Archive for category Faith

Christmas Sunday Luke 2:1-21 20161225

In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!” When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. After eight days had passed, it was time to circumcise the child; and he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb. [NRSV]

The Appropriate Response

One fun Christmas movie is “The Holiday.” This romcom by Nancy Meyers about two women on opposite sides of the globe who swap houses only to discover that a change of address can really change their lives. At one point the character played by Jude Law professes his love to Cameron Diaz’s character, oops spoiler aleart. To which Cameron is speahless. Jude’s line is “Well I guess if your first response is not, ‘I love you’ then..”
Likewise the Christmas story, a grand love story, gives us the gifts of hope, joy, peace and love in Jesus Christ. What is our first response?

Shock and Awe

The first response to experiencing the blinding lights and thundering chorus of angelic choirs turning the night sky into daylight has the nightworkers huddled in fear.
We know they are afraid, not only by assumption, but by the angel’s first words. “Be not afraid.”
Why would God’s messengers be sent to the shepherds and not the political and religious authorities. Who should hear the news first? Shepherds: those working third shift, those least likely by the society, those who had been promised hope, joy, peace and love and were the most likely to need to hear news that was Good.

The Shepherds Go

Once having heard and understood, their first repsonse was to go see if these things were true. Given this past year of controversy and stress about “news” and its authenticity and accuracy, the shepherds model a very responsible and proactive step. They go to verify the varsity, (truth), and the meaning of what they have heard.
The heard that God had sent them Good News, and the proof was in the arrival of the Messiah. God’s savior has come for the least, the last and lost.

Who is Christmas Intended?

The most popular answer in my personal research is, “the children.” And that is one of the good answers, but the strong clue from Luke’s Gospel directs our first attention to the engaged teemage new mother delivering her first child in a barn far from her home town. The first visitors are not family and friends but those working third shift and the animals of strangers. The text yeilds that “the child” is for those who have the least give and those most willing to believe, trust and follow.
This familliar passage, recited by Linus in the Charlie Brown’s Christmas classic, reminds us that the ugly, small, rejected and left out are those who Christmas is first revealed.
When is the time to go and share the Good News: the hope, joy, peace and love of God in the world today? Right! Today, and everyday!

Christmas on Sunday

The interruption of our comfortable Christmas traditions is the heavenly day of Spiritual Rest, Worship and Renewal. If Christmas has not interrupted your daily routine to touch your heart to share the hope, joy, peace and love of Christ, then I offer you the interupption of Sunday into your Christmas worship.
Look and Listen for fear and brokenness and you will find the best time to share the Good News of Jesus. Without shame and full pride of God’s works of love and power for the world, show up and join with angels and sing praise, go share the news that everyone may know for him and herself that Jesus shows up for us. God’s gift has been wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger for the whole world.

Our Responses?

  • Thank you Jesus
  • Sharing the News
  • Going to See, Show and Retell
  • Pondering and Remembering in our hearts

,

Leave a comment

Hebrews 11:(12-16) A Better Country 20160807 RSUMC

  • HeavenBeacons

    Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Indeed, by faith our ancestors received approval.  By faith, we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was made from things that are not visible.  By faith, Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain’s. Through this he received approval as righteous, God himself giving approval to his gifts; he died, but through his faith, he still speaks.  By faith Enoch was taken so that he did not experience death; and “he was not found because God had taken him.” For it was attested before he was taken away that “he had pleased God.” And without faith, it is impossible to please God, for whoever would approach him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.  By faith Noah, warned by God about events as yet unseen, respected the warning and built an ark to save his household; by this, he condemned the world and became an heir to the righteousness that is in accordance with faith.  By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to set out for a place that he was to receive as an inheritance; and he set out, not knowing where he was going.  By faith, he stayed for a time in the land he had been promised, as in a foreign land, living in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise.  For he looked forward to the city that has foundations, whose architect and builder is God.  By faith, he received the power of procreation, even though he was too old—and Sarah herself was barren—because he considered him faithful who had promised. Therefore from one person, and this one as good as dead, descendants were born, “as many as the stars of heaven and as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore.” All of these died in faith without having received the promises, but from a distance, they saw and greeted them. They confessed that they were strangers and foreigners on the earth,  for people who speak in this way make it clear that they are seeking a homeland.  If they had been thinking of the land that they had left behind, they would have had an opportunity to return.  But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; indeed, he has prepared a city for them. [NRSV]

 

A Better Country

  • What kind of country will our nation have become in forty years? 4 years? 4 months?
    • Are you optimistic or pessimistic about what will be?
  • What kind of church will our congregation be in forty years? 4 years? 4 months?
    • Are you hopeful or filled with doubts?
  • What will your faith look like in forty years, four years? four months?
    • Are you empowered or searching?

