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Archive for category Advent C

Luke 1:46b-55 ReClaiming Christmas: Why Celebrate Jesus 20161211 Advent3

advent_3My 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.”” [Luke 1:46b-55]

Christmas is on Sunday

“I hate it when… or “I love it when… Christmas falls on a Sunday. Either way: Christmas is always a sabbath day. A day of worship.

Christmas for us looks back and looks forward.

Looking back we retell the story of birth, incarnation, hope, peace, love and joy.

Looking forward we hear the prophet foretell of who God will work as seen through the life of Mary.

Have you ever looked at the similarities of Mary’s faithful “favor” reflects God’s work through us in Christ?

  • holy is his name. (King of Kings, Lord or Lords, Prince of Peace, Mighty One, the Christ!)
  • mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation, (Grace and Trust go hand in hand)
  • shown strength with his arm; (Incarnational, personally and physically working alongside)
  • scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. (
  • brought down the powerful from their thrones,
  • lifted up the lowly; (Children come to me, women at the well, hemorrhage, demoniac
  • filled the hungry with good things, (feeding the 5000)
  • sent the rich away empty. (Rich Young Ruler)
  • helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, forever (Connection to the covenant with Abraham, eternal)

All these things that God finds favor with Mary’s faith and remembering of God at work through God’s People, tell the Jesus story before he was born.

Christmas is reclaimed in the present

Not I didn’t say in the presences, not necessarily, but Christ is reclaimed in the current moment, right in what we are dealing with, here and now.

In this third week of preparing for Christmas, we work to reclaim Christmas by looking at our own lives:

Making the list of God’s faithfulness in my life and how the faithful has shaped God’s work in me

Mark breaks out singing praise to God when she is told of  God calling entrusting her to serve as mother to Jesus.

It is a whopper of task for sure.

Me the Magnificant? No not me?

What is God calling me to do? to be? to say? to stand for? to witness to a struggling world.

So far was have talked about reminding each other that Christmas is Jesus’s birthday and the gifts are his.

Secondly, we talk about the simple act of sharing a card can begin or continue a conversation of love and faith.

Today, it time to add the list.

Advent is the season of lists.

If you keep them in your head, on paper or in some digital form, the lists are important. (From best to worst list)

  • The Santa List
  • The gift list
  • The cooking list
  • The party and company list
  • The decoration list
  • The clean up the house list

The things we do in response to the special day, the day of the Lord.

Look back at Mary’s list

 

  • How can I share God’s Glory this Christmas (God’s greatness.. God is so great..
  • How might God bring peace and home to my fears? ( Start acknowledging our fears then match of God’s mercy and grace, connect dots.
  • How will I offer my hands/feet/body to be used to reveal Christ? (Feeding, Serving, Gifting, Friending
  • Share what holds our heart captive from loving and forgiving. (Go out forgive and love someone difficult.
  • Power and Pride
  • Teach a child God’s in-the-flesh, incarnation story, Share your story with a stranger or elder or sojourner
  • Feed someone, letting them you are eating together as sharing of Christ.
  • Give a gift that is extravagantly valuable yet cost not money. Forgive, Bless, Teach, Empower, Relent your control!
  • Most importantly, name how your Christmas traditions connect you to God and God’s people through your generations, what do you want the next generation to learn from you about Jesus.

Personalize the Mary List

Of all the things we do to prepare for Christmas, Tackling the Mary List is the best way to reclaim and rekindle Christmas.

Mary has nine things on her list: We would rather have one thing, maybe three or four. But nine sounds like too many to squeeze in with all we have planned.

Three part list: God’s part, Our Part, Connecting the Dots.

That is the point.

  • God Part
    • Praise God
    • Trust God
    • Serve God
    • Confession to God
    • Let go and Rest in God
  • Our Part
    • Share the story
    • Live the faith
  • Key Part
    • Connect the dots.

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2016 Advent: 4 weeks Prep 4 Christmas

Advent: Series RECLAIMING CHRISTMAS

“ReClaiming Christmas: The Unexpected Gifts

A Look at the gift that is missing from Christmas, and why.

