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Archive for category Epiphany C

Psalm 84 Claiming A Place with God 20160207 RSUMC

opendoor

How lovely is your dwelling place, O LORD of hosts! My soul longs, indeed it faints for the courts of the LORD; my heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God. Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, at your altars, O LORD of hosts, my King and my God. Happy are those who live in your house, ever singing your praise. Selah (two of 74)

Happy are those whose strength is in you, in whose heart are the highways to Zion. As they go through the valley of Baca they make it a place of springs; the early rain also covers it with pools. They go from strength to strength; the God of gods will be seen in Zion. O LORD God of hosts, hear my prayer; give ear, O God of Jacob! Selah

Behold our shield, O God; look on the face of your anointed. For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than live in the tents of wickedness. For the LORD God is a sun and shield; he bestows favor and honor. No good thing does the LORD withhold from those who walk uprightly. O LORD of hosts, happy is everyone who trusts in you. [NRSV]

Text Notes:

A psalm, a hymn for worship, to be sung by the choir/praise team. Not a congregational hymn but more of a solo or at least for the choir, [psalm for *Korah]

Denote 2 of the 74 Selah references are in this one psalm/hymn.

 

VERSE 1

God’s Temple is our Refuge, heart’s home

Song begins remembering the temple/tabernacle is beautiful.

My heart longs to be there, my bones ache to sing for joy and know God is alive.

 

Secondly, God’s house is a place where everyone is welcomed. Even the least little bird (swallow) finds a home at the temple. Who wants the swallow? Bugs, mites, disease, messy? But God’s house has room for all of us.

Bottom line of verse one: People find God at the temple and love to worship when there are in the magnificent gates. Come and find God present in the sanctuary. The ornate nature of the space reminds us of God’s presence and our belonging.

SELAH, pause to praise, breathe and find God with us.

 

VERSE 2

Finding God outside the walls.

It makes us happy to know God is near, even when we are not in this place…

It is a blessing to know God is with us, even when we are not at church…

When you are at home or your place of safety, all is well. You make it through the day back to base, you can breath easy because you are thankful for all that is “home”.

 

Perspective is looking at the “place of comfort” when you are not there.

The Valley of Baca (Weeping)

Instead of focusing on the being lost, focus on the being at home, where you are.

 

Happy are those who know the way home. But what of those who have lost their way… those who don’t know where to turn? It can be a comfort, that even though we have gone astray, we know the way home, the way back. the GPS coordinates match up.

 

Those who know the Strength of the Lord, That’s Us.

 

BUT VERSE 3

WHEN ALL I HAVE IS A SHIELD

What about those who are outside or

those who have lost their way, or

those who have not heard?

 

Imagine hiding from the struggles, turmoil and threats in life, picture yourself out in the open, a shield is a protection but only on one side and the arrows are hurling in from every direction: money, hunger, rejection, fear, shame, sin, etc.

 

When we realize we are far from the walls of safety, belonging and peace.

A place between the House of God and the tents of wickedness.

Our place is between, bridging the gap.

Our Space is halfway in and halfway out.

 

Claiming Space in God

Dwelling Place

Happiness is : Content/at Peace/at one/ complete

Shield: temporary help, but we need to claim/reclaim temple life, when there is no temple.

Door Keepers: The greatest service is to be one of the choir members of Korahites, sing so someone will hear and find their way to God.

 

Happy are those who trust in God

God’s House has room for us all

Someone is living in the valley of weeping adversity

Our place is not in the temple, but out singing, knowing/remember the comfort of home, but reaching out to be shield

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Luke 4:14-21 “Full Today, Full.” 20160124 RSUMC

fullplate

Full Plate for a Hungry World: Today is the Lord’s Day, let’s fill it up!

Then Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country. He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone. When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” [NRSV]

  • Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.
    Good News to the Poor
    Release to Captive
    Sight to the Blind
    Freedom to the Oppressed
    To Proclaim, Now is the Lord’s Moment
  • The Rest of Isaiah
    Bind up the brokenhearted
    Comfort the mourning
    Provide for the grieving in Zion
    Beauty instead of ashes,
    oil of joy instead of mourning
    garments of praise instead of despair

These will be called mighty oaks of righteousness
The destroyed will be rebuilt
There will be a reversal where the world serves the holy in the holy places.

  • To Follow Jesus is to do these types of things for the glory of God.
  • To Follow Jesus is to begin doing these things today
  • To Follow Jesus is to transform the world

Why Do These?
Good News, freedom, vision, encourage, comfort, beauty, joy, praise.. all to reveal God’s claim on this day.

United Methodist 3 Rules Applied
Practicing our Piety, Doing Good and Silencing Evil.

