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Archive for category Passionate Worship

Psalm 100 Enter Ready to Praise

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come into his presence with singing. Know that the Lord is God. It is he that made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise. Give thanks to him, bless his name. For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations. [NRSV]

Fill my cup Lord

  • If we are coming to church to be served, pumped up or filled we have not prepared for worship 
  • Come to worship
  • Come to church
  • Come in the holy gathering of the holy people ready for praise

Survey says

  • People come to church because of tradition, habit or hurting 
  • We owe it to God to encourage, prepare and teach each other to come ready to find God

Why?

  • God made us
  • We belong to God
  • We are Gods holy people 
  • We are sheep needing to a shepherd. 

How to Prepare

  • Joyful noise
  • Glad hearts
  • Start with Singing
  • Shouts of Thanksgiving g 
  • Proclaiming God’s goodness
  • Anticipating God’s faithfulness 

Are we Ready to worship?

Or start over

Bottom line today is a day of praise 

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Christmas Sunday Luke 2:1-21 20161225

In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!” When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. After eight days had passed, it was time to circumcise the child; and he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb. [NRSV]

The Appropriate Response

One fun Christmas movie is “The Holiday.” This romcom by Nancy Meyers about two women on opposite sides of the globe who swap houses only to discover that a change of address can really change their lives. At one point the character played by Jude Law professes his love to Cameron Diaz’s character, oops spoiler aleart. To which Cameron is speahless. Jude’s line is “Well I guess if your first response is not, ‘I love you’ then..”
Likewise the Christmas story, a grand love story, gives us the gifts of hope, joy, peace and love in Jesus Christ. What is our first response?

Shock and Awe

The first response to experiencing the blinding lights and thundering chorus of angelic choirs turning the night sky into daylight has the nightworkers huddled in fear.
We know they are afraid, not only by assumption, but by the angel’s first words. “Be not afraid.”
Why would God’s messengers be sent to the shepherds and not the political and religious authorities. Who should hear the news first? Shepherds: those working third shift, those least likely by the society, those who had been promised hope, joy, peace and love and were the most likely to need to hear news that was Good.

The Shepherds Go

Once having heard and understood, their first repsonse was to go see if these things were true. Given this past year of controversy and stress about “news” and its authenticity and accuracy, the shepherds model a very responsible and proactive step. They go to verify the varsity, (truth), and the meaning of what they have heard.
The heard that God had sent them Good News, and the proof was in the arrival of the Messiah. God’s savior has come for the least, the last and lost.

Who is Christmas Intended?

The most popular answer in my personal research is, “the children.” And that is one of the good answers, but the strong clue from Luke’s Gospel directs our first attention to the engaged teemage new mother delivering her first child in a barn far from her home town. The first visitors are not family and friends but those working third shift and the animals of strangers. The text yeilds that “the child” is for those who have the least give and those most willing to believe, trust and follow.
This familliar passage, recited by Linus in the Charlie Brown’s Christmas classic, reminds us that the ugly, small, rejected and left out are those who Christmas is first revealed.
When is the time to go and share the Good News: the hope, joy, peace and love of God in the world today? Right! Today, and everyday!

Christmas on Sunday

The interruption of our comfortable Christmas traditions is the heavenly day of Spiritual Rest, Worship and Renewal. If Christmas has not interrupted your daily routine to touch your heart to share the hope, joy, peace and love of Christ, then I offer you the interupption of Sunday into your Christmas worship.
Look and Listen for fear and brokenness and you will find the best time to share the Good News of Jesus. Without shame and full pride of God’s works of love and power for the world, show up and join with angels and sing praise, go share the news that everyone may know for him and herself that Jesus shows up for us. God’s gift has been wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger for the whole world.

Our Responses?

  • Thank you Jesus
  • Sharing the News
  • Going to See, Show and Retell
  • Pondering and Remembering in our hearts

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Amos 8.1-12 “Final Fruit-Baskets?” 202160717 RSUMC

