Archive for category Covenant
Homecoming, by another way Oak Grove 2018
7 Then 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.
I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you, and they have believed that you sent me. I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them. And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one. While I was with them, I protected them in your name that you have given me. I guarded them, and not one of them was lost except the one destined to be lost, so that the scripture might be fulfilled. But now I am coming to you, and I speak these things in the world so that they may have my joy made complete in themselves. I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one.They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, so that they also may be sanctified in truth. [NRSV]
The entering into and committing oneself to a continuing relationship. Christians see themselves as a people of a covenant with God. The New Testament or “New Covenant” is that covenant of the saving work of Jesus Christ through the grace of God and the response Christians make in their profession of faith and baptism. This understanding of covenant has been important throughout the life of United Methodism.
Source: A Dictionary for United Methodists, Alan K. Waltz, Copyright 1991, Abingdon Press. http://www.umc.org/what-we-believe/glossary-covenant
¶ 125. United Methodists throughout the world are bound together in a connectional covenant in which we support and hold each other accountable for faithful discipleship and mission. Integrally holding connectional unity and local freedom, we seek to proclaim and embody the gospel in ways responsible to our specific cultural and social context while maintaining “a vital web of interactive relationships” (¶ 132). At the same time, we desire to affirm and celebrate our relationships, covenants, and partnership with autonomous, affiliated autonomous, affiliated united covenanting, and concordat churches (¶¶ 570-574) as well as other partners in the Wesleyan and ecumenical Christian families. Our worldwide connectional relationship is one of the ways we carry out our missional calling beyond national and regional boundaries. For our connectionalism to become a living practice, we need to carry the worldwide nature of The United Methodist Church deep into the life and mission of our local congregations. Only when we commit ourselves to interdependent worldwide partnerships in prayer, mission, and worship can connectionalism as the Wesleyan ecclesial vision be fully embodied. Guided by the Holy Spirit, United Methodist churches throughout the world are called afresh into a covenant of mutual commitment based on shared mission, equity, and hospitality.
In covenant with God and with each other:
We affirm our unity in Christ, and take faithful steps to live more fully into what it means to be a worldwide church in mission for the transformation of the world.
We commit ourselves to crossing boundaries of language, culture, and social or economic status. We commit ourselves to be in ministry with all people, as we, in faithfulness to the gospel, seek to grow in mutual love and trust.
We participate in God’s mission as partners in ministry, recognizing that our God-given gifts, experiences, and resources are of equal value, whether spiritual, financial, or missional.
We commit ourselves to full equity and accountability in our relationships, structures, and responsibilities for the denomination.
We enter afresh into a relationship of mutuality, creating a new sense of community and joyously living out our worldwide connection in our mission to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
A Companion Litany to Our Covenant for the Worldwide United Methodist Church
Leader: In covenant with God and each other, we affirm our unity in Christ.
People: We will take faithful steps to live as a worldwide church in our mission to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
Leader: In covenant with God and each other, we commit ourselves to be in ministry with all people.
People: In faithfulness to the gospel, we will cross boundaries of language, culture, social or economic status as we grow in mutual love and trust.
Leader: In covenant with God and each other, we participate in God’s mission as partners in ministry.
People: We share our God-given gifts, experiences, and resources recognizing that they are of equal value, whether spiritual, financial, or missional.
Leader: In covenant with God and each other, we commit ourselves to full equality.
People: We uphold equity and accountability in our relationships, structures, and responsibilities for the denomination.
Leader: In covenant with God and each other, we enter afresh into a relationship of mutuality.
People: With God’s grace, we joyfully live out our worldwide connection in our mission to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
From The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church – 2016. Copyright 2016 by The United Methodist Publishing House. http://www.umc.org/what-we-believe/section-1-the-churches
Wesleyan Covenant Groups
WESLEYAN SMALL GROUP RESOURCES
• Books on the Class Meeting
• Covenant Discipleship resources
• Overview of Covenant Discipleship
• Introduction to Class Leaders
• In Mission Together
• Books on Wesleyan community
• Books and studies on discipleship
John Wesley, founder of the Methodist movement, succinctly described the plan of discipleship in what he called The General Rules. As Christians, we are to (1) do no harm by avoiding evil of every kind; (2) do good to all people; and (3) attend upon all the ordinances of God like participating in worship, taking Communion, reading the Bible, praying, and more.
