Archive for category #2020

MT 5:43-47 Loving you is going to hard

You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? [NRSA: Matthew 5:43-47]

Koinonia Fellowship is hard

a.       We are already doing what is hard these days, why tackle something else that is hard?

b.       It is the one thing that God has commanded us to do.

c.       It is the motivation on God’s part that provides for our own salvation.

d.       Finally, we see what heaven is like, every time we love someone who is difficult to love.

e.       And if do don’t want to love then we are not likely to enjoy, being the body of Christ, heaven, nor eternity with God and the al People of God.

Typically this is how the conversations start: 

Q: Preacher, When it comes to loving our enemies, the favorite example, “do you mean we are suppose to love someone like Hitler?”

A: the easy to say, but difficult to do answer is: a 100% yes!, but..  

Interruption: 

If you are sharing a conversation with someone and they respond to you by saying, “Yes, but ..” then 99% of the time they think they are being polite or kind, and follow up explaining why your wrong with their perspective. It is a good way to start or continue an argument or have someone stop communicating?

Return to the example

In this case, our answer to the radical question, “Are we we suppose to love someone like Hitler?”, will answer with this question: “is there someone who need to learn how to love more than a Hitler?” 

In this case, the yes is a Yes!, and the “but” is a qualification that it is not easy to follow through in action with the words about being loving. 

In the example of Hitler, there is nothing acceptable about his beliefs, leadership, behavior, or role in history. Someone filled with evil is not our excuse to judge them and skip loving them as the person of God’s creation that has become so twisted. 

Our role is not to judge, it is to be witness to a world of sin, evil, corruption and  destruction, a doorway to the grace of God.

How easy it was for people to adopt the group think, to fear retaliation, to not want to take a stand, to exchange the words of faith for the compliance of the community. But let us not be stuck on the character of history.

We have plenty of people that we would not want to have lunch with, not want to invite into our homes, not what to sit next to – even in church. If you started a list of people be careful because these may be the very people God is calling you to reach out with your witness of love and grace.

This is where the words of love come to life and reveal what we hope for in heaven.  

Daily we are surrounded with the push and pull of people calling for us to be politically intolerant of someone else. There is not a parable, teaching, or example where Jesus says for us to divide up people in the groups and to hate one and love the other. That’s the task of politics these days.. It is not our command, goal, or charge.

Action 1

The First step is to have a reversal prayer: When I hear some, I try my best to give that moment to God. Sometimes I fail, and social media is vicious. I am hopeful we will soon no longer be dependent on FB to provide our streaming. (we will share it on multiple platforms, but no longer require people to use FB to share our worship, that’s like only using wine in communion for those who struggle with alcohol, an aside.)

When we are confronted with someone difficult to love or to think of in a loving way, begin to look at them as God see them. God loves us while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us before we ask for his help. Someone who is our enemy be based on something about them, ourselves, or both. 

The prayer is this. “God help me to see the world from their perspective, your perspective, and see the sins and evil in my own life. Transform us all to your will and heart. Amen.” Or something toward seeing these three perspectives.

The second action is not just pray but make a first step toward loving.

An action is not simply a good thought and a hurried prayer. Allowing the words of our faith and heart to marinate with God’s word and love, prepares us to begin with INTENTIONAL steps of loving, reconciliation, forgiveness, invitation, opening dialogue. 

For those stuck on the Hitler example, there are times that were a mortally at risk for showing love. What would Germany have looked like if every person stepped forward in love rather than either joining the crowd or keeping to themselves?

The End of Days:

It has been the most frequent question I have been asked in the month of July. I offer the two things we do know from scripture: While no one know the hour or the day, we all can see the seasons and signs.

Behind that question is desire to have some order in the chaos we experience in the world. The more hurricanes, tropical storms and tornados, flooding and earthquakes in China, pandemic threats, political ultimatums, and the drama of being on the winning side, not to mention that threat to split our denomination…

a)       Its fair to ask is this it? If yes, then we just need to hang on and be faithful a little while longer, 

b)      If no, we don’t have to deal with the tribulation AND all this chaos.. 

People are asking this because they want to know is God going to show up and fix things?

Is God going to speak those words to justice and healing to the nations?

Is God going to let us suffer and die, ask the persons with leprosy outside the city?

Is God hearing our suffering and struggles, our fears and lack of control? 

Do God love us?

Is God’s love based on events of the world, or is God’s love for us greater than all the chaos??

Step 1. Reversal Prayer, Step 2. Taking the first steps in ACTing in love. Step 3.

Do not measure love by the world’s standards. 

We need God’s love most when we are not pacified by being part of the majority.

We need God’s love most when its not easy to see with our eyes and heart alone.

We needs God’s love when we are afraid, broken and pressed down more than when we can manage.

And if “WE” need that much love, then so do our enemies.

Go back to the idea of a list of enemies. Don’t list them all, but who are the first three people who you picture or name when you hear enemies. (Don’t list groups of people, name the first personal names that fill you heart and mind.)

1.       Pray for that person all day, all afternoon, all evening. Ask God to help you see the world and you from their perspective. Pray for God to transform their heart and your heart to find some point of grace between you.

2.       Pick up the phone, reach out in person/at a distance, write a prayerful email, send a love letter to that person telling them what you are praying for them and yourself. Make the first step.

2B. To not act, to not take the first step is to not trust God’s love to heal. Try and fail is rewarded, ignoring is participating in the lie that we are loving as we have been loved.

3.       The Reward for loving first, is the treasure of seeing who God deals with us in Christ. God has no idea if we will love back, God has been disappointed many times… And yet, it is that never failing love that is my only hope and grace. 

We don’t have to love people’s ideas, behaviors, choices… and we don’t have to give them what they want us to give them to prove our love… the love is what we are commanded to do by God, with God, for God. 

Failure is to not try loving because we are afraid, or have failed before. Koinonia people love because Christ loved us first, and continues to love us always. Hear the Good News and live it!

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1 Corinthians 13 “Love Always”

If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. For now, we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love. [NRSA: 1 Cor 13]

This chapter is both wonderful and intimidating. We love it and we held to its words and love.

Paul calls us to “love like we are family.” 

Families do not always agree. Families fight, divorce, hold grudges, abuse, neglect… why in the world would we want to love like a family’s love?

Too often we label our failures of trying to be a loving family as the standard. Therefore, we confuse reality with the model that is before us.

Instead of modeling family experience, we look to the fellowship God reveals for us:

Loving as Paul describes is 

1) a love based in God. What is love? Look and listen to God for God’s examples of love and loving relationship.