A Better Country

We have so entwined religion and politics that we have become polarized and paralyzed in our misappropriated patriotism. It is not a matter of separating church and state conversations, it is about using the freedoms our nation has to most fully express and experience of faith in Jesus Christ. Our freedoms allow for many faiths, but we place our trust in a better country. W

If we were as preoccupied with living as citizen of heaven as we are citizen of the USA, what would it look like??

  • Facebook would be filled with words, pictures, and messages about our faith and church
  • Our conversations would be about news and report of where we see God at work in the world. We would be trying to out-do each other in love and service.
  • We would stay up at night worrying about how many people we had reached, transformed, and welcomed into the fellowship of the church.
  • People would see our commitment to the citizenship we hold highest is in the heart of God.

The OT Case for Building a “more perfect union.”

Creation, Able, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac and Jacob, key examples of faith that have shaped the faith we now live. The bottom line of each of these persons witnessed examples of placing themselves and their personal trust in God to lead, protect, save, heal, and bless. The fruit of seeking our ultimate allegiance is in God, is that God uses us to build a better country, a heavenly one.

New Testament Case

In the parable that the lawyer asks Jesus who is my neighbor, we find it is the one who shows grace and loving kindness.

In this faith-history lesson begs the question: What is my home? What is my citizenship? To home and where do I belong?

What is my home? Is it only the building at my address? Is it the sum of my stuff and assets and debts? Is only my family and extended family?

The Call to Live in our Heavenly Citizenship, (On Earth as it is in Heaven)
Is this the story of our nation? Is this the story of our people? Is this the story that bears fruit in our lives?

Call to make disciples:

  • Love one another in service, AND
  • Inspire others to join the fellowship, AND
  • Worship and Fellowship to strengthen another before God.

Leave a comment

Galatians 2.15-21 “All In” 20160612 RSUMC

allin

We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; yet we know that a person is justified not by the works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ. And we have come to believe in Christ Jesus, so that we might be justified by faith in Christ, and not by doing the works of the law, because no one will be justified by the works of the law. But if, in our effort to be justified in Christ, we ourselves have been found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not! But if I build up again the very things that I once tore down, then I demonstrate that I am a transgressor. For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God; for if justification comes through the law, then Christ died for nothing. [NRSV]

Paul is caught up in a battle of traditions, power, and authority.

Galatia was a region of what is now central Turkey; that was between Greece and Israel. It was divided into four tribal groups that were known for disagreements and a tendency to quarrel. They were known to be mercenaries and slave traders. A rough crowd.

In this context, there was a church of believers who was getting grief from Christian-Jews, who were saying that converts needed to adopt Jewish traditions and adherence to the Law of Moses and then the teachings of Jesus. Namely, they were causing a stir over circumcision. (I have always thought that was a great test of salesmanship)

Paul writes to clarify this and other misinformation concerning what it means to be Christian. It is at this intersection that this passage becomes helpful to us. Think of all the cultural differences across geography and history that separate us from Jesus of Nazareth and Jesus of the Gospels and Jesus of 2016.

What does it mean to be a Christian?

  • For some, it means following a strict code of behaviors and affirmations
  • For some, it means a Christlike way of thinking in and believing
  • For some, it is actions of service and shared fellowship of relationships
  • For Paul, he felt the need to clarify that FAITH was more necessary than the LAW. (TRUST over RULES)

What most clearly defines who you are and how you order your life?

There is one of my former church members who is an over-the-top Braves fan. He is known at the ballpark as ‘Chief.’ He wears a headdress of feathers, an Indian/Native American style shirt, and pants and usually marks his face with faceprint for the added touch of authenticity. What sets him further apart is that in the last fifteen years he has only missed ten home games. His level of devotion boards on the obsessive. Chief is all in.

There was a church member from my childhood who always wore red and black clothes. He drove a red and black conversion van. His home was decorated in red and black in every room. He owned a small airplane that was also. Yes, red and black. Every weekend in the fall he attended every home and away football game of his beloved Bulldogs without exception. He is no longer married to the same woman who was my history teacher, but he is still a bulldog fan. Mr. Red and Black is all in.

Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt is arguably the fastest man in the world, beginning winning sprint races since the age of 15 to winning three gold medals at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, China, and becoming the first man in Olympic history to win both the 100-meter and 200-meter races in record times. Bolt won his fourth Olympic gold medal in the men’s 100-meter race at the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London. Bolt ran the race in 9.63 seconds, a new Olympic record, making him the first man in history to set three world records in a single Olympic Games competition. He is the first man to win both the 100 and 200 at consecutive Olympic Games, as well as the first man to ever win back-to-back gold medals in double sprints. His signature bolt pose inspired Cam Newton and fans to dab. Usain Bolt is all in.

