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Homecoming, by another way Oak Grove 2018 Matthew 2:7-12

Homecoming, by another way Oak Grove 2018

7 Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. 8 He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.” 9 After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route. [NRSV]

I have such wonderful memories of racing out from Emerson to Euharlee and trying to beat the long coal train heading to-and-from the Bowen. It is so good to be back. I have been here on a cold and snowing morning when it was only two, and no more and we had Good Preaching. So I hope that is the case today. I am proud to see the growth of the ministries and good work at Oak Grove and am honored to be with you today.

I began to think back about the years I was pastor, student and neighbor. The years would have been between 1985 and 1989. Some remarkable things happened while we were in ministry together:

• The infamous “New Coke” was released, The Titanic found, The first report of Mad Cow disease

• and Madonna was holding the place Taylor Swift holds today. Michael Jackson released his “Bad” album and MTV actually played music videos.

• The Kroger in Cartersville and Town Center Mall opened. The news of the Atlanta Olympics was

• The movies out during that time included: Back to the Future, Top Gun and Dirty Dancing

• Some notable songs were: Walk like an Egyptian, The theme from Phantom of the Opera, and We are the World.

• Imagine back to the time of the start of the Internet, the first Game Boy and Nintendo, The first intel processor and MS Office and Windows debuted.

• We were witnesses of Haley’s comet, the Galileo mission to Jupiter and removal of the Berlin Wall with Mr Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan.

• People were watching: “The Cosby Show”, “Cheers”, “Hill Street Blues”, Johnny Carson, Magnum PI and the start of the Simpsons.

We are not the same people today. The world has changed and is changing in a whirlwind of transformation. As our denomination looks ahead to the Winter of 2019 we know that more change is to be expected.

As important it is to look back and remember from where we have come, it is the witness of the magi that call us to look to the present and prepare for the future.

I have always found it remarkable that the Bible contains the story of people of faith who look for God in the movement of the starts, in a distant country with a different culture and perspectives and yet God is self-revealing in all creation.

I had a conversation with young man in his mid-twenties who was convinced that there was no need for God. The wonders and marvels of creation were but the finely tuned change of random variables that brought him more peace and “common sense” to his perspective. I asked him from where did the forces of gravity, fission, fusion, physics, mathematic and love evolve. He uncomfortably had no clear answer except to say they were only explained as observations that followed rather than formed the universe. He left the conversation and went home the same person. I hope that some of the conversation helped change his fears and desire to control rather than to follow and trust.

We live in a divided culture that is more segregated than at any moment in our lifetimes. The struggles leading through Civil Rights Era and the Civil War are not our finest moments. Now more than ever are we needing to make a life-giving, hope-sharing, love-trusting impact on the world around us.

When I was at Oak Grove I was married to Sarah Jane, who search the Cassville Church for a couple of the years. We enjoyed covered dish dinners, singings, and being with you in worship and in your homes. That is no longer the relationship that shapes my life. She loved the idea of being married much more than being married to me. I didn’t share that at the time, as I was immature and unwilling to share what it mean to fully share what it means to be a community of faith. I finally learned that 1) clergy are people who struggle with marriage too, 2) I’d be happier unmarried or married for a few years than to be miserable for 50 pretending a marriage. 3) I have learned that God’s path for us is only as straight and narrow as our willingness to trust. But grace goes before, with and behind us.

Now I have three children: Susanna at Stanford, Luke at 1st Leu in the AF, and Frances a sophomore studying AP Chinese and my wife Wendy is beginning her second career in Insurance. (If you ever seen the Hot-ones sign, a Hardees star, a Georgia Tourism commercial or a magazine in a plastic bag you have seen her work.) The past ten years we have cared for her parents in our home, her mom having Dementia and her father having Kidney failure, was not the road that we had planned, but God has carried us through a different way that blessed and shaped us profoundly.

Why the Wise-men passage on Home Coming?