Unfortunately, knowing that does not always translate into living it. Learn more about how Wesley’s concept of small groups as a place for accountability and spiritual growth have been adapted for today.
- First, Paul’s instruction to pray for everyone, including kings and high officials.
- Secondly, Paul’s ministry of being a messenger and apostle as a teacher of the Gentiles.
B. Ministry Authority:
- (In readying how Paul was persicuted, jailed, shipwrecked, run out of town, dismissed by others in the Way, in the church: for his earlier persicustion of Jesus, Paul is claiming athority by appointment from God.)
- As Wesleyan Methodist we see God’s preventative, justifying and sanctifying graces at work. As well as an affirmation that some authority is revealed directly in our experience of the Holy Spirit.
- God using someone that was the least likely person to reach the Jewish community and certainly not the Gentile community.
- I believe this is the connection Paul wants to affirm to Timothy because he is conferring this authority Timothy, to the rest of the church and to you and me gathered here today.
Paul’s reminder to Timothy is also a reminder to each of us and to those who believe and trust some other gods, doctrines or principles.
- Externally, When we listen to the civil view of the church’s role it has become one of many voices.
- Internally, When we pray only for whom and what we want, rather than for God’s will and work.
- Communally & Personally, When we listen to fears and hate rather than prayer we attack truth and trust
You and I are the Heralds, Leaders, and Teacher that are called model a life of prayer for this world: teaching, revealing and modeling the grace and power of Christ to save, save us all. Amen.
LinK: I could lie, but I won’t liey to you. God is with us and calls us to tell Christ’s truth. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wherever_I_Go_(song) OneRepublic Lyrics:
I know I could lie, but I won’t lie to you
Wherever I go, you’re the ghost in the room
I don’t even try looking for something new
Cause wherever I go, I’ll be looking for you
Some people try but they can’t find the magic
Others get down on their knees and they pray
I come alive when I’m close to the madness
No easy love could ever make me feel the same
Make me feel the same
Traditional Music : UMBH
- I Exalt Thee
- 399 Take My Life
- 395 Take Time to be Holy
- 402 Lord I Want to be a Christain
Communion, All Saints, Signs and Spiritual Satisfaction: A full meal
When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal.” Then they said to him, “What must we do to perform the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” So they said to him, “What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you? What work are you performing? Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'” Then Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. [NRSV]
First of all: Reminder, there will be no homework during the month of November. Just class work..
It is fitting that we check in with this passage on All Saints Sunday. Each year on the first Sunday in November think back about those who now no longer with us, in the body, but are ever present in Spirit in our hearts and memories and join in worship with us from the stadium seats of heaven.
[the eight people you sit with in heaven: The three in front are three people we have looked for guidance who have gone ahead, they lead us to toward the throne. The three behind are the three folks who have looked over our shoulder, pushed and poke us, and clean up after us all our years. The last two people we think we would want to sit next to for eternity on the left and right. So who would want to go?]
In the passage from John’s Gospel he recounts how the people looking for Jesus remembered their heritage, but they missed the relationship with God of their kin folks.
There is an old preacher story about a student who went to his 25th class reunion and went to the professor and re-introduced himself to the teacher and said, “I am Dan Smith, I was one of your students.” The professor shakes his head and reflects for a time and then replies, “you may have attended my class, but you were never one of my students.”
Do we just go to the church? do we go through the idea or Christianity or is there a relationship in addition to the teachings. I have been reading a remarkable book by the Barna Group that has been studying the church in great detail since the 1970s. There study of Christians in the United States recounts that in the past ten years, the total number of folks who profess to be Christians or believe Christian morals are good has dropped from 49% to 39% (Nearly half to almost a third.) Of that 39% who claim the title and wear the name tag when asked, 8% report having their closes friends in the church. Conclusion: We like what Jesus said, not so much about the people who are talking about him. (RSUMC may not reflect this as drastically, but it does speak of the country as a whole.)
