Archive for category Commitment
“If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one. But if you are not listened to, take one or two others along with you, so that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.” [NRSV]
The power of process
Jesus’ teaching on forgiveness is very METHODICAL. (He’d make a good Methodist)
Too often I hear the story of people who get upset with the church or church people and especially the preacher/pastor. On one hand, not one of us is closer to God nor is anyone of us loved more than the other. We all make mistakes. We have all offended and rejected people, intentionally and unintentionally. On the other hand Jesus is telling Matthew and the other disciples persistence in dealing with conflict.
First confront the person one-to-one, (Don’t talk about, gossip, imply to those who might say something.) Take responsibility for your part of the conversation.
Second, if that does not work, take witnesses. (This is its own category, we will discuss in a moment)
Third, take the whole matter to the community. The need of the individual is relevant to the larger community.
Most folks give up before starting the process. We talk to everyone, except those directly involved and want someone else to confront. The next time conflict arrises. Try talking one-on-one, express your experience and expectation. Give the other person or party the opportunity to respond. If they don’t confront and share the same, take a witness or two. If the few of you can’t resolve it continue to expand the pool of witnesses and perspectives.
The power of a witness
A Witness may not be someone who saw or heard the events in question, but can hear and see the follow-up conversation. Think of the role of a counselor or a referee. Someone who can help us speak the truth, speak our hearts and confront with word rather than rage or worse.
This model of witness is our general role as Christian disciples. We are not witnesses to the events of the first century Jesus, but we ARE witnesses to the Word and Work of Jesus and the church in the 21st century.
The power of binding
In wedding we often refer to a couple “tying the knot.” This is symbolically seen in the double fisherman’s knot. For fly fishing it works well to join a leader line to the main line. The more loops on each knot makes the end resulting knot when tightened together one of the strongest of all knots, because of the equality of pressure.
How we respond as a faith community and church family tell our salvation story. If people see and hear us upset over money, property, shared space in the building, and not see our feeding the hungry, embracing the oppressed and being friends with the sinners then we fail the opportunity entrusted to us. Which in some cases lasts for generations.
“Granddaddy said those church folks are cheats and liars” that’s why we don’t go to that church. Half of our work in witnesses is usually untying knots we didn’t tie and never knew were their.
Homework: show someone how to tie a knot, a shoelace, a neck tie, a hair bow, a fishing knot and talk with them about what knots need to be kneaded out, loosen and untied to free up people for the opportunity of grace and love.
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way to the place where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves. Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it. [NRSV]
1. An Emphasis on Exceptional connection over Exclusive access.
Many times I have heard this passage be used as a definitive and exclusive statement that there is one way to God and that is to come through the ‘gate’ of Jesus. We talked about the gate some last Sunday. Rather than focus on the exclusive side of this statement, focus on the “Look no further” perspective.
Jesus makes clear that what we see in him, we receive the clearest picture of the father, our creator, God.
Through conversation, feeding and breaking bread together, in showing grace, forgiveness and loving-kindness, we see the character and nature of God through Jesus Christ.
Do you ever see Jesus being jealous, power-hungry, interested in revenge? Does Jesus show us how to belittle others, take advantage of the foolish, disregard the sick or elderly? Does Jesus ignore the children or avoid discussing politics? In fact its just the opposite.
2. Making the connection with God. The target of every system of religious practice and organization.
The thing that Jesus repeats his lesson for is to make certain that disciples, believers look to him for the path and way of salvation. John Wesley, the founder of our denomination, lifts up the process of grace to give us a handle for guiding our way to God.
First God is ahead of us drawing us God-ward. Second, it is through Jesus that we see and experience the example of Grace that affects us all even before we believe. Third is when we accept that loving Grace and Four are the moments that we walk hand-in-hand. Me holding your hand, Christ hold your hand, Jesus holding God’s hand. Together we are connected.
3. Are you Connected? Do you believe.. then show me the works of God in you:
Here is the difficult part of this passage that is inferred to disciples both then and now. “Those who believe will do what Jesus does and even greater things because of the connection.”
One of the under rated words in our United Methodist Vocabulary is being ‘connectional’ in ministry. It is the connection that work through the appointive process for clergy moving from one church to another. It is the connection that makes us not in competition with other church but journeying together in the same direction. It is the connection that is shared in music, our educational material, our ordination and communion. That which connects us is our common worship of Christ… not our methods rather our savior.
4. Go Ahead, Ask, Make my day..
Jesus puts disciples and the connection of faith and belief into action: Go ahead and ask and I will show up in your witness and belief.
