Archive for category #2020
From the wilderness of Sin the whole congregation of the Israelites journeyed by stages, as the LORD commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. The people quarreled with Moses, and said, “Give us water to drink.” Moses said to them, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the LORD?” But the people thirsted there for water; and the people complained against Moses and said, “Why did you bring us out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and livestock with thirst?” So Moses cried out to the LORD, “What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.” The LORD said to Moses, “Go on ahead of the people, and take some of the elders of Israel with you; take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. I will be standing there in front of you on the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it, so that the people may drink.” Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel. He called the place Massah and Meribah, because the Israelites quarreled and tested the LORD, saying, “Is the LORD among us or not?” [NRSA]
This is a helpful passage to hear at a time of fear, want, and uncertainty. The Hebrews have been lead by Moses out of slavery in Egypt, through the miracle of the parting of the waters of the Red Sea, the find themselves thirsty in a dessert.
One of the key definitions of a dessert is that water is not readily available. The fruit of the land is extremely limited and especially when a multitude of people are traveling together.
Even as spectacular and life changing it must have been to cross the sea, evade the enemy army and find themselves on dry land while their oppressors drown. The daily need for food and drink challenge the best experience of faith. We were just remembering how Jesus had been fasting in the wilderness, a dessert place, having spent forty days and thirty-nine nights in the most defining spiritual experience of his life. At the very moment of dealing with the basic needs of life and death, we are confronted with the temptation to fear and doubt.
We look around today and find ourselves being tested by the effects of a virus.
Healthy humans ‘harbor an average of five viruses’ https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/282751
It is well established that our bodies possess gut bacteria that is beneficial for health. Now, researchers from Washington University in St. Louis, MO, have found that our bodies are also home to an average of five viruses responsible for numerous illnesses, although it is unclear whether they have positive or negative implications for health. Strains of HPV were found in around 75% of participants’ skin samples and 50% of nose samples, while new strains of the virus were found in both skin and nose samples. “Most everyone is familiar with the idea that a normal bacterial flora exists in the body,” says study co-author Dr. Gregory Storch, a virologist and chief of the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at the university. “Lots of people have asked whether there is a viral counterpart, and we haven’t had a clear answer. But now we know there is a normal viral flora, and it’s rich and complex.” The findings, which form a part of the Human Microbiome Project funded by the National Institutes of Health, were recently published in the journal BMC Biology. The research team, led by Kristine M. Wylie, PhD, an instructor of pediatrics at the university, collected 706 samples of bodily fluids from 102 healthy adults aged 18-40. The samples were taken from participants’ [skin and all openings.] All participants were closely screened to ensure they had no viral infections, and they were eliminated from the study if they had had been diagnosed with human papillomavirus (HPV) in the past 2 years, or had a form of active genital herpes in the last 2 months. For each sample, the researchers used high-throughput DNA sequencing that enabled them to detect a wide range of viruses. Expect in-depth, science-backed toplines of our best stories every day. Seven families of viruses identified, including HPV and herpesvirus Among 92% of participants, at least one virus was detected, with some participants harboring around 10-15 viruses. On average, each participant harbored five viruses. The researchers say they were surprised to find so many. “We only sampled up to five body sites in each person and would expect to see many more viruses if we had sampled the entire body,” says Wylie. From the samples, the team detected seven families of viruses. These included viruses responsible for non-sexually transmitted herpes – herpesvirus 6 and 7. These viruses were detected among 98% of participants who were sampled from the mouth. Strains of HPV were found in around 75% of skin samples and 50% of nose samples, while new strains of the virus were found in both skin and nose samples. Around 38% of female participants had HPV strains in vagina samples, with many of these harboring strains associated with increased risk of cervical cancer, such as HPV 16 and HPV 18. The researchers also identified adenoviruses – responsible for pneumonia and the common cold – in the majority of samples. It is possible, the researchers note, that the viruses identified were lurking infections from years before. But Wylie says that dormant viruses usually reside in cells rather than bodily fluids, which is where the viruses were found in this study. Commenting on their findings, the team says: “This study is the first to use high-throughput DNA sequencing to describe the diversity of eukaryotic DNA viruses in a large cohort of individuals who were sampled at multiple body sites. This analysis demonstrates that there is a ‘normal viral flora’ in generally healthy, asymptomatic individuals.” They admit that it is unclear as to whether the viruses are beneficial or detrimental to health, but they hypothesize that the viruses may boost the immune system’s response to harmful pathogens in some cases, while increasing the risk of infection in others. “It’s very important to know what viruses are present in a person without causing a problem and what viruses could be responsible for serious illnesses that need medical attention,” says Dr. Storch. “While more research remains, we now have a much clearer picture of the communities of viruses that naturally exist in healthy people.”