2) a love that can hold people in relationship even when their thoughts and behaviors are out of bounds. (I love you even though you are doing ‘wrong’ or thinking ‘wrong’.

3) a love that is not grounded in emotions but loves us in relationship to God even when you and I both have failed to love as God loves.

The Framework of God’s family: Based in Love, Loving the sinner, Love is Eternal

It’s important to clarify: I family operating on God’s love will look like the love described in this chapter. And, a Church family or koinonia fellowship, operating on God’s love, will look and sound like the relation described in chapter 13. But it is not automatically true.

We are a church denomination, that has actively talked about divorce for 22 years. We have been more focused on trying to keep the family together than learning to love the sinners despite their sins. We have aligned ourselves in the those who are correct and those who are wrong, blaming each other for the current reality. WHEN the reality is that we have accepted this lie as our truth.

The Church has always been called to be Christ’s body and not ours. It even sounds awkward to hear ourselves say: RS Church is Christ’s church, we usually say, “RS Church is ‘my’ church.” My service, my music, my class, my friends, my history, my offering, my, my my… 

Christ came to give himself for sinners. He always named the sin, and forgives the sinner, so that new life my eternally be in God.

Talking about loving people and actually loving people is the difference in saying the latest slogan or catch phrase about who we love, or who we support is not, in itself, AND loving enough to actually stay in relationship with God’s strength. This is to love as Paul describes. It is not at easy when we deal with the worst in each other.

Marriage

There is a reason that many couples include this passage in their wedding ceremony as it is the description of the type of relationship that are setting as their measure. At the foundation of a marriage it is a good base to start. When half of all marriages end in divorce we must reexamine how we love. 

Love sets boundaries for everyone in the relationship. When we are out-of-bounds, we break the relationship of love. Through GRACE God works to redevelop trust and rebuild. But our continued disobedience leads us to end relationships. Sometimes ending a relationship is the only way we can move forward.

Social Love

In society, we recognize that we might love our enemies, but their behaviors so violate trust and respect that we incarcerate them to separate them from others. This is not the model of love, but it is the accountability of not loving.

•             Just as God is revealed in creation, in the purposeful design of creation, with its order, beauty, and seasons of life, death, and renewal of life. 

•             God’s love can be seen throughout creation, in God providing for what we need not only to eat and drink, but to challenge and expand our minds, and to live together in community.

Pieces are the Whole

Wisdom, knowledge, faith, sacrifice are all parts of the relationship, but love is the reason behind them all. Prophecies, knowledge, physical nature all need to mature, but only mature in love.

Reclaiming the Heart and Hope for our Relationships

Love is..  (This activity ALWAYS requires God’s help, when we are on our own, we our out of bounds)

Love is patient; kind; not envious, boastful, arrogant, rude, not selfish, irritable, nor resentful; it rejoices in doing what is Godly, what is true. It bears, believes, hopes, and endures all things; Love never ends. 

Starting with Confession

Which of these do we struggle?

Proactive

Օ – Patient

Օ – Kind

Օ – Rejoices in Truth

Օ – Seeks what is Godly

Օ – Bears

Օ – Believes

Օ – Hopes

Օ – Endure

Reactive / opposite

Օ – Envious / Content

Օ – Boastful / Humble

Օ – Arrogant / Respects

Օ – Rude / Kind

Օ – Selfish / Selfless

Օ – Irritable / Care

Օ – Resentful / Appreciative

Which do we experience from others most?

Proactive

Օ – Patient

Օ – Kind

Օ – Rejoices in Truth

Օ – Seeks what is Godly

Օ – Bears

Օ – Believes

Օ – Hopes

Օ – Endure

Reactive / opposite

Օ – Envious / Content

Օ – Boastful / Humble

Օ – Arrogant / Respects

Օ – Rude / Kind

Օ – Selfish / Selfless

Օ – Irritable / Care

Օ – Resentful / Appreciative

What are the correlations and connections with what we struggle and the struggles of others?

Are they connections that begin in opposition? Then we know where to ask for God’s help.

And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love. [NRSA: 1 Cor 13]

Patient and Kind, Truth and Godliness

Bears and Believes, Hopes and Endures

Content and Humble, Respects with Care and Kindness

Selfless and Appreciative. Love is forever.

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Genesis 2:1-3 “A Day of Resting”

Wake up it’s time to rest!

1 Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all their multitude. 2 And on the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done. 3 So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that he had done in creation. [NRVA]

Mark 2:27 Jesus said to them, “The Sabbath was made for people, not people for the Sabbath.

Howard Thurman, a preacher, teacher, dean, and mystic, was an black preacher that knows the human condition and the path of a spiritual giant. He shared in sermon and later in in his many books and writings: he describes….

[The Coming to the end of one’s rope… we can’t go on. We just don’t have enough physical energy to move another step or do another chore or face another crisis,

And from some where we find what we call a “second wind” we are able to tap resources that were previously unaccessible. The body seems to know where the secret is and the energy flows. Researches can give descriptions of what happens, but what makes this possible, from where does this second surge come, just when it need to arrive to finish our work

[Though his ministry span from 1900 to 1980] He knew then as we know now: under In uncertain times, we too able to go beyond, the limits of our bodies, with the renewal of our minds, ..and so it must be true with our spirit, also.

It is in the moments of crisis we discover again and again there are resources of spirit, additional resources, other power, new life, That we ONLY discover in the very tests of life. It is here that we find the amount we CAN do, without destroying our joy,

And it is in these moments, in times just as we live now that, This is the gift of God, the gift of God’s work, not our strength, but the necessary resources, at the moment they are required, not before, and not with any extra.] (paraphrased from his own words)

We come to moments of exhaustion and see well trained athletes pedal one more hill in hills with thinking air. We see the fruit of preparing done long ago for this very moments in the battle of competition that the victors have anticipated but not yet realized.

It is with this very breath of God that we face the days in which we live.

I tell you truly that we much cherish the concept and invitation of Sabbath. Just as we push and push and find strength to complete the spiritual heavyweight lifting that surrounds us on every side…. we come to the sabbath and find out hunger and ghost for rest….

If we have arrived at the sabbath are not weary then we have not done the work before us. The weeks of bedrest in my recent recovery have been a powerful reminder of my limitations. The current confinement we all face and test the waters to overcome, we see that it is different, uncomfortable, tentative and uncertain, where we have come to find the very certainty that brings us peace and much find the power of sabbath rest.

In rest that is a different type of work. We rest from our labors and find ourselves spent, yet hungering to hear God, but to hear God, we must stop talking, planing, worrying, preparing, stop doing and be present for God and in God.