Jesus asks us as disciples do you believe? If so, let’s see the grace work in you. Let’s hear the words of praise! Let’s see how you treat children and those who are weak. Let’s see how you treat strangers and preachers? Let’s hear how Christ is present, connecting us to God and God to the world around us… Are there missing links? Is there anyone who we have yet to share Christ’s grace with? If so, the we have our work cut out for us. Let’s get busy.
When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. [NRSV]
Are you blessed? Look at the blessing side of these equations:
- Citizenship in Heaven
- Comforted here and now.
- Inheritors of the earth
- Filled with Satisfaction
- Swimming in Mercy
- Able to see God’s presence
- Known to be God’s child
- Have a place in heaven
- Heavenly Reward Waiting
Character Traits of the faithful
- Poor in spirit, Mourning, Meek
- Righteousness Seekers, Mercy, Seekers of God’s heart
- Makers of peace; Teased, Taunted, Tested and Tormented for doing what is Godly.
Jesus begins his teaching ministry to the crowds with instructions that define the measurable, witness-able, tangible descriptors of those who ‘get it’, those who would be followers, disciples, Christians.
Look Around you today
Are you surrounding by the blessed or cursed? Honestly we are some of both, some of the time. This is why we continually repent, pray for forgiveness, and seek to live a new the new life we celebrate in Holy Communion.
We come to the table because we have turned the other way.
Jesus begins be giving us a measuring stick of identify and path toward citizenship.
Forgive me, for I have sinned.
- Forgive me, for I have acted like I knew better than God and other Godly saints.
- Forgive me, for I have forgotten that you gave your son for my life. I forgot what that feels like.
- Forgive me, for I have stopped growing my spiritual relationship.
- Forgive me, for I have taken your grace, but not shown it to others.
- Forgive me, for I have not had pure thoughts, motives, actions and words.
- Forgive me, for I have not tried to make peace and even stirred up trouble myself.
- Forgive me, for I have persecuted others because they were different.
- Forgive me, for I have said and done all kinds of evil that does not reflect your presence in my heart and life.
- Forgive me, for I have forgotten your Joy and misplaced your Gladness and Love.
Jesus words start as descriptors for Disciples and become daggers of conviction when we have not stayed on the path of Blessing.
An Opposing View
- Cursed are those who are full-of-themselves
- Cursed are those who stoic, selfish, and prideful,
- Cursed are those who know better than the rest of us
- Cursed are those who know better than God
- Cursed are those who judge with a log in their own eye
- Cursed are those who see only their wants and vision
- Cursed are those who to quiet to stop injustice or too loud in self-preservation
- Cursed are those who to sacred to be bold for God
The attitudes of Matthew 5.1-12 are the called such as they begin in our hearts and minds and then affect our actions and environment.
If our task is to make disciples of others for the transformation of the world, it begins by ‘checking’ our attitude to see if our heart and minds are God before we move to words and deeds.
Have someone ask you these questions this week and answer them honestly:
- Am I always right?
- Where does pride blind me and hinder others?
- Who knows best how to live in relationship with others?
- Am I willing to change what is broken in my life?
- Am I willing to see and feel how others feel and see life? And me?
- Will I speak bolding for God today? Each day?
- What scares me? Why would I be afraid if God is captain of our team?
What’s at Stake? EVERYTHING
- Being Blessed or Curse.
- Being included or outside.
- Saved or Damned.
- Loved or hated
- Remembered or forgotten
- God’s or my Own.
What is God doing about it?
- Has given us Christ to follow
- Has given us Christ for our sin
- Has given us Christ for living
- Has given us The Spirit for power and guidance
- Has given us the Church for fellowship and encouragement
- Has given us Word to study, learn, grow and share
- Has given us Music to tell and share
- Has given us ministry to share and reach
- Has given us resources to build and invest
The question, Our Question:
“What am I doing about my attitude and my actions as child of God?”
Come to the Table and start fresh in the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ. Come to the table and be filled, anew.
He entered Jericho and was passing through it. A man was there named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was rich. He was trying to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was short in stature. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to see him, because he was going to pass that way. When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today.” So he hurried down and was happy to welcome him. All who saw it began to grumble and said, “He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner.” Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, “Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.” Then Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.” [NRSV]
Our communities are generally more concerned about Halloween than celebrating all the Saints who have died and found the promises of eternal life and love fulfilled during this weekend of celebrations. Even fewer are trying to hold the memory of the saints in a high place of honor while addressing lessons of stewardship for the upcoming Stewardship Sunday next week. But here we are faced with the reality of context in the face of the power of the lectionary text: Zacchaeus the Wee, Little man.