That means that at any giving time we have from one to over a dozen virus at work in our bodies; some working to build up our immune systems and others might threaten our life.
How do we know when we are at risk? What are the risks? What does God plan to do with us as a global people in the threat of virus, thirst, or any other struggle that faces our mortal experience?
Look at the context of our present global circumstance:
SARS, AVIAN, SWINE, MERS, EBOLA, ZIKA, EBOLA, CORONA – These are not connected to politics, but when we politicize or look to blame the sin of infection, we will never find a cure, love our neighbor, much less love our enemies. Every epidemic has a tragic effect on those who are not able to survive and those who suffer through the effects of each occurrence. When obsess our time on the fear of virus and illness we are admitting that we have no faith, we have no hope, and we have no trust in God to provide.
Tragically, this virus has become infamous within the brewing global kettle of blame and rage that makes illness and suffering the main story rather than where our strength, hope, and help comes.
Pslam 121:2 [NRSA] I lift up my eyes to the hills— from where will my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade at your right hand. The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life. The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time on and forevermore.
It’s a word that Moses and those afraid and thirsty in the dessert had forgotten since the parting of the sea.
My Help Comes from the Lord
It’s a word of encouragement the world needs to hear and trust. God is working through researchers and healers to deal with symptoms, causes and cures.
God is working through the church to remind the world that God will provide a way through this struggle and all our struggles.
Our Challenge to one another and all those we can influence:
1. Only check the news once a day, and only long enough to find out if the overall plan of prevention has changed.
2. Spend the hours you might devote to news watching and social media reading to prayer, study and Christian fellowship.
3. When you hear or see someone obsessing on the news, call them out to spend their lives with greater care:
a. Live, Love and Share the Good News Christ is offering us everyday. GOD WILL PROVIDE
b. God provides through medicine, through governments, and despite governments.
c. Trust the Voice of God more than voice of those who are selling fear and promising death.
4. There is no diminishing those who have died, those who are suffering from this virus, but know there are
a. MORE PEOPLE are suffering from bad politics and ungodly politician agendas
b. MORE PEOPLE are suffering from heart disease, cancer, poverty, trafficking and self-imposed evils.
c. MORE PEOPLE are suffering from meth, alcohol, and all sorts of substances,
d. MORE PEOPLE are suffering from sin and separation from God and neighbor.
5. THE HOPE AND ANSWER IS THE SAME: God will Provide
LET THE WORLD HEAR YOU SAY THESE WORDS: God will Provide.
In our Text from the Exodus: God says to Moses, “Strike the rock, and water will come out of it, so that the people may drink.” God has a plan, God has a way, God has a process, God is at work behind the scenes, AND God is at work in the People of God, those willing to listen, trust and carry out God’s instructions and message.
Footnote: Moses asks the faith question after the water flows: “Is the Lord among us or not?” This is our word!
Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished. The tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written, “One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ ” Then the devil took him to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written, “He will command his angels concerning you,’ and “On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’ ” Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’ ” Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor; and he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! for it is written, “Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.'” Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels came and waited on him. [NRSA]
You can check it off your to-do list! We ALL understand temptation. We know what it means to want something that is not good for us, or not ours, something that is selfish. We all cross back and forth over the fence of what is right and wrong.
What does it mean to us for JESUS to be Tempted?
The SHORT answer is: “Knowing that Jesus has experienced what we experience means 1) we can identify with him; 2) we see how he deals with temptation, and 3) because he is faithful in over-coming temptation that he is our means hope in our struggles.
How was Jesus Tempted?
In Matthews remembering, he tells us several things about temptation:
1) It begins with small, daily, personal needs and ideas.
2) It has a social and community influence that our personal dealings with sin affect the community.
3) Also, that temptation is something we can expect to deal with all of our lives, everywhere we go.
Summary: Temptation is progressively more powerful, it effects self & others, its a problem with everyone, everywhere.