During my years at Emerson and Oak Grove, Singer, James Taylor, released a song by David Bailey called, Home By Another Way. David Bailey was the son of a Presbyterian minister. As a fellow preacher’s kid the song resonated with me: Here was a famous hippy trippy ballad rocker singing about a bible verse: Not the paths that typically cross. Listen to the lyrics of his song:

Those magic men the Magi, Some people call them wise, Or Oriental, even kings, Well anyway, those guys

They visited with Jesus, They sure enjoyed their stay, Then warned in a dream of King Herod’s scheme

They went home by another way

Steer clear of royal welcomes, Avoid a big to-do, A king who would slaughter the innocents, Will not cut a deal for you, He really, really wants those presents, He’ll comb your camel’s fur

Until his boys announce they’ve found trace amounts, Of your frankincense, gold and myrrh

Time to go home by another way

Home is where they want you now, You can more or less assume that you’ll be welcome in the end

Mustn’t let King Herod haunt you so, Or fantasize his features when you’re looking at a friend

Well it pleasures me to be here, And to sing this song tonight, They tell me that life is a miracle, And I figured that they’re right, But Herod’s always out there, He’s got our cards on file

It’s a lead pipe cinch, if we give an inch, Old Herod likes to take a mile

It’s best to go home by another way

Home by another way

What does it mean to Go Home, by another way?

To God home is hopefully a place of security, grounding and belonging.

Hear the Good News: God’s home, “Oikos”, is with us! With us!

It starts in a garden, it travels in a wilderness, it crosses paths in the crucifixion, it opens through an empty tomb, it blow as the wind around us, and surrounds us.

We are not who were once were:

In Christ we are those who make straight the paths for others

In grasp of the Holy Spirit we are those who open hearts and conversations

In the love of God we are those who God is creating new life and ways of living.

I regret that I must leave without a longer visit but I am leading a class for the district to build our skills in sharing Difficult Conversations as churches and church folks. As I look back on the Roads and Paths that God has lead, carried, and immersed me, I see at:

• Oak Grove taught me that God can take a mustard seed an make something grand and purposeful beyond our dreams.

• Grant Park I learned from one of the most diverse congregations in the Southeast what it means to share love

• In some other congregations I learned what looks like when we live in fear, pride, greed and worship of self.

• At Candler and Gammon I learned how to prepare for God to use me in changing ministry conditions.

• At Rock Spring I am ready to see how God will lead us into being a relevant part of the body of Christ in the 21st century.

The message I have received from much prayer, much prayer, much study, much conversation, much reflection, writing and reading is this:

1. Change is to be assuredly expected. (It is ok to embrace change, WHEN God leads us.)

2. What will be has not yet been revealed.

3. But when it is revealed: Count on seeing Jesus or not seeing at all.

• Therefore it is all important to make our home in God who does not change.

• Therefore it is essential that we find our way through what has been revealed.

• Therefore it is our purpose, passion and path to stick with Jesus, not for our sake but for Christ.

God Lord, we give thanks for these and all other blessing, for Christ’s sake. Amen.

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Romans 8:12-25 Worth Groaning

laborpainsSo then, brothers and sisters, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh— for if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.  For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ—if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.

I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.

We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. [NRSV]

We are Spiritual

  • Children of God
  • Living to fulfill/follow the Spirit
  • Preparing to inherit God’s kingdom

We Suffer Spiritually

  • Comparing Physical and Spiritual
  • I’m only human, I’m just a man/woman/child is not our spiritual excuse
  • We live in hope of being set free from suffering

 

Groaning of Labor Pains

  • The mixed blessing of suffering for the gift of life.
  • Groaning inwardly in anticipation of adoption
  • Trusting hand hoping in what is known but not seen

Romans 8:13-25

  • Acknowledge the reality of suffering and Labor of faith
  • Call for encouraging the children of God
  • Hold one another and our self in patience.

Applications

  1. Know it is struggle to live in the Spirit
  2. Know we are not alone nor forgotten
  3. Trust God who loves, saves and call us is worth the work and waiting.

 

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Matthew 5:21-37 “People of a New Heart”

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“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. [NRSV]

Core Values of One Made New in Christ

Core Value Number 1 (Murder with Words)

How you communicate affects your relationships and your identity.

Sticks and Stones AND words can kill someone’s spirit, reputation and ability to be included into the community.

Word’s spoken in anger carry poisoned daggers that kill one’s spirit, identity, reputation and relationship to the community.

  • “Well I only thought it, I didn’t do anything wrong”
  • “What’s in my own head doesn’t hurt anyone.”
  • “I was so angry at what I saw on FB I had to teach them a lesson, I didn’t kill anyone.”

 

Core Value Number 2 (Satisfying Self in a Covenant Relationship)

How we respect one another, affects both them and us.

Sexual sins occur first in the heart and head. Stop the sin there to avoid going further to lessen the effect on others. But best of all see that sin occurs before the action.

