Archive for category Boldness

James 1:17-27 Jesus Wants Dewars 20150830 RSUMC

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Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. In fulfillment of his own purpose he gave us birth by the word of truth, so that we would become a kind of first fruits of his creatures. You must understand this, my beloved: let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger; for your anger does not produce God’s righteousness.  Therefore rid yourselves of all sordidness and rank growth of wickedness, and welcome with meekness the implanted word that has the power to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves. For if any are hearers of the word and not doers, they are like those who look at themselves in a mirror; for they look at themselves and, on going away, immediately forget what they were like. But those who look into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and persevere, being not hearers who forget but doers who act–they will be blessed in their doing. If any think they are religious, and do not bridle their tongues but deceive their hearts, their religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world. [NRSV]

What do we know in our head?

  • Love neighbor
  • feed hungry
  • clothe the naked
  • forgive your enemy: doesn’t mean they are not to be accountable, we allow them the opportunity to change
  • read and study the scriptures
  • Remember the forgotten, the widow and children/orphan

Today we have heard about a terrible social problem. (Trafficking)

Is it enough to know about the problem

or is there something we can we about the problem

  • report abuse and crimes
  • give children safe place to be
  • get involved in community and schools
  • Get help to victims and support change in he hearts of abusers
  • Others

Jesus empowers us as a moody not a museum

  • Don’t be deceived is the repeated warning
  • the devil is known as the great deceiver: say one thing and do another
  • we can be deceived
  • deceive others and deceive ourselves
  • but we cannot deceive God

therefore, repent and trust God in all things

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

We want a new sign

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

You fed 5000 yesterday what will you do today?

We actually want more.

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

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

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

We want ANOTHER show. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Which tank do you fill first?

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

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

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

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

Do you have room for communion?

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

alternate..

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

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

Bottom line.

We don’t need to be entertained by Jesus

We don’t need more proof.

We don’t need another illustration.

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

Communion

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

 

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Mark 6:14-29 Prophetically Speaking: Heads Will Roll 201507 RSUMC

 
King Herod heard of it, for Jesus’ name had become known. Some were saying, “John the baptizer has been raised from the dead; and for this reason these powers are at work in him.” But others said, “It is Elijah.” And others said, “It is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old.” But when Herod heard of it, he said, “John, whom I beheaded, has been raised.” For Herod himself had sent men who arrested John, bound him, and put him in prison on account of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, because Herod had married her. For John had been telling Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” And Herodias had a grudge against him, and wanted to kill him. But she could not, for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he protected him. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed; and yet he liked to listen to him. But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his courtiers and officers and for the leaders of Galilee. When his daughter Herodias came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests; and the king said to the girl, “Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will give it.”

And he solemnly swore to her, “Whatever you ask me, I will give you, even half of my kingdom.”

She went out and said to her mother, “What should I ask for?” She replied, “The head of John the baptizer.” Immediately she rushed back to the king and requested, “I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.” The king was deeply grieved; yet out of regard for his oaths and for the guests, he did not want to refuse her.

Immediately the king sent a soldier of the guard with orders to bring John’s head. He went and beheaded him in the prison, brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl. Then the girl gave it to her mother. When his disciples heard about it, they came and took his body, and laid it in a tomb. [NRSV]

John the Baptizer

John the Baptizer is best known for pronouncing the arrival of Jesus as the Message and baptizing Jesus in the Jordon river. As a prophet, he is not only preaching to the crowds of ordinary folks. He is also the voice holding the leaders accountable. People throughout the region respected John; some thought he might be the embodiment of the prophet, Elijah, promised from generations ago.

The Prophet

The role of a prophet is to be a messenger reminding people of the things they should already know. Occasionally a prophet will have an apocalyptic message, but it general always followed with, a warning to repent and return to being faithful for God. John the Baptizer is no different.

His message to the king was the same as it was to the people. Repent. Namely John was called out Herod for inappropriate marriage. He married his brother’s wife.   

The Herod Family: The Royals, Kardashians and Jerry Springer Meet Billy Graham

Herod’s mother was Jewish, therefore Herod was ½ and Jewish by technicality. He married Herodias after they both divorces their spouses. Herodias, grand-daughter of Alexander the Great, married Phillip who happened to be her uncle. Herodias used her daughter, Salome, to entice and entrap Herod to have John the Baptizer executed for calling the family’s sinful behavior out.