  • Ministry of Sharing Good News and praise
  • Ministry of addressing physical needs
  • Ministry of addressing emotional needs
  • Ministries of showing beauty and joy
  • Start with one and move to the next

God lays upon our hearts, opens doors in our lives, gives us opportunities to serve,

What Jesus did not say:

  • Take the weekends off, nope.
  • Show up when you feel like it, nope.
  • Retire when you are tired, nope.
  • Don’t start until you get your act together, nope.

Jesus is talking to family, friends, neighbors and hometown folks.

  • This is not a message in the wilderness
  • This is not a message in the market place
  • This is not a message in meadow by the sea
  • This is sitting at the kitchen table conversation…

This is a message for homefolks, us!

  • If we are tired, let these words charge us up
  • If we are afraid, let these examples give us courage
  • If we are weak, let these gifts become our strength
  • If we are lost, let these paths be our way back to God
  • If we are too busy, let these instructions interrupt us.

Affirming our mission to make Disciples of Jesus Christ.

The Year of the LORD’s Favor, Isaiah 61 [NRSV]
1 The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, 2 to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, 3 and provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORDfor the display of his splendor. 4 They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated; they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations. 5 Strangers will shepherd your flocks; foreigners will work your fields and vineyards. 6 And you will be called priests of the LORD, you will be named ministers of our God. You will feed on the wealth of nations, and in their riches you will boast. 7 Instead of your shame you will receive a double portion, and instead of disgrace you will rejoice in your inheritance. And so you will inherit a double portion in your land, and everlasting joy will be yours. 8 “For I, the LORD, love justice; I hate robbery and wrongdoing. In my faithfulness I will reward my people and make an everlasting covenant with them. 9 Their descendants will be known among the nations and their offspring among the peoples. All who see them will acknowledge that they are a people the LORD has blessed.” 10 I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. 11 For as the soil makes the sprout come up and a garden causes seeds to grow, so the Sovereign LORD will make righteousness and praise spring up before all nations.

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Matthew 2:1-12 Wise Men Bring Gifts to Christ 20140105 JUMC

Are these for Jesus or Me?
In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem,  asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.”  When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him;  and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born.  They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet:  ‘And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel.'”  Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared.  Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.”  When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was.  When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy.  On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.  And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road. [NRSV]

Christmas Gifts

If you think about how much time we spend thinking about the perfect gifts to give, looking for the best deal, waiting in lines or for the deliveries to arrive, wrapping and transporting our gifts. There is a great deal of investment in every gift, no matter the monitory value of the gift itself.

Do you ever read about Mary and Joseph giving each other gifts? Did the shepherds draw names and play games to see who gets which gift? Do the Maji just find the best deal along the way or at the last moment?

Gift giving can hold many different meanings.

The obligatory gift is an oxymoron. Gifts ought be given of free will and love and not obligation. But if you don’t give someone a gift there is hell to pay in the not giving. Can you imaging only giving gifts to some of your family and not to all of them. What would be the message if you didn’t explain why.

  • Did you run out of money or just didn’t want to spend your resources.
  • “Its not the gift its the love or thought that counts”  But how do you express your thoughts and love? Is it clear to the recipient?
  • Did you run out of time, ideas, opportunity? Could you not make a home-made card from a used piece of paper that expressed your heart?
  • “We can’t buy everyone something” My great-grandmother in her late nineties still bought a bar of soap for every member of her nearly 100 member extended family. “It is something I know you can use, so use it and think of me.”
  • Did you get everyone something, or many somethings, but you gave them what you wanted them to have or to become?
  • Gifts are a tradition: I bought my father Old-Spice Soap-on-a-rope for years just because he seemed to like them on Christmas morning. I was helping him carry some boxes to donate and found three soaps-on-a-rope from the past three years and I got the message.

Gift Giving Is a Tricky Business

What do we learn for the Wise men? Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh 

Wealth, Extravagant Royal spa treatment and Glade Tomb-fresher

Gold has been a standard of exchange and value, beauty and tender for thousands of years. Frankincense comes for the roots of a small shrub that contains trace amounts of fragrant oil and was burning in the palaces of the king Herod daily and made as offerings to their gods without end. Myrrh, smells like dried prunes and was used in preparing a tomb.

  • Gold is completely practical: A gift card.
  • Frankincense: Extravagant Generosity, acknowledging Jesus as true King.
  • Myrrh: A Preparing for Jesus’ death, even at his birth. Telling the whole story
  • The Star-watching Travelers Journey: You have to leave home, journey in faith and uncertainty, and follow the signs you have.

Reframing our Gift Giving Practice

If you take a painting or photo and removed it from the frame and mat and exchange the boundaries, you will see the image in a new way with new meaning.

So go with the same gifts we have given: What if we connected why we give the gift with the hope we have for the gift.

“I gave you this tie, because I want you to look your best, feel confident and want you to think of our love when you wear it.”

Is that what you meant the gift to be? or did you just need something to go with a shirt.