One of the greatest fears of growing old in America, and most everywhere, is that we will be forgotten an alone. Who’s task is it to remember our older generation? Who’s task is it to feed and clothe the poor? Is it the government’s responsibility? (NO!) It is our command, commission and calling!
The Teachers Question and Answer session of teaching
Also in the text, is the first question from the people, after Jesus leaves from feeding the 5000 he goes to pray and rest and the people find him and want to know how he got ahead of them.
Teacher how did you get hear ahead of us? God is not to be figured out..
To the crowds Jesus says, Are you only looking for entrainment? a free meal? something amazing to talk about?
Teaching: Work for what the Son of Man will give you. Feed the hungry and poor so they will know God, Jesus, Spirit, things that are eternal.
Back step 1: How do we do the things that you do? What’s the trick? What’s the power? (We are just like you and we can do what you do if you show us. then we won’t be a bother you any more)
Jesus: First you are not seeing God in Jesus, only a free lunch. Second, I want you all to follow not replicate and replace me….
Back step again: If you want us to know you are God, then give us a sign. We know Our story how Moses and the Israelite tribes ate manna, show us the manna! Show us the manna. Show us the proof and then we will believe you like our kin believed Moses.
Jesus: Moses was not responsible for the manna; God sent the manna then, and I am the manna now. I will satisfy your Spiritual hunger.
Q: How often is too often for communion. One of the complaints about communion is 1) Why don’ t we use wine like Jesus did, and not watered down but the good stuff just like Jesus made for the wedding? 2) If we communion too often it will loose it’s meaning. 3) It takes up too much time in the service. 4) It is just a hot-bed of germs and virus waiting to be swapped.
A: 1) Methodist heritage, Wesley didn’t want to promote alcoholism and didn’t want those who struggled with alcohol to be required to taste what was best for them to avoid, just to received the grace,
2) If we eat food too often we will grow tired of eating and will all starve to death because we have taken the meaning out eating food. Doubt it
3) Preparing, serving always take more time and energy than eating. Thank you servers here and every where you are served.
4) More people touched the door handle to get in this building than will touch one of these cups. If you didn’t get germs off the door, your chair or in greeting each other you are no more nor less likely to get germs from sharing the cup.
Heart of the matter. We are sharing the same menu and same ritual that those who started this church and those who gather in the upper room. It just bigger than we are.
5) Too often is not the question: Is it too often to tell my father that I love and respect and admire him? Now that he has gone to heaven, I think about his most every day. Express you love daily.
Our Class work is to come to the table, with each other.and know we join with those in heaven, and those in this place, and everyone who calls on the name of Jesus to feed and fill and satisfy our hearts today.
Once satisfied, we can do all things in Christ who lives and strengthens us..
15 Realizing that their father was dead, Joseph’s brothers said, “What if Joseph still bears a grudge against us and pays us back in full for all the wrong that we did to him?” 16 So they approached Joseph, saying, “Your father gave this instruction before he died, 17 “Say to Joseph: I beg you, forgive the crime of your brothers and the wrong they did in harming you.’ Now therefore please forgive the crime of the servants of the God of your father.” Joseph wept when they spoke to him. 18 Then his brothers also wept, fell down before him, and said, “We are here as your slaves.” 19 But Joseph said to them, “Do not be afraid! Am I in the place of God? 20 Even though you intended to do harm to me, God intended it for good, in order to preserve a numerous people, as he is doing today. 21 So have no fear; I myself will provide for you and your little ones.” In this way he reassured them, speaking kindly to them. [NRS]
The Leverage of the Grudge:
This passages is the point of reversal in the Joseph story. Joe, in an act of restitution, at best and getting even, at worst asks his brothers to bring his father to see him.
There is a fine line between teaching a lesson and passive aggressive attempt of getting even. On one hand the hiding of treasures in the food supply bags and asking for the journey of his youngest brother and then father, together are delicate examples of learning from punitive responsibilities. Joseph was captive, rejected, sold into slavery. The brothers are afraid but never in actual danger.
