7Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. 8 He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.” 9 After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route. [NRSV]
I have such wonderful memories of racing out from Emerson to Euharlee and trying to beat the long coal train heading to-and-from the Bowen. It is so good to be back. I have been here on a cold and snowing morning when it was only two, and no more and we had Good Preaching. So I hope that is the case today. I am proud to see the growth of the ministries and good work at Oak Grove and am honored to be with you today.
I began to think back about the years I was pastor, student and neighbor. The years would have been between 1985 and 1989. Some remarkable things happened while we were in ministry together:
• The infamous “New Coke” was released, The Titanic found, The first report of Mad Cow disease
• and Madonna was holding the place Taylor Swift holds today. Michael Jackson released his “Bad” album and MTV actually played music videos.
• The Kroger in Cartersville and Town Center Mall opened. The news of the Atlanta Olympics was
• The movies out during that time included: Back to the Future, Top Gun and Dirty Dancing
• Some notable songs were: Walk like an Egyptian, The theme from Phantom of the Opera, and We are the World.
• Imagine back to the time of the start of the Internet, the first Game Boy and Nintendo, The first intel processor and MS Office and Windows debuted.
• We were witnesses of Haley’s comet, the Galileo mission to Jupiter and removal of the Berlin Wall with Mr Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan.
• People were watching: “The Cosby Show”, “Cheers”, “Hill Street Blues”, Johnny Carson, Magnum PI and the start of the Simpsons.
We are not the same people today. The world has changed and is changing in a whirlwind of transformation. As our denomination looks ahead to the Winter of 2019 we know that more change is to be expected.
As important it is to look back and remember from where we have come, it is the witness of the magi that call us to look to the present and prepare for the future.
I have always found it remarkable that the Bible contains the story of people of faith who look for God in the movement of the starts, in a distant country with a different culture and perspectives and yet God is self-revealing in all creation.
I had a conversation with young man in his mid-twenties who was convinced that there was no need for God. The wonders and marvels of creation were but the finely tuned change of random variables that brought him more peace and “common sense” to his perspective. I asked him from where did the forces of gravity, fission, fusion, physics, mathematic and love evolve. He uncomfortably had no clear answer except to say they were only explained as observations that followed rather than formed the universe. He left the conversation and went home the same person. I hope that some of the conversation helped change his fears and desire to control rather than to follow and trust.
We live in a divided culture that is more segregated than at any moment in our lifetimes. The struggles leading through Civil Rights Era and the Civil War are not our finest moments. Now more than ever are we needing to make a life-giving, hope-sharing, love-trusting impact on the world around us.
When I was at Oak Grove I was married to Sarah Jane, who search the Cassville Church for a couple of the years. We enjoyed covered dish dinners, singings, and being with you in worship and in your homes. That is no longer the relationship that shapes my life. She loved the idea of being married much more than being married to me. I didn’t share that at the time, as I was immature and unwilling to share what it mean to fully share what it means to be a community of faith. I finally learned that 1) clergy are people who struggle with marriage too, 2) I’d be happier unmarried or married for a few years than to be miserable for 50 pretending a marriage. 3) I have learned that God’s path for us is only as straight and narrow as our willingness to trust. But grace goes before, with and behind us.
Now I have three children: Susanna at Stanford, Luke at 1st Leu in the AF, and Frances a sophomore studying AP Chinese and my wife Wendy is beginning her second career in Insurance. (If you ever seen the Hot-ones sign, a Hardees star, a Georgia Tourism commercial or a magazine in a plastic bag you have seen her work.) The past ten years we have cared for her parents in our home, her mom having Dementia and her father having Kidney failure, was not the road that we had planned, but God has carried us through a different way that blessed and shaped us profoundly.
Why the Wise-men passage on Home Coming?
During my years at Emerson and Oak Grove, Singer, James Taylor, released a song by David Bailey called, Home By Another Way. David Bailey was the son of a Presbyterian minister. As a fellow preacher’s kid the song resonated with me: Here was a famous hippy trippy ballad rocker singing about a bible verse: Not the paths that typically cross. Listen to the lyrics of his song:
Those magic men the Magi, Some people call them wise, Or Oriental, even kings, Well anyway, those guys
They visited with Jesus, They sure enjoyed their stay, Then warned in a dream of King Herod’s scheme
They went home by another way
Steer clear of royal welcomes, Avoid a big to-do, A king who would slaughter the innocents, Will not cut a deal for you, He really, really wants those presents, He’ll comb your camel’s fur
Until his boys announce they’ve found trace amounts, Of your frankincense, gold and myrrh
Time to go home by another way
Home is where they want you now, You can more or less assume that you’ll be welcome in the end
Mustn’t let King Herod haunt you so, Or fantasize his features when you’re looking at a friend
Well it pleasures me to be here, And to sing this song tonight, They tell me that life is a miracle, And I figured that they’re right, But Herod’s always out there, He’s got our cards on file
It’s a lead pipe cinch, if we give an inch, Old Herod likes to take a mile
It’s best to go home by another way
Home by another way
What does it mean to Go Home, by another way?