  • Don’t be looking
  • Don’t just love the one you are with
  • Don’t invalidate the person by objectifying the person and justifying a behavior that is harmful to God, self AND the other person.

Our society has so twisted the self-satisfaction, self-pleasing and self-affirming our sexual selves has become paramount in movies, songs, and laws and even in the church.

Core Value Number 3 (Don’t Look at the Line, much less cross it)

Marriage is the basis for integrity and of the family unity.

Marriage is a covenant with God, while you can’t change your spouse you can add to their relationship with God or you can pull them away from God by your actions of both fidelity and by infidelity. Everything we do affects our spouse. Don’t get into a marriage covenant if you are not holding God the whole time because marriage is not always easy nor simple.

Core Value Number 4 (Integrity Speaks truth in love)

Speaking as a person of integrity.

Speak the truth.

Don’t dodge the difficult conversations, don’t blame anyone or anything. Speak with respect, certainly don’t add God’s name to your ideas, thoughts or excuses. The practice of taking an oath or swearing our testimony assumes that most of the time we are untruthful except on these special circumstances.

  • “Don’t lie to me, we are in church.” But if we weren’t at church it might be alright to bend the truth, is the implied false assumption.
  • “I’m not under oath” I don’t have to be completely truthful with you because we are not in court. The rules are flexible to benefit me, especially when I might be in the wrong.
  • I said, “Yes, your honor, I believe I completely certain that No, I have no recollection of having said what you thought I said or did. That is my honest testimony”

 

Jesus said: The ten commandments were easy, I’m stepping up the game.

How will we ever measure up? Don’t be Discouraged:

Jesus model’s some real life issues that we twist:

Jesus said: you will need to out behavior the most devout religious leaders. Jesus said this knowing we also say/think things like:

  • I want to be right
  • Its what they do in the movies/tv, in songs, etc.
  • I want there to be an absence of conflict, so it’s ok to keep quiet even if it is not true
  • I want to be served and satisfied
  • I want to be able to say/do whatever gets me out of this mess in the name of grace and love
  • I don’t want accountability; I ask you to continue trusting me in grace.
  • It’s my turn

The Remedy starts small:

Jesus begins with the small stuff.

  • Start with how you treat the people that are around you every day.
  • Be a truthful person of integrity
  • Speak with strength, but know your words matter, speak truthfully.
  • Speak with integrity
  • Be one who respects boundaries
  • Don’t objectify people
  • Don’t forget marriage is about covenant and not being served
  • If you are looking away from God, spouse or good, you are looking at what is evil, broken even in the name caring for ourselves.
  • Speak with respect, boundaries, and integrity and you will be trusted, blessed and respected.

Don’t let your words kill someone’s spirit

Don’t objectify people in the name of pleasing yourself

Don’t believe you can buy your way out of sin

Don’t let your body kill your spirit.

Don’t think you are caring for your spirit by pleasing your body

Don’t believe your actions only harm yourself.

Don’t look for excuses, look for Christ.

Community Support: The Role of the Church

It is quick and easy for us to judge, blame and segregate ourselves in the name of protection or ideology.

  • Help those who are blaming find Christ
  • Help those who are destroying marriage to refocus on Christ/Covenant
  • Help those who focus on pleasing themselves to see they sin and model loving them.
  • Model speaking the truth instead of swimming in the ocean of blame, regret, fear, etc.

We are people of the New Life in Christ, Protect the heart of God within you and do not trade it for the world.

 

 

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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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Romans 12:9-16 “Christian Living” 20160605 RSUMC

XinMYheartLove must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. [NRSV]

Down in My Heart

Do you remember that Camp/ VBS Song: I’ve Got the Joy, Joy, Joy, Joy, down in my heart! Where? ” Down in my heart!”

It is a great reminder of where the core of the Christian life begins.
To be a follower of Jesus Christ might very different than being a Christian

Paul is building a case for the life and Christain community that is ours to emulate.