Fear and Avoidance
The power of fear is a great force. Think of those things, people, relationships, and feelings we fear: Name three: (Not: Fear of sharing, fear of talking in church, fear of being to close to someone else)
- We are afraid of embarrassment, failure, weakness that we avoid the truth, avoid conversations, avoid confrontation.
- We are afraid of what might happen, and make little allowance for what has actually happen. There is a healthy level of fear that keeps us respecting fire, electricity and causing harm to others.
- But when fear keeps us from relationship, then we give in to the power of fear and allow it greater strength than God, grace and mercy (forgiveness)
Shared Love, Shared Grief
When the brothers confront Joseph and confess their father’s death, the are joined in their grief. Fear melts in their common loss and common love.
Some funerals remind us of our own frailty, But our grief is shared because we share love for the person who died or we love those who are dealing with the loss.
Do Not Be Afraid
The common words of assurance are “Be Not Afraid.” It is the same encouragement that angels announce to Mary and to shepherd and to Disciples after the resurrection.
When we find the core love that binds our relationship, we have the foundation for what it means to be a Christian.
This is the homework: Last week it was easy to eat, this week we step things back up. Be attentive and alert for someone who is afraid: Starting with the love that unites us in Christ then speak the truth in that love. Because being in that relationship is better than being right.
Finally, brothers and sisters, farewell. Put things in order, listen to my appeal, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the saints greet you. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you. [NRSV]
Two favorite words of many folks who sit in pews on Sunday mornings: “In Closing” This is context of Paul final letter to the church at Corinth.
In Paul’s farewell closing, to a congregation he had shared joys and sorrow as well as challenges and great strides, he makes a final request.
- Put things in order
- Remember the Example and Teaching
- Find common ground
- Live in peace
- Greet one another with a holy kiss.
Then he gives a final blessing: The Grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Love of God and the Communion with the Holy Spirit be with you all.
Knowing we remember the last thing and the first thing but forget things in the middle of the list, Think intentionally about Paul’s list:
Put things in God’s order.
Value What we have learned.
Let go of pride and control.
Value yourself and your part, but never out of balance with the Common Good.
Make Peace and live in it.
Seal it with a kiss and remind each other with a kiss every time to meet.
One of the good things about a move is that it forces you to put things in order. If there was a box I had not opened in four years I threw it away. There was only one of those this time.
Making a transition of home and work and relationships, banking, doctors, changing addresses, automatic billings, building new trusts, friendship and partnerships helps you grow. Can you image if we did things the opposite way, every several years, the preachers stayed at the churches and the members went to different churches and communities, not of their choice and not of their timing. I think it might true help bring some order and balance to our appointive system.
Get things in order, not for the sake of order, but for Moving Ahead..
Following My Teaching
The greatest compliment is to use what a teacher has taught you. Or better yet, to build up how a teacher has inspired you to become more than you were before. Paul pleads: Don’t forgot what I taught you.
Value Common Ground and you will find Peace for yourself and between each other (He is talking to the church and not the world at this point.) Can you believe there would every be fighting or division or evil or ill-will in the church? (Sarcasm for the Wit-challenged debators)
It is equally a vice and flaw for the church then as it is now, to think the church is ours. At my first church there was another church in the community that drew many members from every church in the county. It was known as “Rev Danny May’s Church.” Somewhere it changed from being known as the body of Christ, and became known as the empire of Danny May. Let’s not pick on Danny. Let’s just remember the church is not ours and it does not exist to serve us.
Make Peace with Each other and Expect God to Show up when we seek God’s will and peace.
Finally… Three points later, the Preacher’s preacher has a final call for action:
Every time you greet one another, seal the relationship with a kiss,
What is a kiss? A kiss can have many different meanings. Paul is calling for a sign of love. If you just can’t stand the thought of sharing germs find another way to show that your CHURCH relationship is one based in love. Paul is not calling for a liturgical kiss, but something with power and meaning. Imaging hearing the preacher say, “You may kiss the bride” and groom just gives the bride a little peck on the top of the hand… we’d be worried the marriage was on the rocks. If you started kissing everyone in line a Ingles or Walmart someone would call the cops. Somewhere in the middle ground is a sign of genuine pledge of love that we begin and end our conversations… Seal the relationship with signs of love.