As we listen carefully to this passage we can learn a good deal about Zack and ourselves. First this man was a notorious cheat and swindler of the community. His reputation and status was made through taking advantage of his position to profit from some of the poorest of neighbors. Taxes, user fees, registrations, licenses, and mandated participations in medical plans are all forms of taxes. They are always up for debate for everyone except for those who collect them and those who profit from them. Everyone else would like to avoid paying any more than they must pay. Zach not only had the unpopular task of collecting these funds, he also used the occasion to collect an acquisition fee on top of the tax has his income. He had the opportunity to define the amount of profit he would make from collecting unpopular taxes. Together this made him to be the least likely to befriend in the neighborhood.
It is no wonder that folks did not cut him any slack in finding his way to see Jesus who was visiting their town. Secondly we learn that Zach was not only not respected and excluded from popularity contests, he was none the less, curious about Jesus. This is actually a refreshing picture of those that we least favor in our communities. Even the least respected and most avoided can be curious about Jesus. And this is the chink in the armor that opens the door of grace for us all.
Zach, actually is more than curious; he takes extra steps to make a way to Jesus. He sets up the occasion to have a better perspective and even a chance meeting with Jesus. When the community of faith had given up on him, Zach remains interested enough to do some homework and recon work himself to create an opportunity to meet Jesus. If you have never taken the opportunity to participate in the Walk to Emmaus retreat ministry, you should attend. It is a concentrated effort to create opportunities for someone to meet Christ and to grow closer in her or his relationship with Christ. (Visit the Upperroom.org and check it out.) Zach has made his own little retreat in the top of a tree, hoping to gain a new perspective and understanding of Jesus.
Rather than simply being a spectator, Jesus calls Zach into a relationship of participation. Jesus does what the community has refused to do because of Zach’s behavior and destruction of the community. Jesus includes the stranger. Jesus opens the heart and home of the one who has no relationship. Jesus makes a way through honesty, confession and accountability when others are blocking access, even when it might seem justified. Jesus opens the heart.
When Zach’s heart is touched, he moves to confession and repentance. Without any prescription for restitution he begins to make things whole. Why, because when Jesus reaches out to this searching soul, Jesus is making him whole and out of wholeness responds by making things right or complete.
As a Stewardship message: it is out of wholeness that we learn to give what is holy. We might start with a Rx of 10% but finally mature to see that it might take more than a percent. It might take out whole lives.
As a Transformation message: it is the shift from Zaccheus making the plan and ruling the community, into Jesus making the plans and Jesus shaping the hearts of the WHOLE community.
As a practical message for us all: This example is not just about the rich, not about the oppressors, those to blame. It is also for the crowd that judged Zach as unreachable, unloveable, and beyond trust.. Jesus sees what is hiding in all of us and invites himself into the hearts and homes of those who are seeking.
Our task is to help each other seek Christ. In the streets or in our homes, in business or in church, back then and right now. Jesus desires to be at home with you and me. Let us go with him and all be make whole.
1 Then Jesus said to the disciples, “There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was squandering his property. 2 So he summoned him and said to him, ‘What is this that I hear about you? Give me an accounting of your management, because you cannot be my manager any longer.’ 3 Then the manager said to himself, ‘What will I do, now that my master is taking the position away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg. 4 I have decided what to do so that, when I am dismissed as manager, people may welcome me into their homes.’ 5 So, summoning his master’s debtors one by one, he asked the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ 6 He answered, ‘A hundred jugs of olive oil.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it fifty.’ 7 Then he asked another, ‘And how much do you owe?’ He replied, ‘A hundred containers of wheat.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill and make it eighty.’ 8 And his master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly; for the children of this age are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light. 9 And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of dishonest wealth so that when it is gone, they may welcome you into the eternal homes. 10 “Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and whoever is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much. 11 If then you have not been faithful with the dishonest wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? 12 And if you have not been faithful with what belongs to another, who will give you what is your own? 13 No slave can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” [NRSV]
The shrewd manager takes justice into his own hands.
It is most likely the custom that those who would lend to the poor would also be those who took advantage of the poor. Charting higher interest rates to those at greater risk.
Intuitively it is a practice that never makes sense. If lenders and retailers who extend credit want to charge those who have the least to spend the highest rate, it seems to be a set up for failure and a greater oppression than not extended credit in the first place.