“But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. For as the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the coming of the Son of Man. Then two will be in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. Two women will be grinding meal together; one will be taken and one will be left. Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour. [Matthew 24:36-44]

ReClaiming Christmas: The Christmas Cards

A Season of Sharing the Story, “The John The Baptist Collection” of Cards: Repent, You Brood of Vipers,

In those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea, proclaiming, “”Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.“” This is the one of whom the prophet Isaiah spoke when he said, “”The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.’“” Now John wore clothing of camel’s hair with a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then the people of Jerusalem and all Judea were going out to him, and all the region along the Jordan, and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. But when he saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, “”You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit worthy of repentance. Do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our ancestor’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. “”I baptize you with water for repentance, but one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and will gather his wheat into the granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”” [Matthew 3:1-12]

ReClaiming Christmas: Why Celebrate Jesus

Why Care About the Reasons for the Season

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.”” [Luke 1:46b-55]

Reclaiming Christmas: Christmas Delivery

Will the gifts we share bring hope, life and joy?

Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “”Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.“” All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: “”Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,”” which means, “”God is with us.“” When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus. [Matthew 1:18-25]

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Twas the “Real” Night Before Christmas

ROOMintheSTABLE.jpg

When all through the town,
Folks were snuggled comfy and sound.
All my night guests had checked in,
And I was exhausted and tucked in my kin,
When out at the door the I heard a swift rap,
of the door knocker knocking interrupting my nap.

I sprang up from my cot to see what was the issue,
Couldn’t they read. “NO VACANCIES! We’ll miss you.”
But my old grandpa’s business voice, said clear as day,
“There’s still some money to be made, and bills to be pay.”

So I thought about the stable stalls out back,
I knew there was fresh straw, out with the tack.
“Meet me in the back yard,” I told the young couple,
His wife was expecting; it looked like a double.

The sky was dark but for an enormous new star,
That lit up the night from so very far.

There among cows, donkeys and sheep,
I offered them the last place to sleep.
It was so late; they were wearier than I,
So I left them to rest, until morning came by.

As much as I hoped that would be all for the night,
after a few hours later, the yard was a sight.
Shepherds and sheep had come straight to the stable,
Some were young while others, barely able.

But all reported hundreds of angels in the air,
Singing the world’s savior is born, “Have no dispair.”
Have no fear they proclaimed,
Peace on Earth was their refrain.

It was odd how they left their posts in the night,
They risked losing their jobs, to report on their sight.
I walked out the back and up to the rail,
I saw the young beaming mother, the father quite pale.

But there shown a warm aura of light in the barn
I half-worried about fire and sounding the alarm,
But the numinous, radiant, wonder I saw,
was a life changing scene that filled me with awe.

My Lord and My God was born on that night.
To love and to save and to give us all life.
I went to my front door and pulled down the sign,
I’m glad I made room for my Savior, divine.

As keeper of strangers and travelers and folks,
Mine is the task of lifting the yoke.
I hope that you will find Christ in your way,
to make room for Jesus, who lives still today.

A “Real” Merry Christmas,  Jesus is born,
Afresh and anew in your heart, sound your horn. Merry CHRISTmas to all! 

JTB with inspiration from the meter of CC Moore

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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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Luke 3:7-18 “So What Do We Do?” 20151213 RSUMC