To God home is hopefully a place of security, grounding and belonging.
Hear the Good News: God’s home, “Oikos”, is with us! With us!
It starts in a garden, it travels in a wilderness, it crosses paths in the crucifixion, it opens through an empty tomb, it blow as the wind around us, and surrounds us.
We are not who were once were:
In Christ we are those who make straight the paths for others
In grasp of the Holy Spirit we are those who open hearts and conversations
In the love of God we are those who God is creating new life and ways of living.
I regret that I must leave without a longer visit but I am leading a class for the district to build our skills in sharing Difficult Conversations as churches and church folks. As I look back on the Roads and Paths that God has lead, carried, and immersed me, I see at:
• Oak Grove taught me that God can take a mustard seed an make something grand and purposeful beyond our dreams.
• Grant Park I learned from one of the most diverse congregations in the Southeast what it means to share love
• In some other congregations I learned what looks like when we live in fear, pride, greed and worship of self.
• At Candler and Gammon I learned how to prepare for God to use me in changing ministry conditions.
• At Rock Spring I am ready to see how God will lead us into being a relevant part of the body of Christ in the 21st century.
The message I have received from much prayer, much prayer, much study, much conversation, much reflection, writing and reading is this:
1. Change is to be assuredly expected. (It is ok to embrace change, WHEN God leads us.)
2. What will be has not yet been revealed.
3. But when it is revealed: Count on seeing Jesus or not seeing at all.
• Therefore it is all important to make our home in God who does not change.
• Therefore it is essential that we find our way through what has been revealed.
• Therefore it is our purpose, passion and path to stick with Jesus, not for our sake but for Christ.
God Lord, we give thanks for these and all other blessing, for Christ’s sake. Amen.
Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking by the Spirit of God ever says “Let Jesus be cursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except by the Holy Spirit. Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit;and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another, the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another, gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues.All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses. For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. [NRSV]
Unused Gift Cards:
We’ve all experienced the unbridled joy of finding a $10 bill in the dryer after a washing load or $5 on the sidewalk. But nearly all Americans could have untapped cash just sitting in the back of our wallets or the bottom of our purses.
The most requested gift by far
Gift cards may get a bad rap for being impersonal. However, they are the most requested holiday gift for 10 years running. In 2016 more than 60% of people surveyed by the National Retail Federation said they wanted a gift card this holiday season.
So how many gift cards actually get bought — and how many go unused?
Over $970 million in gift card cash went unused in 2015 alone. Meanwhile, total gift card spending in 2015 clocked in at $130 billion, up 6% from the year before. Despite the billions of dollars that go unused, it’s estimated that gift card sales will make another 9% jump this year up to $143B.
Since 2005, some $45.7 billion has been floating around in unused gift card balances. For cards that are lost or accidentally thrown away, that money may never be used.
Why this isn’t free money for companies
Sounds like free money for businesses, right? It’s all in the accounting.
When gift cards are sold, they are counted as a liability until spent. Only when they are spent does that money count as revenue. This means that US businesses carried $970 million in liabilities on unused cards last year.
Further, closed-loop gift cards — or gift cards that can be used at a single store or chain only — are generally bought through card vendors. These vendors can charge for everything from setup to stocking the card inventory. When you’re not using, they’re losing.
The state of gift cards in 2016
Despite all the unused gift cards out there, 2016 is slated to bring on even more gift card purchases. It’s estimated that $140 billion will be spent on gift cards in the US alone.
To give you an idea of just how much money that is, with $140 billion you could buy the Chicago Cubs 140 times over. (Given their recent World Series win, that might not be a bad idea.) Of that $140 billion, it’s projected that over $1 billion will go unspent. Still enough to buy the Chicago Cubs once.
So Put your Gifts to Work
If you don’t want to use them, donate in addition to your regular gifts and we will find ways to make them meaningful in ministry.
We will buy bibles and small group study materials from Barns and Nobles,
we will feed hungry folks with food cards,
and clothes for homeless.
If you have generic cards we can use them in limitless ways,
If they are not doing you any good, re-gift them.
Our Spiritual Gift Cards
To each of us is given gifts of the Spirit. Different outlets and different amounts for different work and witness. God is ready to fill us with limitless possibilities if we will
identify and recognize these gifts
not attemp to save, ignore or store them for some other day
trust the verse in Phillipians that we can do all things in Christ who gives us Spiritual strength
What Spiritual Gift Cards are in your purse, billfold or dresser drawer?
What would you do if you had an unlimited gift card to sing, praise?
What would you do with an unlimited gift card to share stories of your faith?
If your unlimited gift card could teach, inform, inspire?
If your gift card could multiply in value for others to use in a variety of ways
If your gift card were kept safely, privately, quietly for a special occasion that may never come by, all the while folks are hungry, thirsting and passing by empty.