Happy Birthday Dear Herod

The scene is a birthday party: Herod’s birthday party. Herodias uses he brother’s daughter to dance provocatively for her uncle/step-father. Herod is pleased so much that he offers half his kingdom to the child. Salome goes to ask her mother how to best cash-in on the oath of an offer. A pony? A chest of jewels? Her own palace? No, mom has her ask for the head of John the Baptizer. ??Happy birthday to you…Oh dear how dreadful.

So let’s get to the lesson: John the Baptizer calls out the twisted, brokenness on which Herod and Herodias family and relationship are held together. Treachery, murder, divorce, inappropriate re-marriage and abuse of children.

1. No one disputes that John is wrong.

2. Even Herodias knows John is right and holy, she simply does not like what she hears.

3. For calling out the family’s sin, Herodias holds a grudge against John the Baptizer, no forgiveness

4. Herod agrees by his silence and complicit behavior.

5. Herod give his word and will not change his word even when it conflicts with God’s word, (though shall not kill for one.)

6. Herod also listened to John the Baptizer and liked what he heard about repentance, but Herod didn’t hear this for himself and apply the teaching to his own life.

Important take-away

Prophets are ordinary folks who: REMIND people and leaders to be FAITHFUL to God

Being a prophet is risky business.

The People might turn on you, and not listen and follow someone they like better.

The Leader might have you killed.

Question: So who would ever want to be a prophet?

I suggest that God calls each of use to be prophets, at different times. As we study and grow in understanding of God’s laws, guides, grace, love and power in our own lives. When I am selfish, brutish and unforgiving, I experience life without God’s love, power and grace.

We can see the same in others. Because we know the power of God’s word, love and grace we are also entrusted with sharing with other where we see sin, as a warning, not a judge.

  • If someone is walking too close to the street from the sidewalk, we say, move to the center before you get hit by that truck.
  • If someone is speeding down the highway, we say, hey slow down your might get a ticket and you might kill us if someone stops suddenly in front of us.
  • If someone is choose a circular pattern of destructive behavior, habitual abuse, addictions, uncontrolled anger, etc. we say, you need to get some help, you need to see a doctor, you need a counselor, you need to stop and break the cycle. There is better way; you have another choice. God loves you more than you love you. Don’t ever forget it.

When we point out sin with the purpose of sharing a way of repentance, we are not judging, we are affirming that sin power, real and destructive in our lives. We have a way out of sin, Jesus Christ.

We are all guilty of sin. We all have different ways that we put our word, ideas, will and value ahead of God’s. John the Baptizer models a way to get back to God. He is not judging, he his holding up a mirror to see the truth..

We are the mirror people. Why don’t we believe were are all prophets? Because it’s dangerous.

We want hazard pay at best.  Ask Jesus. He’s got you covered. Now get out there and call for repentance. They world is going on a hand basket. And Gos is calling us to call out sin, offer repentance and bring people back to God. 
 

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

ShutMyMouth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The admonition (advice) is to

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

2015 Shut our Mouths or Proclaim God’s love?

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

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

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

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

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

Now Get to Work!

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2 Corinthians 4:3-6 RSUMC “Shine Jesus Shine” 20150215

lightindarknessAnd even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For we do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake. For it is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. [NRSV]

  • Shine Jesus
  • Shine your shoes
  • Shine as in moonshine
  • Shiner as in a black eye
  • Shiny as in a new car, red Corvette or a white Tahoe
  • Shiny as in a proof coin

But today we talk about the Flashlight.

Some debate:

  • in 1886 the first dry-cell batteries were made which powers a variety of emerging ideas
  • In 1898, Russian immigrant inventor, Conrad Hubert made the first flashlight. And later founded the Ever-Ready Battery Company.
  • In 1899, English inventor David Misell invented the first flashlight. He was the first to use the “D” battery which had a stronger light.

But those early models had a weak and inconsistent power source and bulbs that were more fragile and temperamental than modern LED and HID flashlights. The name flashlight came from the intermittent light that burn for a short while and had to rest before it was read to be used again. Thus the short flash of light gave the battery with bulb stick the nickname: a flashlight.

I suggest that we have much to learn from the early flashlight as an example of our spiritual development.

1. When we find ourselves connected to the power God gives us, that is within each of us, we tap into a the source of awareness, knowledge, guidance, counsel and spiritual strength. We seem to quickly do one of two things: a) doubt it is a way of life that God has intended for us and/or b) confuse our personal power, talents and strength with God’s.