Let your love be genuine.
I love fresh lemonade verses I love you even when you misbehave.
Hate evil.
Strong words: Let’s be clear about evil. Don’t vilify the person, hate the unGodly things, attitudes, look past the words, to the other persons’ heart.
Hold on to Good.
It’s going to be a bumpy ride; not every handle is one you need to hold.
Devotion to God models our love of others.
Start at the beginning, love God first, greatest commandment.
Honor others, first.
Think from the other side first before you post or speak.
Life for God with a Passion
Don’t leave home without a case of Zeal for God.
Don’t be lukewarm or worse.
Keep the Spiritual fires warm while serving the Lord

So, if you are telling, teaching, explaining what it means to be a Christian:

1. Christian living begins in the heart.

Genuine heart hates evil, but holds on to Good, models devotions, respects we are different, but is passionate about living for God.

Attitudes in Action

Second to our Heart are the thoughts and ideas in our head.

Facebook and all social media are easy targets to see where people, who may have great hearts for God, but choose to forget or not to listen to their heart.

Here is the test:

  • If you find you can share Joyful Hope on Facebook, sign in!
  • If you can use it to patiently see the world through others’ perspectives, log on!
  • If you can use the media to offer your heart’s passionate prayers? Get social.
  • If not, don’t sign in, don’t log on, get to heating up your God’s Spirit in you instead.
1. Christian living begins in the heart of God
2. Christian living filters God’s voice through the world’s voice.

Our Witness in Community

To live in a Christian is to draw on the heart relationship we have with God, filter through what is joyful, hateful, shameful, grace-filled, good and profane and use this perspective in the world. Too many people are Christ-like in their hearts OR minds but get derailed using these tools in the world beyond themselves.

Paul’s list of sharing our witness in a relationship with others.
+? “Share with the Lord’s people who are in need.”
Interesting, Paul begins with helping the “Lord’s People” in need.
+ Practice hospitality
Have an open heart and mind that welcomes others.
+ Bless those who persecute you.
Know that not everyone will return kindness and love and grace.
-Do not curse, rather bless
Take the high, Godly, Good Road, don’t blame, bless and grow away from evil.
+ Rejoice with others
Celebrate when the news is good, and Joy is clear
+ Mourn with others
Be open to comfort, even when you are not the one hurting
+ Live in Harmony
Find ways to get along without having to agree with everyone.
– Do not be proud
Remember God loves and saves you, AND everyone else.
– Don’t be conceited, Associate with the poor and wealthy
Be a friend to those who are easy and difficult to live with.

Being a Christian is easy if you rare filling out a survey.
More people are identifying themselves as less Christian these days.

  • What does it look like when we say we are Christian but have lost hold of the heart of God?
  • What does it feel like when we say we are Christian people but have forgotten or never learned how to find our way home and settle for where we are rather than where we belong?
  • What does it sound like when we have our faith all worked out in our head, and heart but other folks don’t see, hear or experience God around us?

Paul reminds the church at Rome and Rock Spring:

It takes all three, growing in the heart of God, filtering through good and evil, to model our relationship with everyone.

Thank goodness we come to the table to start our journey today.

Here is our grace to begin anew and fresh.

Come.

Christian living begins in the heart of God
Christian living filters God’s voice through the world’s voice.
Christian living must interact with the community and reflect God at work through us.

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Acts 2:1-21 Peter: Drunk or Driven? 20160514 RSUMC

bloodmoonWhen the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability. Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered,

because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.”

All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” But others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.”

But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:

“In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy. And I will show portents in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and smoky mist. The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day. Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.‘ [NRSV]

Prophecy: In the last days..

Jesus instructed the disciples to go to Jerusalem and wait for the Holy Spirit, Comforter, to empower them. In Acts Chapter 2 we see the Holy Spirit Revealed. Peter begins explaining the scene in the context of the prophet Joel. Jesus didn’t tell the disciples this would be in last days.

Remember how Peter had the great idea to build monuments on the mountain of Transfiguration to remember Jesus, Moses and Elijah being revealed. God interrupts and says, “Listen.”
Remember how Peter promises to proclaim Jesus, even to the point of death and Jesus corrects him, no you will deny me three times tonight.
Remember how Jesus hears the Good News of the Resurrection from Mary and does not believe her, but runs to see the tomb for himself, and leaves not finding Jesus, only the empty grave.
Peter selecting a less than accurate passage from the Old Testaments prophets to make sense of the tounges of fire and the understanding of the Good News through different languages.

The Joel passage is similar to what Peter, the disciples and the great crowd of strangers experience that day. The part that Peter points is the Spirit’s presence being revealed through, men and women, slave and free, young and old.

Some say they are drunk on milky grains, new wine.