“I gave you this game, because I want you to know joy and to share time at home playing with me. I want to spend more time being with you.”

Is that what you meant the gift to say? of did you just know they were hinting like crazy for that game.

“I gave you this vacuum cleaner because I am unimaginative but I do like a clean house and I want it to be easier on me to keep the floor and our home clean for you.”

Is that what you meant to gift to do? of did you just know the old one blew out and you needed a new one anyway.

Keep the Magi Model in mind:

Not just with Christmas gift, but all gives, seasonal, birthday and church gifts..

Practical AND Extravagant AND with a Purpose, Explained.

So Now You Tell Me..

So John, why didn’t you tell us this before Christmas. I don’t have a great answer but I will say: It is never to late to explain our gifts.

Don’t assume the message is conveyed that you hoped for the person. Tell them.

Finally. . be known as doing all three parts in your giving

Practical AND Extravagent AND with a Purpose, Explained.

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2 Cor 3.12-4.2 “Act with Great Boldness” A Transfiguration Call to Witness JUMC 20130210

MtTabor_Transfiguration

Mt Tabor: Mount of the Transfiguration of our Lord

NRSV Lectionary Readings for Transfiguration Sunday

Exodus 34:29-35
Moses came down from Mount Sinai. As he came down from the mountain with the two tablets of the covenant in his hand, Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God. When Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, the skin of his face was shining, and they were afraid to come near him. But Moses called to them; and Aaron and all the leaders of the congregation returned to him, and Moses spoke with them. Afterward all the Israelites came near, and he gave them in commandment all that the LORD had spoken with him on Mount Sinai. When Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil on his face; but whenever Moses went in before the LORD to speak with him, he would take the veil off, until he came out; and when he came out, and told the Israelites what he had been commanded, the Israelites would see the face of Moses, that the skin of his face was shining; and Moses would put the veil on his face again, until he went in to speak with him.

Psalm 99
The LORD is king; let the peoples tremble! He sits enthroned upon the cherubim; let the earth quake! The LORD is great in Zion; he is exalted over all the peoples. Let them praise your great and awesome name. Holy is he! Mighty King, lover of justice, you have established equity; you have executed justice and righteousness in Jacob. Extol the LORD our God; worship at his footstool. Holy is he! Moses and Aaron were among his priests, Samuel also was among those who called on his name. They cried to the LORD, and he answered them. He spoke to them in the pillar of cloud; they kept his decrees, and the statutes that he gave them. O LORD our God, you answered them; you were a forgiving God to them, but an avenger of their wrongdoings. Extol the LORD our God, and worship at his holy mountain; for the LORD our God is holy.

2 Corinthians 3:12-4:2
Since, then, we have such a hope, we act with great boldness, not like Moses, who put a veil over his face to keep the people of Israel from gazing at the end of the glory that was being set aside. But their minds were hardened. Indeed, to this very day, when they hear the reading of the old covenant, that same veil is still there, since only in Christ is it set aside. Indeed, to this very day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their minds; but when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit. Therefore, since it is by God’s mercy that we are engaged in this ministry, we do not lose heart. We have renounced the shameful things that one hides; we refuse to practice cunning or to falsify God’s word; but by the open statement of the truth we commend ourselves to the conscience of everyone in the sight of God.

Luke 9:28-36
Now about eight days after these sayings Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly they saw two men, Moses and Elijah, talking to him. They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. Now Peter and his companions were weighed down with sleep; but since they had stayed awake, they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. Just as they were leaving him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah” — not knowing what he said. While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud. Then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!” When the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and in those days told no one any of the things they had seen.

The Veil was a comfort, protection and separation from the people.

You have a surgical mask to wear this morning. I invite you to wear one. In the cold and flu season we need be extra careful, (at 11am: if they seem a little wrinkled its because we used them at 9am as well, NOT serious.) Most often when people wear a mask it is not because they have a germ or illness that they don’t want you to catch. It is more likely they don’t want your germs, bugs, and contagions.

For most folks, when you see someone with a mask like ours on their face, we respond to the unwritten message: STAY AWAY! Is Jesus’ message to the world, stay away? Mind your own business? Suit yourself? Leave us alone? I’m a problem you don’t want to deal with? Certainly not.

But neither are these the messages we are called to witness to the world.

I had a friend in school who’s parents worked at the Center for Disease Control near Emory University. He received so much ridicule and reluctancy of school friends to go to his house because there was a fear that his parents would bring home some horrible agent from work and contaminate everyone who entered. It was unfounded, ignorant and mean.

Think of the people that we might not want to befriend because they are unclean, (physically and/or spiritually) Picture the folks who we don’t want to know about in our community and in the world. We would change the channel on reality and say those problems are not our responsibility. When we pretend that God wants us to only reach out to a few, people like ourselves.. we put a veil, something to separate us.