Holy Communion is our re-fill station
We come to this holy meal and God fills us with grace, purpose, love and makes us whole, read for:
Don’t come to the table and go home that same as you came. Don’t keep your Spiritual gift cards hidden in your wallet or purse,
Come to the Table and Get busying living growing, love, sharing the Spirit.
You have heard that it was said, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you. “You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax-collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. [NRSV]
Love your enemies
The prescription for healing our personal relationship, to our national and global relationships, requires love.
That makes this teaching one of the hardest.
The Big Ten Commandments are a list of “do and don’t,” Jesus raises the bar beyond following rules of “do or don’t.” Jesus is after our “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'” [Luke 10:27]
To love our enemies requires more resource that we have.
God’s Love can do what nothing else can do.
In order for us to love with God’s love, we must rely on God’s love to shape our love.
STEP 1: Love God and know God Love you
STEP 2: Love God and know God loves your enemy
STEP 3: Model God’s love by loving first, without merit, rather because we are modeling God’s work in us.
Easy Love, does not require God’s help.
Find someone who likes you,
Find those who think and believe as you do like you,
Find those who will not challenge your actions or opinions, and
You can easily be successful in love that is self-affirming.
This might feel or seem to be loving others,
but love is actually not even noticed
and may not even be real.
What is the difference in Easy Love and Challenging Love
One we can do without God’s help and lasts as long as everyone is of like mind.
But when someone challenges the core, we desire “them” to return to the comfort and conformity of “us”
While we yet sinners.
God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. [Romans 5:8]
Jesus didn’t wait for us to go first,
Jesus didn’t judge us first to see if we are worthy of forgiveness
Jesus didn’t make us prove any reason to receive love, grace and new life.
Jesus loves us. Period.
In our Steps toward loving our enemies:
STEP 1: Love God and know God Love you
STEP 2: Love God and know God loves your enemy
STEP 3: Model God’s love by loving first, without merit, rather because we are modeling God’s work in us.
God’s love is preemptive
God goes first.
God makes the first move toward forgiveness
God makes the way possible where there is division.
The model for our loving those who are difficult to love
Begins by opening the conversation
Begins by making a way for grace
Begins by reminding ourselves and our enemies that God loves us even though we are at odds, broken or divided.
BUT WHY? Why does God loves us first?
It is the fundamental core of the nature of God
The core of our relationship with God and one another
God intervenes because we have broken the trust, we have divided our hearts, we have sided with like-minded.
If one side is righteous and the other totally corrupt, we would expect God to ‘smote’, flood and drive out the sinner from the garden. All these leave us separated and divided.
Jesus Reveals God’s Love as THE way to the heart of God.
Why don’t we move a far apart from one another and don’t cross paths, don’t interact, just avoid each other?
Why not write off the relationship and the people that are enemies?
It’s not what God does
It’s not what God has called us to do
It keep us both from knowing Love/God
You can Never make someone love you
But you and I, as God models for us, a love, respect, hope, and longing for good with our enemies.
They may never repent
They may never respond in love
They may never relent
But their response is
not our responsibility,
not our challenge, and
not our calling.
The Way God’s Love Works
It goes first, overlooking sin, broken, past, etc, with the hope of restoring the relationship
It waits, not condoning sin, but hoping that by being loved first, the door/conversation/way is opened.
It is genuinely longing for good, peace, joy, reunion, and the like to follow.
It remains even if rejected.
Dirty Work, but Most Rewarding
Loving our Enemies is more difficult than following any rule or commandment
It is the primary work that we are all called to share.
Our ability to love and reciprocate love is linked to our salvation and eternity.
This is where it matters.
The challenge is to be perfect as our Father in Heaven is perfect. Yikes!!
It is crucial that we define perfection as wholeness, completeness and not correctness, or a test score.
To be able to love those who have sinned, who are our enemies, is God’s work
And God gives us the same task to find wholeness by loving sinners.
To your Neighbor:
I’m a sinner, love me, forgive me and love me more
Back to your Neighbor: I’m a sinner too, I love you, I forgive you and need you to love me more,
Hear what the LORD says: Rise, plead your case before the mountains, and let the hills hear your voice. Hear, you mountains, the controversy of the LORD, and you enduring foundations of the earth; for the LORD has a controversy with his people, and he will contend with Israel. “O my people, what have I done to you? In what have I wearied you? Answer me! For I brought you up from the land of Egypt, and redeemed you from the house of slavery; and I sent before you Moses, Aaron, and Miriam. O my people, remember now what King Balak of Moab devised, what Balaam son of Beor answered him, and what happened from Shittim to Gilgal, that you may know the saving acts of the LORD.” “With what shall I come before the LORD, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt-offerings, with calves a year old? Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of [Dodge] rams, with ten thousands of [pipelines] rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? [NRSV]
Living in a World of Protests
The Presidential Election was a protest voice giving upheaval to our political system.
