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Archive for category #benotafraid

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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Matthew 3.1-12 Reclaiming Christmas “Brood of Viper Cards”

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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

So what?

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. 

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Luke 12.13-22 Eat, Drink & See Mary 20160731 RSUMC

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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.

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Matthew 5.20-30 Marriage, The Law and the Church RSUMC 20150628

MarriageLicenseFor 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.

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