Paul’s words to the church at Corinth remind us of the opposing message to that of the world’s self-preservation:

When we look to Jesus, we are looking into a mirror that shows us the face, image, witness and work of God. And the reverse is true for the world. God has chosen to use the Holy Spirit to reflect the work, face, image, wintess and power of God through our face.

Be bold, don’t cover up your face.

Jesus’ life, death and resurrection are about removing the barriers between people and God.

Not only are we caution and hesitant about germs and illness. We are more regularly reluctant to allow Christ to shine at home, at work, at school, at Walmart, Tanger and Target.  Are we bold on the field? Are we bold when we are playing with family and friends? Are we bold in reflecting Christ when we meet a stranger or neighbor?

SO WHAT: So what does the transfiguration of our Lord have to do with me today? The event is about revealing. It is a revelation of who Jesus is and what his is about. He is the fulfillment of the Law and Prophets. He is the teacher and leader to the disciples. He is the healer and restorer of the people. He is the correction and wholeness to sin and brokenness, now and for all time.

Moses and Elijah show up to talk about what was about to happen in Jerusalem. A hand full of disciples get to see this thing first hand. The whole, complete image of God revealed. Peter immediatly wants to build something to remember the occasion.

Jesus takes them down the mountain and said, remember me, not where you found me.

KEY: God is more interested in us, than in the state God we find God is with US.

-= God Calls for Boldness in telling this clear and revealed message to the world around us: It’s not where find Jesus is God’s power/grace/life for you. It is that God wants you so much that he would go to Jerusalem and die that you might live.

Do you now someone today that does not know, has heard it but does not believe it? Be Bold And show them the way to Christ.

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1Cor13

 If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. 4 Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. 7 It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. 9 For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; 10 but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. 12For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. 13 And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love. [NRSV]

Knowing God’s Part..

We only know part, but the part we know, is love.

There are times that my drama days in high school find their way into my mind. Lines for Cole Porter’s “Any Thing Goes”, “The Doctor in Spirt of Himself” by Molière, or Rogers and Hammerstein’s, “Oklahoma” to name a few.  I can come up with lines I once memorized “Progress is the root of all evil. Progress is the cause of it all”, and “e pluribus unum amore vencen omnia, and that sir that is precisely why your daughter is mute” or “I got to Kansas City on Friday, by Saturday I’d learned a thing or two.” But these little snips of random parts in different plays show up in conversations. They don’t capture the plots of the plays and they don’t mean anything to anyone else. There are parts missing the other lines and stories.

Paul writes about us not knowing fully the things of God. Some questions we might ask God when we have time in heaven are not productive to ask from this side of the fence. Usually the most frequent question is WHY? Why did they have to did? Why does it take so long? Why do I have to yield? Why. I believe if we knew the answer to our why questions we still would not like the answers. Ask them later, face-t0-face.

What lines of the drama of our relationship with God DO we know? What part of the story can we comprehend? What does make sense and gives hope and faith to our living? The answer: Love.

Love is the part of God’s work that we can understand. Its the one thing we can learn. Its the one thing we can mmmic and develop in our experience. We may not have all the answers, Paul declares, but the ONE we do have is Love.

Love: It’s what’s for Dinner

The meal of holy communion is a meal of love. Much like Momma’s cheese biscuits, and Mama’s Brunswick stew, and Granny’s chicken dressing, Ms Anne’s Cream cheese pound-cake with chocolate glazed icing, Granddaddy’s first of the season water melons: these are special foods that were not only taste, they were gifts of love for a family that was loved.

The meal we share today is a glimpse of the banquet that is prepared for us, even in the presence of our enemies. The church at Corinth was filled and sounded by folks of differing agendas, beliefs and behaviors. It is no different that our gathering as church now. The meal we share, we do so as an act of worship and a fellowship with God and God’s people. With all God’s love and all our empty words, false ideas, physical limitations and generous gifts, God trumps all we offer, with the power and gift of Love.

Calling All Lovers: It is our season

Not simple because February 14 is just around the corner and guy need to come up with some alternative to a box of chocolates and flowers that will fade, (This is a shameless plug for Letter From Dad) we are reminded that we have a part to play in the world and it follow Christ’s lead. Love.

We may have great faith and grand vision of hope, but the power behind the curtain is our ability to love.

Love is when we don’t keep score of faults, love waits, love prefers to be behind instead of ahead, it yields, it sees the best, it celebrates, it carries, trusts and is real.

Come to the table and be filled with the love of God, that you may love one another.