treeaxe
John said to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruits worthy of repentance. Do not begin to say to yourselves, “We have Abraham as our ancestor’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” And the crowds asked him, “What then should we do?”  In reply he said to them, “Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.” Even tax collectors came to be baptized, and they asked him, “Teacher, what should we do?”  He said to them, “Collect no more than the amount prescribed for you.” Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what should we do?” He said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusation, and be satisfied with your wages.”  As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah,  John answered all of them by saying, “I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.  His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”So, with many other exhortations, he proclaimed the good news to the people. [NRSV]
On this 3rd Sunday in the liturgical season of Advent we are drawn to the message of hope and love that awaits us in Christ’s birth and moving in with us at Christmas. 
The text comes as words from the prophet John the Baptizer. The text does not sound very loving and hopeful for those who claim to know God’s work and will. Listen through the toughness to see the love.
John’s word to the religious crowd is: “Who told you to come to be baptized, to find Love, Grace, Salvation? ASK You NEIGHBOR..
John is frustrated with the crowd who have been so focused on political correctness, that they have missed God’s presence for all the ‘good’ they have done by appeasing everyone. (Sanhedrin had power-brokered their relationship with the Roman empire at the expense of finding God at work in their presence.)
Remember these are the words of a prophet, not Jesus.
The lesson is about how to prepare for Jesus instead of preparing for ourselves. John instruction on how respond to ‘preventive grace’ to the next step.
It’s not about politically correctness to the law, it is about trusting our hope in God’s relationship in daily lives.
SO HOW DO WE PREPARE to see/experience/welcome God?
If you have a coat to share, then share it.
If you have more food than you can eat today, share it.
John is not establishing a code of organization for church nor community nor society. He is talking about an act of piety, a practice of being the faith community.
We live in a time that is mixed up. Folks who want us to be so pluralistic in our faith and at the same time not claim the faith that calls us to care for the poor. Why is feeding the clothing the poor the “Good Fruit” that God is looking for us to express?
These are signs that we are not working solo in this world. We are interconnected and interdependent on one another.
It is neither a statement that wealth is evil nor that it is acceptable to live off of the wealth of others.
If there are those you can “care for”, then care for them.
If there are those who need grace, then show grace.
You bunch of snakes
John is talking to folks who are snakes, venomous, lethal snakes.
In these days of terrorism and political demonism, who are the snakes?
  • Those who know they are right and willing to kill those who disagree?
  • Those who know they are correct and willing to label and dismiss those who are wrong?
  • Those who know they are right and God cannot do I new thing that is beyond our control?
John’s warning is dramatic and sensational: “The Axe is at the root of the tree.” The time is short and some trees are going to be cut down to make room for the new growth.  (Star Wars, light saber)
— Luke I am your father story at the pool.
I’m I being pruned or am I the clippings that will burned in the fire?
“WHAT AM I TO DO?”
The big “So What?”
If this is the time of preparing for Christ in our hearts and lives,
how do I make certain, that my heart, mind and spirit are open to God’s good news and presence amoung us?
Tax collectors, public servants: Do you job, but don’t take advantage of your authority and responsibilities.
Soilders: Be ready to defend and protect, but don’t mis-use your power and trust.
What ever the work/job: Contribute to the good of the community, work hard, do some type of work. [The unemployed can volunteer until work comes.]
The task for all is to act on our faith in the community
If you see a mess, clean it up.
If you see someone who is voiceless, give them voice
If you find someone who is forgotten, remember them
If you see sin, call it out, name evil for what it is.
If you see the speck in the eyes of others, can you see the log in your own eye. (FB? am I wrong in thinking? open the conversation rather than close the door on relationship)
If you are so certain you don’t want to see the world’s troubled, then we become the snakes.
If you think you are in the God Squad, ask God if you actually are?
If you are ready to kick someone out, make sure you know your are ‘in.’
HOW DO WE HEAR THE GOOD NEWS in the warning of bad news?
1. Ignore the warnings as foolish, fearful, mis-informed or narrow minded folk.
2. Have cake and eat it: Pick and choose what we want to listen to and respond?
3. Here words of prophet and say: What does God want me to hear, and do?
Ding, ding, ding!
The paths becomes straight and our hearts are open when we yeild to God and follow God’s word, in scripture, prophets and spirit.

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Luke 3.1-6 “Time to Straighten Up” 20151206 RSUMC Advent2

Making Life Easier to find and Share God.

EasyHardWay_Advent2

In the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was ruler of Galilee, and his brother Philip ruler of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias ruler of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah, “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth;  and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’ ” [NRSV]

Proclaiming a baptism of repentance.

Acknowledge that we are broken, incomplete and more than physical and mental. We are a spiritual being, created of God with the free choice to do as WE please, or do as God pleases. If we are in charge our time on earth is all we have and we are to blame for our sins and have no provision for relationship or life after death.

If God is in charge of our lives, we are to blame for our sins but God promises to judges us for our sins and Jesus takes the sentence and blame for us, as a sign of God’s love and as a fix/ connection we could not make without God’s help.

Repentance

I’m the problem. Not someone or something else. I might not be responsible for the whole world, but I’m responsible for my part.

  • We live in a time that we confuse being responsible for creation with being responsible to the creator.
  • We live in a time where we confuse my will and self-determination and free will with the consequences
  • for not using our choice to build a relationship with God and God’s people.
  • We live in a time when the church is not seen or known as the presence of Christ, rather an institution of affirmation of our ideals, traditions and behaviors.

Why would I need to say I am broken or incomplete if God has made me?