This festival, celebration that has brought the crowds into town is also known as the Festival of Weeks. This celebration was a way to serve God by bringing first fruits, the early crops, and waiting for God to provide the full harvest, as a remembrance of when Moses came down from the mountain with the law, the ten commandments. .

The youngest, most tender grains of wheat, barley and fruits like grapes and apples. These would be cooked with the old leaven or yeast and set aside to ferment. At the end of the countdown of seven weeks of seven days, the following, 50th, day would be ‘Pentecost, the 50th day.

So it would not be unreasonable for some to say, the disciples had been drinking the new wine, the freshly fermented beer, cider or wine.

The disciples had not been drinking but they were filled with something else:

The Holy Spirit.
God’s presence was poured out like liquid flames, resting on the disciples, similar to Moses’s burning bush event.

Another mis-understood part of the passage is about speaking in tongues. Actually the text suggests that they were speaking Galilean but the hearers from different regions and foreign lands, heard in thier own native language. Some translations go a step further and say they heard in their own hearts.

So Much for the History Lesson?

What do we learn about the Spirit as a take-away as modern day disciples?

First. The Spirit moves like the wind.
2nd, The power is revealed when they were all together, not a solo event.
3rd, The Spirit worked through the disciples, The disciples were vessels, hose pipes, conductors, channels, God uses to reach others.
4th, The Spirit choose the moment and venue
5th. Not everyone will understand or receive, but those who do, find God alive and at work through our willingness to serve.
Pentecost: A Season of Service

The Weeks of Counting: Are a call to serve God in the weeks ahead.

Our response might be: But school is almost over, it’s vacation time!

It is time to remember God calls us together
It is time count the ways God guides us. Review one commandment a week.
It is time to be available for the Spirit to work through us
It is time celebrate God is will with us. We are spiritual people, saved through Christ and empowered by the Holy Spirit.
Young and old, Males and Female, Oppressed or Oppressor, God is in Charge

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John 14.23-29 “Serving up Jesus Helper” 20160501 RSUMC

hamburgerhelper

Jesus answered him, “Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; and the word that you hear is not mine, but is from the Father who sent me. “I have said these things to you while I am still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. You heard me say to you, “I am going away, and I am coming to you.’ If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I.  And now I have told you this before it occurs, so that when it does occur, you may believe. [NRSV]

Hamburger helper

When I was in college I roomed my junior with Jonathon Eady. Our go-to meals were the many different flavors of Hamburger Helper(TM). I suppose it is a step above Ramon noodles as the helper recipe call for meet to be added to the dish. I don’t think I had a favorite flavor because they all seem to taste the same. But they sustained us through that year of off-campus living.

My senior year I moved past the Hamburger Helper stepping up to cans of Campbell’s soup to replace my culinary flavors. In the way one can alternate the addition of rice, noodles or some other starch to elevate the senses. Still a quick and easy method. The trouble with Ramon, Helper or Campbell recipes is the elevated level of salt and by-products.

As I child my dad always made spaghetti sauce from scratch. Not only was it cheaper than the pre-made, it tasted better. My grandmother never made vegetable soup from a can, unless she had canned the vegetables herself. My mother never used canned biscuits because she could make the scratch ones as quickly for less money.

Somehow we have grown up with fast food and eating out, that is not very good and questionably not as good for us. So, I have come full circle; now it is much more rewarding, healthy and fiscal to gather the basic fresh tomatoes, onions, garlic and herbs to make a sauce that contains the goodness you need and flavors you choose.

The one thing through all these years is food. Every day, every one of us, needs fuel to do all the things we do.

Spiritual Helper

But we are more than the physical body. We are also spiritual people.

Imagine if we took the example of food and focused the energy, time and resources on feeding our spiritual selves.

Oh, the sermon was going so well until now. I was just getting ready for lunch and BAM! we are back on Jesus.

Just as every person is created with a Spiritual self, whether they realize, accept or deny it… we are spiritual people.

So much of the world is broken because it either denies this reality or feeds on a spirit of evil.

  – Do you remember the three rules of being a United Methodist?

  1. Do no harm.
  2. 2. Do all the Good that you can.
  3. 3. Practice your piety.   Do the things that Feed our Spiritual Self.

Those who keep my Word..

  • Know God loves them “
  • Know God will come to them, “The Advocate”
  • Know God’s Peace, “Wholeness”

The part we struggle with, is: How do we Keep Jesus Word?