The various marches and movements are protest voices. Have any of us here and everywhere not heard the voice of those drawing attention to racism, class-ism, sexism, socialism, communism, ism-ism. The Voices have been heard!!
It is time for active transformation, healing an Atonement
We are living in a time when people are talking and not thinking.
We are witnessing a period where people are acting and not grounded.
We are experiencing a rending of our national fabric stumbling over our righteousness in the name of God’s righteousness.
We have woven identities of like-minded factions using the threads of grace and gifts of our collective spiritual journey.
When we deserve entombment God intervenes in human experience to save, claim and restart our lives.
We call this grace.
God created Atonement,
We think we need extra credit home work, God just starts us fresh.
God’s Good News has something to say about our collective sins AND God offers a solution for healing.
Two Roads Diverge in a Nations Path
God has doubled-down our on innocence.
The world is being driven by blame, guilt, shame, fear, and failures.
God is all-forgiving. He does not seek to judge and punish us, but to correct and heal us. He is not invested in our guilt but in our innocence. The spiritual principle by which He helps us return to love when we have strayed from its ways is the principle of Atonement. The Atonement was introduced into human consciousness by God Himself, as a response to our capacity for fear. It is our eternal opportunity to choose again. That is what makes the Atonement a miracle: it is something introduced into the laws of time and space, by a power beyond them both. Grace supersedes the law of karma. To atone is to admit our errors, praying that God free us from what would otherwise be their inevitable consequences. It is a humble return of our minds to God’s love. It is to recognize where we ourselves have taken a path away from God’s will, and ask to be corrected and forgiven and healed. The story of the Prodigal Son makes clear how delighted God is when the son who strayed returns. By willingly and consciously unburdening ourselves of the weight of our mistakes, we are given the chance to begin again, to go forward in life from a healed perspective. Could America not use a miracle? The command to atone is a universal spiritual theme. In the Jewish religion, Yom Kippur is the Day of Atonement, where Jews admit our errors of the past year, asking God’s forgiveness and for His willingness to inscribe us in the Book of Life for another year. (Healing the Soul of America, Marianne Williams p.92)
The Lord Requires a relationship
[1 Cor. 18-31] For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.” Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength. Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”
The First Action for Healing: Confession
The Second Step of Action is GOD’s work of Atonement. God Forgives and restores FIRST.
The Third is to model God’s Atonement and make whole to the extent that we can. We Follow God’s lead.
Note: Law can give leverage to Atonement, but only God can make us new, whole, complete.
The Final Step is to continue walking with God, until such time that we wander again.
Frustrating Game of Jenga: by Hasbro. The fun of the game is tearing the tower apart, God’s game is about building a people together.
Something to try this week: If you hear/see/experience someone protesting, tell/email/notify them this:
“I hear your voice,
Your Voice is Heard.”
Now let’s ask God to heal us,
make us new (God is not about revenge or back-pay, God simply starts us over.)
Let us find God’s foolishness our new way together and walk together in grace, humility and seeing the justice God has shown us all.
Now I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you be in agreement and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same purpose. For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there are quarrels among you, my brothers and sisters. What I mean is that each of you says, “I belong to Paul,” or “I belong to Apollos,” or “I belong to Cephas,” or “I belong to Christ.” Has Christ been divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, so that no one can say that you were baptized in my name. (I did baptize also the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.) For Christ did not send me to baptize but to proclaim the gospel, and not with eloquent wisdom, so that the cross of Christ might not be emptied of its power. For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. [NRSV]
The World is divided
Politics, Religions, Football Teams and Left Twix or Right Twix. Have you tried having a meaningful conversation about the hot topics of the day?
You either talk to no one and TRY to avoid the conversation and grow cynical and isolated?
You surround yourself with like minded people for comfort and protection.
We dare begin the conversation because we think we can change someone’s mind and end up fueling fires we didn’t intend to start or
We love starting arguments because we enjoy bullying, shaming or agitating people.
I suggest we need to show the world an alternative to the division. Hear Paul’s challenge and calling to do just that:
Paul writes at the opening of his letter.
His first letter,
his first matter,
his most important point is about agreement and division.
He urges us to think about how we define ourselves.
I’m one of Chloe’s people
I belong to Apollos,
I belong to Cephas
I belong to Paul
I belong to the original member core
I belong to the newbies
I belong to this Preacher or that minister
Well, I belong to Christ, with a self-righteous tone of judgment.
Paul’s Letter begins with a Super Nanny Interruption.
You know the Super Nanny, that British nanny that sets up cameras throughout a frustrated parent-child home and observes and then lays down the new laws to correct the dysfunctional and divided family.
Paul’s Letter begins laying the hammer down on what divides us.
I will tell you what divides us?
It is not Christ that divides us,
WE divide ourselves
We are being called to take responsibility for what divides us.
It’s not social media
It’s not tv and politicians
It’s not elections and conversations
It is what is cooking in our own hearts, mind and souls.