Like the flashlight, God’s presence is revealed in the darkness of a broken and sinful world and when we turn it on in the dark, the darkness is no more. But for some reason we turn off the lights.

Life in the Dark, holding a flashlight.

It sounds unbelievable, buy there a just a few times (denote the sarcasm) that while we are holding on the the switch that connects us to scriptures, worship, Christian fellowship, prayer, opportunities to serve, witness and give, we allow the darkness to take us over.

The Reality of Darkness

  • When human beings behead, cage and burn, degrade and devalue women and children. Here we see the darkness of evil.
  • When other the teachings of other faith’s say Jesus is but another prophet and deny Jesus is God’s present in our history and at the thrown as the begotten of God. When Jesus is left behind, or left out all together, darkness grows stronger.
  • When human beings long for governments to provide what God gives or what God equips us to provide for ourselves, evil has made dark the world.
  • The less we proclaim the light of Christ, the more expanse of darkness increases along with the grip of evil and brokenness.

The starting point is to affirm that some things are good and some bad, some light and some dark:

  • Shine the light, the light erases the darkness. The darkness is not present where the light shine
  • Darkness, where is the darkness? In your check book or cupboard? In your plans and dreams? In you behavior and attitude?
  • The Gravitational darkness of the back hole of evil.
  • Stumbling in the dark.
  • The futile task of traveling in the dark… without night vision.
  • Thermal signature from the energy emitted from a beating heart.

AFRAID OF THE DARK:

  • As a boy I had a teddy bear that would allow me to hide under the covers and was brave enough to keep his head out in the dark room to keep watch over shadows and strange noises. He would occasionally be willing to be held by his feet and look under the bed or even fly across the room to check the closet door.
  • We have more than a teddy bear to watch over our fears. We never out grow fear. We manage and mature over different fearful situations, but fear is a life long struggle. Jesus is our stand in. Jesus hold us and grounds us while we explore a fear-filled world.
  • Be Afraid of the Dark, Don’t be Afraid to take Jesus with You when it IS dark.

Let Christ’s light shine:

  • Sometimes that darkness is people’s behaviors and attitudes and we need not face the conflict alone.
  • We face conflict knowing the Jesus never promised to have a life free of fear, but to be our counsel when the darkness surrounds, threatens and tempts us.

JESUS COME QUICK

  • Sometime Shining the light is calling on Jesus out-loud and directly.
  • Sometime Shining the light is deliberate words and actions that unfold over time.
  • Sometime Shining the light is charging our spiritual batteries when we are strong for times we are weak.
  • Bottom line: Shine the light of Christ is allowing CHRIST to shine through me and through you.

PAUL the PHYSICS AUTHORITY

I doubt Paul knew the speed of light. But lighting a lamp in a darken room; carrying a torch into a dark street; proclaiming and trusting God to show up in a cell in prison, or in conflict in the church, or the pull of governments and other types of worship.. Paul calls on the Spirit that cause him to become blind, so that he could see, to guide his steps in all things.

SO WHAT:

Turn on the flashlight. Not with the weak beam of light that you and I have to add. Rather allow Christ to light through us.

Let the world hear the Good News in our words, songs and witness

Let the world hear that evil is present but not in charge.

Pray, Speak up, be pro-active, Don’t wait for darkness to leave, Shine Christ in it.

Where is the darkness around you?

At work: Pray for the trouble makers, and difficult cases, and stumbling blocks to see Christ in you.

At home: Make time for study, worship, fellowship and communication.

In community: Small groups, worship, service, witness and fellowship.. bring the dark to the light

Online: For all the good that comes with information overload technologies, comes the easy access of evil and darkness to be at our fingertips 24/7. Set limits, support accountability and confess our sins.

Around the World: God didn’t wait for God’s people to get their act together, but went to the Shepherd and Magi to and revealed where they looked into the darkness and show them THE GREAT LIGHT at Jesus’ birth.

HomeWork:

Carry your a flashlight with you. When you see evil and darkness, shine the light of Christ.. your flashlight might be scripture, songs of faith, words of hope, and lessons of accountability. Don’t sit in the dark and don’t let others either.