Temptation vs. Sin
Temptation is how we deal with the thoughts, plans, and attitudes that occur before our behaviors
As Methodist we have foundational [Articles of Religion] that have not changed since the beginning of the church. [I ask for your forgiveness for neglecting to teach them more often.]
Article VII — Of Original or Birth Sin “Original sin standeth not in the following of Adam (as the Pelagians do vainly talk), but it is the corruption of the nature of every man, that naturally is engendered of the offspring of Adam, whereby man is very far gone from original righteousness, and of his own nature inclined to evil, and that continually.” [Sin is the corrupted nature of every person, we are broken off from the original relationship with God, righteousness, and are most likely to sin and to sin ongoing.]
Article IX — Of the Justification of Man “We are accounted righteous before God only for the merit of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, by faith, and not for our own works or deservings. Wherefore, that we are justified by faith, only, is a most wholesome doctrine, and very full of comfort.” [Our only chance to be righteous, in full relationship with God, is through faith in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior: This is what it means to be made just or righteous, by God work through Christ and our trust in that work on our behalf.]
Article XII — Of Sin After Justification “Not every sin willingly committed after justification is the sin against the Holy Ghost, and unpardonable. Wherefore, the grant of repentance is not to be denied to such as fall into sin after justification. After we have received the Holy Ghost, we may depart from grace given, and fall into sin, and, by the grace of God, rise again and amend our lives. And therefore they are to be condemned who say they can no more sin as long as they live here; or deny the place of forgiveness to such as truly repent.” [ Sin is possible after we have given our trust and faith in Christ, as we test and are tempted to not trust in varying degrees; we need to recognize that affirming our faith is our continual response for all our days. ]
In summary of these three Articles:
• We are born in a broken and sinful world
• We are just as familiar and willing to sin as Adam and Eve were
• We are just a good at sinning even now that we have Christ as our hope and strength not to sin
• Jesus Continues to be our path to living in ways that are Godly, Righteous, in Right-Relationship with God.
• And that dealing with Sin and Temptation are a daily work of confession, rededication and renewing our trust in Christ.
So, we have this foundation along with all the assumptions that we know all about temptation, know how to tempt and how to successfully give into our temptations. SO WHAT?
Let’s look at temptation in a spatial example: If God is a point A, and standing her next to A I am as close to God as I can be, with my eyes, my heart, my mind, my attention, my focus, my everything devoted to God there are other things that I choose to distract, make room, compromise, or accept along with God.
Single lens / bi-focal / tri-focal glasses: I have multiple options, near by but different ones hold different objects in focus.
What are the core areas of responsibility for each of us?
a. We have our faith in God above all else – we must deal with the sin in our own eye before we look elsewhere.
b. We have our family, our household, our realm of influence or responsibility. – learn to look to God with family
c. We have the larger community in which we live and benefit. – learn to look to God with community.
d. We have the world — learn to look to God with the world.
No matter where our attention or responsibilities are directed our hearts, words, work, need to lead with our trust in God, our faith in Christ, our following in the direction of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus turns to scripture with every presentation of temptation as a context for prioritizing what is RIGHTEOUS, Good, Godly, in-right with God.
Jesus reminds himself:
• if I had every daily necessity met, I still would not have the heart of God.
• If I all the support, attention and help of everyone in the whole community, I would not have God.
• If I had the power, wealth, possession of the whole world, I would not have God.
Jesus beings in the Word,
• God is more than happiness of my body
• God is more than the acceptance or approval of other
• God is more than the powers and wealth of the whole world.
I Choose God. I choose God. I choose God.
The response to Temptation is to Choose God instead.
The power of scripture is the voice of God to guide our path, to remind us of grace, to open us to the holy Spirit, to connect us with the message of salvation, to retell the way of salvation, to remind us to love, serve, forgive and worship.
• “But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.” James 1:14-15.
• “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13.
• “I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.” Galatians 5:16-17.
• “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds.” 2 Corinthians 10:4.
• “Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You.” Psalm 119:11.
• “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.” Ephesians 6:10-11.
• “How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your word.” Psalm 119:9.
• “How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” Genesis 39:9.
• “I have made a covenant with my eyes; why then should I look upon a young woman?” Job 31:1.
• “If you love Me, keep My commandments.” John 14:15.
• “Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ.” Philippians 3:8.
• “But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness.” 1 Timothy 6:11.