 

fruitbasketThis is what the Lord God showed me—a basket of summer fruit. He said, “Amos, what do you see?” And I said, “A basket of summer fruit.” Then the Lord said to me, “The end has come upon my people Israel; I will never again pass them by. The songs of the temple shall become wailings in that day,” says the Lord God; “the dead bodies shall be many, cast out in every place. Be silent!” Hear this, you that trample on the needy, and bring to ruin the poor of the land, saying, “When will the new moon be over so that we may sell grain; and the Sabbath, so that we may offer wheat for sale? We will make the ephah small and the shekel great, and practice deceit with false balances, buying the poor for silver and the needy for a pair of sandals, and selling the sweepings of the wheat.” The Lord has sworn by the pride of Jacob: Surely I will never forget any of their deeds. Shall not the land tremble on this account, and everyone mourn who lives in it, and all of it rise like the Nile, and be tossed about and sink again, like the Nile of Egypt? On that day, says the Lord God, I will make the sun go down at noon, and darken the earth in broad daylight. I will turn your feasts into mourning, and all your songs into lamentation; I will bring sackcloth on all loins, and baldness on every head; I will make it like the mourning for an only son, and the end of it like a bitter day. The time is surely coming, says the Lord God, when I will send a famine on the land; not a famine of bread, or a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord. They shall wander from sea to sea, and from north to east; they shall run to and fro, seeking the word of the Lord, but they shall not find it. [NRSV]

Sackcloth, baldness, morning only child, a bitter day.

  • Sackcloth, baldness and morning, oh my!
  • Sackcloth, baldness and morning, oh my!
  • Sackcloth, baldness and morning, oh my!
  • •    Sackcloth: A sign of sinfulness
    •    Baldness: A sign of unhealthiness
    •    Morning an Only Child: Grief for this generation and the next
    •    Bitter Day: A sign of our separation from God.

Sending a famine instead of a fruit basket.

Not a famine of land, bread or thirst
But a famine of HEARING the words of the Lord.
God’s bringing a basket that we fill find as empty.
•    If I bring fruit every day, and no one takes even a bite, it will eventually spoil
•    If I bring healthy snacks and no one even samples, we will eventually starve
•    If I bring hope for this generation and the next and no one trusts and believes,  we have nothing left.

The basket is full of unwanted, un-tasted, un-sampled, un-digested, un-used nourishment: It lies in waste (or lingers in our waists)

Seeking and not finding, Knocking and nothing opening, Asking and receiving none.

The question of the day is
how long will the famine take?
How many attacks can we stand?
How many bodies left on the ground?
How many reports of violence before we are numb?

Where is the fruit basket?

•    The basket of milk and honey?
•    The basket of power and grace?
•    The basket of truth and certainty?
•    The basket of goodness and peace?

We want that fruit basket, then
1.    Why not eat it when it is placed in front of you?
2.    Why wait until there are famine and ruin?

Today is the day for feasting on the Word of God.

•    Open and read it
•    Read and share it
•    Share and sing it
•    Sing and Teach it
•    Teach and live it
•    Live it and find the God, who loves us, living with us, still.

 

 

 