With the exception of the first five or six years and two years in college, I have been at work on the sabbath. As a child I tagged along fully dependent on my parents choices and blessings, and in college it was rare that I missed worship, but in al, the other years I have had some responsibility in worship that might at times look, sound and feel like work. I feel I have worked on the sabbath most of my life.

It was not until I met the words of Dr Thurman that I began to immerse myself in Sabbath rest. It is not always on a Sunday, but with out time to surrender ourselves in God we never grasp the fullness God has for us all.

If i am always in control, always responsible, always managing, always going and doing then I leave little to no room for trust, faith, devotions and thus Sabbath rest. We make take turns to assure that one another finds God refreshing and renewing rest.

No this is not a devotions to sleeping. This is not an excuse to be lazy or irresponsible, it is to place all that is of worth and value and ask God to hold the reins and give us the breath, the second wind, the extra resources that we need for the week ahead.

You and I need to ask one another in keeping that sabbath. Again is not about when to cut the grass or when to take a nap… it’s a spiritual part of being a spiritual being.

Let’s practice, join me a a meditation

Closer your eyes, find a comfortable as possible position and let’s everything else got for a few precious moments,

You are a work of art that God has thrown and spun with hope, purpose and love.

You are a child of the Gods breath and have value and meaning to god when we the whole world has other words and no words for you

You have come to find food and drink for your spirit

You have come to experience peace hope and belonging

You have carried much in your mind and with your body and with your emotions.

As you hear distractions give thanks that God has given you the ability to hear, and think and be responsible

In this moment focus toy hearing in the spirt ofGods blowing and moving

Be attentive to how God is reaching out to you personally

It may come in words and sounds, it may be feeling or something better

There may be many things that keep God distance, invite God unto your heart and give your rest.

Speak these words silently to god, OR JUST LOUD ENOUGH TO HEAR YOURSELF

“be my strength be my rest”

“Be in my breath and in be my peace”

“Show me your love, your grace”

“I release my control and trust you with my life”

“ be my strength and be make rest”

Being to open your eye to see, hear, touch, and taste the goodness god has for you and for us all.

Let us pray…. ah Holy Spirit, breath into us your life, your strength, your love. Amen

Luke 10:38-42 MARY AND MARTHA

Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing.[a] Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.” [NRSV]

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Romans 12 “Word for the Church in 2020”

You were made to belong in God’s family

I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect. For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another. We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness. Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” No, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. [NRSA: Rom 12]

As a koinonia fellowship we are committed to being one in Christ as we live as a worship to God.

We are able because we live in the power of Gods  grace and mercies. Without god we quickly serve ourselves and only those who are like minded. 

1. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect. 

2. Do not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober, logical, judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. 

For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another. 

We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: 

prophecy

  • Prophecy
  • Ministry
  • Teaching
  • Exhorting
  • Giving
  • Leading
  • Showing compassion

Instructions for all

• Let love be genuine; hate what is evil,

• hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor.

• Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord.

• Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer.

• Contribute to the needs of the saints;

• Extend hospitality to strangers.

• Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.

• Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.

• Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are.

• Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.

Busy ourselves with this list instead of worry fear and fighting

Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” Our task is to love!

“if your enemies are hungry, feed them; 

if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; 

for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.” 

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good

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1 COR 14:26 Koinonia Fellowship Builds the Body of Christ through Loving and Listening

What should be done then, my friends? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up. [NRSA]

In chapter 14, 1st Corinthians, Paul is having a conversation with the church Corinth regarding worship for believers and unbelievers and about gifts of the spirit. He is addressing what has become a division in the church between believers and those outside of the community of faith. So in our context of the world today this is an appropriate passage for us to study and learn as the church.

I remind you in our series here on being a koinonia fellowship that we as the church or cold to be intentionally with purpose, working to be a community that brings unity in Christ. It is not just unity for the sake of unity and unity for the sake of of peace and quiet in and that it is unity in the heart of Christ.

And the kernel the core of our lesson today is that as a Quintanilla fellowship we are called to build up the body of Christ and we do that through a variety of ways the the one verse that we draw out of chapter 14 is when it comes to the point of what to do about the division Paul instructs the church: when you come together everybody has a different part of the service everyone has different gifts everyone has different needs and expectations the common purpose is to be worshipful of God to be drawn together seeking the heart of God.

We recognized in the world today and all the division in and fighting, tensions, and passions that are exploding around reflects that not everyone is driving or working toward God’s point much less having the heart of God at the center of what they’re doing.

In our effort to be ecumenical and to be appreciative of the faith of others outside of the church is not our primary calling. We live in a world where the ideology of coexistence of diversity is valued more than the heart of God. It’s centrally clear in the first two of the 10 Commandments to have to worship God and to have no other gone. If our goal is not to find our our joy and our fulfillment and our purpose and our connection in God then we will never find connection with one another.

So our church our kononia fellowship is committed to finding the heart of God even though there are different voices, different agendas, and different ideologies confronting what we do. Our task is to build up the body of Christ to build up the community of faith by drawing people to God through Christ.

Think about a particular conversation that you found yourself in with someone who looks at a given situation from a very different even opposing perspective. It’s very easy for us just to say I’m right you’re wrong unless you see it my way you will continue to be wrong. This response it does not work when there’s no trust and a relationship.

When you read more of this 14th chapter you find Paul is trying to help mediate and help the congregation discern about which things are helpful for believers and which things are helpful for nonbelievers. While we all have gifts and parts of the conversation summer more helpful for those who agree and those who disagree we use different methods in different talents and different parts of what God has given us to build up the community.

At one point in my ministry I had the opportunity to serve a church that had about 1/3 of the members were interracial couples and families. And in this context I recognize that I did not have enough experience in knowing their perspective of the world and the church. They share terrible stories of oppression from both black and white congregations. They shared stories of how children and relationships had been pressured to agree or disagree with Bible verses in a variety of doctrine and dogma from different churches. I found it necessary to go back to seminary to a historically black seminary in Atlanta to audit some classes to gain a better perspective.

After the first class was complete one of the professors introduced me to the admissions director and said if I would consider working on a doctor of ministry and attending as a full-time student that they would give me credit for the classes I had audited. I live 5 miles from the campus at the time and so it is a great opportunity.

One of the classes that I had the opportunity to take in that program was simply to learn to listen to peoples faith stories and in the process a class of 40 people took the entire semester to listen and learn from each other’s faith journeys and faith stories. This was just tremendous help to my ministry not just relating to how to better serve one part of my fold. This experience allowed me to hear passionate stories of of the struggle for faith in a very divided world with common stories that dealt with race but also at the heart of them was an ongoing quest for God reaching out to speak in peoples lives and people responding to that call from God.