 

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Mark 1:14-20 “License to Fish” RSUMC 20150125

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.” As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea–for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” And immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him. [NRSV]

Licensed to Catch

To be authorized to fish on state waters and waters that lead to state waters you must have a license to fish. It is a piece of paper with slopping dot matrix ink that is barely legible that cost just a few dollars for a whole year of fun and recreation, but try to sneak out without one and you will wish you had the permit. That license helps keep lakes and rivers stocked, rangers on watch and some efforts to protect waters for future fishing. It seems to me that it sounds much more impressive to call one’s permit a license to fish, rather than a stocking fee or a wildlife protection fee or a ranger administrative fee. Now I complain every time they increase the rate, but its still one of the best values our state provides.

With a license to fish it sounds like your are a professional catcher of fish, a regular James Bond in the wilderness. Licensed, licensed to fish. And yet that little piece of paper is your letter of authorization to attempt to catch a fish.

Catching Fish

Unless you use your bare hands or a catchers mitt, I suggest that the whole endeavor is misnamed. Catching fish is the rarity in my experience. Practicing is the art of hoping and trying to catch. I have cast my line MANY more times than I have ever caught a fish.

And when I have successfully retrieved a fish from his watery home, I generally use every method I have to capture the little creature. And in my experience, my catch is a small creature; one I probably should use my bare hands to ‘catch’ rather than a load of specialized gear, bait and practice.

Successful Fishing

To be successful at fishing might have nothing to do with catching anything, except a nap in the great outdoors.

To be successful at fishing might be in helping someone catch what you have little or no success achieving yourself.

To be successful at fishing I know that the cost to procure a fish is not measured by the total investment, rather in the most recent success story. (Boat, poles, line, lures, trailers, flotation devices, motors, umbrella, wetsuit, waders, various must-have pieces of tackle, just to get started.) The cost of a ‘catch’ is the most recent worm and and the gas to transport you to the best spot.

A Failure at Fishing

You might think you have failed a fishing if you came home with no fish, but learning WHY you came home empty handed might be the successful lesson.

Coming home with a boat load of fish actually means more work of cleaning and cooking your catch which might be the last thing you want to do after three hours of driving, unloading and loading a boat, working on a broken boat, waking a mile back to go to the bathroom because your little helper doesn’t want to go in the woods, enduring some mud and rain, going through the first aid kit from miscellaneous hook injuries and only finding the little ones that need to be returned to grow bigger.

Luxury of Catch and Release

It is such a mixed message to take a child fishing when it’s catch-and-release season. First all the hype about “catching” fish and bringing it home to eat for dinner is the stuff that beginning fisher-folk legends  are founded. You finally catch one, beginner’s luck you find the biggest one of the whole fishing parting and you have to throw it back.  I wanted to eat it and mount it for all posterity, not through it back!

But there is actually a great level of maturity, delayed-gratification, or at least perspective when you can use all at your disposal to hook and retrieve your catch and not have to keep it

  • because that is not the only meal your family might have is at the end of your line.
  • because you don’t need to show anyone your catch,
  • because you have learned to enjoy to sport of fishing
  • because you want to leave fish for those who need the meal they provide
  • because you don’t want to clean them
  • because you found your enjoyment in the journey rather than the trophy

“Catching” is not the high-water-point of fishing!

Sharing fishing with someone else is the joy of fishing.

  • You need no license to share the story
  • You need no experience, success nor failure, to share the fun
  • You don’t have to know what your doing and you may be the most practiced professional

Sharing the adventure of catching is heart.

Jesus goes a long way to share an INVITATION to share the ADVENTURE of FISHING

Jesus never promised that we would catch a single person

Jesus invites us to go on an adventure bigger than what we could catch if we tried, practiced,

Jesus extends INVITATION rather than LICENSES

Jesus calls us to use the skill and talents we know and have and INVITES us to share them with the work of the Kingdom.

Jesus continues to call disciples

Look to the persons on either side:

  • Remind them “You are a disciples”
  • Remind them “You are a fisher, not a catcher”
  • Remind them “You don’t have to know what you are doing, just follow Jesus”
  • Remind them “Lead with what you know”
  • Remind them of the tough part: “Sometimes following Jesus is leaving other things behind”

Jesus Calls Disciples who make new Disciples, who fish for more disciples…

The ADVENTURE is ours,

we never graduate,

we never retire,

we may have weary, uncertain times, but

there is always more fishing to be done. So keep it up

Let’s go fishing

  • It’s too cold
  • It’s too wet
  • I don’t have a license
  • I don’t know where to go
  • I don’t have the right equipment
  • I don’t know how
  • I’m tired of fishing
  • I don’t like fish
  • I want someone to fish for me, I like the restaurant/grocery story method.