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Luke 19:28-44

PalmCross  As [Jesus] was going up to Jerusalem. When he had come near Bethphage and Bethany, at the place called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of the disciples, saying, “Go into the village ahead of you, and as you enter it you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, “Why are you untying it?’ just say this, “The Lord needs it.’ “ So those who were sent departed and found it as he had told them. As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?” They said, “The Lord needs it.” Then they brought it to Jesus; and after throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it.
  As he rode along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road. As he was now approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen, saying, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!” Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, order your disciples to stop. He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.”
  As he came near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, “If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. Indeed, the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up ramparts around you and surround you, and hem you in on every side. They will crush you to the ground, you and your children within you, and they will not leave within you one stone upon another; because you did not recognize the time of your visitation from God.” [NRSV]
The entrance into the holy city Jerusalem is akin to the presidential motorcade after the inauguration swearing in service. People lined the way, shoulder to shoulder, waving and cheering the confirmation of their new leader. But Jesus did not arrive in the usual way. Neither had he been endorsed by the Sadducees nor Pharisees. He entered riding on the back of a humble work animal instead of a proud steed of power and status. He was praised by the disciples, those who had been healed, fed, blessed and taught along the way of Jesus’s ministry. I make NO contemporary political correlation to candidates running today, only to the stress and strife of a non-establishment figure being ushered into the city by the voice of the people.
We may have more insight into the context of this event that other generations. The Pharisees saying, “If this Jesus becomes our leader, I’m leaving Jerusalem” The Sadducees saying, “If they don’t get a handle on this outsider, we will take steps to bring our own man in.” Do you get the scene and the tensions?
The establishment says, stop your people from this circus. Teacher, we hold you responsible for the chaos. It’s your fault. We will stop you if you don’t stop the unruly crowd. [Again, I am not suggestion that any of our political figures are messianic leaders, but I am listening to the similarities of the crowds and the commentators and voices of the establishments then and now.]
All this sets the stage for Palm Sunday. We would much rather look at the scenes of the children lining the streets waving along the Jesus parade as a sweet image of Palm Sunday and not see the emerging political unrest that blows up in less than a week. I believe it is vitally important to look at the politics that is very much part of the Palm Sunday story.
The sweetest fruit in this passage from Luke’s Gospel is about seeing and not seeing. It is about believing and refusing to believe. It is about choosing to accep or closing our eyes, “sticking our heads in the sand in times of fear”,
instead of proclaiming
  • Jesus Christ is real,
  • Jesus is King, and
  • Jesus is with us.
The secondary witness is about praise that cannot be held back.
  • When we know Jesus is real, this becomes the foundation of our life
  • When we know Jesus is King, this becomease the guide for our living
  • When we know Jesus is with us, nothing can stop us from praising.
So What is “Palm Sunday About?”
  • There story is about preparing for worship
  • The story is about making way/room for Jesus in our public/fears
  • The story is about remaing awake and aleart that it is Jesus that leads us and not anything or anyone esle.
Where does Peace come from? The Prince of Peace:
  • Peace does not come from armies and weapons
  • Peace does not come from governments and policies
  • Peace does not come from acts of kindness and justice
  • Peace comes from God, through Jesus Christ, guided by the Spirit, through the church, through us for for the whole world.
Palm Sunday is about seeking peace from God with us.
If we cant’ see God with us, we will never find Peace.
Peace in Syria?, in Instanbull?, in the media? in the streets of our nation? in our homes? in our hearts?
  • Peace comes when Jesus comes in.
  • Peace comes when Jesus is praised
  • Peaces is possible to see when we see God showing up on our streets.
We life our palm brances as signs of a
  • new life,
  • a new way
  • a new day, made possible thorugh Jesus Chirst, our King.
The Practice response..
Start with what we have: cloaks and branches and pave the way.
Start with our
  • Praise
  • Words
  • Witness of kindness
  • Forgiving first,
Loving even though others have not loved us first
  • Our hearts
  • Our gifts
  • Our time
  • Our presence
  • Our wintess
Use these to pave the way for Christ to enter our
  • hearts,
  • conversations,
  • homes,
  • streets,
  • communities,
  • nation and the world.
That means raise the praise in church but don’t stop there, don’t stop now,
LIft Christ… and let a hurting, hateful, fearful, broken world know Jesus is here.

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John 12.1-8. “The Price of Worship” 20160313

 

imageSix days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him. Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said, “Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?” (He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.) Jesus said, “Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. 8 You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.” [NRSV]

I recall visiting sanctuaries through out Europe, some hundreds of years and wonder on one hand did Jesus imagine the ornate gilded cathedrals would become witnesses of his body and presence in the world. On the other hand, having walk through those ornate and gilded cathedrals and having join in the presence of worship that was older than my prayers and praises the allow us to experience the glories of a presence that is beyond our imagination and beyond our wealth and beyond our interpretation.

Somewhere in the combination of faithful stewardship and extravagant generosity we find the sincerity and and passion of worship.

There are times for simple and there are time for excess
The Garden of Eden reflects a sips relationship, one love and one rule, one trust and the consequences one transgression/choice.

Think of worship in the home of Mary and Martha. Recall Martha is the practical, hard working, thrifty with time and extravagant with comfort and dependable order. Mary is willing to throw caution aside! She is willing to leaving the house messy for a time, eat brunch for dinner, and invite too many guests to the party.

Mary take an extraordinary gift worth a years wage and gives the entire jar to cover Jesus. One pure of nard retailed for $700. Not a dab with the lid behind the ear r on ones wrist. She covers Jesus’s feet. Nard is viscous, acidic and concentrated scent similar to gardenia. It would have filled the house

Today we come to a historical day in the life of the church that is a mar rage of extravagant generosity AND a practical challenge. The big news is about t be revealed and it is a unique and exciting opportunity that draws on both our Mary and Martha sides.

The waste is not in using our gifts, the waste would be not to give.

Give extravagantly.

Love passionately.

Life in the Joy of Chrost with us.

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1 Corinthians 13:1-13 Reset: The Power of Love 20160131 RSUMC

Heart_MerryChristmas

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. [NRSV]

Do I love that dress?

In a world, where we love mashed potatoes, love our sports teams and love or hate the weather, it is important to spend a moment being clear about love.

This past Christmas Eve, I ran a few errands and saw three stores putting out Valentine season products on the shelf. At first, I was frustrated that we had not officially started Christmas and retailers had moved to the next money grab. But if we stop and think what Christmas is about, God loving us so much that our heavenly father sends his only child to bridge the gap of love that we cannot build nor complete. Maybe a giant heart-shaped box of delicious treasures is better Christmas gift.

Love:  Nothing Gained

ELOQUENT SPEECH: Genuine Love needs no response. That’s hard.

