Archive for category #benotafraid
Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD, O my soul! I will praise the LORD as long as I live; I will sing praises to my God all my life long. Do not put your trust in princes, in mortals, in whom there is no help. When their breath departs, they return to the earth; on that very day their plans perish. Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD their God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them; who keeps faith forever; who executes justice for the oppressed; who gives food to the hungry. The LORD sets the prisoners free; the LORD opens the eyes of the blind. The LORD lifts up those who are bowed down; the LORD loves the righteous. The LORD watches over the strangers; he upholds the orphan and the widow, but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin. The LORD will reign forever, your God, O Zion, for all generations. Praise the LORD! [NRSV]
It is one thing to complain about division in the world; it is another to offer the solution.
Praise the Lord! Is the solution.
Serve the Lord! Is the solution.
Share the Lord! Is the solution.
Our culture and intellect has pressed diligently from every direction to belittle, dis-empower, and reject God and our faith in God, all the while replacing God’s purpose for creation and humanity with a chaos of something “other”, “non-” or “the anti/pro” or some lowest common denominator of the strongest voice or wealthiest player.
It is actually not a new behavior: Look at Psalm 53:1 NIV
The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, and their ways are vile; there is no one who does good.
The fruit of cultivating a culture without God returns us to chaos, destruction, and emptiness.
- When the world is in chaos, turn to the one who orders life and light out of chaos.
- Praise the Lord instead.
- When the political boxing area calls for title fights,
- Praise the Lord instead.
- When we think about placing hope OR blaming trust in someone who is one breath away from their last breath,
- Praise the Lord instead!
- When God is the one breathes that breath of life into us all.
- Praise the Lord!!
Happiness is found by those who have faith in the Lord. The Lord who gives structure to life, and good – justice and faith. Vs 6
Happy, joyful and at-peace are the who find God’s purpose as our purpose.. it is the puzzle piece finding its part in the wholeness when it finds its place in the puzzle’s place and not in its own empty box.
We hear Jesus’s words from the New Testament in the verses 7-8. The core of what we know as the Great Commission for disciples: Giving Justice to the oppressed, food the hungry, freedom for those in prison, vision/insight to the blind. In verse 9 we hear Jesus’s word from the Sermon on the Mount calling for the humble to be lifted up and to care for the stranger, the orphan and the widow.
Political Talk / Silence
First, we talk too much about politics. Don’t let this be an excuse to avoid politics, but think of it this way, for every hour you spend reading and listening to news and editorials about politics, spend two hours in prayer, bible study and serving others in the name of Jesus Christ.
For those who want to avoid the reality of conflict and controversy but not listening to any news, time trying to ignore the conversations, spend twice that time reading the bible, praying and serving others in Jesus name.
For those who think this invitation is speaking to someone more than yourself, then its time for a wakeup call and spend three times as much effort praying, studying and serving others for the purposes of Jesus Christ.
Exercise for Healing
- Turn off the TV, social media and get face to face with the people of God and study the word
- Turn off the worry and fear and model for the world what it means to have faith in the chaos.
- Turn off the excuses and silence and let your service and worship clearly point to Christ in the world.
Jesus said he was the Way and the Truth. Following Jesus and you bring light to what is dark and evil. Follow the way of princes and political parties and their way leads to a cliff, not a wall.
Hear the core of this Psalm: Our hope is in the Lord, Praise the Lord.
Bottom line: praise the Lord who is
- strong enough,
- gracious enough and is
- the salvation of all generations.
The world is telling us today that, our voice and our place, we are not only wrong, but they are also bold enough to say we are oppressive, abusive and wrong.
- If the world does not trust prayer, we must intercede until they do.
- If the world does not trust scripture, we must read, listen and follow until they do.
- If the world does not listen to our songs of praise, sing until they do.
- If the world does not love as Christ loves, then love until they do.
- If the world does not follow and find its pieces fitting into God’s puzzle and plan, then find your place and invited the pieces next to you to find their hearts true home and fit.