In the recent years of banking giving loans to those who would not qualify and investment firms reselling debt accounts to the highest bidder, so collection agencies can profit even further from oppressing the poor. Where is the justice in this practice?
Traditionally the parable has been only about the juggling of the accounting without regard to why the bills were so high in the first place.
If you drive around a large city, you will find the the gas prices higher in the poorest communities. You will find grocery stores higher priced with lower quality good near communities where neighbors have no other transportation and only have the option to walk to the closest store. In this text the owner has charged twenty or thirty percent more than the usual rate.
So the manager is trying to show some justice in the situation, hoping that when he is laid off the poor would look kindly and graciously at them.
Think of it, if you were about to loose your job from a tyrant of an employer and you could bring some justice in the community, playing the part of Robin Hood and his merry followers. Would you want to steal from the king to win the hears of the common folk?
So much political rhetoric is preached everyday about the evil of the wealthy in our country and how they should be made to pay their share and the share of the poor. It’s just not a good system of economics.
The parable is about relationship.
The warning is to guard from making friends by buying their relationship.
As a church we want to extend radical hospitality, but we don’t want people to come because they can take advantage of our generosity.
As Christians we want people to like us but at times we are indeed sheep sent out among wolves. Choose your relationship not by what you get out, rather choose by God’s guidance.
We want our children and grandchildren to have lots of friends and be well liked at school, but not because of fashions, toys and gadgets. We want them to friends of good character.
This is the point of Jesus’ parable. Be of God character and not the world’s. Even it seems reasonable from the world’s standards, this is not our measuring stick.
Secondly the parable is about what we manage compared to what we allow God to manage in our lives.
The shrewd manager takes care of the situation himself. He has a plan to take care of himself and to put the owner in his or her place and come out smelling like a rose for caring for the poor and oppressed.
Helping the poor is great.
Seeking justice is wonderful.
Being a responsible worker and good manager are great attributes.
Look instead at the motives, agendas and flawed reasons behind our self-preservation.
God promises to provide, guide and fill our lives, asking us to receive, follow and trust God in all times.
Bottom line: Serve God and not ourselves.
When they had brought them, they had them stand before the council. The high priest questioned them, saying, “We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and you are determined to bring this man’s blood on us.” But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than any human authority. The God of our ancestors raised up Jesus, whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior that he might give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. 32 And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him.” [NRSV]
What have we been told NOT to do?
• Don’t eat with your mouth full of food.
Don’t let your shirttail be un-tucked
• Don’t let the sun go down on your anger, ill words.
• Don’t talk to strangers.
• Don’t talk during church.
• Don’t pray out loud as those who boast of their religion.
• Don’t worry about the poor, they will always be with us.
• Don’t be anxious about tomorrow.
• Don’t hesitate in giving your coat as well as your shirt.
• Don’t neglect the orphan and the widow.
• Don’t worship other God’s
• Don’t work on the Sabbath
• Don’t kill, steal, lie or covet
• Don’t dishonor your parents faithfulness
• Don’t leave home without your AMEX card.
• Our list could go on..
Listen closely to Peter and the disciples, now apostles in verse 28, “the council gave them strict order not to teach in Jesus’ name.”
Take a moment to look at the disciples new job title: Apostle. What is that about? Apostle is when a Disciple is entrusted with the work of leading other disciples. He or She is still a disciple of Jesus, but with the additional responsibility of leading disciples.
With this new job, there is a heightened commitment to the work of discipleship. Hear their response to the charges that they have broken the rules, not kept the expectations of the community leaders, not respected the limitations of those who do not know Jesus’ call, authority and power.
They reply: “We must do what God has called us to do.”
How do you know if you are doing what God wants you to do with your life. This is a fundamental question of a disciple trying to life as a disciple.
How do I know I’m doing what God wants?
First thing: Disciples follow Jesus. Look, listen and study what Jesus did and said and compare that to what Jesus people do and say today.
Second: if someone tell us to do something half way for God, is that how God operates? No, God is all in.
Third: Rarely is discipleship easy, welcomed or invited.
Finally: Knowing that I need to ask for course corrections is a sign that God can continually change us.
Catch two things before we leave this passage:
1. Peter and the others take this opportunity of challenge to teach the message.
They tell the story even when those challenging and threatening have said they don’t want to hear it.
2. Second the Council authorities say:
Your “faithfulness” will get us in trouble, it will be a problem to us, it will make us look bad..
They tell the lack of understanding they have and their unwillingness to seek God’s direction.