• “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.” Matthew 5:6.
• See the sin that you are tempted to as worthless, ugly, and unbearably sinful:
• “Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience.” Colossians 3:6.
• “You who love the Lord, hate evil! He preserves the souls of His saints; He delivers them out of the hand of the wicked.” Psalm 97:10.
• “Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” James 4:7.
• “Then Jesus said to him, ‘Away with you, Satan! For it is written, you shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.’” Matthew 4:10.
• “… For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.” Hebrews 2:14-18.
• “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13.
• “Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts.” Romans 6:11-12.
• “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” Galatians 2:20.
• “You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” 1 John 4:4.
• “For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.” Romans 6:14.
• “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:16.
• “Who, in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear, though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered.” Hebrews 5:7.
• “Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.” Philippians 1:6.
• “Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.” James 1:12.
• “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.” 1 Peter 5:8-9.
• “… choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin.” Hebrews 11:25.
These are but a few.
We pray in the “Lord’s Prayer” for God to “lead us not into temptation” but it more appropriate to ask God to meet us in the face of temptation.
The lesson on Temptation is clear:
• Count a pop quiz, test or defense every day
• Be ready to respond in God’s Word
• Trust God to Provide the Way.
“You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, “You shall not murder’; and “whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, “You fool,’ you will be liable to the hell of fire. So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first, be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift. Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are on the way to court with him, or your accuser may hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. Truly I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny. “You have heard that it was said, “You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right-hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to go into hell. “It was also said, “Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I say to you that anyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery. “Again, you have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, “You shall not swear falsely, but carry out the vows you have made to the Lord.’ But I say to you, Do not swear at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let your word be “Yes, Yes’ or “No, No’; anything more than this comes from the evil one. [NRSA]
More than just the top 10
“Well, I haven’t murdered anyone.” Cut me some slack..
Jesus is speaking about Sin. It’s not just saying bad words, it’s thinking the worst, thinking ill of someone or even yourself, it is not thinking of your selfishness when pointing out the flaws of others, it is not just behavior of infidelity, it includes the thought of infidelity. We don’t stand a chance!?
Fans of Romans Chapter 6:1, What then are we to say? Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound? , well if I’m getting the penalty for thinking wrong, then I ought to get to taste it fruit of my sins.
Matthew’s Gospel is directed to those who knew a lifetime of keeping the law and following the statutes of the temple priests, judges, Pharisees, and Sadducees. The bottom line is Sin is not about cutting corners, getting by, getting around the rules, it is more than the ten commandments.
• Sin is real.
• Sin is easier than we make it out to be.
• Sin is something we all struggle to overcome.
Even if we narrowed the task to follow the teaching of Jesus
• We don’t love our enemies.
• we don’t feed or clothe all those who are in poverty.
• we don’t put others ahead of us all the time.
• we don’t always turn the other cheek.
• we don’t sell all that we have and follow Jesus..
Revisit the meaning of SIN.
Sin is that which we do, think or allow to occur that moves us or others away from the heart of God.
Romans 12:3 For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.
Disciple Study Question
There was fellow several congregations ago, in a Disciples Bible Study class, declared,
• “God has it out for us.
• It’s too hard to keep all the laws, rules and parables.
• We are set up to fail!”
• So there is no use trying to be good.
• We need to give up on being righteous!
• We are just fooling ourselves.
• “I give up! Why even try?”
The answer is not what we expect. Just as Jesus tells in plainly, let your words be simple, direct and true. Give a yes or a no. The truth is that without Jesus we don’t stand a chance.
But we try to get around it or ignore it:
“My attorney advised me to say, I have no recollection of the events that occurred on that date and of the words I might or might not have said.”
“I don’t know who broke the vase in the living room, we know how you told us not to play in the house.”
“Let’s Make Deal”
We have a habit of the sin exchange
Here is the deal:” I won’t call you out so that you don’t call me out.” In our text today, Matthew recounts Jesus calling us all out!
There is where we need to hear the Good News Part!
Sin is so unmanageable that we MUST trust the grace of Jesus Christ to be our strength.
Our only hope is to trust the loving grace Jesus has for us and to place our faith completely in him.