Jesus, Father and Holy Spirit,
May All of God be in All we Do. Amen.
(The Father’s Day model signs of God in grace, love and community.) Not because you have to because you can, not because you are expected to, but because you want to, Not because you need, rather because you are needed.)
Shout out, do not hold back! Lift up your voice like a trumpet! Announce to my people their rebellion, to the house of Jacob their sins. Yet day after day they seek me and delight to know my ways, as if they were a nation that practiced righteousness and did not forsake the ordinance of their God; they ask of me righteous judgments, they delight to draw near to God. “Why do we fast, but you do not see? Why humble ourselves, but you do not notice?” Look, you serve your own interest on your fast day, and oppress all your workers. Look, you fast only to quarrel and to fight and to strike with a wicked fist. Such fasting as you do today will not make your voice heard on high. Is such the fast that I choose, a day to humble oneself? Is it to bow down the head like a bulrush, and to lie in sackcloth and ashes? Will you call this a fast, a day acceptable to the LORD? Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin? Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up quickly; your vindicator shall go before you, the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer; you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am. If you remove the yoke from among you, the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil, if you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday.
The LORD will guide you continually, and satisfy your needs in parched places, and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters never fail. Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to live in. [NRSV]
It strikes me as funny in this teaching by God through the prophet, Isaiah, to envision the people of God as restorers of the streets. You know the jokes and wise cracks about how many DOT workers does it take to dig a hole? Answer: one, but it takes a half dozen or more to watch them do it.
In a nutshell, the prophet is saying that our society as people of faith is so broken that we can’t afford to stand by and watch because there are too many pot-holes for people to fall into as it is.
In this passage we hear God’s steaming temper and over-whelming frustration. God has fired up and has Isaiah on full alert:
The Kitchen Sink Too!
God says to the prophet, Isaiah, Don’t hold back anything. Blast out the news like a trumpet.
Describe in every detail my people’s rebellion and sins.
This makes for a good story. There is a lot of drama and passion in this story. And its good to hear God all fired up at those delinquents way back then in stead of talking about us.. am I right?
The Message Bearer
The prophet has the task of telling the truth, the whole truth.
Isaiah is part of a long tradition of those who are charged with telling folks what is generally bad news. Imagine interviewing for that job! Argg. This time God is calling on Isaiah to let it all hang out! Give them the whole dose of medicine, even if it is bitter and vial.. it would only be compared to their sin.
God’s Frustration is not an absence of Love
If God didn’t care, God would not have prophets to warn and instruct.
God would just blow us away like dust in the desert and start over.
Hear are God’s lines in the sand:
1. They ask for my help in prayers; they study my ways, BUT, they think knowing ABOUT their God replaces a relationship WITH God.
2. The Role of Spiritual Disciplines
they ask of me righteous judgments, they want me close by in times of trouble,
But they ask, “Why do we fast?” Why do we have to go to church? Why do have to give? Serve? Witness?
Why do we humble ourselves?
Fasting as a Spiritual Practice
At the core it is the denial of a basic physical necessity to make time and awareness for the necessity of basic spiritual food.
It is a practice not a contract. We are not due because what we have done. Take care of me because I built your place of worship! No, instead it is the activity of giving up what I want physically for what I need spiritually.
Calling a Sin, a Sin.
Isaiah is not so much teaching about Fasting but what’s going on in the presence of religious practice.
• You talk a good game in the worship house, but you treat people with disrespect.
• You bend the rules to suit your own pleasures and justification.
• You fight with fist and tongue, while you are worshiping and serving.
What Does God Require?
• Do you think I need people to bow down before me like the grass
• Do you think I need to see ashes on your head or your Sunday best?
• Who let you decided what is acceptable to the Lord?
Here what I want to see PRONTO
• Seek what is fair; Change systems and structures that keep people down.
• Free people of to be independent, God created us as free, individuals.
• Set people free to who are addicted, entrapped, alone, afraid, oppressed.
• Break the attitudes that manipulate people.
• Feed the hungry,
• Open your home to the homeless
• Clothe the naked,
• Encourage God’s people instead of cutting them down or holding them back.
How to Get God’s Attention?