So why are we here as church, if we are not about the one thing Jesus asked disciples…

I’m up for the ADVENTURE!

I have a story to SHARE!

  • I don’t know how to fish, but I know who does!
  • I don’t have license, but I have forgiveness and love!
  • I might have skills and equipment, God wants what we bring! God fulfills what we leave behind.
  • I might get tired, God plans for rest.
  • I might not like the people God sends me to, but I know God loves us all
  • If I don’t follow, what will I miss and who will miss God….

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

roseDEAD

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

Mount-of-Temptation-Jericho jericho-hills 2 twip jericho

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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Matthew 21:23-32 “Will You or Won’t You?” RSUMC 20140929

JakElwd_BrothersWhen he entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him as he was teaching, and said, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?” Jesus said to them, “I will also ask you one question; if you tell me the answer, then I will also tell you by what authority I do these things.  Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or was it of human origin?” And they argued with one another, “If we say, “From heaven,’ he will say to us, “Why then did you not believe him?’ But if we say, “Of human origin,’ we are afraid of the crowd; for all regard John as a prophet.” So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And he said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things. “What do you think? A man had two sons; he went to the first and said, “Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ He answered, “I will not’; but later he changed his mind and went. The father went to the second and said the same; and he answered, “I go, sir’; but he did not go. 31 Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him; and even after you saw it, you did not change your minds and believe him. [New Revised Standard]

Who is invited?

Text: The question is framed by a conversation about authority. Jesus makes the authorized teachers and leaders nervous and uncomfortable at the temple.

Cut the chase: Jesus you don’t belong here, you are not doing things the right way. You are rocking our boat and we don’t like the waves. We want you and and our comfort restored.

Who is doing what it right?

Text: The challenge of authority is rebuffed through a rabbinical challenge of conversation, logical and teaching. Jesus answers question with a question. Was John the Baptist a prophet? If they say yes just as so many in the community believed they are saying John had authority from God that was different from the temple polity and pecking order. If God can work around the temple leaders, why not work through Jesus as well.

If the teachers and leaders said John the Baptist was not a prophet they would challenge the faith and experiences of the community that found awakening and revival through John. They’re only option to save face is to say, “I dun’ know.”

Who is welcome?

Text: Jesus teaches with a parable, which is a teaching style Jesus introduces for the wise and the not so wise. It is an obvious conclusion: Who is the faithful son of the father? The one who says yes but does not go, Or the one who says no but ends up doing what the father expects? Answer: duh! the one who does the work.

Who is at home? Authority, Welcome, Belonging

Text: John spoke the words the teachers and leaders were suppose to be telling and teaching. The people responded to God’s call but not at the direction of the established insiders.

Who is who is in the teaching? Are we the bold prophets proclaiming a call for repentance? Are we going about our travels proclaiming goodness to those who are forgotten, rejected or excluded? Are we those who are comfortable in the cozy familiar safety of the church and hope people will take it upon themselves to be more like us so they can feel safe and cozy too?

Homework: Tell me you won’t go welcome someone to church next Sunday, but then actually go do just that. Say I won’t do, but do the opposite. Tell you neighbor on your pew. I’m not going to do anything bold this week. Safe and mediocre will do, but during this week you see, hear or find someone who needs grace, love and welcome. And you bring them home to the spring.

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John 20:19-23 “So I Send You” JUMC 20140608

pentecostWhen it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” [NRSV]

Disciples Gathered in grief and fear. Jesus brings peace

Disciples Separate themselves away from the world and are filled with doubt. Jesus reveals his crucifixion.

Disciples Recognize Jesus as Lord and Rejoice. Jesus fortifies their peace.

Disciples Hear the mission to be a “sent” people. Jesus fills them with the Spirit.

The mission is transferred. The Church is born.

Our task is to mature the church, continue the work. be filled with peace and Spirit and give grace and hope to the world of grief and fear.