Not as an excuse to keep sinning and wait until the end for the clean slate deal,
One church I served painted the “Sarum Prayer” around the wall at the edge of the ceiling and read the prayer in worship every week. It is an old pray. 13th century, but a mighty and powerful prayer:
God be in my head, and in my understanding;
God be in mine eyes, and in my looking;
God be in my mouth, and in my speaking;
God be in my heart, and in my thinking;
God be at mine end, and at my departing.
I offer some Contemporary Alternatives or Additions…
God be on my phone, and in my texting; God be in my car, and in my traveling; God be in my dreaming, and in my doing; God be in my face, and in my resting; God be in my gut, and in my striving.
God be in my home, and in my workplace; God be in my habits, and in my adventures; God be in my worries, and in my celebrations; God be in my to-do list, and in my procrastination list; God be in my success, and in my failures.
God be in my days, and in my nights; God be in my rest, and in my labors;
God be in my fear, and in my witness; God be in my words, and in my thinking. God be in my loosing, and in my winning.
God be in my boldness, and in my silence; God be in my troubles, and in my times of ease; God be in my attitude, and in my responses; God be in my duty, and in my leisure; God be in my going out, and my coming home.
Or another Hymn to sing and remind of our need for Christ: Learn it and sing it:
“I Need Thee Every Hour”, by Annie Hawks
The United Methodist Hymnal, No. 397
I need thee every hour, most gracious Lord;
no tender voice like thine can peace afford.
I need thee, O I need thee; every hour I need thee; O bless me now, my Savior, I come to thee.
This hymn by Annie Sherwood Hawks (1835-1918) reflects the same general characteristics as those of the other four 19th-century women hymn writers discussed during Lent. The women all employ first-person accounts that grow our deep personal piety, resulting in a language of intimacy between the singer and the Savior. A New York native, Hawks displayed a gift for verse at the early age of 14, contributing poems on a regular basis to a variety of newspapers. Though she composed over 400 hymn texts, “I Need Thee Every Hour” is the only hymn of hers that is still sung today.
Following her marriage to Charles Hawks in 1859, much of Hawks’ life centered on the domestic aspects of rearing three children. She was a member of Hanson Place Baptist Church in Brooklyn, N.Y., where Dr. Robert Lowry, a prominent writer of gospel songs, was her pastor. Lowry encouraged the gift that he saw in Hawks’ poetry.
The point of Jesus teaching disciples how slippery and familiar sin in our lives, it the overwhelming readiness Christ has to plainly and simply be our salvation, our hope, and our renewal.
The final words I leave for us to remember are from Luke 18:13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’
It is in the loving mercy that we stand. Will you join me in the arms of Christ? Amen!!
And so, brothers and sisters, I could not speak to you as spiritual people, but rather as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for solid food. Even now you are still not ready, for you are still of the flesh. For as long as there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not of the flesh, and behaving according to human inclinations? For when one says, “I belong to Paul,” and another, “I belong to Apollos,” are you not merely human? What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you came to believe, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. The one who plants and the one who waters have a common purpose, and each will receive wages according to the labor of each. For we are God’s servants, working together; you are God’s field, God’s building. [NRSA]
• We are servants in God’s field
• We are called to work together – some planting, some watering, some fertilizing, some harvesting
• We are the instruments of God’s building.
As you know one of my priorities has been to keep our congregation as informed about the denomination status and issues. Sometimes this is helpful and at other times we only commiserate in frustration of what we don’t know and what we can’t control. Your Administrative Council is becoming more informed and studying the issues that we will be facing in the months ahead so that nothing comes as a surprise. So look forward to the fruit of their work, conference and district ‘town hall meetings’ and the ongoing prayerful challenge we share to be the body Christ at Rock Spring.
With that reminder, I offer this passage this morning for our encouragement:
The Apostle Paul writes to encourage the church at Corinth, Greece that is faced with many divisions with it this lesson that we are blessed to have in our day.
Early in his letter, he reminds the church: (1Cor2.14-16) The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments, for, “Who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.
1. Spiritual matters are foolish to those who not following the Holy Spirit.
Therefore, do not be worn out by those who think our faithfulness is foolish in their opinion and in their understanding.
2. Paul reminds that “We are servants in God’s field”
a. This is a two-part reminder. First, in following Christ, we are servants and followers.
b. Second, our scope of responsibility is to God and not to the world’s foolishness.