If someone makes you feel uncomfortable about sharing your faith, you are probably on the right track
And if someone makes you feel good about keeping quiet or not acting in accordance with your faith, they are most likely not leading on the right track.
It is one of the reason that Jesus established the renewal of faith through Holy Communion, to be a recharging and restoring of our faith and trust of the core story of our faith.
Why do we eat the bread? Jesus’ life and body, broken and scarified
Why do we drink the cup? Jesus becomes the fulfillment of the prophets and law, our Lamb and Savior.
We retell and relive the community and common faith and promise that Christ has died, Christ is Risen, Christ will come again.
14 The LORD is my strength and my might; he has become my salvation. 15 There are glad songs of victory in the tents of the righteous: “The right hand of the LORD does valiantly; 16 the right hand of the LORD is exalted; the right hand of the LORD does valiantly.” 17 I shall not die, but I shall live, and recount the deeds of the LORD. 18 The LORD has punished me severely, but he did not give me over to death. 19 Open to me the gates of righteousness, that I may enter through them and give thanks to the LORD. 20 This is the gate of the LORD; the righteous shall enter through it. 21 I thank you that you have answered me and have become my salvation. 22 The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. 23 This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. 24 This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. 25 Save us, we beseech you, O LORD! O LORD, we beseech you, give us success! 26 Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the LORD. We bless you from the house of the LORD. 27 The LORD is God, and he has given us light. Bind the festal procession with branches, up to the horns of the altar. 28 You are my God, and I will give thanks to you; you are my God, I will extol you. 29 O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.
Come to the Table,
Eat and Drink,
Do not become weary, but remain strong and true in telling the story of our faith in Jesus Christ.
1 When they had come near Jerusalem and had reached Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, 2 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. 3 If anyone says anything to you, just say this, “The Lord needs them.’ And he will send them immediately. ” 4 This took place to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet, saying, 5 “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.” 6 The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them; 7 they brought the donkey and the colt, and put their cloaks on them, and he sat on them. 8 A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 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!” 10 When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, “Who is this?” 11 The crowds were saying, “This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.” 12 Then Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who were selling and buying in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves. 13 He said to them, “It is written, “My house shall be called a house of prayer’; but you are making it a den of robbers.” 14 The blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he cured them. 15 But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the amazing things that he did, and heard the children crying out in the temple, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” they became angry 16 and said to him, “Do you hear what these are saying?” Jesus said to them, “Yes; have you never read, “Out of the mouths of infants and nursing babies you have prepared praise for yourself’?” 17 He left them, went out of the city to Bethany, and spent the night there. [NRSV]
YOU WERE MADE FOR A MISSION do the work of an evangelist, carry out your ministry fully. [NRSV] 2 Timothy 4.5b
I remember the old TV episodes of Mission Impossible. The agents would receive a small reel-to-reel tape player that would play the message and mission and would begin to smoke and self-destruct. It was a secret mission for the agents alone. The agents had the responsibility to listen tot he mission, choose to accept it or not. And the moment would begin. We are here today to hear the message and accept it, or not. But ours is more than a TV episode. Ours is life or death, for ourselves and others.
The past month we have been looking at the question posed by Rev. Rick Warren in his book, What on Earth am I Here for?
In a Nutshell: Answering this question begins by affirming that life is not about us, It’s about god!
God is equally interested in you and god is concerned about me, God does not have favorites.
- We are here as a product of gods love
- We are here to praise god
- We are here for fellowship as gods family
- We are here fo become like Christ
- We are here to serve gods work
- Finally we are here because we have a mission, a specific work, task or charge
We are here to tell others what we already know
- They are here not for themselves rare here by gods love for gods purpose
- It is out work to show folks how to praise god, when all around us is fallen
- It is our mission to build a faith family, hopefully our biological family but limited by
- It is our charge to show the world around us what Christ looks, thinks and acts like
- It inspire purpose to serve god and not ourselves…
What is the cost commandment from Moses?
No god comes before me… I’m first.
Here we are at Palm Sunday and we can look back at this only as a historical event, or we can see our present in the story as well.
- Who is on the Jesus parade in Jackson?
- What might not be revealing God that has God’s name and people attached, in our church and community?
Jesus came into the city of Jerusalem and pointed out where we had made worship about
- the rules,
- the money,
- the business,
- the divisions,
- the politics,
- The rich and the poor,
- the house of us and not the house of god
He enters the city and would be disciples follow I with the triumphant parade, until he turns things god side up
Disciples see the mission is to turn the world God side up.
i challenge you to hear the parade and celebration when it affects our home, our business, our income, our choices:
- Who will tell Jackson that God loves them?