Do the Right things and God will reward your righteousness.
Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer; you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am.
If you remove the yoke from among you, the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil, if you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday.
The Benefits of Righteousness
The LORD will guide you continually,
• satisfy your needs in parched places,
• make your bones strong;
• you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters never fail.
• Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt;
• you shall raise up the foundations of many generations;
• you shall be called the repairer of the breach,
• the restorer of streets to live in.
Matthew 5: 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven. 17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.
Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. [NRSV]
Were Pharaoh’s armies and demands able separate God from God’s people? No! Did God cut off Job at any point? No! Did God stop being God when David and Solomon ruled as kings? No! Did God stop loving Israel when they were driven out of Jerusalem to Babylon? No!
Did a cross separate us from God? No.
Did Pilate, Herod, or Caiaphas separate us from Jesus Christ our Lord?
Did a civil war? or Pearl Harbor? Or Did 9/11 tear God away from us? No!!
Can Presidents, political parties and governments?
Hurricanes, Floods, Fires and Tornados stop God’s love
Can guns, bombs or fear and hatred of any kind keep God from being God?
Then, What in the world do we have to fear?
But God never let’s go of God’s end of the rope.
Tug of War: One side over powers and the other side finally relents and falls down. God never lets go of God’s end of the covenant.
God is faithful in holding on to us.
Nothing will cause God to let go.
Separation is real. Why do people feel so alone in this world?
Why do people hurt each other through domestic violence, political violence, take financial advantage, why would people commit acts of terror if God never let’s go of them?
There is one thing that can separate “us” from God, that is us. God allows room for evil. God allows room for division. God allows room for choice.
Without there is no meaning to life for us or for God. If God made us be good always we would not be human. We would have no relationship.
God allows the horrible to make room for the beautiful.
God allows the famine to appreciate the bounty
God allows terror and fear to make room for trust and peace..
It’s neither appropriate nor accurate for us to blame God for evil.
It is simply part of the dynamics of grace, trust, faith and love.
Can God love someone who values the lives, property and security of communities and nations so little? That is the point. God is grand enough to love prodigal brothers.
If God has room in the heart to hold on to the most evil of folk, then God surely has room for us too.
If God only holds on to the faithful, Lord who would be left.
If God only entrusted those who proved themselves worthy, who would make it?
But how do we deal with the loss, the chaos, the death of trust and lives?
The answer is way too easy… We stand closer to God.
We need to be near God and God’s people and
Take seriously the call to be broadcasting the message of love and hope
-even in the most evil of times.
When we hear of bombs and explosions, think of who search for meaning..
Show them the way, don’t lead them astray.
When we hear of wars, storms and threats of warn, it is time to prepare people to be in a closer walk with God, Who needs to be recued, until we realize we are stranding by a flood… Gather the lost who are trapped and only see it in the tragic light where darkness shines.
If the bombs had gone off in Jackson instead of Boston, what would we hope the people in Boston would be doing today?
Do we hope they would say a little prayer and move on with life trying not to think about the tragic loss? We would want and need more than that!
The folks in Boston and Watertown and West/Waco, and Jackson/Butts Co. need to wake up to the reality that we live in a broken world and need someone who can put the piece together when life is torn apart.
We need a God who knows the pain of nails in broken limbs and torture of a cross to face, endure and survive beyond the chaos.
Did they stop Jesus then? No. Will they stop him now? No. Who will tell and show them? Just one at a time…
One person begin inspired another person to act in terror, we can be one person inspiring another to join Christ in building peace and life and love.
8 Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him, 9 “As for me, I am establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you, 10 and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the domestic animals, and every animal of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark. 11 I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.” 12 God said, “This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: 13 I have set my bow in the clouds, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. 14 When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, 15 I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. 16 When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” 17 God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth.” -NRSV
Rainbow: the Perspective of God’s Promise, Creation, and Plans
- Sign of Promise: Remember the covenants of salvation: garden, work not death, olive branch, not Water-world… and from our perspective: Jesus!
- Sign of Creation: only viewable from our perspective at 42 degress.
- Sing of God’s Plans: No matter the floods and disasters, God will be with us.