3. Third, we are called to work together with one another, IN the Holy Spirit.
a. THIS IS the point of reflection for today for us. When we are not working together, it becomes clear
b. That we are not working in the Spirit
c. We are not working in God’s field, or scope, or arena
d. Recall from (Gen 11:4) Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”
i. The Tower of Babel is the landmark case of God scattering the work when people put themselves head of God’s plan, God’s scope, God’s field of work.
e. Paul calls out those who have been baptized by one Leader or the other, and the alliances that follow as one teach being right and the other being wrong.
i. Paul says earlier: “I’m glad I baptized none of you so you don’t drag me into this mess.”
f. POINT: When we who are in the one Spirit, share the ONE mind of Christ, Working together in the same field for God, Though we may have different gifts, talents, and skills, share the same work that should be united in God and not dividing God’s people, not dividing God’s witness, not dividing God’s work.
The fact that the church is in the process of division and divorces is self-affirmation that we are out of bounds.
4. Notice: Unity is not that we all agree on the same word, it is we are all doing what is in God’s best interest and not our own.
a. Said another way, the goal is not a unity of what’s in our Book of Disciplines, rather UNIFIED in serving God.
The Course Correction
So what difference is this all to us. Are we not just the victims of the politics of others? No, we are all parts of the same body. Different parts and members but with the same mind of Christ.
When we are divided into Christ’s name, it becomes clear that we are NOT operating with the same mind of Christ.
Just as with the fig tree
(Luke 13: 6-9) Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree growing in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it but did not find any. So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, ‘For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?’ “ ‘Sir,’ the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.’ ”
The purpose of a fig tree: to bear leaves or figs?
The purpose of the church is to bear fruit for the kingdom:
• When we say, well it would be better if this fig tree could bear blackberries AND figs. Foolishness
• When we say, let’ just find something else to eat if the figs aren’t in our season. Foolishness
• When we say, I don’t like figs anyway, who cares.
• We have the task of making disciples of Jesus Christ, not agreeing in politics.
• We have the calling of showing the world how to work together as SERVANTS, not as those being served or pleased or approved. We have that covered in the grace of Jesus Christ.
Paul writes for us and the church in Corinth:
• Serve God not ourselves
• God’s field not our own
• Our unity of trust in God is our witness to a world who calls us foolish
• God is bearing figs not politics, not agendas, not policies, not opinion polls, not ideologies.
Lord, I am your fig, the fruit of your blessing and grace.
If am I posing as a fig but am actually something else, have mercy on me a sinner, nurture and fertilized me another season of your grace.
May I do the part for your church that You have called and created, that you have died and been raised, that you have loved and infused me with your blessings, become your fig for a world of fools who are hungry for you. Amen.
When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way, they persecuted the prophets who were before you. [NRSV]
• Jesus calls disciples
• Jesus calls followers
• Jesus calls for everyone who follows to become a disciple.
• Jesus calls everyone who follows a higher standard of actions and attitudes.
The most famous part of the sermon is the “Blessed” section.
What is the designation of being blessed?
In the context of the teaching, Jesus is making self declarative statements.
That is, the seal of approval is given through the attitude behind the action of goodness.
1. The poor in spirit, receive the kingdom of heaven.
2. Those who mourn will receive comfort.
3. The meek will be given the world.
4. Those who long for what is right will be fulfilled.
5. Those who show mercy will receive mercy.
6. The pure of heart see the heart of God.
7. Those who make peace, are God’s children.
8. Those who are persecuted for the work of Christ find heaven.
9. The summary blessing is for those to remain true to God when the world calls them evil.
10. The summary is that followers and disciples of Jesus need to count on being persecuted for their faithfulness.
If we are not confronting evil we are complacent. LORD HAVE MERCY ON OUR WEAKNESS!
If we are keeping quiet about our faith, then we are missing out on the blessing of our faith.
• In every world religion, there is some challenge for people to be kind, compassionate, good-hearted, caring people, to at least those who belong to that group.
• In every world religion, there are affirmations of caring for the widow, the orphan and the poor.
• In every world religion, there are teachings to live with devotion to the god of their worship.
• What is different in Jesus’s teaching?
If we look at this list as more than general suggestions, but not just a checklist, we hear Jesus teaching a way of thinking, a perspective of living and behaving that draws us TOWARD GOD, THROUGH our RELATIONSHIPS WITH OTHERS.