Paul’s call is #1, first step
Stop with the groupings.
Stop with the interest groups.
Stop with the privileged class, stop being in the victim group.
#2, Second Step: Remember the Goal,
As an aside, one of the things I love about this passage is Paul’s (wasteful misuse of paper in writing his rambling thoughts about who he did or did not baptize in the middle of a power challenge and stern instruction.)
Number #3, Step three
Personal Question of Faith and Self-Reflection
What does the cross of Jesus Christ actually mean to you and your life?
We are studying the Apostle’s Creed as a historic listing of points about God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and the church. But there is a core question that is at the heart of any statement of beliefs:
What does the cross of Jesus Christ personally mean to you and your life?
When we have come clinging to the power of the death and resurrection as our only hope and salvation, then we have a place to reflect on our differences.
Facebook proves verse 18 to be true. “The cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but a power to those being saved.”
When we start talking to another person, we might heart lovely words about Jesus, but sometimes the words are a
self-righteous memes, or
“the correct answers, without listening to the questions.”
Let’s be clear about step #3:
Does the cross of Jesus Christ mean that Jesus died for all your mistakes, sins and failures?
Does the cross of Jesus Christ mean that Jesus Died for your times of pride and arrogance?
Does the cross of Jesus Christ mean that Jesus Offers himself in your place in judgment?
Does the cross of Jesus Christ mean that Jesus Promises to stand with you in the face of fear?
Does the cross of Jesus Christ mean that Jesus Promises to stand with you in the fiery furnace?
Does the cross of Jesus Christ mean that Jesus Gives your strength in the face of persecution when you are trying to be faithful to his example?
Does the cross of Jesus Christ mean that Jesus Encourage and empower you to see the best in others?
Does the cross of Jesus Christ mean that Jesus Divides us into groups, camps, parties, etc.?
Does the cross of Jesus Christ mean that Jesus Calls us to bully and shame one another as long as in his name?
Does the cross of Jesus Christ mean that Jesus Wants us to continue sinning and testing?
Does the cross of Jesus Christ mean that Jesus Wants us to act nice when we are together, but ponder evil in our hearts?
Does the cross of Jesus Christ mean that Jesus excuses us from avoiding evil and confrontation because we are uncomfortable?
What power does the cross of Jesus give your daily life?
If you don’t have an answer, then we have found our place to start.
We will not find agreement, one mind, one purpose until we find the POWER of the cross.
Paul calls on Chloe’s people, people of Apollos, Cephas, Paul, Rock Spring, Peavine, D.C., Chattanooga, Atlanta, Detroit, Chicago, Dallas, and every nation and tribe.
God offers us the power of true hope, complete salvation, and confidence to see a way out when we have closed our hearts, our minds, and doors.
If you are ready to claim the power of Jesus has for you, for our church, for our country, for a world hurting and divided. We let go of control and commit ourselves newly or renewed, Take my Life and let it be filled your power, your word, your love, your truth,
Your hope, Your Peace
And Jesus leads the way from there.
Paul’s call here is for the faithful, the church, not the unbeliever. His task is to make sure the GOSPEL has a POWERFUL hold on our hearts.
Ask your neighbor: Do you know the Power of Jesus Christ
IF they say yes, say praise the Lord
If that say no or I’m not sure, say, let’s talk
If they don’t say anything, then say, Today’s the day to “get of the pot/fence” and live in Christ.
When you hear division: Call on Christ to heal, protect and bring solutions.
When you see chasms of thought: Think what does the Cross compel me to do or say.
When you experience a brother or sister remaining quiet and not backing you up, ask them if they want to know more about Jesus or are in their silence are they choosing someone/thing other than Christ. Now is when the world needs the cross.
It was fitting that God, for whom and through whom all things exist, in bringing many children to glory, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through sufferings. For the one who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one Father. For this reason Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters, saying, “I will proclaim your name to my brothers and sisters, in the midst of the congregation I will praise you.” And again, “I will put my trust in him.” And again, “Here am I and the children whom God has given me.” Since, therefore, the children share flesh and blood, he himself likewise shared the same things, so that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by the fear of death. For it is clear that he did not come to help angels, but the descendants of Abraham. Therefore he had to become like his brothers and sisters in every respect, so that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make a sacrifice of atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself was tested by what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested. [NRSV]
Act Like Children
Looking back twenty, forty and sixty years ago, Being able to be “Child-like” has radically changed.
Does it mean to seen as miniature adults
Are equally gifted with limitless possibilities
Do children have voice, vote or rights
Do children have to worry or work
Do children have privileges or are privileged
Children of developed and developing countries have a common starting point:
We all start dependent.
This is the relationship God desires for us all.
God steps up our relationship from simple dependent into children of God’s household.
A Relationship of Kinship
One of the few Greek words that stuck with me from seminary, thanks to XX, is the work ‘oikos’.
Predating the yogurt crazy, Oikos is kinship.