  • Does that mean to believe certain truths?
  • Does that mean trust scripture?
  • Does that mean follow Jesus’s example?
  • Does that mean follow Jesus’s rules?
  • All of the above? or
  • None of the above?

Jesus is connecting the dots before the dots become holes.

Jesus is introducing an easy way to connect with the Holy Spirit.

  • It is more than keeping rules
  • It is more than saying the correct words
  • It is more than a test or a race or a lifetime.
  • It is love.

We are spiritual people.

  • God loves us.
  • Jesus has shown us that love.
  • so we will continue to love
  • as spiritual people.

John 1: 1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4 in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. [NRSV]

We look around and

  • see a world filled with anger, hatred, fear and doubt.
  • We feel the frustration, mis-trust, separation and animosity.
  • We hear the brokenness, darkness and death.
  • We sense the hold of greed, selfishness and sin.
  • We can even taste it, and it is bitterness and sour.
  • How can the world possible love, forgive,

God will give us a helper, and Advocate, a representative, a spokesperson, a trainer, a coach, a voice, a breath of God’s creative wind. The Holy Spirit.

It is the Spirit of God feeding the Spirit with each of us.

If we do not eat at this banquet, we see what will happen to love

If we do, we find God loves us, died and rose that our spirit can be eternal and that we will continue to help others know to feed and love the spirit.

We start at the table and leave for the world.

  • Do no harm,
  • Do Good.
  • Eat the gifts of love and grace for the work above.

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John 21:1-19 “Breakfast With Jesus” 20160410 RSUMC

BreakfastWithJesus
After these things Jesus showed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias; and he showed himself in this way. Gathered there together were Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples. Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach; but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, “Children, you have no fish, have you?” They answered him, “No.” He said to them, “Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in because there were so many fish. That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on some clothes, for he was naked, and jumped into the sea. But the other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, only about a hundred yards off. When they had gone ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish on it, and bread. Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred fifty-three of them; and though there were so many, the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?” because they knew it was the Lord. Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. This was now the third time that Jesus appeared to the disciples after he was raised from the dead. When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” A second time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.” (He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.) After this, he said to him, “Follow me.” [NRSV]

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.

Conventional wisdom tells us that the first meal of the day sets the tone for your energy level and kick starts our metabolism. Like all things we are taught as children, some current research that suggests that ‘truism’ depends on what you eat, if you are trying to lose weight or the portion sizes. The one thing that has not changed is if you are going to skip a meal, Breakfast is the least helpful meal to skip. So let’s focus on ‘skippers.’

At what point do you stop to refuel your vehicle. When the red needle on the fuel indicator begins to move:

  • If you have time
  • If you are late
  • If you have money
  • If you need to get more money
  • If you are looking for a better price
  • If you are waiting for a favorite location
  • If you participate in a rewards program for coffee and your car fuel is not your priority.
  • What does all that matter if you run out of fuel before you arrive at work, school, the store or your intended location?

Instead of skipping, waiting or throwing the dice..

  • What if you made the priority have the fuel you needed for the day
  • What if you made the time and allocated the resources to start the day fueled.
  • as that relates to your car, your body and your Spirit?
  • If these three: Which most reflects our life as a Christian?
  • We have responsibilities to transport ourselves and others
  • We have a programmed desire to stay alive and feed our bodies

We have the most freedom and flexibility about being responsible to our God relationship and our spiritual selves.

As People of the Ressurection we have something to learn from Jesus’s breakfast buffet.

Typically we join the disciples in the boat or at the shore as they haul in after they fish on-the-other-side of the boat.

First Disciples Instruction: Work and live as if you were living on the “other side.”

  • Live like you know the resurrection of Jesus applies to your life.
  • Live like you would live if God’s will were done on earth as it is in heaven.
  • Live, now, like you would live if you were walking with Jesus by the sea of Tiberius.
  • Live as “other sided” people.

Second Disciples Instruction: Bring the fruit of our Spiritual labors to God.

  • How many fish did they catch without Jesus’s help? 0
  • How many fish did they catch working all through the night? 0
  • How many fish did they catch looking where their skills and intuition lead them? 0
  • How many fish did they catch with all their combined years of experiences and talent? 0
  • How many fish did they catch at Jesus’s direction? 153, 8 plus 12 fish for 12 disciples.

What if they skipped Jesus’s Suggestion?

Jesus third instruction is to eat breakfast with him.