  • Even before I am of age or development to make a choice of my own. You and I lived in a world bent toward selfishness and self-preservation.
  • Long before we are aware of choosing what is good from bad, we live in the process of trial and error. We touch the stove and burn and hand and learn we’d rather not experience that again. We push, hit, or raise our voice to get attention, power or response, We validate the influence we have in the world.
  • Before I have developed neural synapse memory patterns, I live in a world that is broken and hurting, cut-throat and starving, filled with rich and poor alike.
  • Charles and John Wesley fought over the our state of sin. Charles felt are hopeless without any chance of goodness. John said, we have the presence of God’s power and spirit in us that is at work to help us, and while “bent toward sinning” we have the choice to choose God’s help and strength.

To say it most plainly:

If there is one perfection it is impossible for trillions of human beings to individually unique and yet perfect. The reality that we are unique and different, also means that while there is good in us, we are fundamentally missing the “God-part” of our relationship with the world.

  • We live in a world where plateaus shift and volcanos erupt and storms swell and the sun bakes, and sinkholes open and asteroids impact. Processes beyond our control and strength.  
  • We live in a world where people have different abilities and aptitudes. Different skills and perspective. If everyone were given the same resources, we would continue to have rich and poor, different politics and languages, different interpretations, successes and failures.

SO: even we made every good choice as an individual, we are surrounded by broken, selfish folks in a hurting, unfair world. All the more reason to secure God’s blessing and help in being whole, individually and collectively.

Making Easier Instead of More Difficult.

Finally, John’s invitation to repent, is a personal and individual way we can help make our relationship with God and one another better is by intentionally making it easier for ourselves, others and for God to be in our lives.

  • Stop making poor choices
  • Stop working against God’s will
  • Stop justifying both/and living
  • Make the path easy and straight for yourself, others and God.
  • This is our personal responsibility…
  • Start making room for God
  • Make time for God
  • Extend grace for God’s people, who are also broken and struggling and imperfect
  • See the best in each other and not preoccupied with being right, in charge or in control.

It is better not to put millstones around our necks or others, make the world a better place my making room for a relationship with God and God’s people.

So how do we make the path straight?

  1. Do No Harm
  2. Do all the Good You Can do
  3. Practice intentional Spiritual Growth (A Goal for RSUMC to have every member in a small group)

So Advent 2 is a call to prepare by making faith, love and life easier by living straight toward God.

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Luke 21:25-36 Watchfulness 20151129 Advent1 RSUMC

 

Wedding Preps are more than wedding day events“There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves.  People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see “the Son of Man coming in a cloud’ with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” Then he told them a parable: “Look at the fig tree and all the trees;  as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near.  Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. “Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day does not catch you unexpectedly, like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth. Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.”  [NRSV]

 

CAUTION: The Yellow Flag, the Caution triangle, the surgeon general’s official warning.

Key Verse: Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day does not catch you unexpectedly, like a trap.

  • Be Alert.
  • Pray for strength
  • Be ready to stand before the Son of Man

Advent: Be Alert. The core purpose of the liturgical season of Advent is to make time and make ready our lives for Christ.

It has little to do with #redcups from #starbucks or store’s commercializing the season without the faith-based reason. It ultimately is study time before the test. It is practice driving before getting your drivers’ license. It is the work that leads up to the #retirement time we live the life unencumbered by work. (ideally)

I invite you to join in a series of mini marathons to prepare us for the full #26.2 mile race. I am not a runner at this point in my life. I learned from my DNA research that my people only have a 3% of becoming sprinters. I am certainly in the right family. But I do know that if I was going to self-propel my body in any fashion for 26.2 miles. I am not ready for the race today.

The first word of preparing in our text today is ‘Alert.’

Alertness is a willful, intentional, state of readiness to be either proactive and/or reactive to the situation and circumstances around us.

The rampant increase of acts of terror have raised our alertness to evil in the world. Paris, Mali, Chattanooga and even in our experience. We are cautioned to prepare one another to be watchful. If something is wrong or out of place, then report it, follow up on it and take the information as credible until it is disproved.

This way of daily life is stressful, and it carries the risk of being so cautious that we withdraw or cause injury to ourselves and others. The text affirms that we live in risky times. So learning how to be alert that is appropriate to the level of risk is what our insurance companies help us figure out.

Based on our experience of driving, they determine the degree of risk to cover inevitable accidents and losses we will experience. Every insurance representative would work with drivers, renters and home owners to take proactive precautions to prevent poor impact upon policy payments.