Oikos is term meaning household,
particularly, for us it is the household of the people of God.
We share a common spiritual fire
We share a common home
Our belonging includes all those in the household not limited to bloodlines.
Jesus becomes one of us so we know how to find God’s family.
Living like a child of God
Knowing Jesus shows us we are brother in sisters in grace, in faith, in God
Knowing Jesus lived and died for us to both KNOW and ACCESS the God’s family
Living as one empowered and saved to love
Living to show that God has created us to see past our difference to be God’s family.
This first Quarter’s Project
Identify a member of God’s family that feeling excluded from the community
Model and teach them that you are their brother or sister in Christ
Share the fellowship of church community, God’s family
Continue until Christ returns.
What if I don’t want to work on that project?
I risk moving myself and others away from God
I test God’s grace rather than trust God’s grace
I model love of self, convenience, or laziness to myself and others
My disconnect from loving and connecting with the disconnected separates me from God.
You and I were born to be dependent on God
You and I are called and challenged, saved and claimed to model that with others
The New Year’s resolution is to not be childish, rather claim the help of our Oikos, our kin, all God’s people: and show the world how God’s children think, behave, trust, love, forgive, etc.
Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work,to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show every courtesy to everyone.For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, despicable, hating one another.But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared,he saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy, through the water of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.This Spirit he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior,so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.The saying is sure. I desire that you insist on these things, so that those who have come to believe in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works; these things are excellent and profitable to everyone. [NRSV]
My mother, Vicky, made wonderful cheese biscuits. I tried for years to replicate the recipe without success, but finally found where she had written down the recipe I was able to make them at will. My waistline can testify to the accuracy of the formula.
The recipe: Vicky’s Cheesy Biscuits
Preheat the oven to 410*F
4 level cups of White Lilly’s self-rising flour
1/2 cup of Crisco all vegetable shorting
After the dough begins to form add
4 cups of coarsely grated extra sharp cheddar cheese
approximately 2/3 cup of whole milk, base on temperature and altitude
Mix by floured hands or in KitchenAid with three hole mixing blade
Roll with a wooden rolling pin on floured cheese cloth
Cut with a medium size round cutter
Bake for 9 to 11 minutes based on temperature and altitude
Brush tops with melted butter to taste
Make enough for one sitting for a family of four with friends.
Now comes the gravy on top: Serve hot with Land-O-Lakes butter and strawberry preserves
Titus 3 is a letter for the faith seeking folks like us who have gathered here to know the ingredients for Christian living plus the how-to enjoy and use them together for maximum benefit.
The Christmas story reminds us how much God wants to be in a collective relationship with us. The ‘gravy’ is that God is willing to love us, save us, and be with us.
We live in a world that knows more information that we can process, but too many have lost faith in the power of Christmas story. They might remember the ingredients, but how and why to combine and used them for our own good is our mission to share.
Advice for 2017 from Paul through Titus
Trust and Obey
Ready for Good
Courtesy to everyone
Q: How different 2016 would have been if we Trusted God, obeyed authorities, lived expecting Good, avoided fussing, acting out of gentleness, and showed courtesy to all?
But How? Jesus is How!
The Good News for 2017: But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared,he saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy, through the water of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.This Spirit he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior,so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
Know the story:
God is good, loving and kind
God showed up as Jesus
Through Jesus, God saves us from sin
So What, Footnotes:
Note 1: God’s actions have nothing to do with our worthiness
Tell you neighbor: “I’m not worthy. You’re not worthy. We are not worth it, but God loves us anyway.
Note 2: through baptism, we find the rebirth and renewal of God’s gift through the Holy Spirit.
Ask you neighbor: “I want the Holy Spirit to make me new.” “Fix me, forgive me, make me whole!”
Summary: The Spirit is poured out on us, richly, through Jesus who makes us whole through God’ s grace which makes us kin to Jesus, belonging to the ongoing work of God from now and forever.
Join hands with your neighbor and lift hands to Jesus: “I have holes in my heart, in my track record and I want you to make me holy, whole and new.
Memory Verse for 2017
The Good News for 2017: But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared,he saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy, through the water of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.This Spirit he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior,so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. [Titus 3.4-7]
By the end of the year, you will know this very my memory, you will know it by heart.
By the end of the year, you will learn to share this verse with many other people.
By the end of 2017, you will be known as a witness of Titus 3.4-7
By the end of the year, you will experience what it means to be gravy coated and ready for the heavenly banquet that we share here on earth and for eternity.
Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, a descendant of David—that is my gospel, for which I suffer hardship, even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But the word of God is not chained. Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, so that they may also obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory. The saying is sure: If we have died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he will also deny us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself. Remind them of this, and warn them before God that they are to avoid wrangling over words, which does no good but only ruins those who are listening. Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved by him, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly explaining the word of truth. [NRSV]
The Title song, “Unchained Melody”, of the 1955 movie Unchained has been sung and recorded by many different sings becoming a platnum recorded hit in both the US and UK. The list of singers included:
The original theme song captured the torn heart of a man who while in prison was pulled between escaping prison and serving his term to return to his love and family.