Bring some of the fish, let us prepare and share breakfast.

I have always wondered why the United Methodist Men are the only group that typically gathers for breakfast. Why is it that breakfast with Jesus on the beach has not become one of the rituals and practices of the church.

Maybe it’s the menu: Fish for Breakfast!

4. The Fourth instruction to disciples is to answer: Do you love me most?

Do you love me more than your car, your job, your school, your friends, your family, your body, your everything?

  • your car,
  • your job,
  • your school,
  • your friends,
  • your family,
  • your body,
  • your money,
  • your skills,
  • your everything?
  • your school, your friends, your family, your body, your everything?

Jesus gathers with disciples, empowers them with the power of the Holy Spirit and their gifts for ministry, they share a meal and experience the power of the Ressurection to start their lives.

This is our model of daily life as People of the Ressurection now!

Start every day in Jesus

  • and we renew the power of the risen lord every day.

Start every day with Jesus

  • and we set the bar for what God will do through us.

Start every day listening to Jesus

  • and we set our attention in the Ressurection life we live now.

Let Jesus be our first meal of the day,

  • for if we skip that we are more likely to hunger, fail and loose our way.

HOW TO:

Prayer: Jesus Let me Follow you today. Fill me with your Spirit. Feed me with your Word. Trust me with your work. Keep me in your heart and your heart in me. Amen.

 

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Luke 13.31-35 Casting Evil and Curing Relationships 20160221 RSUMC

JesusGang At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.”  He said to them, “Go and tell that fox for me, “Listen, I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my work. Yet today, tomorrow, and the next day I must be on my way, because it is impossible for a prophet to be killed outside of Jerusalem.’ Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! See, your house is left to you. And I tell you, you will not see me until the time comes when you say, “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.’ ”  [NRSV]
Jesus Agenda: Casting out evil, Curing the broken, and finishing his work on the third day.

      A fore telling of Jesus’ arrest, conviction and crucifixion are addressed by the disciples and Jesus.Jesus is talking back. Calling Herod by his action, a fox, cunning, callus and calculated. Skills of self preservation for the fox. Jesus’ mission, in Luke’s Gospel, requires him to be back in Jerusalem, positioned for the crucifixion.The Agenda cannot be stopped by Herod or any evil. But that will not stop evil things from happening.KEY:

God’s presence cannot be taking away, but neither are we to expect evil to disappear in the world.Prophet’s Job is Seldom Appreciated.

    Jesus points to the difficult task of being a prophet.The Prophet says nothing new. The prophet reminds us of the rails that our collective train should be running.The Prophet reminds us that God desires up to be with God.Jesus is more than any prophet. Jesus is God showing up first hand, the real deal, the actual.Jesus’s lament is how the necessary role of the prophet has never been without attack and often takes one’s life.We have at least two prophetic voices for our capital city:

I would suggest that our two leading political candidates (S&T) have tapped into the telling the people what the want to be reminded of, but their trains are running in opposing directions. Neither of them claim to be God’s prophets, but folks are desperate for a prophet and will follow until the find the prophet’s flaws or the prophet’s message becomes too personal. Mud-Slinging Campaign: (Interesting to hear from Jesus and John the Baptizer) Herod, was the secular leaders and he was a ‘fox’. The Sanhedrin were the religious leaders and they were a brood of vipers.  God desires us to be together.There is a VERY powerful moment of self-disclosure and God’s heart being revealed in these words of Jesus outside of Jerusalem:The Mother Hen and her brood: How I wish my chicks would trust me. (Not just after they are in trouble, not after they are lost to evil, not just when faced with their own mortality, BUT when there was time to “walk together in the garden”) Remember the relationship with Adam and Eve, where God would walk and talk with them face-to-face, and explore the garden along side with them (Gen 3.8)The Prophets role is to remind God’s people of the relationship of Good and Evil. Helping folks remember what side of the fence they are too live.

    Are we people who put God first?Are we a people who put God 2nd or third or last?Are we people who honor our parents and their generation?Are we a people who lie, cheat, steal and murder?Are we people who choose our own agenda or God’s?Are we people who hunger and thirst to be correct or forgivenAre we people who satisfied with God or we want more?Are we people who listen to snakes and foxes?Are we people who will call out what it is evil, broken and diseased?Are we people who will turn to God or Government to define us?

These are the prophet’s questions: What are our answers?The Declaration:Blessed are those who come in the name of the Lord.

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