Paul offers himself as the ultimate fan of Jesus, who came to know Jesus, not by his devotion to keeping the rules. In fact, his attempt to keep the laws was driving him further away from God. He went from super rule follower to super Trust-Jesus-in-all-things.

FAITH: is it a belief or behavior?   (Have the idea or follow the rules) And, is it a good thing or a problem?

it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

Living “All In.”

Some might say Paul’s down-playing of the LAW was a disregard for the Jewish Traditions and Scriptures. What he found through a life devoted to keeping all the rules was that it lead him to be an enemy of Jesus. It was not until he became temporary blind that he began to see God revealed through Jesus’s life and saving work.

All in is not dressing the part. It is not having the right things. It is not even devoting our selves to life practices to be the greatest.

  • IT IS: Trusting Jesus’s Work
  • Trusting Jesus’s Teachings and Examples
  • Trusting Jesus to show up in our words, thoughts and service.
  • Trusting Jesus to be our strength
  • Trusting Jesus to guide our living.
  • All in Jesus, not all in my keeping the rules or ideas

Our meaning, purpose, and success in life is not having the things and awards and prizes.. it is being connected to our Creator and one another.

Paul is saying. We can Trust God because God loves us.

Rules and customs can’t love us.

Trust the relationship God makes possible through Jesus Christ.

APPLICATION: What does it mean for you/me to be Christian?

Love God because God loves

vs. Earn God’s love because I proved my love.

Think of your relationship, family, and friends:

Would you rather

people did because you told/made them what to do, or

people did for you because they loved you.

Show love because you can love someone,

Rather than because you have to love someone.

Leave a comment

Isaiah 64 Easter Sunday: A Buffet of Grace for a people of Injustice 201260327 RSUMC

easterbuffett.jpg

17 “See, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind. 18 But be glad and rejoice forever in what I will create, for I will create Jerusalem to be a delight and its people a joy. 19 I will rejoice over Jerusalem and take delight in my people; the sound of weeping and of crying will be heard in it no more. 20 “Never again will there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not live out his years; the one who dies at a hundred will be thought a mere child; the one who fails to reach a hundred will be considered accursed. 21 They will build houses and dwell in them; they will plant vineyards and eat their fruit. 22 No longer will they build houses and others live in them, or plant and others eat. For as the days of a tree, so will be the days of my people; my chosen ones will long enjoy the work of their hands. 23 They will not labor in vain, nor will they bear children doomed to misfortune; for they will be a people blessed by the LORD, they and their descendants with them. 24 Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear. 25 The wolf and the lamb will feed together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox, and dust will be the serpent’s food. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain,” says the LORD.. [ Isaiah 65.17-25, NRSV]
The prophet Isaiah spoke as an advocate for God and talked to challenge and encourage the People of God. He tells of a time coming soon when God would do something transforming in Jerusalem. The new ‘thing’ revealed to us is seen in the death and resurrection of Jesus. We gather to celebrate the fulfillment of this promise of God that has been awaited.
Except, having to get everything heated, the table set and the bread in the oven at the exact time, Easter Sunday dinner was one of the rare times that family dinner time was relaxing and enjoyable family time in my childhood and youth. Some years we were at home around our table, other time we gathered around my grandmother’s table. But never at the farm. It was too far to drive on Easter Sunday after church to Johnson County, but we would say, “one year we will find  a way.”  My mother had her cheese biscuits, and strawberry jam and her mother had her yeast rolls and orange and coconut ambrosia, but we never made it to the family gathering at the farm.
Easter Dinner at the farm: three types of meat, four pies and chocolate layer cake, hand rolled bread and collection of eight to ten vegetables covered the dining room table and spilling over to the chest freezer filled the house with the fruit of the labor or many hands. There is something extra special about sharing a meal with your family and friends that come from your work and love. Love and work that is not just in preparing the food, but also growing, tending and harvesting the food. It is convenient and more restful to eat out. That meal is more satisfying when we see the full perspective of the food.
The good news for Easter is God’s handiwork continues to meet us at the table.
During the time of Isaiah, The tribes of Judah lived through three kings and saw the kingdom of Israel destroyed and taken to Assyria. Isaiah is prophesying about time that there would be a joy in Jerusalem.
Joy in Jerusalem was an unbelievable promise. People might remember stories when David and Solomon made Jerusalem a jewel and envy, but now it was a dim memory at best. The prophet gives us a big picture look at the presence of God along the way. His words say “remember when?” And his words promise, encourage and help keep faith alive for all who share the faith and hope. There will be a day of Joy! There will be a time of reversal! There will be a moment that God brings all things to wholeness and justice.