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Luke 4.14-22 “Unroll the Scrolls” JUMC 20130127

scroll unrolling

Then Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country. He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone. When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” [NRSV]

Did you know that the phrase, idiom, “Preaching to the Choir” was first references in 1973 in the Lima Ohio News in the month of January. Forty years, why that’s nearly my whole life time.  The older phrase is ‘preaching to the converted’, first cited in the works of John Stuart Mill in his, An Examination of Sir W. Hamilton’s Philosophy, 1867. The phrases might change from time to time, but why do preachers preach to those who are already believers?
It is more interesting that you might think.. let’s look at this text from Luke. Jesus has been out in surrounding areas: (Forsyth, Monticello, Griffin and McDonough distances away from Jackson, GA) and his new ministry has great reviews, great works, and a growing following. But when he comes home to Nazareth, he returns to the people who knew him, not as the Messiah, but as Joseph and Mary’s child. Jo-Jr., did not stay at home and keep the family trade. He has gone off and become a big-shot and he is trying to tell the home folks how they ought to live. At least this was likely the assumption of the men and boys sitting in the synagogue and the mothers, widows and girls listening from just outside. After Jesus reads the scriptures for his family and friends, we hear another couple of phrases: The crowd was “blown-away” and just sat there “like a deer in the headlights.”

Jesus, teaching and addition to the text was that the Prophet Isaiah was correct and his prophetic words had come try “right-before-their-eyes.” Wow!

Think about my question: Why do preachers preach to the home-team? Why rally the fan base of those who already have their support? Jesus’ preaching was not filled with stories on this day. There are no parables, no miracles, no food, no signs and wonders, just plain talk.

We are so accustom to looking for bits and pieces of scripture by chapter and verse. Today with digital search engines the use of chapters and verses are nearly obsolete. Did you know that the scripture has only had numbered chapters and version for less than five hundred years. Did you know that for about a 1000 years the scriptures were written only on the hearts of the faithful. Think of the years when there was only one copy, at the temple. We probably have access to a dozen bibles and considering the internet, dozens of translations are just a few clicks away.  (I like to use www.biblestudytools.com – It is by means not the only collection, but its free and has lots of versions and resources for bible study all in one place.)

One of our Church History professors, Manfred Hoffman, was a from a German tradition. He told that story that his professor believed that the scriptures had to be studied in Hebrew, Greek and Latin and only in German when absolutely necessary, and he considered it vulgar to have to read them in English. Dr Hoffman said his professor would “turn over in his grace” he knew about digital bibles, no ink, no paper, and pages to turn. It is interesting that over half of the ministers in my study group have given up our paper bibles for multiple translations on tablets and ipads.

In the passage from Luke, Jesus is handling the scrolls. He used the resources of his day to find the place in the prophetic voice, to hear God speaking in the present. This is the task for us in our hearing. When it the last time you touched a bible, paper or digital? It is God’s message and word, it is God’s teaching and voice, and it is God’s conversation for those who will encounter it.

We don’t grow from scripture by being near it. We don’t grow in faith by having lots of copies? We don’t ever need to let someone get away with saying, “Well it’s somewhere in the bible, I know it says…” Call them on it to show you, “prove it!”  The Lord helps those who help themselves? Nope, not in the bible. Some close variations, but “Blessed are the poor for they will inherit the earth” is a good bit more clearly spelled out.

So what does Jesus read from the prophet Isaiah?

Jesus reads the passage putting it into the first person and proclaims to his family and friends:

  1. He is anointed
  2. He will give Good News to the poor.
  3. He will call for those imprisoned and bound to be released.
  4. He will give sight to those who cannot see.
  5. He will give liberty to enslaved and trapped.
  6. And, He will proclaim this is the Lord’s time, “right-here, right-now”, this-year, right here!

No wonder they were “shell-shocked”

What if these words of the prophet Isaiah, claimed and proclaimed by Jesus, speak about what the church is about.

For the church is the body of Christ, the church is the presence of Christ. We have seen great signs and wonders though Jesus, he promised that his disciples, like us, would do even greater signs and wonders. Let’s start with his list from Isaiah:

What if we got in touch with the scriptures.

What if we read God’s word as frequently as we eat?

There are thousands of devotion books with scripture, every bookstore sells copes, we have copies to share, check them out of the library, pick one up at the motel in the draw of the nightstand by the bed, smartphones, laptops, computers. Tapes, CDs, MP3s, and downloads galore.. The Holy Scriptures are more available to use than at any other time in human history and I would guess that the majority of our gathering here might have to think for awhile the last time we opened God’s word, got our hands on the text and stopped to hear Jesus speak these ancient words a-fresh to use today.

Jesus was preaching to the choir because the choir was singing something other than the words of Isaiah, something other than words that declared, This is God’s year.

This year is not the Falcon’s year. It was amazing to see tens of thousand of fans, rise up, with a city of hopeful fans to cheer on the home team. It was a bit disturbing that the Falcons paid Samuel L Jackson, an undisclosed sum, to dress up like a preachers, surrounded by a robed choir and call for fan’s to raise the dead, out of the ashes, that the city might come to it’s feet and… buy enough tickets to pay for the players, the television rights and the World Congress Center and Georgia Dome loans and repair costs could be covered while grown men run around hitting each other in tight pants, ON Sundays! Maybe next year will be the Falcons. I don’t know..