That’s the conclusion of the class it became well evident why this was part of the core curriculum because learning to hear gods call through peoples questions and struggles and divisions is the heart of what we do as a koinonia fellowship as the church and it’s a task we need learn.

I admit that I forget and I get caught up and don’t use the same listening skills as often as I may need to but I am reminded of how important they are. One thing you should know about me is that I am a very deep and reflective person when I have time to think and reflect. If you ask me for something instantaneously I don’t give you my best answer. Not all of life forwards the opportunity for the time and patience of of practiced and intentional responses. But as we look around and listen to the world we can see the evidence of not listening. We can see the evidence and proof of not paying attention. We can see the and hear the cries for being heard and being trusted and being accountable in the community around us.

As I had mentioned last week just as looking for the person to blame continues the the power struggle our task as the church is to hear people struggle and find the ways that God has given us gifts and talents to draw each other to respond to that call that God has for all of us.

This draws us back to the first part of this verse 26. “Well what should be done?” This is where we use our fellowship we use the talents of those who are prophetic we use those who can teach we use those who can sing we use those who can teach we use those who can instruct we use those who can build we use all the talents that we have in a way that ultimately builds up the relationships in the world around us.

What do we do?

Listen to the stories of others, is the first step in building relationships. Prior to this that means you and I have to be willing to sit down and spend time with people who think differently without getting upset without reacting negatively without drawing lines in the sand. You know that’s what God does with us we may be sinful and broken and filled with shame and blame and fill in the blank. We see Jesus sitting down with men and women and children those who are healthy and those who are ill, physically, mentally and spiritually.

1. We have to make a commitment to God and others that we want to be in relationship with all persons.

2. We have to trust and use the gifts and resources that God has given us as the body of Christ to be that strength and presents for the world.

3. Vs. 40 “ but all things should be done decently and in order.”

As good Methodist we love those verses that call for order and decency. These two words might be better seen through as process and respect.

The change that needs to occur in our society calls for us to respect even when we are not respected; we are to love where we are not loved; we listen even when we are not listened to by others. This gives us the process of God to speak through us.

Make a commitment today to be an intentional listener to someone who disagrees.. best if this is with a person but even what to hear on the media you choose.

1. Listen for how God is using this person and myself to build up the work of God.

2. Listen for the gifts, talents, experiences you have had that help you identify with what the person is saying.

3. Finally, what can you appreciate, respect, or love about this person?

4. This is the intensity of intention and purpose that koinonia people will go to reach one in the building up In Christ.

It is not easy if it were, politicians would have done it.

The sin of racism will be healed through Christ and our fellowship with him and all Gods people. So get busy!

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Romans 12 “Hold Fast to Good”

I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect. For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another. We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness. Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” No, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.” Do not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good. [NRSV]

We gather to worship today, on the occasion of the birth and empowering of the church. As we know from the second chapter of the Book of Acts of the Apostles that the Holy Spirit is poured out empowering people from around the world to hear the Gospel, in their own language and in their own hearts and they take that Good News home and the promise of Jesus that he would send the Holy Spirit to empower the followers to become teachers, leaders, servants and called to do even greater signs and wonders in the work, worship and service of Christ, as the church.

It is rather unimportant that we attempt to relive an occasion that we did not experience. Rather we are called to draw on the power of the Holy Spirit to be the Church in 2020. We are the church, called to gain the heart and ear of the word that we might be for the world Christ, present, alive and giving witness to the love and power of God. Pentecost is not our heritage Sunday; it is not our homecoming. Pentecost is our reaching out to the world in the power of the Holy Spirit.

What are we called to share the world: Paul gives a lengthy list! His list is not only long it is overwhelmingly demanding. We are tempted to shy away from it and only take bite size pieces. But on Pentecost Sunday, we need to eat and digest the whole thing.

Our returning out from the cocoons of our homes for these past two months, into a world that has been changed. We will have to be diligent not to forget the lessons we are learning in a reverse journey from the one of Israel’s wandering in the wilderness. We are now leaving the starkness of home to risk being in the wilderness of the world. Our temptation is to get back to normal. But never before has the world been so centrally focuses in thought and action. And driving force has been fear of a virus. I tiny virus and the thread of death. Now that is a motivating combination. Is this what takes to get the world’s attention?

Now that we have shared the mind of the virus, we know what it looks like to share the mind of Christ. What if the whole world was listening each day for the Good News and message of hope? What if we measure that count of persons who have been reunited with God and their neighbor, the number persons forgive, the number of lives and hearts saved from addictions, illnesses and all manner of brokenness. To be globally focused on one thing, and that one being Jesus Christ.

When every knee would bow and every tongue confess, Jesus as Lord and Savior.

If a virus can inspire the actions, we have witnesses and participated in, what would be if our witness was as infectious as the COVID-19? And instead of tracking the loss of life, we celebrating the new life, hope, and grace?

Paul is giving the church at Rome, encouragement about Christian living a witness that would become influence, infectious in a positive way. Here is the challenge he shares with disciples, then and now:

  1. We are a living witness of Christ’s sacrifice
  2. Our Spiritual Worship is lived out in our faith
  3. We do not act and think as the world measures what is valued and most important.
  4. We Live by God’s standards and expectations
  5. We find renewal in our minds through God’s word and heart.
  6. We decern from God what is Good, True and Whole
  7. We strive to be Humble
  8. We use sober judgement
  9. We understand faith in Christ is express in various ways, based on our degree of faith, some will be simple, others complex
  10. We know each person has value, gifts, talents and responsibilities, even if they differ, all are necessary to God.
  11. We love genuinely
  12. We passionately avoid evil
  13. We treasure what is good.
  14. We love one another
  15. We respect and honor each other
  16. We are passionate in living our faith
  17. We are made strong through the Spirit
  18. We serve the Lord.
  19. We rejoice in God’s home
  20. We are patient in suffering
  21. We continue in prayer always
  22. We contribute to one another’s needs
  23. We show hospitality to strangers.
  24. We bless and do not curse those who harm us
  25. We share each other’s joys and sorrows.
  26. We seek harmony and work to live peacefully
  27. We guard against pride,
  28. We are intentional to be friends with the friendless
  29. We are wise enough you can always be growing and learning
  30. We do not follow evil’s example, but overcome it with God’s goodness
  31. We know others are always looking up to your example
  32. We Leave wrath and vengeance to God

Who could do all these things, all the times?