  • If I speak in the tongues of mortals and angels,
    • but do not have love,
      • I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.

CHARISMATIC VISION: Genuine Love sees through a show.

  • If I have prophetic powers,
    • but do not have love,
      • I am nothing.

INSIGHTFUL COMPREHENSION: Genuine Love is not calculated.

  • If I understand all mysteries
    • but do not have love,
      • I am nothing.

MULTIPLE DEGREES IN MULTIPLE DISCIPLINES: Genuine Love has nothing to prove.

  • If I had all knowledge,
    • but do not have love,
      • I am nothing.

UNWAVERING TRUST and BELIEF: Genuine Love is the core of faith.

  • If I have all faith, so as to remove mountains,
    • but do not have love,
      • I am nothing.

EXTRAVAGANT SELFLESSNESS: Genuine Love is Forgetful of the score.

  • If I give away all my possessions,
    • but do not have love,
      • I gain nothing.

SACRIFICIAL OFFERING: Genuine Love cannot be faked.

  • If I hand over my body so that I may boast,
    • but do not have love,
      • I gain nothing.

IF, THEN STATEMENTS

  1. Conditional statements about unconditional, foundational core of relationships.
  2. SuperMan/SuperWoman are meaningless without love. Right Action, Wrong Purpose
  3. Love is God’s meaning, purpose, and energy, what we have to gain. Love is God’s power plant
  4. BOTTOM LINE: Without Love all in life is meaningless. Scientific Method can never love. Science is accurate in measuring how, but not why. Love is why. The universe is not so big to make us feel special; it is to show how incredible God is.

The Object of Love NOT loves itself.

LOVE is sacrificial, selfless, extravagant, unwavering, trusting, knowing, insightful, visionary, and charismatic, but the reverse does not necessarily describe love.

The test if Love is love or something else: Does my love stop if Love is not returned?

  • You can take one for the team and not love the team at all.
  • You can act selflessly, seeking approval for your random act of kindness.
  • Your extravagance can become enabling. 
  • You can be “committed” and support something evil
  • You can trust wealth, fame, opinion polls or deeply held principles, but these are based on us, and we inconsistent, fragile and often wrong.
  • You can know many facts but not know how to use information
  • You can misguide judgement selfishly
  • Your visionary work can be selfishly motivated
  • Your charisma or charm can fool people
  • The Object of God’s Love is you. Hear the Good News.. 
    • God’s love is not if, then. God’s love is. God may not like our behavior,
    • God forever loves us.

IS / IS NOT

  • Love is patient; tolerant of us and intolerant of our manipulations
  • Love is kind;      when is the last time we were snippy, rude or down right mean
  • love is not envious;     I want vs. God wants
  • love is not boastful     I’m right, you are wrong
  • love is not arrogant    I know better than you
  • Love is not rude.           Thoughtless or intentionally vindictive
  • Love is not insistent     My way or no way.
  • Love is not irritable      How can I get attention
  • love is not resentful     How come I’m not getting attention
  • love cannot rejoice in wrongdoing,     I told you so
  • love rejoices in the truth.  Admit I am wrong, especially when they are wrong too.
  • (sometimes being truthful is not popular or pleasing)
  • Love endure and hold up through all things,   vs. I will give you one more chance, or no more chances
  • Love believes through all things;     You crossed my line, your out.
  • Love remains hopeful through all things,    We can’t do it, That’s impossible.
  • Love lasts longer than anything else.           I give up

If we are honest, our conversations and actions reveal, while we know what loving is, we are not always loving when it get self-less.

Timeless

  • Love never ends.
  • Prophecies end
  • language ends
  • knowledge ends
  • wealth ends
  • Love never ends.

The Best is Yet to Come

For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end.

We learn to love as children, and it is to mature and grow.

  1. Speaking.. saying I love you.
  2. Thinking— Thinking about
  3. Reasoning   Justifying Love

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.

  • Adult love, mature love, doesn’t have, to say it. We are not there yet..
  • Adult love, doesn’t have to plan it and think it through, it is automatic. We calculate..
  • Adult love, doesn’t have to have everything neat. We try to fix, cover up or manage love.
  • When we move toward God’s love, we loose ourselves and more fully enter the heart of God.

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. 13 And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.

Love is a work in progress.. try letting your guard down and God through.