But I do know this: If we are bold enough to rise up, take up the scroll of the scriptures and place them in our hands and in our hearts and heads, AND listen to the call they have upon our lives, we will see the Kingdom of God in our home town.

And if we don’t, we will not. It is just that simple. Its just that clear.

The Question is: Is this the year that God’s word will transform our community, or will we continue to make a mess of things, mess’en around.

The Question is: Is this the year we study, getting our hands-on God’s word in our witness and service for each other right here, or will we pass that to someone to do for us?

The Question is: Do the words God speaks to Isaiah, Jesus, Luke, and to us today… continue to hold the power or have we given up on them?

What say you?

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1 Corinthians 12:1-11 “Gifts for Good” JUMC 20130120

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12:1 Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed. 2 You know that when you were pagans, you were enticed and led astray to idols that could not speak. 3 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.
  4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. 7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8 To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 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.
11 All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses. [NRSV]

Our Congregation is teaming with talented people.

We have a surplus of gifts… Do you know the some of the favorites?

  • To some we hear the gift of Complaint
  • Some have the gift of Blaming
  • Others have the gifts of Worry
  • And to some the gift of Apathy
  • Still others have the gift of Fair-weather Participation.

Each is given according to the spirit of false faith..

These are not gift of the Holy Spirit! This are not what we are called to be known and witness!

Seriously, we need to look at listen to ourselves and the tools we turn to first when solving a problem or even listening to one another.

The gifts give in the 12th chapter of first Corinthians is not an inclusive list of the ONLY gifts of the spirit. These are samples of how we experience God’s spirit at work through one another.

Various Gifts, Services, and Activities

  • Wisdom,
  • Utterance of Knowledge,
  • Faith,
  • Healing,
  • Miracles,
  • Prophecy,
  • Discernment,
  • Tongues of praise and Tongues of interpretation.

Each is given for the common good

..and may not be enjoyable by the bearer.

This is the test of the purpose of Spiritual Gifts. They are not for us. They are for the community. The community of faith, the extended community or even for the world.

But they are not for our personal benefit alone. This is a very good measure and guide for understanding our spiritual growth and maturity.

All are activated by the Holy Spirit.

The key difference between our talents, skills and experiences and Gifts of the Spirit, is the the power source.

If we have trained and done our best we might become more ready to serve, but the gift is the work of God’s action through us.

Where have all the Spiritual Gifts Gone?

As we look around, we don’t see many healers, we don’t have too many who teach, we don’t hear too many different languages spoken, and we are running short on current miracle stories most Sundays.

It is our tendency to think that Spiritual Gifts are for the Disciples, the Early Church or for some other denomination. United Methodist have been rich in gifts of the spirit but where are they now?

This is the So What part of the passage. Is this text relevant to us now? Are we gifted people?

I would say, We Can Be, We Might Be, and We Most likely Are.

But we would be scared to admit it or let them show if we were.

  • The Gift of Hospitality
  • The Gift of Insight.. seeing what others see
  • The Gift of Grace.. forgiving before we are asked to
  • The Gift of Get-it-done.. Starting and finishing a task without permission
  • The Gift of Trust and Confidence.. Keeping a confidential information confidential
  • The Gift of Giving.. Over a half million dollars in a down economy speaks loudly
  • The Gift of Letting Go and Not Holding a Grudge.. because it makes you too tired to keep up the fight
  • The Gift of Letting Go of Money, Food, Clothes, Time to enable someone else to live, eat, work, or grow
  • The Gift of Cooking.. When others would rather eat.
  • The Gift of Dish washing.. When others are leaving for home.
  • The Gift of Teaching.. When others have their done-that TShirt
  • The Gift of Driving.. To give a ride to someone who is stuck at home
  • The Gift of Leading.. When others would sit back and wait
  • The Gift of Singing.. When some would keep silent
  • The Gift of Trying a New Thing.. When the old, familiar things suit you just fine.
  • The Gift of Bring a friend.. When others stay at home with their friends
  • The Gift of Grace.. When you are able to see with God’s heart and eyes, the world is not winning, not hopeless. The Spirit is Real and with us, still.

These are the gifts, and services and activities that I see and hear and experience…

They are activated by the Holy Spirit, because we are too lazy, selfish and tired to do them on our own.

These are the signs of God at work..

And the Good News is: There are other gifts, through other folks just like you and me. None of them have to be the same, but all together they are the Holy Spirit With us.

Praise the Lord.

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Luke 3:15-17, 21-22 “Baptized with Spirit” JUMC 20130113

baptism
3:15 As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, 16 John answered all of them by saying, “I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 17 His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” 21 Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, 22 and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”  [NRSV].

Baptism

At the end of a bowl game, two of the players who are strong enough to lift the orange Gatorade ice cooler but not usually known for much playing time on the field anoint their coach on the sidelines within a few seconds of the ending of winning the game. Have you ever seen the loosing coach receive the icy bath at the games end? Maybe that baptism is only for winners.

Mr Webster: defines baptism as a Christian sacrament marked by ritual use of water and admitting the recipient to the Christian community ( an act, experience, or ordeal by which one is purified, sanctified, initiated, or named )

As United Methodist, Mr Wesley might call baptism a dependable experience of Grace and presence of Christ With Us.

But what is ‘baptism’ to us, today?

It is that rare sprinkling of a baby’s head when they are still small enough to be carried or the even more rare confirmation student who was not baptized as an infant coming with class or the even most rare of all is the adult or teen who comes to accept full baptism into the church.

Baptism is the ticket stub. Do you remember when Hank Arron hit the home run to break Babe Ruth’s record? I had the ticket from the game at the end of the prior season where he hit 713.  You say “so what” about that game? It was the game where I was there, in person, a shouting and celebrating fan, cheering hope and faith that history would be changed in my presence. That’s my ticket to the game I attended. I went friends from my class at school. It was a glorious night in the nose-bleed seats of FUL-CO Stadium.

Baptism is our ticket into the church. It is the open door. Once you enter through baptism, you know the heat of Christ is always open. Do you know someone who thinks that door is shut for them? Think what they are missing:

Adoption

Isaiah 43:1-7  But now thus says the LORD, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.  When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. I give Egypt as your ransom, Ethiopia and Seba in exchange for you.  Because you are precious in my sight, and honored, and I love you, I give people in return for you, nations in exchange for your life.  Do not fear, for I am with you; I will bring your offspring from the east, and from the west I will gather you;  I will say to the north, “Give them up,” and to the south, “Do not withhold; bring my sons from far away and my daughters from the end of the earth– everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.” [NRSV]

Adoption is a good example of the relationship of Baptism. The parents choose the child knowing much about the child. Gender, health records, birth parent and/or context of life prior to becoming part of one’s family.

God knows us before we are ready to claim God and God’s family. Baptism is as much about God Choosing us and our choosing Christ.

Did you know that UMC clergy/pastor have the right and responsibility to deny someone who they believe should not be baptized and kept out of the church. Generally we are so desperate for members we would do anything to baptism someone. They do put pressure and measure the success-fulness of our ministry leadership by the number of baptisms we have during a year. I struggle with this because we don’t want to be like our Baptist Neighbor churches and focus just on getting people into the heavenly seats, we also want the relationship that should go with the ticket.

Claimed vs Owned

Hear God’s words in text from Luke: “This is my child.” Imagine what this world might be like if more parents would claim their children. We are starting a class for all you guys beginning the last Saturday of this month. Letter’s from Dad. (You don’t even have to be a father to participate) In this class you will learn to write letters of blessing. Your whole family will benefit and you will be the hero. Don’t miss it! You will miss out and so will those you love.

The parent’s claim upon a child is a powerful gift for both the child and the parent. Tell you children that you love them. Tell you parents that you appreciate, love and forgive them. Tell you spouse, significant-other, girl/boy friend that you respect and admire them… butting in writing, say it out loud, make it real.

God speaks and sends a the spirit in the form of a dove. Saying I claim and accept you. I don’t own you. We don’t have to have a relationship but I choose to claim you any way.

The Active Witness

Going to those who are missing the POWERFUL part of faith.

Acts 8:14-17 Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them. The two went down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit (for as yet the Spirit had not come upon any of them; they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus). Then Peter and John laid their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit. [NRSV]

If there is someone who may have head knowledge about Jesus, but no spirit of joy, spirit of hope, spirit of faith, spirit of forgiveness, spirit of love, spirit of grace, trust, peace… then get to them and lay hands on them.

The first thing I learned about being a brother is that no matter how dirty the diaper, you can always wash your hands. But if you don’t get your hands dirty sometimes, then you all enjoy the foul smell of a diaper gone bad…

Our challenge in hearing this story of God’s claiming and Jesus being baptized is that ALL of use are in this together and if you’ve not been baptized, what are you waiting for? if you have who will you lead to the water and to the Holy Spirit?

Peter and John, go to bring the power of the Spirit and change complete families and communities… This is why we are a church. This is what we do. Baptism in Jesus Christ.

REMEMBER YOUR BAPTISM!