- Who will tell our community they are loved at the core of their being?
- Who will show those with live, work and play how to praise God?
- Who will show hope and faith in the face of fear, guilt and grief?
- Who will build up the family of God and be present for the family when it struggles
- Who will show the neighborhoods what Jesus looks like, thinks and acts in our time?
- Who will inspire others to follow God first
If it is not us, then we have wasted each others time here today.
What on Earth are YOU here for? You are here for this very mission, you have heard it and this message will not destruct. The question is, as God’s agent and disciples, as a Christian and follower of Jesus, will you accept the mission or pass?
Titus 3:4 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5 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. 6 This Spirit he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. [NRSV]
Matthew 1.18 Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. 20 But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: 23 “Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means, “God is with us.” 24 When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, 25 but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus. [NRSV]
Matthew’s Joe the Carpenter
Matthew spends the first portion of the first chapter telling the world his research from his early Christmas present from tryancestry.com 30-day free offer. He gives a concise history of relating father Abraham through King David to the father of Jesus, Joseph. It was customary to track the family relation line through the mother’s side of the family, so what is up with Matthew’s version? He stretches the family tree branches to roots into two neat and balanced sets of 14 generations linking the father of the covenant with the favored king of the people of God up to Joseph’s little Jesus boy.
One of the fun features of the online family tree database helps determine how many generations you might be related to famous founding fathers and mothers or former presidents.. no matter how far the stretch, we are related famous people some where. Unlike my paternal grandmother’s claims that we were of French decent, it turns out that after many years of researching the BRANTLEY name through England and possibly Switzerland. Our family name is said to a meaning: “Those who live in burned out lands.” So we conclude that we are from a long line of moonshiners, indentured servants and squatters. Sort’a makes you proud to know our roots run deep with fame and great integrity.
Joseph’s family tree squeezes a few branches to neatly fit on a the page of history in Matthew’s book for what purpose? He link’s Jesus to a history of God’s self-revealed witness in promise, favor, divine purpose. So why does Joseph have any doubt that God would be ready to continue to prized heritage?
So little is known of Joseph. It many painting and stories his vocation of a carpenter is captured in images of furniture making. But is a time of stone, break and tile construction, it is more likely that he made gates, wooden locks or crosses. These were the places where woodwork was most commonly used in Jesus’s time. But that is not as fitting with our image of contemporary or renaissance carpentry.
Never the less, Joseph, with a great family tree, must have forgotten his royal blood line as well as his trade was working with resources that were more rare than we could imagine. No mighty pine forests, no oak and poplar farms, cedars were scattered and wood was a scares commodity.
Joseph, was a decent fellow. He found himself in an embarrassing social setting with Mary, his fiancée. Joseph being a resourceful fellow, tries to down play, move one, no harm- no foul, perspective. Joseph is ready manage the problem and work out a solution with the lead damage for either he or Mary.
He was a fix-er: Someone who can identify the problem, find a solution and execute with precision.
HERE IS WHERE TO STORY BECOMES read and interesting to each of us personally.
Compare what we know about Mary and Joseph. She found favor with God and was eagerly ready to be an instrument and vessel for God’s work and witness. Joseph see’s the problem not the opportunity. He finds a solution to what he has identified as a problem and is ready to “make it so” as the Captain orders.
Joseph is our modern example of what to do when God’s will and way is 180-degrees from “our best judgment” and we choose to follow God’s instruction. Joe the Carpenter stands as a ordinary good person who lay aside the focus of the self in exchange for focus on God.
It is a Christmas miracle when we see someone choose the heart of God over their own heart.
That’s what we like about the changed-uncle scrooge.
That’s what we like about the big guy in the red suit doing the impossible to bring joy to a suffering world. That’s what we like about the Grinch who has a change of heart.
That’s what we like about one person allowing the news of the Christmas Story encourage the faithfulness of one to like Charlie Brown to keep Christmas when all the others are packing up the decoration of the world.
Joseph is the change of heart guy, who does the good think God asks.
Did he have to? No.
The story could have been very different of he had walked away from Mary or imposed his plans over God’s plans. God didn’t make Joe have faith. Here is the hidden gift of Christmas.
The messengers come to tell it, the question is do we believe and trust our hearts with God’s.
Titus 3:4 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5 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. 6 This Spirit he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
This is the task of Christmas, All year long.