Be the praise, Be the voice, Be the Word, Be the presence. Be the witness. Be the song. Be the church.
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.” [NRSV]
I recall my parents making drawn and silk screened Christmas cards as part of the family tradition of preparing for Christmas. Part of the handmade effort was the personal and creative gift the other was for economical reasons. Each year mom would draw some variation of Mary and Jesus, occasionally including Joseph, an angel or a star. Dad would do the printing. My jobs waving the paper for the ink to dry, affixing stamps and sealing the envelopes. After the fourth or fifth church, it was necessary to use a bulk permit to cover nearly 800 hundred cards to church members, family, and friends. Somewhere along the way, a simple gift became a chore and the tradition change to about 100 written cards. The issue was the growing gap of ingenuousness between the original gift to the present.
What had been a creative chore, became a dreaded task not to forget or offend.
What is the appropriate message to share at Christmas?
- For some, it is the annual family letter. If I have one good thing to say about Facebook, is that it seem the longer FB is around, the fewer Christmas letters I receive.
- For some, mention every attribute of a Bing Crosby festival but offers wishes for happy tidings and warm companionship with everyone.
May You feel God’s presence in the candles, that softly spread their glow at Christmas and may you experience the wonder of His abiding love, as He guides you, through each day of the coming year.
- For others, the cards convey perfunctory words of acknowledging goodness and an unclear image of peace.
“Thinking warmly of each of you and wishing your family an extra measure of comfort, joy and hope.”
- We have tried to send Christmas cards, but we typically send them out during the Christmas season, rather during the weeks of Advents. [as late as St Patricks Day]
What about the Cards from the John the Baptist Card Collection?
- Front: May your camel’s hair coat be scratchy and you locust be toasty, may your voice be one crying out I the wilderness this year. Inside: Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.
- Front: Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near! Inside: 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.
- Cover: His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor. Inside: He will gather his wheat into the granary, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.
- Best Cover: You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Inside: Bear fruit worthy of repentance.
John the Baptist reminds us to ask each other: for what are we preparing? Christ, ourselves or something else.
Our response is to say, “80 percent may be for me, my family, my idea, my traditions, my memories, my warm fuzzy feeling, and 20 percent is for you Jesus.” You complete the percents for yourself.
I have shared by Christmas list with Santa, I have begun to buy gifts for others, I have begun to get out decorations, I have begun filling my calendar with events, I have begun singing along with Christmas favorites, but
Can anyone tell Jesus is the driving cause of my actions, or have I left that to chance and hope others will guess what leads my heart and life.
It’s not about “Merry Christmas” it is about Jesus.
- John the Baptist is not so worried about offending the Jewish leaders, as he is making certain everyone knows to be humbled before Christ.
- Jesus is the King whose roads need to be made ready, not the government
- Jesus is the is the one worthy to give himself for us
- Jesus is worth shouting boldly about to the world
Advent, Preparing, Reclaiming the task of preparing: The example is baptism.
REPENT: Turning around and Remembering we are claimed by God, made new in Christ, forgiven and made whole through water and the Spirit.
Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.” But he said to him, “Friend, who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you?” And he said to them, “Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.” Then he told them a parable: “The land of a rich man produced abundantly. And he thought to himself, “What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?’ Then he said, “I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ But God said to him, “You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.” He said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear. [NRSV]
Capitalizing on the Word
Annually throughout the 1990s, crowds of over 80,000 of faith and proof seekers gathered in Conyers, Georgia to visit the site of Nancy Fowler’s home each October 13th for a visitation from the Virgin Mary. In the area of Conyers, signs began to post in Chamber-of-Commerce style reading: Visit Conyers: Eat, Drink and See Mary. Drawing on the text from Luke’s gospel capitalizing the entrepreneur spirit of the text.
Even now, instead of seeing, hearing and experience Christ among us, we might settle for a crowd with generous pockets instead in place of visit with Jesus.