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Colossians 3:12-17 “Clothes for Christmas” 20151227 RSUMC Xmas1

Socks4Xmas

94% of American’s celebrate Christmas (3). We have verbal and ideological battles with 6% of the population who don’t feel comfortable greeting each other this season by saying, “Merry Christmas.” It’s important to keep this in perspective. The number who keep a religious Christmas is about 70% with 29% celebrating some holiday during the same period of holidays (4). And yet we hear political debates about our nation not being a Christian nation, when 70% of the 94% who celebrate Christmas do so for religious reasons. Tis the Season to be religious.

The National Retail Federation reports

  • average spending per person reaches $805.65 in 2015
  • Gifts for family members will total $462.95 this year
  • 46 percent of their shopping this holiday season was conducted online,
  • 21.4 percent of smartphone owners used their device to purchase holiday merchandise in 2015,
  • 47%) said free shipping/shipping promotions are important factors  where to shop.
  • 55.8 percent of holiday shoppers will splurge on themselves

 

The number one anticipated “item” for Christmas is what category? ____ Clothes. Men 48% / Women 56%. But the number one “non-item” requested is gift cards. Men 51% / Women 66% (3)

What does that say? We expect Clothes at Christmas and more than half the time we’d prefer to pick out our own clothes than have people guess.

So this is where we begin hearing this passage from the church to Colossae:

As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.  Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. [NRSV]

Clothe one another in love

  • compassion
  • kindness
  • humility
  • meekness
  • patience

Imaging celebrating the 12 days of Christmas. Not just the first one.

Imaging, after all the celebration of Christmas morning of day one, we continues giving the gives of compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.. all together as example of Christ’s love for us.

What does that look like?

Seeing or hearing the needs of someone who is hungry or wanting and we take them food for the day. It does not solve their every need, but it gives them one more day of perspective that they are not forgotten and their transformation is not hopeless. Or teach them skills to work or to deal with their brokenness, fears or depression. This is not the task of someone to do FOR us, but for us to give one-on-one. Gifts of compassion.

You could think of sarcastic and judgmental comments, that might be accurate, yet, instead you find kind words of encouragement or forgiveness. In speaking where you would have remained silent and offering kindness instead of leading with what’s wrong, you lead with the kindness you would hope to hear when someone is speaking with you. A gift of Kindness with words.

You and I could choose to give a gift out of our abundance away. You know how special it makes you feel to know someone has given you a gift of love, think how sharing what you have might make you both feel loved, even if it is yours to keep. A Gift of humble sharing, it cost no more because it is yours to give.

Often it is not the value of the gift, but rather the appropriateness of the gift. We wait and save up to give expensive gifts, when it is our present half-hour each day that transform lives around us. Which would I rather have today: a grand gift from my father, who died a decade ago or 20 minutes talking about the day with him face-to-face?  In the meekness of time, we share the lives we have to share.

Or could you find it possible to not fix someone’s problem, but rather be one who stands with them while they work through the trial and error of failures. So often we don’t want folks to live life for us, we want someone with us, to make certain we are not alone. Can you be present with someone who is alone and listen, encourage and wait with them, the gift of patience, for you and them.

For the remainder of the Christmas season, ten more days, try giving these gifts in love for Christ.

In the next ten days: Let everything you do, be done in Jesus name.

As you wake to start the day: In Jesus Name

As you write a check or open your purse or wallet: In Jesus Name

As you open you mouth to speak or your mind to consider: In Jesus Name

As you cook, clean, travel, read, share or listen: Do so in Jesus Name

As we shall then be clothed in love.

—–

(1) http://www.statista.com/topics/991/us-christmas-season/

(2) https://nrf.com/media/press-releases/retailers-very-digital-holiday-season-according-nrf-survey

(3) http://www.berkshireeagle.com/local/ci_29153886/from-spending-celebrating-2015-holiday-season-25-stats

(4) https://www.barna.org/barna-update/culture/699-tis-the-season-how-technology-is-affecting-the-holidays#.Vn9dPpMrLBI

 

 

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Luke 1.39-55 “Fruit of the Womb” 20151210 RSUMC

FruitofWomb
In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.” And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.” [NRSV]

Thirty years ago a preacher was called into the District Supervisors office to be reprimanded for saying that a woman was “pregnant” when in fact, she was actually “expecting with child.” It is amazing how the power of words touch our sensitivities and expressions about the world and time in which we live.

If only folks would focus on the Good News and get as excited and motivated to action and response when they heard the Christmas story. This encounter with Mary and her Aunt Elizabeth helps us recapture some the power and presence of God’s word.

Our first look at the text, as an overview, Mary, who is now “with child” as an unwed mother goes for an extended visit to her aunt’s house.