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Mt 2:1-12. Why were the wise men wise? 20130106

Christian Christmas Nativity Scene

In the  time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, 2 asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.” 3 When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; 4 and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. 5 They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet: 6 “And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel.’ ” 7 Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. 8 Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.” 9 When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. 11 On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.  [NRSV]

 

Some would say:

  • • Keep momma happy
  • • Pithy sayings about pennies and stitches
  • • not just the fruit of age and experience
  • • King Solomon recognized wisdom is Gods gift of perspective to see the world

1 Seeing what others miss

2 Willing to go when other stayed

3 Knowing when to be humble – paying homage

4 Appropriate fits for e appropriate occasion

5 Allow for changing plans

We too are wise when we See, go, stop, give and follow the spirit.

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Lord, it is good for us to be here Matthew 17.1-9 JUMC 03062011

Matthew 17.1-9

Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. Then Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three dwellings here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!” When the disciples heard this, they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Get up and do not be afraid.” And when they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus himself alone. As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus ordered them, “Tell no one about the vision until after the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”

We were not on the mountain, but we are here in Jackson, GA, It is good for us to be here..

Peter, James and John: we can only speculate why it was only these three who go with Jesus up Mt Tabor to witness and experience Moses, Elijah and God’s blessing.

To have walked this trip would be a hilly, twenty eight mile hike. That distance is like walking from Jackson, GA to Conyers, GA. plus climbing up Stone Mountain at the the end of the walk. Why go on this outing? Why not take all twelve? Why these three?

Peter, probably one of the most wealthy people in the city of Capernum, must have had work and family responsibilities tugging at his attention. His home was located at the Sea, and was one of the largest homes in town. Jesus did well to go to Peter as a person of influence. But now that Peter had been traveling with Jesus, we might speculate that the demands of work and home were influencing his walk with Jesus.

Or it might have been Peter’s personality.. we see repeatedly that he responds to events quickly, but his follow through was questioned later in their relationship. Did Jesus know that Peter was more of a visual learner and needed to see things in a different way to get to his heart?

James and John, certainly had their father’s fishing business, on their minds. Only within the past few years have they discovered one boat dating back to the time of Jesus, uncovered because of the decade of drought in Galilee. This boat was constructed out of 14 different types of wood as trees were very rare in the area. To have owned a boat would have indicated the prosperity of James and John’s business. To have walked away from such a business would not have been easy and possibly something significant was needed to hold their attention.

Maybe it is far from remedial reasons. Possibly these three already had experience and skills that allowed them to comprehend and manage more than the others. The others might have been overwhelmed and only these three could hold the pieces together.

Again, all these are speculations. What we do know is that Peter, James and John are taken by Jesus to witness and experience a confirmation of Jesus’ authority and work. Jesus has a terrific meeting with Moses, the lawyer and Elijay the Marketing and Advertising department and they three disciples are witnesses of this meeting.

Peter’s commentary on the experience is that it is a good place to be. The experience was a once-in-a-lifetime, incredible moments to have witnessed. His second statement spoils the first.

He wants to build booths. Tributes, memorials, historical markers, trophies.. with name placards. Peter goes from being in the moment, an active participant, to a manager, a promoter, and a leader. His role is to be a follower, a participant, a witness..

It is good that we are here.  Right here, right now.

We were not on the mountain, but we are here in Jackson, GA, It is good for us to be here..

Transfiguration Sunday is the end of the season of Epiphany. A time of shifting our focus. Stopping the planning and reacting… to a change our journey.  If there is one thing I have learned so far from traveling 14 hours for 15 days and traveling 14 hours back home, is that as good as it was to be see first hand.. it is good to be right here, right now.

Not simple because it is home.

Not only because it is familiar or even safer.

It’s good to be here, because this is where Jesus is revealing himself, his word, and his work… through me and through you.

I would love for us to have a group go to share the holy places.. and there is a blessing in doing so.. but the reason we might go to see and be there..

is the difference it makes in being right here.

The lessons of the meeting on Mt Tavor/Tabor.. Jesus is the fulfillment of the law. Jesus is the promise of the prophets. Jesus is God with us. so listen and follow.

We don’t have to go up the mountain to learn these things, but through the witness of Peter, James and John we learn what to do.

Listen.

It is good to be here that we might hear what God is doing.

So what is God doing..

God is getting ready to journey with us.

Suffer with us. Live and die with us.

God is running ahead of us, winning the race for our team so that we know it is good to be here.

This is what I want you to think and say and share when you are at church, when you are at home, when you are at work, when you are at school.

“that you can’t wait to hear what God is doing next in your life and in our lives together…”

I can’t tell you all that it will be, any more than Peter, James and John could tell the other disciples…

but we know what they know.

that Jesus is with us here, and that is what makes it good to be together.

Look around at the people God has called together to do God work..

The teaching is so simple, we miss it for the light show and bells and whistles:

God says to disciples.. Listen to Jesus.

We listen in scripture.

We listen through prophets and teachers.

We listen through divine, spirit filled inspiring songs, lights and sights

We can listen or we can speak.

The command is not to go tell.. it is to listen.

Hear the word of the Lord and be blessed with assurance.

Amen.

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