This text opens forcing Jesus, in the role of Moses or a rabbi, charged with settling matters of inheritance. The request is for Jesus to resolve our financial disputes when Jesus is interested in preparing our spiritual selves.
I recall a moment of misdirected attention on my very first mission trip. While visiting a home worship service, of one of the seminary students from the Juan Wesley Seminario, one of the neighbors began speaking in tounges. This style of worship was not a tradition of our mission team, and one of the group leaders insisted I take photos to show the Rotary Club, the Men’s and Women’s groups and others who had helped fund our trip. “That picture will be worth a $1000 for our next trip.” Somehow a moment of personal worship was being transformed into a monetary moment. (I took several photos, but they were all blurry when I developed the film.)
Why Leave Home to Serve?
With every mission trip, there are always those who asked, suggest and even demand: Why don’t we take care of our neighbors in our home neighborhood before we go giving away our money, time and resources?
The answer is simple: We are a community of people with ample goods. We have the ability to feed and clothe our neighbors here in Jerusalem AND help neighbors in Judea, Samaria and the ends of the earth.
Sometimes the travel outside our communities to serve allows us the perspective to “practice” what we can continue in our home communities. If we mess up, strike out, and just plain fail where we are not known, we are less likely to give up trying at home. Those who know us best are too often the quickest to judge and criticize our efforts.
And finally, the risk that we take to serve is the place we experience measurable growth in our spiritual practice. This week our Culebra team was starting work on a project where we assumed proper communication had approved the work before we arrived. The ‘homeowner’ had not received the message we would be digging holes in their yard and building a pole barn over the rusting old bus/van they used for a home. What would you do if a team of foreign folks began digging holes in your yard? There is a risk that cross-culture and language barriers are not working.
Taking the RISK to Find Christ
Entering someone’s home with the intention of sharing the love of God and not fulling knowing the language you need to speak, call for faith to override the situation. That is risky business.
We are a month away from when we would like to resume the Feed My Sheep Ministry but we need someone to take charge of that ministry and deliver or build a team to deliver the food, or that ministry will come to an end. That is a risky place to put the meals our neighbors who have come to depend on that meal.
We are weeks away from packing backpacks, will we have enough food? Enough money? Enough volunteers?
This lesson of the barn and bigger barns reminds us that we have the means and the persons to do all these AND even more.
Jesus’s work to disciples like ourselves is not to worry about ourselves, our opinions, our limitations, our excuses and focus on what God CAN do through us.
Risk Taking Service: Is doing whatever it takes to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, house, comfort, support, nurture, remember and stand with those who suffer.
We need persons willing to deliver food. If you have a vehicle and a license your barn is big enough.
We need persons willing to pack, buy and hand out food. If you can do these tasks, your barn is full enough.
We need people who will go to Culebra, and other destinations where we can share the living Christ, your barn is full enough.
OUR Barns are Full Enough
Turn off your political filters.
Turn off your speakers that sound off, “I can’t do something like that.”
Turn off your “I’m too busy.”
Turn to your neighbor and remind them, In Christ, your barn in full enough.
In Christ, your barn is full enough.
Christ calls us to serve those around us and the world.
Our barns are full enough to serve.
Therefore, go and do likewise.
For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. “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. [NRSV]
Q: So is marriage a matter for church and preaching?
Marriage is a relationship founded and grounded in God and has been a faith relationship before it ever was a legal conversation.
A: And for that alone, it is forever an appropriate conversation for worship, study and defending.
June 26, 2015, The Right to Marry
The recent court decision, made by the majority of non-elected-legislative-judiciary, have create a new right to marry that includes all adult persons to marry the adult of their mutual choice independent of genders. Five people have changed an institution they did not create.
If you are celebrating or if you are angry about the new definition of marriage, I ask you:
What are you doing strengthening marriage before June 26, 2015?
- 40% of children live in single parent household. What of marriage, independent of who can marry whom?