The CDC National Vital Statisti#285869B report that the number of unwed mothers was at 29% in 1980 and up to 44% in 2013, the a high water make of 51% in 2008 prior to the economic turn. Millennial women, those ages 26-31, have a current rate of 57% of children being born out of marriage, and 74% of those without a college degree had children outside of marriage, according to research from Johns Hopkins University. Read-Online.pdf.webloc. The 2014 report from childtrends.com Read-Online.pdf.webloc, report that of all the births to mothers who are 15-19, 88% were not married, and 65% of women who had babies last year where 20-25 were not married. The church has already lost the corner on the marriage market long before the Supreme Court expanded its definition of marriage.

All these statistics help us think about Mary and Joseph and the community’s response to marriage and childbirth. In a current time when our youngest mothers might even take their children to school or have the child’s grandparent raise the baby. Mary is more old school and goes to visit her Aunt for a while.

Our second look at the text, we see Elizabeth providing a safe-haven for Mary and her baby. She does not great her with judgment nor shame. Elizabeth’s focus is on the children, both her own and Mary’s.

Look back at the statistics of all the years and all the age groups and periods of time. How many unwed-expectant mothers have been told by God that their child is to be the Messiah and the child ends up being born and becoming the messiah? There is but one.

It is interesting that Mary’s hurried trip to the hills to see her aunt is first a response to that she could not explain in a way that the community and family could accept or understand. Even with Joseph’s willingness to take responsibility and Mary’s skipping town reveal that we live in a time when marriage less of a covenant of love, trust, and faith and an event, a tax deduction and a perceived hindrance to self fulfillment.

The Loop hole: They were engaged, betrothed, technically committed, covered? Surely it is more than this.

The Messiah and Savior of us all is born in a relation of broken-ness and twisting of the laws to suit our world view and personal experience. The balance of how we make sense of the world is our of order.

John Wesley taught us to ready and study scripture as a part of experiencing Jesus as the Word: spoken, alive and forever present for our benefit. We study, read and sing scripture as one of the ways we practice our faith.

But how we understand the Word is gathered through (3) three lenses/filters.

  1. We read and interpret the Word from our own experience in the world, our personal context as a spiritual being in a physical world.
  2. We read and hear how other faithful followers have experienced the Word in the past and learn from their trial and errors as well as their faithfulness.
  3. We also measure the world through the context of the world around us using our God given gifts of reason and part of us that reflects God’s image in our lives.

Therefore we lean about marriage by

  1. Asking and listening to those in the faith have been married successfully for generations.
  2. We ask God to reveal directly through our own experience of relationship and marriage.
  3. We learn from the minds and psyche God has given to each of us.

If we only value one or value one more than another, we skew God’s perspective in exchange for our own.

Time OUT! What does all this have to do with Christmas and Baby Jesus?

The greatest news that God loves the world that he wants to:

  • Move in with us
  • Show and teach us how to live and disciples others
  • Come to give himself for our selfishness, pride, greed, and all matters of sin.

Can we hear this message in the conversation and visit to Aunt Elizabeth’s House?

Despite the perceptions that Joseph and Mary were out of bounds with marriage.

Not married, Difference of Ages, spiritual maturity, Expectations from family and society

(1) Elizabeth is filled with Joy, when the sound of Mary’s voice enters her house.

..When the angels show up to tell the shepherds, Be not afraid, be filled with, JOY.

Mary comes, for a time to move in with Elizabeth.

(2)Elizabeth hears the news and affirms, ‘my Lord has come to me.

..Jesus says to disciples, Come to me all you who labor and heavy laden.

Mary is welcomed into the heart and home, because of joy AND for fulfillment of the WORD/ promise, salvation.

(3) Elizabeth, as a person of the Word/Scriptures acknowledges our Savior is here/now.

..Jesus explains to those on the road to Emmaus all the scriptures how the prophesies and teaches have all paved the way.

She teaches and encourages the fearful that God’s plans are unfolded, dependable and available.

 

In less than two minutes, Elizabeth speaks and models the work of Christ in the world.

 

JOY, I share:

Her own child rejoices within her, and she communicated the JOY by telling it.

MY HOME, Go is present in our real lives, NOW.

The Joy has come into our house, into our hearts, into our crazy brokenness

The Promises are worthy of Trust

All the Words and promises are fulfilling in Jesus.

 

So Elizabeth teaches some radical hospitality in welcoming Mary:

She Passionately shares her worship

She Intentionally shares her faith with encouragement

She Takes the Risk of welcoming the expectant Mary

She celebrates the Extravagant Generosity of God’s preparing us for this moment.

 

So Elizabeth gives us the homework assignment for Christmas prep and it takes two minutes.