None of us, yet these describe the bullseye of the target of our Christian living.

What does it look like we are allowing the World to define our purpose and identity?

  1. Win at all cost
  2. Being spiritual is just a show to satisfy our fears and weaknesses.
  3. Measure yourself and others based successful or failure we are.
  4. Live by the standards of what is popular at the time.
  5. Renew yourself by knowledge and self-awareness
  6. Decern from media, government and fashion what is Good, True and Whole
  7. Live by the motto, survival of the fittest.
  8. Trust the judgements of those who seek to take advantage of you.
  9. Live life based accepting all faiths and trust their God have authority over you.
  10. Know all persons not necessary, only those who help and serve our needs
  11. Let love gratifying of ourselves at the expense of others
  12. Love what is evil
  13. Avoid what is good
  14. Love another only those you tolerate or need.
  15. Respect and Honor those who can help you.
  16. Be passionate in self fulfillment
  17. Be strong in the eyes the community
  18. Serve yourself and those you look up to serve
  19. Rejoice in your accomplishments above all else
  20. Be impatient in Suffering
  21. Dismiss prayer as foolish self-consoling
  22. Contribute to one another’s needs only if you benefit from doing so
  23. Show hospitality to friends and family, if you like them.
  24. Curse and attack those who harm you
  25. Share your joys and sorrows and ignore others.
  26. Create disharmony and seek to rebel against everything that displeases or bothers you
  27. Always be proud,
  28. Hang out with the only those who benefit you
  29. Learn and accomplish only what you are interested in now
  30. Hate what is good and do as much damage as you can
  31. It matters not if others are looking to your example, you come first
  32. Dish as much wrath and vengeance, its your finest talent and calling

If you listen to the loudest voices in the marketplace, on the TV, online and surrounding our everyday life, which voice to do hear the most? Do we hear Paul’s list or the world’s list being preach and pounded in our hearts and minds?

Which list will do the most Good? What list creates the best for all people? Which feeds your spirit? Which list will bring you everlasting hope, joy, love and life?

It gets clear that one list, which difficult to take on all at once is better than the other!

I think we can condense the list to make it more concise without losing the details.

Draft 2: With humility, sobriety, patience, joy, worship, service, genuineness, spiritual empowerment, passion, harmony, and wisdom, we are living sacrifices to Christ, with Christ, for the world by loving, praying, trusting, treasuring, respecting, honoring, blessing, and witnessing God’s word, will, heart and measure in our daily lives. Leaving the temptation to measure with the world’s values, working to avoid evil, and leave justice and vengeance to God.  

Draft 3: With all intension, passion, and devotion, we live for and with Christ for the world, through our faith in God’s will and love in our daily lives. We leave God to deal with evil, justice and judgment.

Draft 4: Will at that is God by God’s measure, we live for and with Christ, trusting God’s understanding, leaving God to deal with evil, justice and judgement.

Draft 5: I Trust God, with all that I am in Christ, to reveal to the world God’s loving will and goodness.

Draft 6: Trust God, through Christ, to be God’s witness for evil in the world.

Draft 7: God, in Christ, lives in me, to overcome evil.

In a world driven by greed, power, blame, distraction, entertainment, being served, callous to violence against spouses, neighbors, children, the poor, that calls on someone else to be good, kind, compassionate, and generous from arm-chair distance over social media or expect governments, institutions or various organization to do in our place.

At some point, we stand up and draw the line in the sand, Paul is saying to the church in Rome.

“In God, I stand, In Christ I live, God is alive through me working to overcome the evil in this world.“

Q: When we are ready to make this stand, we are ready to become followers of Jesus Christ in word AND deed.

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Ephesians 1:15-23 “Above Every Name”

I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, and for this reason I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers. I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power. God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come. And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all. [NRSV]

This text is part of the introduction section of Paul’s letter to the church at Ephesus. He praises their faithfulness, wisdom and hope. He is grateful for their generous support of his ministry. And we may find it difficult to hear the first portion about any specific church today. While we would hope that were like that church the Paul describes. Some read Paul’s letters with a style of writing what he hopes for the church and not necessarily the reality of the church, based on the instructions and corrections contained in the following parts of his writing to the church. But I suggest that to sort out that discussion is not the focus of our reading today.

It is who we are at the world-wide, timeless church of Jesus -the Christ, present for the world that Paul affirms for our faith.

He reminds us of the Gospel Message:

God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come.”  

Christ is the Authority:

The church has handed over the reigns of our authority contextual academic criticism and theological reflection, we have given up on deep commitment and lifetime covenants, exchanging what is trending, fun, entertaining and simple. Not that faith has be complex, but we have made the wall the define us so low and world-like that it is difficult to know when we are faithful and when we are not.

The result is that we don’t think we have to deal with authority. We base God’s loving authority on the cruelty of those who have misused authority in God’s name or in God’s image for their own purposes and blame God for the evil in the world.

The setting of Ephesus was the powerful center of worship of the Roman goddess Dianna at the temple of Artemis. This was a place one would go to make offerings for favor in futility, in family, crops, and wealth. Make your donation and you will be blessed with abundance. The Roman government found great wealth and devotion. The church would have been such a small size organization in the middle of Sin-City. (How many churches are located ON the stripe in Las Vegas? zero) The church at Ephesus was off-off-off “the Strip.” And Paul is speaking about the authority of Christ and the Church.

Which has the greater authority today? The United States of America or the Throne of God? Which can tax, imprison and offer your life? Both? But which one loves you? What one created the other? God is not the creation of humanity, God is the creator, designer, love, and judge of the world and all the nations of the world, in our time and all times. God trumps the United States of America. (That is not a back-hand political comment, that is the truth.)

As the church we given up so much of our authority and calling in the name of being fair, kind, and inclusive. These are not ours to relinquish but have given permission to not trust God’s authority in our lives. And we wonder why the church is not the center of our social life as it has been in the past.

We question who more and more people in our country less faith have, less understand, and less respect for the church… and it comes when the God’s People concede that there is a greater authority than God.

We have more freedoms than did the church at Ephesus and yet Paul is calling them to be faithful to God’s authority when there were so many reasons not to in that environment. Paul is not saying, “let’s just all get along.” He is not saying, “Why can’t we be friends.” He is not singing, “We are the World.”

Paul is saying God has power and dominion over all things. Period….and his list continues:

  • With Power and Dominion
  • Above every other name
  • In that age
  • And in our age
  • And in the age to come.

God is the top dog, the chief above all chief, the supreme head of the universe. Not because God is on a power trip, but authority comes from creation, design and love.