- 33% (Barna) of US marriages end in divorce. [The 50% includes people who have been divorced more than once, which skews the overall numbers.] But if one in three divorce, is that an acceptable number we live with as those who so highly value marriage?
- 1% of those who marry commit suicide
- 2% of those who never marry take their life.
- 9 % of married couples deal with alcoholism.
- 24% of married couples deal with mental illness
- 86% of unhappy couples deal with domestic violence
We don’t have a lot of room to talk about marriage, never the less, the court’s decision encroaches on our faith identity of marriage that is thousands of years in the making.
First know this: This is not the end of the church or our country or our society.
- We are people of God and God remains with us.
- Things might change, but God will not church.
- God’s love for us will not change.
- God’s presence with us is unchanging and
- God’s call for us to hear and follow Christ will not change.
Secondly, Remember marriage is not a requirement. [A big shift in the court’s action is to name marriage as a right.]
- 75% of adults do get married. 25% do not marry.
- It has been the responsibilities of each state to license those who get married.
- The government cannot force us to marry to nor force us to be single.
Where Are We, What’s Next?
These past two weeks have indeed been a challenge to our faith. And while I am disappointed at Friday’s Supreme Court’s decision to “legally” redefine what Christians, Jews and Muslims, have believed the covenant of marriage to be for millennia, remember that the court’s decision does not change our Biblical and theological worldview nor does it change our denomination’s stance on the issue of homosexuality and same-sex marriage as expressed in the church’s Discipline.
Only the General Conference speaks for the entire United Methodist Church. The General Conference of the United Methodist church will convene in May of next year in Portland, Oregon to discuss this and other issues that face the church. It has the potential to be divisive, but it also holds the opportunity to be a time of faith renewal.
How should we best respond to the court’s decision: Be Not Afraid.
God is Good, All the Time, RSUMC likes to affirm. Remember that God is still at work redeeming the world to Himself. Trust that even though we do not understand all of God’s ways, God is involved in the events of human history…even as hard and unclear as they may be.
Teach by Loving
Love your neighbor. Let our words, witness and response to all people be loving. A loving response will always be our strongest example of leadership. You will be drawn into conversations and discussions of “winners and losers.” Be respectful to those with whom you disagree. Be slow in anger and even slower to speak, email and post.
Its about God, People and Relationships not rules and laws
Know that you are always talking about someone’s child, grandchild or sibling. It is easy for us to objectify a conversation and forget the laws and commandments are for broken and sinful people in a broken and sin filled world.
Be Faithful in your intentional spiritual growth
This is a time for us to step up our faithfulness in the Christian life. Don’t let other people’s words or actions cause you to do harm to others or to compromise your Christian witness. We are accountable to Christ for what we do and say. We are not responsible for what other people do or say. Trust the Holy Spirit to lead you and do the best you can to express your hope in God’s redeeming grace for us all. (Romans 2.23 For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.)
The Government is not God
Remember: the Supreme Court, even it follows the constitution properly, does not speak for God and does not speak for the United Methodist Church. The General Conference Speaks for the church and the Discipline guides our practices. Our stance on these issues and our practices have not changed. The church only allows me to conduct and attend marriage of one man and one woman. The church values every person with equal value from God, who creates us all.
Trust and Follow the Holy Spirit
In conversation with our D.S. and Bishop I was reminded that as our United Methodist Church is a global body, a global church, and not simply a U. S. church, and it is not at all unusual for the legal, moral and spiritual to be in tension in our various countries. We continue to be the church even though we might be in contrast with the laws of many lands.
We are in this together
As your pastor, you are in my prayers, and as your pastor I ask for your prayers in this matter. We might be tempted to allow anger, fear or ignorance to rule the day, but I ask that we constantly seek to help each other live with current reality. Life is not easy at any time, but we must live trusting in the Holy Spirit’s guidance to enable us to minister to all people in the light of
God is with us.