Preaching on Easter Sunday has a seesaw of expectation. It’s Great news to celebrate the Resurrection and a challenge to tell even more.

 I step back into a spiritually lean time in the memory of our faith history to help give perspective on how God’s transformation by grace will come to be. The text tell us that the prophet foretells that God will make Jerusalem a Joy!

Jerusalem. A Joy?

If we look back in our remembered history, Jerusalem has been a place of turmoil, feud and war for generations and generations.
When will the time be? First, we learn how God works through epochs as well as nano-seconds. We want everything in an instantly unless we enjoy it, and then we want to take our time. We want a Spring Break vacation to last for twice as many days as we are allowed, but we want our cancers healed instantly. God works in God’s time. 1) GOD IS VERY PATIENT WITH OUR IMPATIENCE!
God’s time is entrusted with us. I believe with all my heart if the whole world would turn toward Jesus Christ in repentance and faith, that would be the moment that we found Joy in Jerusalem, and everywhere else. this possibility is inherently in the charge to make disciples of all the world.
The Apostle, preacher-teacher-leader encourages the Mediterranean church in Corinth, (1 Corinthians 15:19-26)
 If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died. For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead has also come through a human being; for as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father, after he has destroyed every ruler and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. [NRSV]
But this Easter we are somewhere between Isaiah and that final day.  Both Paul and Isaiah point to one hope: Jesus who died and rose from the dead as atonement, payment, for the brokenness and sin that keeps Joy hidden, beaten down and afraid, left-for-dead.
Easter Sunday is about Joy!
  • Joy that we have hope even though Terror fills the earth
  • Joy that we have faith even though correctness challenges beliefs
  • Joy that we have grace even though we want it immediately
  • Joy that we have life even though we need it eternally
  • Joy that we have love even though our hearts still know how to hate
  • Joy that we have each other because the body of Christ is entrusted to the church
  • Joy that we have forgiveness
  • Joy that we have songs for praise
  • Joy that we prayers for conversation
  • Joy that we have time for repentance
  • Joy that we have history to learn from past mistakes
  • Joy that we have a future that is prepared and paid for by Christ
  • Joy that Jesus was not just a teacher with good life lessons
  • Joy that Jesus was not just a historical figure
  • Joy that the Holy Spirit is our power
  • Joy
Why be afraid, Why be sad? Why think you alone? Why see the empty?
When we have Joy, Joy from Jesus Christ who lives, today, here, with us.
so we come to the Easter buffet of Good News:
What will go on your plate?
Q: chocolate bunnies and eggs that are tummy abs fun for a moment
or a taste of Joy?
ASK: your neighbor: How Does Jesus bring you, Joy?
WHAT,  you have no joy?
Have you forgotten? Already?
Today begins our serving the buffet of Jesus throughout our world:
  • to Celebrate Easter is to feed not eat
  • to Celebrate Easter is to forgive not hold over
  • to Celebrate Easter is to love the difficult to love
  • to Celebrate Easter is to live for Christ and not ourselves
  • to Celebrate Easter is to bring hope to the sad
  • to Celebrate Easter is to open hardened hearts
  • to Celebrate Easter is to offer life to the dying
  • to Celebrate Easter is to free those who hoard
  • to Celebrate Easter is to be the body of Christ living in the world for the transformation of the world toward Christ how lives forever.
Happy Easter, get to work!!
—-=—-

,

Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 13:1-13 Reset: The Power of Love 20160131 RSUMC

Heart_MerryChristmas

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. 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. 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. Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 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. For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. 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. For 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. And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love. [NRSV]

Do I love that dress?

In a world, where we love mashed potatoes, love our sports teams and love or hate the weather, it is important to spend a moment being clear about love.

This past Christmas Eve, I ran a few errands and saw three stores putting out Valentine season products on the shelf. At first, I was frustrated that we had not officially started Christmas and retailers had moved to the next money grab. But if we stop and think what Christmas is about, God loving us so much that our heavenly father sends his only child to bridge the gap of love that we cannot build nor complete. Maybe a giant heart-shaped box of delicious treasures is better Christmas gift.

Love:  Nothing Gained

ELOQUENT SPEECH: Genuine Love needs no response. That’s hard.

  • If I speak in the tongues of mortals and angels,
    • but do not have love,
      • I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.

CHARISMATIC VISION: Genuine Love sees through a show.

  • If I have prophetic powers,
    • but do not have love,
      • I am nothing.