In particular, Paul encourages our trust in Christ’s Authority:

And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.”

Because Jesus has given his life for ours, we follow his lead and call upon our lives.

The authority of Church is given by God, through Christ and continues through the Holy Spirit..

The problem we face is that at times we abused that authority

We allow others to abuse that authority

And rather than risk being wrong we hand over the power to governments, academies, armies and those who hunger for power who have the squeaky wheels of our collective attention.

  • Authority? We would rather be entertained.
  • Authority? We’d rather not be responsible.
  • Authority? We’d rather abdicate and take our chances that someone else will get it better than we would do.

That is not how God works.

  • God is the author of Authority.
  • God entrusts that Authority in Christ
  • Christ entrust that Authority in the Church and the ongoing body of Christ, present it the world
  • The Holy Spirit is our strength and guide to use God’s authority, AS the Church, for the work of God and glory of Christ.

The So What of this passage is to remind us that God is still in control; God remain the authority.

  • If we ever wonder why things are unfair,
  • If we wonder, why nations are at war
  • If we wonder, why people suffer under different governments
  • If we wonder, why there are those who hunger and thirst
  • If we wonder why there are terrorist, tyrants and evil in this world

The answer is that someone is not trusting God’s gracious and awesome authority.

What do we do about it.

  • We start with ourselves and our church. We stand for Jesus Christ.
  • We give our own affirmation, allegiance and trust to Christ.
  • We encourage one another under God’s grace, commands and love as the guide of our hearts, minds, souls and lives.
  • We show the world through our individual and local witness what it to be the body of Christ.

If we are not shine the light of Christ as a lampstand for the world to see, there is wonder why are fearful, diminished and feel powerless.

Paul says to the church then, and now.

You and I are the body of Jesus Christ, we will not be silenced, limited, or stopped by anything.

Authority is not the preacher’s, nor the congregations nor the conference, the authority is God’s through Christ.

For all that our church faces in this world, we need to reclaim our authority to lead the world to Christ.

  • We have the commandments of God
  • The life and grace of Christ
  • And the power and guidance of the Holy Spirit,
  • Don’t give up doing things the world’s way.

More next week…

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John 14:15-21 “See Me In You”

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you. “I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.” [NRSV]

The promise Jesus makes to us as disciples is be connected to the very Spirit of God.

The Holy Spirit is God’s presence in our spirits, our true self.

We are not simply the sum of amassed knowledge that artificial intelligence can replicate. We have an additional dimension to our self. In Christ, this spirit is born. Through Christ we are awaken and reborn as a spiritual –  new person.

The purpose of knowing and being connected in Holy Spirit is to that God does not want us to be left out, alone, powerless, or afraid. God remains with us because God is all about the relationship.

The Difference in Knowing About Jesus and knowing Jesus.

In the old standard Interpreter’s Bible there is the story of a student who runs into a previous professor from a decade ago at conference meeting. The student waits in line to speak with the professor, he introduced himself as a “one of your students.” To which the professor looked puzzled, thinking through the thousands of students in his tenure. He replied, “Sir, you may have attended my lectures, but you were not one of my students.”

We can know countless information and proof of the historical Jesus, but we can miss knowing Jesus for all the facts. Do you realize there are no letters or documents signed by Jesus? We have no original copy of the Ten Commandments. We don’t even have original copies of the Bible, not one of them penned by its author, and yet we place our faith in the scriptures and our lives in Christ and our hope in the Holy Spirit? How could we be so foolish or faithful?

The difference is that these resources of our faith lead us to meet the person of Jesus, the witness of God, the movement and strength of the Holy Spirit in people lives. It is not History’s job to prove Jesus, that falls on our shoulders. It is not the Academic Academy’s job to validate our claims and truths, that is the work of God in the Holy Spirit.

Graham Greek writes of a character in “The Power and the Glory” known as the whiskey priest who attempts to describe how God is at work as the Father and the son the Holy Spirit. He alludes to the rural western town where the barber is also the shop keeper and the deputy sheriff, wear differ hats as needed. The divine reality is that God wears all three hats at the same time, beyond all time.

God so longs for our heart/mind/soul/self to be loved, and love in return through all creation that God is working in us in every generation. Scripture is timeless because it God speaking to humanity. A humanity that sins, fails and fall short. Scripture is truth because it reflects God’s guiding those God chooses and those who choose God to tell the Good News of God’s workings. Scripture is power because it is the Holy Spirt speaking through the hearts, soul, minds, and self of the faithful to witness to all generations that God creates us in love, saves us through grace, and empowers and guides us to witness that love and grace to all the world: Father, Son and Holy Spirit are/is with us.

How do know the Spirit is in us?

the On the day that we are born anew in the Spirit, is the moment that we realize God is in Jesus, and Jesus is in the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit is in us, and we are in God, through Jesus in our Spirit.

The ability to make this connection is what the image of God is all about. God’s nature is not limited by physical features; God nature is beyond history, beyond matter, beyond science, beyond time. For God to be all knowing, seeing and loving, means that God is more than our perspective.

For me personally, I grew up hearing sermons, lessons, hymns, anthems, studies, songs, cantatas, programs, devotions and stories of faith in church, outside of church, at home and in my own devotion progress. While I was baptized as an infant, it was not until my thirteenth year, while at the chapel at Camp Glisson did I know in my heart that all these information had a connecting point that included me.

There have been other times that God has claimed and made a stabbing hold on my spirit to mark my journey. It is not only a new birth is the a new life with new milestones.

Today’s passage is about markers in this spiritual journey.

I have learned through thirty-six years of professional ministry that there are those with much less training and practice that have a deeper and more mature journey than my own. But we all share the same spirit. Jesus gives the promise of God’s Spirit to live in us, that we are awakened and born anew, and it comes through a process.

  • Love
  • Commandments
  • Revelation

We typically would think it is in reverse. If we had a powerful revelation, our own Damascus Road, or burning bush, or tree in the middle of the garden, or some powerful sign of healing that we would be devoted to keep God’s commandments. But it is just the reverse in Jesus teaching.

  • We learn that we are loved by God, not oppressed by God.
  • The tree in the Garden was given to make it simple, we misplace trust.
  • The law was given to keep us in bounds, but we rebelled.
  • The kings and prophets were given to define us, and we devalued our neighbors and enemies.
  • Jesus arrives and offers himself as our stand in for our oppression, lost trust, rebellion, pride and separation.
  • The Holy Spirit is given as part of our Spirit that we might know God is eternally with us, now and for eternity.