ATTITUDES as BEHAVIORS as a WAY OF LIFE
Every blessing comes when we live out the ideas in our heads and hearts through the lives of other people.
• The poor in spirit: Those who know they don’t know it all, might have room to grow, mature and journey more.
• Those who mourn: Those who open their eyes to the things that are broken and can weep with those who hurt.
• The meek: Those who don’t seek the things of this world as their salvation, know salvation comes through Jesus.
• Those who long for righteousness: Those who seek God’s way over their own way.
• Those who show mercy: Those who can live their faith AND be kind, compassionate in the process.
• The pure of heart: Know their best self by trusting God’s vision of their life and motives.
• Those who make peace: We are God’s children when we trust our heavenly father’s justice, judgment & grace.
• Those persecuted for Christ: We cannot withstand persecution unless God stands with us, that is heaven/garden
• Those who are steadfast: When the world calls our actions and thoughts evil, are a good measure of doing good.
• Those being persecuted for their faithfulness to God is living out our heaven citizenship over our earthly one.
The Hard Part
Here is the worst part of the list: It’s not a cafeteria, pick-and-choose, list to select from at our pleasure.
It is an all-inclusive list. The blessing of the buffet is ours, but we are to work on the whole menu.
Blessing as a measure of being on the right track is seen in each lane.
Blessing of our work is completed comes when we wear every hat in the officer’s handbook. (Not just church leadership roles)
The picture Jesus gives is not for us to focus on one area and stay in that lane, rather drive on the interstate on the highway to heaven. The goodness is that the same attitude behind our motives is the same attitude:
Philippians 2:2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.
One love, one spirit, one mind
Deuteronomy 6:5 Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.
• If we can comfort those who mourn, we can all so feed those who know their hunger for more of Christ.
• If we can endure showing grace and compassion, we can endure being ridiculed and judged by the world.
• If we can long for truth and righteousness, we can also be pure in our motives and grace-filled in our service.
THE BOTTOM LINE
• You and I are followers and disciples of Jesus today.
• We are blessed with many things in this world, but God has a greater blessing than all the stuff, money and power.
• We are blessed with relationships, but these relations are empty if they are lacking the sharing of our faith.
We are blessed with opportunities that only a few have in the world, and to not use what we have for God is to waist our heavenly inheritance, in the present.
• TRUE BLESSING comes from God, for bringing to life the ideas and teachings that come from God.
• TRUE BLESSING comes not from the world’s list of value, but in the value of being God’s hands and feet.
• TRUE BLESSING comes when we move from HEARING the Word and BECOME the Word for the World.
The SO WHAT?
We know this, why are telling us what we already know?
Because part of our job is to hold the mirror of accountability that reflects God and ask:
1. Are people being spiritually fed through my actions and words? What can I do then?
2. Do people turn to me when there are hurting, sad, disappointed or grieving? What should I do?
3. Do people around me know God’s kingdom is my priority or the world’s priority?
4. Do people see and hear God’s word through my daily life?
5. Do people see that I am kind/compassionate or do present a grumpy, judgmental, too busy advertisement?
6. What do people see about God’s heart through me?
7. Do people trust me to bring people together or do they trust me to take sides and defend?
8. When was the last time I was persecuted, judged or penalized for expressing my faith? Am I overdue?
9. When it is easier to going along with the crowd even though I know it’s not right or not best, I roll with the tide?
10. People know I will put God first, over all else. Except for game day, family, money, career, or something else?
WHEN OUR ALL OUR ACTIONS AND THOUGHTS REFLECT GOD, JESUS, HOLY SPIRIT
Our work is done, in the meantime, we have much to work on, and MUCH to work with because in Jesus’s teachings we are promised the world, mercy, heart, family, heaven, goodness, faithfulness, comfort, Jesus, Spirit, and God himself.
This familiar list of attitudes is a reminder, a measure and a wake-up call to look at our head, our heart and our actions and ask: Can I see God? Can others see God? If so, I have great news to praise and share. If not, Lord let’s get work today.
Now when Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee. He left Nazareth and made his home in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, so that what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: “Land of Zebulun, land of Naphtali, on the road by the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned.” From that time Jesus began to proclaim, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John, in the boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him. Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people. [NRSA]
The call to follow is an invitation to
- Call others
We talking about the need to listen last week
We hear the week before what it means to follow
The most important part of this challenge is the call to impact the lives of others
Q: What am I doing that others see, hear and know that Jesus is healing, calling, working through me?