For our spiritual journey and spiritual home, we prepare in similar styles. Be preventive and proactive.

Luke and I have agreed to encourage each other in goal of loosing the same amount of weight. He is loosing muscle, I’m loosing fat. If we wait start until the end of April to meet our goals. We will surely fail.

We both agreed, let ‘s start after Christmas. With all the dinners and parties and festivities. It would be better to start when we were less tempted. But we are fooling ourselves.

Remember Jesus ministry was challenged by temptation before he told the first parable or healed the first person. We get busy in the temptation, because the nature of letting our attention and guard down opens the flood gate for failure and disappointment.

Advent. 1.a, Step one, be alert by study, fellowship, singing, exercise restraint from the thing we KNOW are not helpful. Be attentive to the building up of our spiritual self. Make our spirit the priority of each day. Not at the expense of all else, rather the priority of the day.

Advent. 1.b, Step two, pray for strength.

Wow, Jesus knows the disciples are going to find their weak points in a hurry. Not only will we get lazy and justify our physical demands replace our spiritual demands, but we will grow weary, quickly.

The preventative training is to pray.  Pick a time and work to make it your prayer time. Read the prayers of others, start with the prayers of your childhood, sit in silence as ask God to hold your thoughts and worries and simply rest in the arms of God. But start praying with the regularity with which we do important physical things. When you eat, prayer. When you rest in the room of rest, pray. When you get in the car, prayer. When you arrive at school or work or your destination, pray for what you will face. Start talking and listening to God. Listen to spiritual music, read spiritual writers, discuss spiritual topics with a desire to inform and learn rather than force others to agree. All these are forms of prayer as we offer our speaking and listening to God.

 

Advent 1.c, Step three, Be ready to stand before the Son of Man.

Keep the goal in mind. Not only be awake and proactively growing your spirit. (2016: Have every member of RSUMC involved in some spiritual growth group. 3-300, sized) Not only be talking and listening to God, encourage one another to keep the goal in mind.

Our lives our gifts of God, entrusted to us to build a relationship with God through the grace of Jesus Christ, the power of the Holy Spirit and the fellowship of the Church. When we finally have lived our life, and we stand before God. Can we say, “I want to be with you.”

It sounds crazy in a way. It seems if anyone had a chance to stand before God and say I love you our I hate you. I know you or I never really knew you. If there was sliver of opening, we would want to go with God. But the truth is that not everyone believes this to be true, or has another way of fulfillment and meaning. Some folks with stand before Christ our judge and is not interested in our excuses or laziness or business or intentions.

The text’s second warning is that difficult, terrible, and oppressive things are to come in this world: Things we will want to escape.

Be alert, be preparing, be strong , be encouraging… but do all this for what?

Jesus has come into the flesh to show and open a relationship with God. Think of your best friend. How often would you want to share

  • a meal?
  • an adventure?
  • a comment about the news or a movie?
  • or build a memory or retell an old one?
  • working through your struggles?

These are the journey points of a relationship with God. It is not just saying we are friends, it is showing it with the life, time and stuff that makes up our being.

Finally, we in a time of preparation, aimed for more than a day.

Like so many #wedding have months of planning and preparation lead toward a day, but should always be for more than that day: “That Day” may be the wedding, but it is the marriage that begins. Christmas is the season for which prepare. This is our first journey

Action Plan:

  • How am I going to keep alert my spiritual self and relationship
  • How am I going to talk and listen to God and God’s people
  • How am I going to become strong enough to finish the race.

 

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Isaiah 40:1-8 Advent: “Preppers Unite!” RSUMC 20141130

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Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that she has served her term, that her penalty is paid, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins. A voice cries out: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” A voice says, “Cry out!” And I said, “What shall I cry?” All people are grass, their constancy is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades, when the breath of the Lord blows upon it; surely the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades; but the word of our God will stand forever. [NRSV]

The Prophet Isaiah gives those who seek God’s presence words of encouragement as well as a reality-check about where to placed our faith.

This first Sunday of Advent we begin lighting candles. This is our sign, this is our symbol and logo for the season. There is a great presence of darkness all around us: Economic, Political, Geo-political, Racial and Cultural protests and looting, A woman killed three people in Denver to buying the last discounted TV at Walmart. The valuable has become trivial and the trivial takes on the value of greatest worth.