INSIGHTFUL COMPREHENSION: Genuine Love is not calculated.

  • If I understand all mysteries
    • but do not have love,
      • I am nothing.

MULTIPLE DEGREES IN MULTIPLE DISCIPLINES: Genuine Love has nothing to prove.

  • If I had all knowledge,
    • but do not have love,
      • I am nothing.

UNWAVERING TRUST and BELIEF: Genuine Love is the core of faith.

  • If I have all faith, so as to remove mountains,
    • but do not have love,
      • I am nothing.

EXTRAVAGANT SELFLESSNESS: Genuine Love is Forgetful of the score.

  • If I give away all my possessions,
    • but do not have love,
      • I gain nothing.

SACRIFICIAL OFFERING: Genuine Love cannot be faked.

  • If I hand over my body so that I may boast,
    • but do not have love,
      • I gain nothing.

IF, THEN STATEMENTS

  1. Conditional statements about unconditional, foundational core of relationships.
  2. SuperMan/SuperWoman are meaningless without love. Right Action, Wrong Purpose
  3. Love is God’s meaning, purpose, and energy, what we have to gain. Love is God’s power plant
  4. BOTTOM LINE: Without Love all in life is meaningless. Scientific Method can never love. Science is accurate in measuring how, but not why. Love is why. The universe is not so big to make us feel special; it is to show how incredible God is.

The Object of Love NOT loves itself.

LOVE is sacrificial, selfless, extravagant, unwavering, trusting, knowing, insightful, visionary, and charismatic, but the reverse does not necessarily describe love.

The test if Love is love or something else: Does my love stop if Love is not returned?

  • You can take one for the team and not love the team at all.
  • You can act selflessly, seeking approval for your random act of kindness.
  • Your extravagance can become enabling. 
  • You can be “committed” and support something evil
  • You can trust wealth, fame, opinion polls or deeply held principles, but these are based on us, and we inconsistent, fragile and often wrong.
  • You can know many facts but not know how to use information
  • You can misguide judgement selfishly
  • Your visionary work can be selfishly motivated
  • Your charisma or charm can fool people
  • The Object of God’s Love is you. Hear the Good News.. 
    • God’s love is not if, then. God’s love is. God may not like our behavior,
    • God forever loves us.

IS / IS NOT

  • Love is patient; tolerant of us and intolerant of our manipulations
  • Love is kind;      when is the last time we were snippy, rude or down right mean
  • love is not envious;     I want vs. God wants
  • love is not boastful     I’m right, you are wrong
  • love is not arrogant    I know better than you
  • Love is not rude.           Thoughtless or intentionally vindictive
  • Love is not insistent     My way or no way.
  • Love is not irritable      How can I get attention
  • love is not resentful     How come I’m not getting attention
  • love cannot rejoice in wrongdoing,     I told you so
  • love rejoices in the truth.  Admit I am wrong, especially when they are wrong too.
  • (sometimes being truthful is not popular or pleasing)
  • Love endure and hold up through all things,   vs. I will give you one more chance, or no more chances
  • Love believes through all things;     You crossed my line, your out.
  • Love remains hopeful through all things,    We can’t do it, That’s impossible.
  • Love lasts longer than anything else.           I give up

If we are honest, our conversations and actions reveal, while we know what loving is, we are not always loving when it get self-less.

Timeless

  • Love never ends.
  • Prophecies end
  • language ends
  • knowledge ends
  • wealth ends
  • Love never ends.

The Best is Yet to Come

For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end.

We learn to love as children, and it is to mature and grow.

  1. Speaking.. saying I love you.
  2. Thinking— Thinking about
  3. Reasoning   Justifying Love

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.

  • Adult love, mature love, doesn’t have, to say it. We are not there yet..
  • Adult love, doesn’t have to plan it and think it through, it is automatic. We calculate..
  • Adult love, doesn’t have to have everything neat. We try to fix, cover up or manage love.
  • When we move toward God’s love, we loose ourselves and more fully enter the heart of God.

For 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.

Love is a work in progress.. try letting your guard down and God through.