Step back to the do no harm rule:
What am I doing that is harming my witness and getting in the way of others experiencing Jesus in me?
What can I do? To disciple others.
Discern one person before the end of the month that God is calling you to reach out to disciple.
Pray for them every day
Find multiple ways to reach out to them and show the love and power of Jesus Christ
Persistence and variety. Many gifts and avenues
Call theirs friends and co-workers
She scriptures that invite learning and following
Take them to follow with you in your faith journey
Make it easy, no pressures salesmen.
Some will follow others will be reached by someone else.
Repeat each month.
Goal of your own 12 disciples..
A year of reaching our own dozen for Christ.
Now go and make Disciples of Jesus Christ
( next week food for the journey)
The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is the one I meant when I said, ‘A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’ I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel.” Then John gave this testimony: “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. And I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ I have seen and I testify that this is God’s Chosen One.” The next day John was there again with two of his disciples. When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God!” When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus. Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, “What do you want?”They said, “Rabbi” (which means “Teacher”), “where are you staying?” “Come,” he replied, “and you will see.”So they went and saw where he was staying, and they spent that day with him. It was about four in the afternoon. Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus. The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah” (that is, the Christ). And he brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas” (which, when translated, is Peter ). [NRSA]
The beginning of becoming disciples
From the Text: we see the prophetic promises
• fulfilled from Isaiah through a John the Baptist
• Jesus is baptized and calls us join him in that adoption
He invites followers to listen to him
Jesus calls followers to follow
Followers listen to Jesus
Even as leaders we follow Jesus
… Last week we all heard a good example of what it means to radically listen and radically follow Jesus invitation. Todd reminded us that to follow Jesus might take us away from our family, away from our comforts, away from our plans. We appreciate and admire someone’s journey when they follow so radically. But as passionate was their story.. I ask you today to where and to what is God invite you to go and to do today?
We don’t all have a calling to the Bush of Africa
A. But one thing that Todd shared is that he and his wife we listening to God
B. And they heard go, and then go back, and then stay and keep listening.
The question for us today is
1. Are we listening? Are we asking for God’s leading and direction or are we relying on what God told us two years or two decades ago and have not genuinely stopped to listen, in light of where we current are.
2. Do we not listen because we don’t want to hear something that might lead away from our comforts of what is familiar or easy…
3. John heats and tell Andrew, Andrew listens and follows, Andrew reaches out to his brother with what he had heard.
4. He bring Simon, Simon listens and is transformed. Simon now becomes Peter, the Rock Man, we people of the Rock, Rock Spring….
There are two profound part to give our attention tot his morning:
A. Jesus continue to call us now, through others
B. Jesus continues to call other, through you.
What are we hearing Jesus needs us to be, do or go?
What are others hearing and seeing from Jesus through us?
Both demand our attention if we are follow Jesus
I said two weeks ago and will say again,
Now more than any time in our lifetime, Jesus Long’s for us to
• follow, and
The shift from living in anticipation of faith
theological we shift from anticipation of Jesus to a season of living with Christ, listening, following and sharing with others.
All of us don’t need to go to the Bush, but all of us need to be following Christ’s call.
Where ARE you in this journey?
I think everyone here has heard of Jesus
We come together to sing, study and hear the words of Jesus’s teaching
Where do we see Jesus day? Or do we?
What is Jesus saying to you this week or today?
Are willing to take the day for Jesus or simple a few minutes now and then
How am I responding to Jesus’s call to follow
How am I bringing others
How am I being transformed
How is Jesus using me, you, RS in this day?
This is where we benefit from fellowship… small group, prayer partners, faith friends
Someone or group that is small enough to listen to one another
Strong enough to to provide accountability
Loving enough to challenge us to allow Christ to continue transforming us together?
• If I know what Jesus asks me to do and I’m doing it, you have good news we all need to hear
• If you know but are not doing anything about it then get to it now
• If you don’t know it’s time to pray study ask, seek Jesus from those who have heard
• If you have tried and failed, learn why and try again
• If you are scare to start because you know things will be different in your life hear the stories and witness of those who have heard
• If you don’t know where to begin, here John’S question of Jesus: where are you,that I can come listen and get to know you and learn your call for my life.
Today is the day for doing, acting, responding and not just thinking