This prophet work is a call to make a way that prepares for God’s coming

Prepping: The ultimate Boy Scout exercise of being prepared. I will admit there are some items that I have more of than I used to keep around. I’m not a zombie apocalypse follower. But there seems to be some common sense in looking at the signs and seeing the need to prepare for things I can manage and control.

There is a fine line sometimes between having a few extra supplies, jugs of water and basic necessities and those who have bunkers, stock-piles and provisions for decades. Somewhere in between folks will say we are crazy, foolish or even delusional, while others will say we are foolish, crazy and delusional for not getting ready for a return to the 19th century way of life.

Here is a point of learning for each of us: At what sign, moment or circumstance would we change the focus of our regular way of leaving and prepare for Christ’s return. What would I need to experience in order to act most seriously and sincerely about preparing, not only my self, but others for the coming God Christ, God with us here and now?

In other words: how bad do things need to get before we see that we cannot fix world hunger?
How many acts of terror before we confront that the power of Evil is real and irrational.
How tough do our finances drop before we see we can’t buy nor save our way out of trillions of debt?
AND
How long do we allow people to build waves of doom and gloom before we look to God of strength, hope.
How long will we convince ourselves that we can manage any situation without God’s help
How long will we allow those around us to live, plan, lead and struggle managing the world around us without God’s help and allow them the political correctness, fairness and to-each-his-own theology?

The promise in Isaiah warning is that God will certainly put us into perspective, just like we through out old flowers that were once beautiful but are now dried and lifeless.

Jericho: Mt Temptation

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Isaiah call to action is to CRY OUT!
But what are we to call out? Who are we to Call out? What is it we are supposed to say? Answers: We will all fade, fail and died… so we best prepare for God’s stepping in our place.

Advent is this call to action: Remember God is God and we are the created. We are very smart, strong, and

This Advent is a time to speak up, speak out, Cry Out. Not so much to remind each other here, but for the rest of the world to know now is the time to make way for God.

“Swords ready? “On Guard! On Watch! Be Alert. Pay Attention. Look for God, for God is coming.

This get’s back to the prepping: If we live like the apocalypse is coming in 2015 then the majority of folks will think we are crazy, foolish and tune us out.

If we are talking about Christ’s return and final victory coming this December 25 instead of Santa then folks will think we are crazy, foolish and tune us out.

God is appearing every day. This is the real, reality.
Advent is not just a season prepping us for Christmas; it is the call to faith for each day and every season.

So I offer a balance: On one hand remember we are a fragile and delicate as a flower, think if power of a bacteria or virus, the sudden impact of a crash, the in hailing or injecting or ingesting of substances that end out live quickly as well as those that quietly tear us down.

On the other hand: God’s word is eternal. Ever strong and to be trusted.
Cry out for folks around us to ready, study, share, learn, open and press through God’s word.

How do we prep for God. Trust what is spoken of God. Have faith in God’s promise of grace and salvation.
Be on Guard to speak and share the word with everyone..

The road to heaven is paved with God’s intention. That we believe, trust and follow.
Not our intentions, God’s.

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Luke 4.16-21 First Things First JUMC 20131201


16 When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written: 18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” 20 And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
NRSV

First Words
Typically a child’s first words are a rough version of Daa Daa or Maa Mas, some
Jesus’s first words as teacher, preacher define our task as Christians and the role of the church

5 Point Sermon
Bring Good News to the Poor, Freedom to the captive, Seeing to the blind, Oppressed accepted, AND tell the world this is what God is all about
Jesus defines what we are to do as disciples, as Christians, and as a church
Confirmands: Listen up.

Hometown Hearers
Jesus starts with the folks who had the greatest opportunity to know Jesus, those who have known him the longest
Not always does longevity mean understanding. The longest member or the longest marriage does not always mean the greatest witness or the greatest love IE. Sadi and Shorty Brown..

Evaluation
Are we getting closer to the destination?
Flight… much like image that Bishop Schnase describes in chapter 2, of Remember the Future,
Given the choice to walk home from Colorado all alone is not my best choice.
I prefer the air plane. I got upgraded, so I had more room and a better snack for my flight… But on this flight home I had two crying babies, one in front and one behind me. The flight was delayed 40 minutes. They ran out of the full breakfast and I had cold cereal instead. I sat next to a talker who didnt mind waking me up to tell me about their family problems. But given all the craziness it was much better than walking 1200 miles on my own.