Oh, my love, my darling
I’ve hungered for your touch
A long, lonely time
Time goes by so slowly
And time can do so much
Are you still mine?
I need your love
I need your love
God speed your love to me
Lonely rivers flow
To the sea, to the sea
To the open arms of the sea
Lonely rivers sigh
“Wait for me, wait for me”
I’ll be coming home, wait for me
Oh, my love, my darling
I’ve hungered, for your touch
A long, lonely time
Time goes by so slowly
And time can do so much
Are you still mine?
I need your love
I need your love
God speed your love to me
Lonely mountains gaze
At the stars, at the stars
Waiting for the dawn of the day
All alone I gaze
At the stars, at the stars
Dreaming of my love far away
We live in a culture where it is easy to be torn between hearing the Gospel as a message that frees us to live for God while others hear it as exclusive words that harn and divide.
Each time you hear song, one of the most popular songs worldwide, in the 20th century, think of God singing it to the church.
Time goes by so slowly, and time can do so much, Are you still mine?
.. Wait for my, I”ll be coming home, wait for me. wait for me.
Paul again is sharing with Timothy, call him to remind the church to not be ashamed of the Gospel but live as a person who is free to live for God, even if you are in prison.
Think of all the reasons to keep silent? To escape the grace of the Gospel?
If we have died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he will also deny us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful
Q: The Task for us to how to encourage one another in remaining faithful.
Actions over Words: The say is true and sure: Your witness may be the only Gospel someone reads.*
*Note the asterisk: I don’t have to preach, teacher, prophet, or spokesperson as long as I am presenting myself as one who is freed in Christ, as one approved and accepted by God.
The (*) requires that we make sure know of the message has been received as intended.
Present Yourself as a Worker for God.
“Dressed” for work that reflects God’s grace. Not a church dress code, rather dressed to serve.
“Dressed” to witness
“Dressed” to represent God.
“Dressed” is an act of preparation:
Prepare not by having the right words, but the Godly actions
am I prepared to love?
am I prepared to forgive?
am I prepared to lead others to Christ?
am I prepared to feed, clothe and comfort?
am I prepared to be persecuted, rejected, inconvenienced?
am I prepared to tell God’s truth or my convenient version
The Path Taken
Whether broad or narrow: God is with us.
There be faithful in sharing the Gospel.
Last week I invited you to make contact and pray for someone
This week our homework is to prepare to show some part of the Gospel in our actions.
Plan for it
Expect God to send someone in your path
Dress for the Gospel, live like you work for the Kingdom.
Remember you are not chained but freed to love and live for Christ.
Know you are free in Christ to set other free.
Be ready to share what happens when you show your faith.
Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian; he led his flock beyond the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God.There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed.Then Moses said, “I must turn aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not burned up.”When the Lord saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.”Then he said, “Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.”
He said further, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.Then the Lord said, “I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. Indeed, I know their sufferings,and I have come down to deliver them from the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the country of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites.The cry of the Israelites has now come to me; I have also seen how the Egyptians oppress them.
So come, I will send you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.”But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”He said, “I will be with you; and this shall be the sign for you that it is I who sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God on this mountain.”But Moses said to God, “If I come to the Israelites and say to them, “The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, “What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?”God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” He said further, “Thus you shall say to the Israelites, “I am has sent me to you.’ “
God also said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the Israelites, “The Lord, the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you’: This is my name forever, and this my title for all generations.Go and assemble the elders of Israel, and say to them, “The Lord, the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, has appeared to me, saying: I have given heed to you and to what has been done to you in Egypt.I declare that I will bring you up out of the misery of Egypt, to the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, a land flowing with milk and honey.‘ [NRSV]
Did you know: When the early copies of the Torah, OT, were written on scrolls, the scribes omitted the vowels to save space. Using small stylistic marks to indicate the proper pronunciation. The name of God was known as Ya-Weh, but what if the scribes made the wrong marks and God’s name was known as: You-Who!
Moses is walking up the mountain side watching his flock by night and he see’s the presence of God: God calls out to Moses: You-Who, You-Who Moses, I am, over here.
This past Monday was the official day of relaxation. I forgot to have us recognize it in our worship: Slip off your shoes, loosen you shirt, sit back and get comfortable? The invitation to take off the shoes invites us to get comfortable with God. Be comfortable being vulnerable and exposed in God’s presence. God’s invitation to Moses was to take your shoes off and stay a while, take your shoes off and rest from your work. Take off your track shoes and rest from all the running and racing and striving to win.
The Work of Rest
For you and I to find the Joy God has for us takes some work and effort.
Take off your shoes, get comfortable walking on holy ground… as opposed to keeping the floor clean.
Take off your traveling shoes and stay awhile
Take off your work shoes and rest
Take off your athletic shoes and rest from striving to win.