 

STEP 1. Listen for Joy in the midst of Bad News

STEP 2. Claim that moment as time for God to be real in your life/experience

STEP 3. Place the current moment of Faith Sharing in the context of scripture.

 

This becomes a blessing for Elizabeth, Mary and God

Christmas is not about the gifts; it is about the giving.

It is not about preparing for the future, its about living in God presently.

It is about opening our hearts and homes to disciples others in their weakness and fear.

 

This is when Christ shows us as CHRIST-MASS.. Start today!

 

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John 6:24-35 Which Tank is Filled? 20150802 RSUMC

GasTankFilledSo when the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum looking for Jesus. When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal.” Then they said to him, “What must we do to perform the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” So they said to him, “What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you? What work are you performing? Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'” Then Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. [NRSV]

We want a new sign

From the text, the people ask Jesus for something new and improved. We like something bigger, better and more sensational that the last performance. Human nature has not changed since Jesus’s time.

You fed 5000 yesterday what will you do today?

We actually want more.

You gives us something we didn’t work for yesterday, keep feeding us so we don’t have to work.

Occupier Mentality: “It’s no trouble for you to feed us, we don’t have to do any work, we just ask and you give.”

Jesus said, you will be hungry for food everyday, You sound like Moses’s people. God wants to feed your spirit.

We want ANOTHER show. 

The crowd: was also saying. We are heard to be fed and entertained.

Keep proving yourself to us. A little is never enough, we want the greatest show on earth.

Jesus tells the crowd, You need to be asking for the “true” bread that gives eternal life from heaven. Not just daily bread, heavenly bread.

We want tangible, physical proof of more and we want it now.

Prosperity-preachers tell folks that the way to wealth is to trust in Jesus: Are the people who are in Costa Rico, Culebra, Porte Rico, or 80% of our students at our local schools who are faithful in Jesus, but stay wealthy. Who can’t afford to make it to the wealth palaces.. there is a disconnect..

In a world filled with struggles, grief, trials and sin… we want to find the path of least resistance for the greatest personal yield..

Here is Jesus’s question to those who seek peace, satisfaction, fullness, wholeness, justice, power and life.

Which tank do you fill first?

The gas tank or the prayer tank? The stomach tank or the spirit tank? the bank tank or the eternity tank?

A couple of years ago I remember pumping eighty dollars of gas into my gas tank on the way to the grocery store. Preoccupied with my grocery list, I looked back at the tank I realized I had nothing left to spend at the grocery store. I went home empty-handed but with the one tank full, the other empty.

Jesus wants us to be full, in the eternal way.

Communion in one certain way we fill our spiritual tank. This is not just bread and juice this is the presence of Christ live and at work in us. This is not just the juice this is the real power of Jesus’s sacrifice at work on our behalf making us whole, fresh and new.

Do you have room for communion?

One Sunday afternoon I watch Monty Python’s Meaning of life and reached scene where the very large person was eating a disgusting amount of food and was do full that he was expanding to the point of exploding his fullness. The waiter offers him a “wafer thin mint” to cleanse his pallet. “Oh I couldn’t eat one bite more.” the man protests. The waiter persists: It ‘s just a wafer thin mint. They banter back and forth and the large, completely full man yields and places the thin mint on his tongue and proceeds to literally explode. I was both disgusted and rolling with laughter at the literal interpretation of having eaten beyond the point of being full. I could not keep from laughing all through communion that night. How could a wafer and drop of juice fill us beyond fullness.

alternate..

Phil DeMoore: What you do when you get ready to cut the grass: Fill the Mower.

Rather than drain   tank, lets fill each other’s tank.

Bottom line.

We don’t need to be entertained by Jesus

We don’t need more proof.

We don’t need another illustration.

We know we need Jesus.. Are you full of Love? Are you filled with a passion to share the Good News? Are you filled with the peace and assurance that God will be with us and will prevail through all evil and all trials and struggles and if we stick with God and do what God guides and calls us to do for others,… then we will already know what eternity will be like.

Communion

The filling station is here. Check you gauge, is it time to fill up.

 

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Psalm 107:42 “Well, Shut My Mouth” 20150620

ShutMyMouth

1 O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever. 2 Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, those he redeemed from trouble 3 and gathered in from the lands, from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south.

4 Some wandered in desert wastes, finding no way to an inhabited town; 5 hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted within them. 6 Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress; 7 he led them by a straight way, until they reached an inhabited town. 8 Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wonderful works to humankind. 9 For he satisfies the thirsty, and the hungry he fills with good things.