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Matthew 21.1-11 Celebration Time JUMC 20140413

RidingonanDonkey When they had come near Jerusalem and had reached Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, just say this, ‘The Lord needs them.’ And he will send them immediately.” This took place to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet, saying, “Tell the daughter of Zion, Look, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them; they brought the donkey and the colt, and put their cloaks on them, and he sat on them. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and that followed were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!” When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, “Who is this?” The crowds were saying, “This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.” [NRSV]

People like to celebrate. We like something to get excited about.

Look at any sporting venue of your choice. There are more acres and structures devoted to accommodating those who celebrate than those who play the games. Sometime the celebrations get out of hand and crowds rush the playing field, goal posts get torn down, the crowd takes the celebration into the streets and what was apparent joy turns into rage and violence.

Think of Jesus’ entry into the capital city: What would make you take off your coat and cut down the neighbors tree limbs to celebrate.

I lived in Grant Park when the the Freak-Nick celebration began in Atlanta. It was not as crazy in our neighborhood as some but there were a day that we were snowed in with abandoned cars filling the streets around the church. At the time it was very frustrating and unsettling. Looking back it was evidence of what a crowd of people who get lost in the celebration can do.

On one hand they can celebrate their leader because they hear what they want to hear and cheer on one another. In the next moment they choose the murderer Barabbas instead of Jesus.

I received an email a couple of weeks ago from a political action group asking me to join other clergy in the presidents invitation to use our pulpit time to encourage people to sign up of the “Affordable” healthcare plans. The president was crossing the line of church and state to ask us to pray for the poor; he was not asking us to help victims of storms; he was not asking us to care for the sick. He was asking us to promote his political agenda. Is that what we have come to celebrate?

Maybe we are to be quiet and reverent only. Should not Jesus have been shown more respect and people just sat and watch quietly as he entered Jerusalem? Jesus didn’t want to show all the pomp and circumstance. He choose a donkey instead of the emperor’s steed. Maybe celebration has no place in our worship. It would be proper to keep quiet and manorly. Right? Look and around and listen this morning: Where are the palm branches? the coats and crowds… We can be assured that we are behaving as we ought and there will be no need for threat or crucifix going on anywhere around here today. “Am I right?”

This text begs the question: What is the appropriate way to welcome Jesus into our town? Quietly as if it were against the law? Not against the law of the land, but the law of opinion and perception.

Rather the harden, stone-like hearts has been set free, bodies healed, lives transformed and eyes opened and the people were shouting, Hallelujah! Praise the Lord, Hosanna! Glory to God in the Highest!  Blessed is he that comes in the Lord’s name. Hosanna! Glory Hallelujah!

Let’s try whispering that together. <in a whisper> Hallelujah! Praise the Lord, Hosanna! Glory to God in the Highest!  Blessed is he that comes in the Lord’s name. Hosanna! Glory Hallelujah!

Even when we all whisper it together our collective voice of praise is louder than one person sitting quietly minding their manors of respectability.

It’s not that God wants to hear certain words coming out of our mouths, but rather than try so hard to be quiet, let us try to respond the what God has done for us.

It might be the case Jesus has not come to our house; he might not have visited our streets; he might not have spoken to our hearts in such a long time that we have forgotten the joy. Is this the case?

Did Jesus want attention?

If you are going to start a parade riding into town. You must expect some attention. If you came riding in a shiny, red convertible Austin Martin, throwing candy and beaded necklaces to the crowd, you would expect some attention.

But if you came into town announcing you were a king, riding on a Murray Lawn mower and had your disciples throwing palm branches like a humble king David, you might not get the same attention from the crowd, but you would incite the eye of your critics. Jesus enters the city with intentional, radical risk and reveals the extravagance of God’s presence.

The text of Palm Sunday is one that asks each of us to identify where we are in the story? Are we paving the way with the coat off our backs? Are we waving whatever is within arms reach to celebrate? Are you shouting praise to God for all to hear?

Or, Are we wishing the parade was over and worried about who is going to clean up the mess? Are we feuding and steaming because of the irreverence of others? Are we resisting challenge and change? Are our dreams and expectation called to expand beyond our control and measure? Are we simply feeling left out?

Every Sunday is a celebration day. This Sunday is the beginning of a holy week of celebration leading us through the cross to the resurrection. Is it a journey you already know too well and will save the trip this year or will you make the pilgrimage again, if not for yourself for those who see your actions and hear your words.

There’s a party in the house… the prodigal has come home will we going in and join the father’s family and friends or will we stay outside?

As for me and my house, we will praise the Lord.

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