As I looked out my window, I saw the mighty wind blow the leaves and branches and trunks of trees, but I sat safely in my house, climate controlled and secure. Am I so protecting myself that I am not away of the Spirit I see in others?

Being in the Spirit, is being willing to face the winds with God’s help.

If our starting place to find the Holy Spirit is to be in love, we look to God’s self-vulnerability of creating people, male and female, and entrusting us with the possibility to love and trust or to reject and rebel, hoping we would choose relationship and trust in God, who loves us enough to give us that choice.

God loves us.

When we see that God loves us despite our flaws and failures. When we see that we are God’s children, the creation of God’s love, and all people are so created, we see God not only loves me, and you, but everyone. A love that immense is awesome beyond our capacity to express or understand, and yet this is what God has and is doing for us. God loves us. God so loves us that he gave his Son, himself for us, to not only prove that love but give love to our life.

And when see this love is real, the commandment become our response. But our failings continue as the choice to trust God is challenged in everyday.

God reveals his Spiritual Presence. Living, growing and giving witness in our heart, soul, mind, self.

If you have not seen God at work in someone’s life there are dozen in this church who can share with you how God is at work in their life.

If you have heard and seen God in the lives of others but you question about God in your life, this is where this passage speaks to us all. Hear the Good News.

God loves us. Not even evil, death or anything will stop that love, as seen in Christ

And God wants to move in with us wherever we go. The invitation is God’s – let God move you.

God be in me, Let your Holy Spirit feed and guide me. God give my faith life and fuel to burn passionately for you. Be in my mind, in my soul, in my thoughts and in my actions. Come Holy Spirit reveal yourself in me. Amen.

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John 14:1-14 “The Faith of Proof”

The proof that frequencies have a physical effect on matter in Hydrogen and Sand moved by sound. https://youtu.be/tFAcYruShow

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way to the place where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves. Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it. [NRSA]

Our culture, even more than in the time of the first disciples long for PROOF.

The disciples are looking for proof. What is the proof of eternal life? What is the proof of heaven?

Are their streets of gold and pearly gate? Is it forty acres or one-mile square? Are their clouds, harps and banquet tables? I have long thought myself, that the great gathering of those who have died in Christ are raised to worship God would have a grand center of worship around the throne. In that congregation are stadium seats, reclining seats, with in-seat speakers and surround sound of the highest fidelity. The seating chart will be an unlikely arrangement. My guess is that while all the seats face the throne, those seated to our left and right are most likely those we least expect to be seated near. Therefore, we are given the commandment to love our enemies because we will be together for a very long time. Those seated in front of us are those who we didn’t expect to be there and those seated behind are those we looked forward to seeing the most, who have had our back in this life. I believe heaven is a grand reversal of much of what we expect and anticipated. But I don’t plan to be disappointed at all.

In our grief we look forward to being greeting and surrounded by loved ones that we miss who have gone before us. I too look forward to this with hope. But one clear thing that Jesus explains to disciples is this: That Jesus has gone to prepare a place for us. And he will return to take us home.

The Proof of Science and Reason

What would cause us to find our way home? Our culture has seen an amazing advancement in the power of science and reason to affect the world. When faced with a tiny virus, and the threat of suffering and death, science and reason have convinced the world to shelter-in-place as a global community. When is the last time the church did something that caused the whole world to respond in unison?

We need to acknowledge the voice and trust of science and reason are passionately challenging our voice of faith, tradition, and God’s own self. Even when the quantum physic scientist drills down into the basic sub-atomic energies and sees the systemic order and mystery of every part of the universe and its interconnectedness and still calls it random chance, we know that voice is choose something other than the heart of a gracious God of love.

When we listen to the Academies and Congresses of power and see how the world responds to say that the Church has oppressed humanity in the past, is not guarantee that they have or can oppress the world even further away from God’s heart.

Science and Reason are not our enemies, but they are not greater than God. They are part of how we explain and understand the world around us. But it is God has created all thing in God’s order, in God’s timing, with God’s purpose, out of God’s love for us.

We need to be aware where the world has placed its trust, but we do not need to be afraid. We have God who remains God.

Two Simple Promises

Jesus does not want disciples to live in fear. This is clear from the prophets foretelling the Messiah, to the angles at Jesus’s birth, to his words to followers and disciples before and after his resurrection. When Jesus, who knows us best has gone to prepare a place for us, has our very best interest at heart, knows what we need. Therefore, the accommodations of heaven will lack for nothing we need. Secondly his promise is personalized. He knows what each us needs. Don’t worry about heaven or your time of being here or there. God has got you covered, here and now as well as then and there.

The second promise

Jesus makes the most clearly defined statement in scripture concerning himself:

  • I am,
  • the way,
  • the truth,
  • the life.

In the old testament,

Moses ask for God’s name to take to pharaoh. God says my name is: I am. Jesus adds to the name three others: Way, Truth, and Life. I am Life; I am Truth; I am the Way; I am.

These are names in which we trust.

There are some who ask, “Does that mean all the other religions lead people to hell?” My answer is this, “I am not judge, that is life to God and Jesus. I do believe that for those who have found God’s heart in various ways on earth will find themselves face-to-face with Jesus who is our trust salvation.”

I believe that many people who think their good deeds, good intensions, and leveraged attempts to buy faith will be disappointed that they have traded their lives here for torment of loneliness in the time to come.

Our calling is to share that which we know to be the way, the truth and the life to the great “I am” and trust God to reach those who do not believe us. But know that God desire to use our love and trust to reach others in this life.

The Word Made Flesh

God models this himself in Jesus. Jesus offers himself. Some will listen and believe others will not. God is not in the business of forcing faith or grace, but is patient, grace-filled and hopeful that we will come ot him through Christ.

Jesus offers his word, and if don’t take his word, take his works.

Also know God is expecting us to do even greater things that Jesus did with his life. (excluding the salvation piece, that’s Jesus alone does for us all.)

Jesus does answer the question of PROOF with a call to faith.

The Proof is turned on the disciples. His command is to Do the things that further his work, and God will provide and that will be the proof. Which makes our actions and God’s work, again with the actions of faith? We do them with the anticipation and hope that Christ will be revealed in and through us.

If we do not do the things of God toward others, then we close the heart of God and make it more difficult for us both to find God’s heat. The proof is in the faith.

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John 10:1-10 “The Risk of an Open Gate”

Church of the Transfiguration
Mt Tabor, Church of the Transfiguration.

Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers.” Jesus used this figure of speech with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them. So again, Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved and will come in and go out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”  [NRSV]

Sheep Herding Risk

Very few if any of us will shepherd sheep. We are much more likely to have cows, dogs, or cats. We may not have a herd, but we know the risk of opening the door or the gate and allowing out pets to go out. All manner of dangers awaits out the gate or door. from the mechanical, mischievous, and manageable ones. The coyotes that boarder our properties lay in wait. Driver speeding though neighborhood and country roads are distracted. Air borne contagions blowing at our windows and doors.

We found ourselves on the verge of leaving our shelter-at-home and wonder about the risk of opening ourselves to the risk of being exposed to infections and re-infections of the virus, and all manors of evil, sin, brokenness, grief, hurt and suffering.  If I were charged with herding sheep today, the herd would be at great risk. I lack the experience.

God’s Risk

Have you ever reflected upon the great risk God has entrusted in us? God has no desire nor need for smart robots to do God’s work or give God praise as a programed creation. God has made us from love, hoping that we would choose to love and trust God in return, and to show that love and trust to one another. We certainly fail, and God is gracious. God offers himself as the gate and door through that love and trust.

God risks children in the garden of Edan to be trusting of God’s graciousness and single command. The Tree in the middle of the garden is the central figure of that divine-human trust. God provides without request everything that we would need, surrounded in love and relationship, and asks of us to trust God more than we trust ourselves.

The sin in the garden is upon hearing something different from God’s instruction, that we forfeit our life in the moment of curiosity, disobedience, or selfishness.

What if the story had Adam and Eve exploring the garden together, and when confronted by the diversion of the slick talking snake, that they asked each other before acting alone? Of if divided on what to do in a giving situation asked God directly, what to do or what are the consequence of our choices, thoughts and actions. If we have learned anything in this time of quarantine, may it be that we need each other more than we ever realized.

I am the Gate

As our eternal remedy to sin and misplaced trust and the forfeit of our lives, Jesus offers himself as the gate, the way, back to God.

We think back the garden of Eden passage and know that after the failing to trust and communion, God sends Adam and Eve out, and set an angel with a sword to close the entrance back into the garden. 

While this is a fearful and passionate scene, their thoughts, actions, and choices bore fruit of rejecting God, trusting themselves above God’s heart and instruction. The consequence should have been death. But God continue to love them, and loves us even when we sin and reject by our thoughts, actions and choices.

All those who came before were not the way.

Jesus makes it plain to disciples. There are those who USE God’s trust and love are thieves and robbers. We like to blame the devil or find someone to blame for our irresponsibility with our lives. We want to blame our leaders, the wealth people and corporations. We find it easy to blame governments, but remember we are the one’s who selected to lead us.

Too many people are overwhelmed by the deep fighting in our political parties. One side blaming the other, day after day. Answer this question before we move on: If all the time, energy, and passion that we given to find the correct person or party to blame would be refocused on holding each other accountable to God’s love and trust. We would reopen to the doors of trust between each other, and with God.

The reality is we don’t. It is easy to point fingers, find flaws, and get rid of that which we in our own way. If you have a problem with me as a neighbor, as a friend, as a pastor, as a human being: is it better to gather our like-minded friends and supports and being to get me out their way or to sit down together, talk through our struggle and find the consensus of how to love and work together. I choose the latter and reject the former.

But how to do ever get to that place where we can restore trust, love, and relationship. Many times, we don’t but there is a way. Many times, we listen to others who offer what is easy in the moment, or less challenging of ourselves, and we steam ahead into campaigns of righteousness that robe our relationships of trust and love.

The church has placed on the second burning its goal of division in a time of pandemic. I pray that we have found in this time apart, a time of prayer, study and renewal, and return to impending threats of division with the confession that we have closed our hearts to those who think differently that we think and believe. In place of this division may we have a return to the heart of God and see that God has both an open-door policy of accepting sinners ALONG WITH an angel of accountability and consequence for misplaced trust. Our hope lies in the one who is the doorway, the gate.

The Gateway to Salvation

Those who enter by the gate of Christ find life, fulfillment, wholeness, belonging and salvation. If the great risk for God was for Adam and Eve to understand trust, love, and grace, then taking their lives for one action would end the whole expression of God. God is more interested in our relationship than our past. It is the great BOTH/AND.

God knows that we continue to make poor choices, we continue to surrender our lives for our own sake and not God’s.  God knows that we seek ill toward some. God know we are hesitant to forgive those who have trespassed against us. God know we only look at the manna we need for the day or a few days ahead, and that we grow tired and bored without the Garden, the trust, the ongoing work of the relationship.

God entrusts Adam and Eve with the work of faith and trust. All the other tasks and responsibilities were taken by God. The shelter-at-home has been a change at our household. We have shared more tasks and been forced to learn better communication and interdependence. We have find an ever great need to pray and seek each other’s grace, forgiveness and contributions. God is hoping in our time, that the Garden where we trust God and We work to be faithful, loving and trust of God and one another is fully known. Knowing how hard that is we have a clear picture of why we need the risen Lord in our lives.

The Big Risk

The gate is open to all. God has been about boundaries and grace throughout history. The Ten Commandments are boundary markers that let us know when we have crossed the lines of God’s expectation for our relationship with God, family and the world. The consequences may appear to have differing degrees, but frankly each has a ripping and separating effect on our trust and love of God.

We need to reclaim the GRACE that God has both boundaries of our thoughts, behaviors, and choices, and the GRACE to come running to him to restore our broken trust, love and forfeits of our lives.

Robber and thieves are sneaking if they are good at their vocations. The work in darkness. They come when we are absent. The take when we are not looking or paying attention. They distract and are persistent without compassion or concern for the value of others and their belongings.

God is risking to love, trust, and restore us knowing that we are just as likely to work in darkness, to be absent from God’s presence, absent from supporting and encouraging one another. We are likely to tire with our attention, we are easily distracted, we give up on persistence and looking ourselves when pressed.

If that does not prove God’s love for us, there is the clearest gift, that God lays down his life in Christ, for us, as the bridge, the gate, the passage, the ability to restore our relationship. God is willing to give his life for ours. That is the supreme gift of trust.

The Instruction to Disciples

What do we take from this parable? We not only see what great love God has for us, we also see how we are to love and trust one another. We see how we become gateways to Christ for others. And it is a BOTH / AND relationship.

While we were yet sinners Christ died for us.. While we are deserving of the world’s criticism that just a bunch of sinners, God is still working to transform our hearts, our faith, our trust, our relationships.

The church is the body of Christ, BOTH crucified and risen. We have a marks of sin and we also have the life, the hope, the joy, the trust, and love of God that gives us life, and life that is abundant.

Join me in naming someone who need to hear this BOTH / AND message and tell them this week.

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