10 Some sat in darkness and in gloom, prisoners in misery and in irons, 11 for they had rebelled against the words of God, and spurned the counsel of the Most High. 12 Their hearts were bowed down with hard labor; they fell down, with no one to help. 13 Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress; 14 he brought them out of darkness and gloom, and broke their bonds asunder. 15 Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wonderful works to humankind. 16 For he shatters the doors of bronze, and cuts in two the bars of iron.

17 Some were sick through their sinful ways, and because of their iniquities endured affliction; 18 they loathed any kind of food, and they drew near to the gates of death. 19 Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress; 20 he sent out his word and healed them, and delivered them from destruction. 21 Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wonderful works to humankind. 22 And let them offer thanksgiving sacrifices, and tell of his deeds with songs of joy. 

23 Some went down to the sea in ships, doing business on the mighty waters; 24 they saw the deeds of the Lord, his wondrous works in the deep. 25 For he commanded and raised the stormy wind, which lifted up the waves of the sea. 26 They mounted up to heaven, they went down to the depths; their courage melted away in their calamity; 27 they reeled and staggered like drunkards, and were at their wits’ end. 28 Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he brought them out from their distress; 29 he made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed. 30 Then they were glad because they had quiet, and he brought them to their desired haven. 31 Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wonderful works to humankind. 32 Let them extol him in the congregation of the people, and praise him in the assembly of the elders.

33 He turns rivers into a desert, springs of water into thirsty ground,

34 a fruitful land into a salty waste, because of the wickedness of its inhabitants.

35 He turns a desert into pools of water, a parched land into springs of water. 36 And there he lets the hungry live, and they establish a town to live in;

37 they sow fields, and plant vineyards, and get a fruitful yield. 38 By his blessing they multiply greatly, and he does not let their cattle decrease.

39 When they are diminished and brought low through oppression, trouble, and sorrow, 40 he pours contempt on princes and makes them wander in trackless wastes; 41 but he raises up the needy out of distress, and makes their families like flocks.

42 The upright see it and are glad; and all wickedness stops its mouth. 43 Let those who are wise give heed to these things, and consider the steadfast love of the Lord [NRSV]

One thing that strikes me about this psalm is that describes so many thing we recognize in the life and witness of Jesus. So it is important that we keep in context the words of this hymn for worship as images that Jesus later embodies that those who were familiar with the psalm in the Jewish community could see as fulfillment of God’s presence in Jesus.

If on Father’s Day, a dad wanted to see the good works of his son, the psalmist gives a good list that Jesus reveals in his teaching and witness.

  • Water for the woman at the well
  • The tearing of the curtain at the temple at the crucifixion
  • The woman who avoided death because none could cast the first stone
  • The calming of the sea
  • The healing of the sick at the gate
  • Jesus’ parables of sowing
  • Jesus’ parable of loosing saltiness
  • Jesus multiplying food for the hungry
  • The invitation for the prince to sell  and follow

This somewhat obscure psalm tells so many of Jesus’s teachings and stories in one and was written a millennium-plus before hand. It is remarkable inclusive of many ways God’s presence and message is revealed across the testaments.

Verse 42 is the response to the stories of God’s work.

When we see the ways God is reveled in the world, we can response in one of two ways:

a. We see God at work and we are glad, energized and joyful to see God at work.

b. We see God at work and shut our mouths.

The admonition (advice) is to

  • be wise,
  • give heed and
  • consider God’s love at work among us.

2015 Shut our Mouths or Proclaim God’s love?

Conference statistician Darris Baker reported the following 2014 statistics compared to 2013: And are we yet alive?

Conference Membership: 361,329 (Down 2054)
Professions of Faith: 5,398 (Down 204)
Average Worship Attendance: 119,976 (Down 3,121)
Average Sunday School Attendance: 48,888 (Down 296)

The mighty North Georgia conference is no longer the leader and we pray it is not on the same track that Mr Wesley’s beloved Church of England was on. But it begs the question: When we see God’s love present in the world do we give God the praise and witness to God’s presence? Are we considering and looking for God’s revelation in the world? Are we following in the witness of Christ in our actions and bolding in our words or have shut our mouths too long?

Homework: Outline this psalm and see at least 10 ways to practice our piety, to grow our spirit and witness God’s love through Christ in our lives, and then act accordingly. For we live in a world and season when people

  1. long for God and are thirsty. Give them living water.
  2. feed hungry,
  3. encourage the prisoners,
  4. offer thanksgiving and sacrifice,
  5. sing songs of joy,
  6. give peace to those at their wits end,
  7. go to church to support and be supported.
  8. be salty and bold in the face of evil.
  9. water a garden to feed the famished.
  10. open your mouth and share the joy rather than stay quiet and in your own mind.

Now Get to Work!

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