, , , ,

Leave a comment

Luke 3:7-18 “So What Do We Do?” 20151213 RSUMC

treeaxe
John said to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruits worthy of repentance. Do not begin to say to yourselves, “We have Abraham as our ancestor’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” And the crowds asked him, “What then should we do?”  In reply he said to them, “Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.” Even tax collectors came to be baptized, and they asked him, “Teacher, what should we do?”  He said to them, “Collect no more than the amount prescribed for you.” Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what should we do?” He said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusation, and be satisfied with your wages.”  As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah,  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.  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.”So, with many other exhortations, he proclaimed the good news to the people. [NRSV]
On this 3rd Sunday in the liturgical season of Advent we are drawn to the message of hope and love that awaits us in Christ’s birth and moving in with us at Christmas. 
The text comes as words from the prophet John the Baptizer. The text does not sound very loving and hopeful for those who claim to know God’s work and will. Listen through the toughness to see the love.
John’s word to the religious crowd is: “Who told you to come to be baptized, to find Love, Grace, Salvation? ASK You NEIGHBOR..
John is frustrated with the crowd who have been so focused on political correctness, that they have missed God’s presence for all the ‘good’ they have done by appeasing everyone. (Sanhedrin had power-brokered their relationship with the Roman empire at the expense of finding God at work in their presence.)
Remember these are the words of a prophet, not Jesus.
The lesson is about how to prepare for Jesus instead of preparing for ourselves. John instruction on how respond to ‘preventive grace’ to the next step.
It’s not about politically correctness to the law, it is about trusting our hope in God’s relationship in daily lives.
SO HOW DO WE PREPARE to see/experience/welcome God?
If you have a coat to share, then share it.
If you have more food than you can eat today, share it.
John is not establishing a code of organization for church nor community nor society. He is talking about an act of piety, a practice of being the faith community.
We live in a time that is mixed up. Folks who want us to be so pluralistic in our faith and at the same time not claim the faith that calls us to care for the poor. Why is feeding the clothing the poor the “Good Fruit” that God is looking for us to express?
These are signs that we are not working solo in this world. We are interconnected and interdependent on one another.
It is neither a statement that wealth is evil nor that it is acceptable to live off of the wealth of others.
If there are those you can “care for”, then care for them.
If there are those who need grace, then show grace.
You bunch of snakes
John is talking to folks who are snakes, venomous, lethal snakes.
In these days of terrorism and political demonism, who are the snakes?
  • Those who know they are right and willing to kill those who disagree?
  • Those who know they are correct and willing to label and dismiss those who are wrong?
  • Those who know they are right and God cannot do I new thing that is beyond our control?
John’s warning is dramatic and sensational: “The Axe is at the root of the tree.” The time is short and some trees are going to be cut down to make room for the new growth.  (Star Wars, light saber)
— Luke I am your father story at the pool.
I’m I being pruned or am I the clippings that will burned in the fire?
“WHAT AM I TO DO?”
The big “So What?”
If this is the time of preparing for Christ in our hearts and lives,
how do I make certain, that my heart, mind and spirit are open to God’s good news and presence amoung us?
Tax collectors, public servants: Do you job, but don’t take advantage of your authority and responsibilities.
Soilders: Be ready to defend and protect, but don’t mis-use your power and trust.
What ever the work/job: Contribute to the good of the community, work hard, do some type of work. [The unemployed can volunteer until work comes.]
The task for all is to act on our faith in the community
If you see a mess, clean it up.
If you see someone who is voiceless, give them voice
If you find someone who is forgotten, remember them
If you see sin, call it out, name evil for what it is.
If you see the speck in the eyes of others, can you see the log in your own eye. (FB? am I wrong in thinking? open the conversation rather than close the door on relationship)
If you are so certain you don’t want to see the world’s troubled, then we become the snakes.
If you think you are in the God Squad, ask God if you actually are?
If you are ready to kick someone out, make sure you know your are ‘in.’
HOW DO WE HEAR THE GOOD NEWS in the warning of bad news?
1. Ignore the warnings as foolish, fearful, mis-informed or narrow minded folk.
2. Have cake and eat it: Pick and choose what we want to listen to and respond?
3. Here words of prophet and say: What does God want me to hear, and do?
Ding, ding, ding!
The paths becomes straight and our hearts are open when we yeild to God and follow God’s word, in scripture, prophets and spirit.

Leave a comment

Mark 12:38-44 “Put More in the Treasury” 20151108 RSUMC

2copperCoinsAs he taught, he said, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets! They devour widows’ houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.” He sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny. Then he called his disciples and said to them, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.” [NRSV]

Everyone who came to the temple for worship, put something in the offering.

Maybe someone does want to talk about Money at church because we have question or misinformation about “Offering” is in our practice of worship and faith. What is the offering about?