Being the church is not the easy route. Being a follower of Jesus is seldom accepted by the majority. In fact it is a good test of our progress: If things are going smoothly and everyone is happy and comfortable, most likely we have made things about us rather than those who are poor, captive, blind, oppressed and search to find what God offers instead of what we offer.

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Luke 1:39-45, “A Visit to Aunt Elizabeth’s” JUMC 20121223

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1:39 In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, 40 where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. 41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit 42 and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. 43 And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? 44 For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. 45 And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.” [NRSV} (46-55) 46 And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, 47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 48 for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; 49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. 50 His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. 51 He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. 52 He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; 53 he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. 54 He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, 55 according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”

The Family Connection Mary receives some incredible news concerning her life and faith.

1. God is pleased with her faith and willingness to be part of the grand work.

2. Mary become pregnant as a unwed, teenage

3. Mary is almost cast out by her fiancée and family Her response is to go visit the one person in her extended family who would welcome her with unconditional love and patience.

This is the first and greatest gift of Christmas.

If there is one person you can love and entrust yourself with without limit or condition, you can experience the power of Christ and Christmas every day. Period.

If you have that person you can turn to that may not give you everything you want but will love and listen and welcome you no matter what mess you may find, then you have THE treasure of God’s love.

If you don’t, the best way to find this love is to show this kind of love.

Mary, in her confusion, excitement, fear and celebration runs to aunt Elizabeth’s house.

In the Family Way

Mary travels to the home of Uncle Zachariah, who is mute until the birth of his son, John, who would become the baptizer of many and the messenger of the Lord calling for repentance and the preparing of our hearts of the coming of God’s own. He is unable to speak because he talked too much about what he did not know.

Do you know someone like that? They are the expert on the ball game, the shopping deals or the politics and they don’t know when to stop talking and just listen.

Sometimes our Christmas gifts are what we need and not what we want. This economy and it’s strain upon our incomes and lives should be a wake up call to our materialism. We don’t need nearly as much as the commercials and advertisements tell us what we need.

Sometimes not having what we want is thrust upon us. Just as Zach could not speak, he could spend more time hearing. If we spent the resources and time of Christmas shopping on worshiping and serving Christ, we might begin to appreciate what Zack learns through his time out… God’s family is larger than he ever dreamed and God could do much more wonderful and miraculous than Zachariah could imagine.

Is there someone you could give the gift of silence to this year?

They could open up a box of quiet that took a whole day or weekend to experience.

Is there someone you could give the gift of boldness to this year?

Someone who is always quiet and in the background and they could speak freely and with all confidence.

What if these two gifts were exchanged in our homes and families?

Parent’s listened to children and children listened to parents? What is the Parents would be strong and the children child-like. What if the boss would serve and the servant take the responsibility of leading.

Shepherd hearing the first words of the King of kings? That kind of insider news would be for the inner circle and the privileged? Wise men of other cultures and traditions being shown a guiding star follow what the learned scholars and teachers had studies for a millennium?

What is the news You need to hear? What are the signs you need to pay attention to see and follow. Who are the families that need to hear the Good News and see it in acted and lived out right now?

Christmas is about the Larger Family too

Through out most every Christmas movie and show this pre-Christmas season talks about Christmas being for the children and for the family. We need to do a little bit of correction:

This pre-season of Christmas is a time for families and children to be making ready for Jesus Christ. If Santa Claus can be a helpful figure to show us selfless giving and generosity to a world that has a need for joy, then that bring all the help that Santa can bring.

Mary visit’s her aunt and when she walks in the door of the house, Elizabeth’s child becomes excited. The sign that what is going on in one person’s life is connected to each other’s live. Mary had her own agenda for visiting her aunt and uncle. God had another. Zack had other dreams and plans, and so did Elizabeth about having a child in her retirement years. Bottom line: God is at work through us all.

Continuing to do the impossible even now: Giving us messengers of hope, promise and accountability. You and I are in this story, in our hearing the words and gathering to worship today.

Where will we go with the Good News today?

What will be say God can or cannot do this year?

What will be brought to life when you say yes to God’s call in your life?

What will be shut off and not possible, when you doubt, refuse or not follow?? That is the dangerous Question

Merry CRISTmas and Happy HOLYdays to you.

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