Joy is Found in the Holy Places
Spiritual moments and memories
The 3rd Rule of Methodism
Practice your piety. not Pie-eating
The Question for tonight: What are you doing to seek the holy JOY of the Lord?
Don’t just tease God on Sunday morning, spend time dwelling all day, wherever you are.
Practice hunting for Joy: Not everyone finds because not everyone is searching.
Practice naming and claiming Joy: Pokemon Go model of not only seeking but capture for later use.
Practice offering Joy to one another in the face of our obstacles. Fear, Grief, Guilt, Apathy, Ignorance, Greed, Shame, etc.
Setting a new Millstone for Joy (Commitment time)
Where will I look for Joy: Sunday school, new small group or study, personal study, a journal
How will I stay connected to Joy: Will I stay in God’s word and songs? Will I start the conversations? Will I use the post its’
Where will I begin sharing Joy each day: It is a USE it or LOOSE it power. Keep it ready, keep it handy, keep it alive.
Joy is not forced upon us, but it ours through Jesus Christ who died and lives for us: Our greatest Joy.
“I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed!Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division!From now on five in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three;they will be divided: father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”He also said to the crowds, “When you see a cloud rising in the west, you immediately say, “It is going to rain’; and so it happens.And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, “There will be scorching heat’; and it happens.You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time? [NRSV]
The primary role of the prophet is NOT to tell the future. Job number one is to help the people and the king see the present as it truely is. The present without the bias, without the spin, but will all of the honesty and frustration that the people and the king are trying to avoid or blow out of proportion.
Start with the weather: Who can be our prophet today and tell us the weather conditions today? Hot! How hot? Dry or Wet? How Dry/Wet?
What does knowing the current conditions tell us about what we do this afternoon or tomorrow?
Measurement and Standards
How do we measure current conditions?
In matters of faith we turn to scripture and read it through the Ben Franklin glasses of National Treasure fame. One lense shows the traditions that have shaped our past. One lens reflect what our God created brains tell us through reason. One lens opens our hearts to the work of the Holy Spirit in our own experince. No one lens is stronger than the other and all three are directed toward our understanding and encounter with the Bible as the holy Word. True comes when we are willing to use all three lens as we read, listen and respond to the bible.
We have other measurea in our standards, but scripture through these three perspectives is our greatest tool.
Using the Tools for Good.
The reasons we gather for worship are not only to praise God, but to learn the traditions of the church, experience the work of the hold spirit and spark our inspiration to learn and grow together.
The reasons we have Sunday school and small groups is not just to socialize, gossip and drink coffee, but to share our journey of study and reflection, practicing our ideas, suggestions and standards before we must act on our faith in our daily lives.
The reason we reach out to feed, cloth, comfort, build, repair, heal and be-friend others in Jesus name is to practice the faith that is in our minds in the real needs of the world around us.
If we only had worship we would never grow our faith.
If we only studied and shared our minds we would never see faith in action
If we AND those we serve only served others we might forget why we act the way we do.
When the Signs Call for Action
A Baptism of Fire and Compelled to Complete it.
This passage shows a moment of frustration from Jesus. I have a mission of cleansing, purifying, renewing, and restarting and I wish you would see what I see.
Conditions of the Present Age:
Are people divided?
Are people so committed to their own convictions that they have quit listening to others of different views?
Are people hurting for real hope?
Are people more dependant on the government solving problems than turning to God?
Are the churches reflecting the Body of Christ as God’s presense in the world?
Where do we get our information?
Where do we connect with God
Where do study, reflect and practice our faith?
Why do we think continuing without changing our method that we will find away through?
What is our call to action?
Take the Field
As the Olympics begin to fade, the beginning of football season is about to break open. I would suggest that the average person knows more about thier favorite team and leauge than they do how to transform the division in our communities and hearts.
We come to worship to practice connecting with God. If there is someone you know who is not here, connect and bring them next week. Connecting others with God is the best way to connect with God.
I believe we might not feel ready to connect someone with God because we have not been present a practice or not had our heart in the drills. This is why we have Sunday school and small groups to prepare us.
I asked two weeks ago for someone to answer a call to pick up the lead of our Feed My Sheep ministry and in the past two weeks no one has stepped forward to keep this powerful ministry alive. In this present time of people hungry for the love and hope of Christ, is this the time we keep safe and quiet?
We live in a place where we are called to get in the game knowing we need more practice and preperation than time allows. We take the faith we have been given, in the grace we have been clothed and step in where and when we would rather not go and reflect Christ.
Otherwise, we are not the church.
Otherwise, we remain in the place of frustration
Otherwise we are only people of mind OR tradition OR expereince..
(Jr Bird Man finger lenses)
Tell you neighbor, you look goofy like that, but I know you are showing me Christ.
I’d rather show Christ than lead you astray.
Let’s take the field together, the clock is running and we don’t need a delay of game.