  1. What the Offering is NOT:
    1. It is not about FAIRNESS
    2. It is not admission for the SHOW
    3. It is not about TAXATION
    4. It is not EARNING salvation or favor
  2. Offering IS about
    1. a THANK YOU note
    2. a Sign of TRUST of God,
      1. How we GIVE it.
      2. How we USE it.
    3. a RESPONSE to God’s loving, blessing, saving and claiming us in GRACE
    4. an ACT of CONFESSION or retribution – Zacheaus, the wee little man, made a big act of restoration.
    5. an Investment in the work of God’s business, kingdom, witness
    6. a PRACTICE of loving. [The widow is operating on love in her giving], the greatest is love.
  3. Offering was being watched, monitored, studies by Jesus and the Disciples
    1. It is important to learn about giving patterns and styles
    2. Strings or No Strings
    3. In times of plenty and times of lean
    4. Faith in Maturity not Quantity.
  4. The witness of the POOR widow. (A widow living on the generosity of temple)
    1. Poverty is closer to us every day. (If we set aside politics and look at the reality of what actually IS currently)
    2. Gross National Product($18.1T) Fascination Debt Clock and other fiscal measurements
    3. National Debt is increasing 4154,583 per minute. ($18.6T is meaningless)
    4. Our Product to Debt ratio is $1.03. That means if we spent everything we made we would be three cents short paying everything we owe.
    5. the BEGGING QUESTION: How much in debt do you have to be to be poor?
  5. POVERTY/SCARCITY
    1. Rather than figure how what the fair level of poverty. Poverty is not having a certain level of possessions, credit or money.
  6. ABUNDANCE
    1. Rather than find a fair level of persons to blame or label as the rich or the poor. Jesus’s FOCUS is on the GIFT.
  7.  The GIFT THAT IS GREATEST is the one who was able to give the LOVE
  8. If you only have two half-pennies and you give them to God: What statement are you making?
    1. God has more to give than I have to give, I will give all I have.
  9. If you and I give out of our abundance, extra, or wealth: But not out of love, What statement are we making?
    1. God demands, we must obey
    2. God is jealous and bad stuff will happen if we don’t
    3. God will bless me if I give
    4. God will make me rich if I give it all to him.
  10. The women who gives to two coins does not
    1. does not become the most wealthy members
    2. does not stop living at the poverty level
    3. does not become the high priestess or head scribe or rabbi
    4. does not get rich off of God’s investment plan.
  11. The woman gives as an loving act of TRUST that God will provide what she needs.
  • What does my offering say to me and what does it say to God.
  • Does my gift say: I trust you? I love you? I need you most of all? I can’t make it with out you?
  • Does my gift say: I have this to spare? I can get by with this? After I manage all the choices of wealth or poverty, then I will trust, give, love.

Homework: Last week we talked about Jesus answer to the greatest commandment, the FIRST is to Love God and Love your neighbor,

We show this love in how we give to God. This what the offering is about.

Teach a child about why you give. Your child/grand-child or a friends, or even a stranger. : Explain to a child (3-63)

  • I give because I love God.
  • I give because God knows what I need.
  • I give because I am faithful will all that I have.
  • I give because I trust God with my life AND livelihood AND future..

For those who like math?

Do I spend more resource of time/money/energy on God than being a team fan?

Pull out the check book, (exclude housing, utilities, food, car, insurance) How much do I spend in the other categories compared to God?

For those who don’t like homework. (Give because you know its good in your heart and watch for the Kingdom of God to show up where you give)

For those who are legalistic, “Give until it changes your heart.” – Rich Young Ruler.

, , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

John 6.13-21 Why Are You Afraid? 20150726 RSUMC

Woman damaged house and holding her head with both hands

Be not afraid?

So they gathered them up, and from the fragments of the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten, they filled twelve baskets. When the people saw the sign that he had done, they began to say, “This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world.” When Jesus realized that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain by himself. When evening came, his disciples went down to the sea, got into a boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. The sea became rough because a strong wind was blowing. When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they were terrified. But he said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.” Then they wanted to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the land toward which they were going. [NRSV]

I love this passage, but it is so much more powerful remembering the setting and context of the storm on the sea.

On the Tail of Miraculous Blessing: 12 Baskets for 12 Disciples

  • Think of the times that God has blessed us in the past.
  • Remembering the witnesses of our past and others.
  • Keeping our current storm in the context of where God has guided us before.
  • If we look only at the storm in the present, we see only the fear, grief and lack of control.

Life in the Storm:  What are our current storms?

  • Politics
  • Racism
  • Terrorism
  • Economic
  • Marriage and Divorce
  • Drugs
  • Grief
  • That is a good starting list..

This is why we start with the context of where God has been revealed in the past.

