cause I’m as free as a bird now

And this bird you’ll see again.

Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh

And this bird you will meet again.

And this bird you will meet again.

Lord knows, I will come again.

Lord help me, I’ll come again.

Lord, I will come again.

Won’t you fly high, free bird, yeah

Would you still remember me?

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