Time to make a list of 12 examples where God has blessed, loved, forgiven, showed-up in our lives:

  1. God showed up in the backyard of a house church in Monterrey, Mexico and called me to preach.
  2. God showed up in the worship service and fellowship at Camp Glisson in the rock chapel.
  3. God showed up to surround me in love through my father and grandmothers and a dozen churches.
  4. God showed up to broaden my heart and mind in seminary study and worship.
  5. God showed in the lives of children in Peru, Brazil, Venezuela, Honduras, Moscow
  6. God shows up nudging me to pray, call, contact within two hours
  7. God showed in ideas that I think are my own but God reveals them to you and when you share them, I am confirmed.
  8. God shows us when someone is looking for God to speak and I have nothing to say and God’s words come rolling out.
  9. God shows us to convict, cleanse and correct when I have messed up.
  10. God shows up when I pray asking for direction
  11. God shows up when I put myself in a place of listening and reflection
  12. God shows up when I lay aside my mind and worries and come to worship and praise.

Making the a List as an act of preparing for my storms and your storms.

The disciples did not ask for faith lesson, they were tired, needed a retreat-vacation and the work interrupted,

and when much needed break was in order, they are overwhelmed by a life-threatening storm.

Jesus is in the storm with them.

When they invite Jesus in, the storm is over.

The Lesson: The sooner we invite Jesus in the boat, the less time fear leads our lives.

To go back to the list of fears:

  1. Politics: We can’t be ostriches, we must be involved leaders and prophets
  2. Racism: What builds our community and what divides us?
  3. Terrorism: We love the person but denounce the behavior
  4. Economic: Discern where our heart/faith clings fast?
  5. Marriage: Are we Godly, not only at the wedding, but throughout the relationship
  6. Divorce: Acknowledge marriage is sometime not repairable, but angry people are hurting all around
  7. Drugs: This is maybe the biggest storm that affects our families
  8. Grief: Loss of loved ones
  9. Death/End times: What is our part in the larger story? Where is our foundation? Where is our love in loss?

This is a time, as disciples, we need to encourage instead of judge, gossip and distance ourselves. 

  • Remember where God shows up, Reminds us we are never alone.
  • Remember we are in this together and need each others support.
  • Remember the storms are coming, but in Christ, we will make it through.

Angels announced: Be Not Afraid, God is here.

Emmanuel: God is with us!

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

Matthew 14:22-33 “Keep Me Out of Trouble?” RSUMC 20140810

The calm sea of galilee

The calm Sea of Galilee 2011

Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. And early in the morning he came walking toward them on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.” Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” [NRSV]

• Jesus dismisses the disciples before dismissing the crowd. Leaders need retreat and renewal in order to be fit for leadership.

• Just when rest is needed, the A boat battered by the waves, far from the shore, with the wind against them. Strike three.

• Stepping out of perfectly find boat, into the awesome power of storm is the antithesis of safety?? [Jumping from the frying pan into the fire.]

• Jesus invites us to Come to him, IN the midst of a terrible storm.

o Jesus is in the storm, WITH us.
o Peter walks on the water..

• We are amazed that Jesus walked on the water, but Peter did the same. Ordinary, fallible, doubting, over-thinking, over planning, over talking, over protecting Peter..

• Finds Jesus’ strength to do all things, more powerful than storms and nature, greater than the rules of science and engineering. Peter can do all things in Christ who gives him strength..

BUT, This is what gets us in to real trouble. BUT. Our buts get us into trouble.
We think that following Jesus keeps the storms away. Nope.
Those outside the church look at our lives and see we have illnesses, hardship and struggles. They ask, “Where is God” or think “God is gone or made up.”

Or our trouble is that WE think WE have conquered the waves and storms.
We step out in the waters of faith, God blesses and guides us and we look away.
There is a cinematic focal point where the camera pans from the storm and connects Jesus’ eyes with Peter’s eyes. They are connected.

But when Peter looks away, the connection is broken, the connection is lost, the power is cut off. Because it is not Peter’s power. Peter looks at the storm, at the impossible, at the fear, at anything except Jesus and down he goes into the storm.

Home Work is to get out of the boat and keep our eyes on Jesus.
It is easy to sit here in the fellowship, with great music and friends and good neighbors, but thing of storms of jobs, bills, cancers and broken hearts, fighting fears and families. Step into a storm and bring all eyes to Jesus.

Help someone see Jesus in the storm.
Break up a fight. Make a call, send an email, write a letter, start the conversation, break the silence. Be the messenger that reminds and introduces: “Jesus is here with us now.”

You may say, I don’t get mixed up in others folks troubles. Then get out and look around, live a little and see and hear our neighbors who feel that they are about to drown and we have words of power, hope and life to share.

Practice: Look in the eyes of someone this morning. Do you see Jesus or just evidence of a wrestles night lacking sleep? Tell that person,

“Keep Your eyes on Jesus and he will see you through every part of your life.”
Nothing is impossible in Christ who gives us strength.

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

%d bloggers like this: