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Homecoming, by another way Oak Grove 2018 Matthew 2:7-12

Homecoming, by another way Oak Grove 2018

7 Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. 8 He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.” 9 After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route. [NRSV]

I have such wonderful memories of racing out from Emerson to Euharlee and trying to beat the long coal train heading to-and-from the Bowen. It is so good to be back. I have been here on a cold and snowing morning when it was only two, and no more and we had Good Preaching. So I hope that is the case today. I am proud to see the growth of the ministries and good work at Oak Grove and am honored to be with you today.

I began to think back about the years I was pastor, student and neighbor. The years would have been between 1985 and 1989. Some remarkable things happened while we were in ministry together:

• The infamous “New Coke” was released, The Titanic found, The first report of Mad Cow disease

• and Madonna was holding the place Taylor Swift holds today. Michael Jackson released his “Bad” album and MTV actually played music videos.

• The Kroger in Cartersville and Town Center Mall opened. The news of the Atlanta Olympics was

• The movies out during that time included: Back to the Future, Top Gun and Dirty Dancing

• Some notable songs were: Walk like an Egyptian, The theme from Phantom of the Opera, and We are the World.

• Imagine back to the time of the start of the Internet, the first Game Boy and Nintendo, The first intel processor and MS Office and Windows debuted.

• We were witnesses of Haley’s comet, the Galileo mission to Jupiter and removal of the Berlin Wall with Mr Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan.

• People were watching: “The Cosby Show”, “Cheers”, “Hill Street Blues”, Johnny Carson, Magnum PI and the start of the Simpsons.

We are not the same people today. The world has changed and is changing in a whirlwind of transformation. As our denomination looks ahead to the Winter of 2019 we know that more change is to be expected.

As important it is to look back and remember from where we have come, it is the witness of the magi that call us to look to the present and prepare for the future.

I have always found it remarkable that the Bible contains the story of people of faith who look for God in the movement of the starts, in a distant country with a different culture and perspectives and yet God is self-revealing in all creation.

I had a conversation with young man in his mid-twenties who was convinced that there was no need for God. The wonders and marvels of creation were but the finely tuned change of random variables that brought him more peace and “common sense” to his perspective. I asked him from where did the forces of gravity, fission, fusion, physics, mathematic and love evolve. He uncomfortably had no clear answer except to say they were only explained as observations that followed rather than formed the universe. He left the conversation and went home the same person. I hope that some of the conversation helped change his fears and desire to control rather than to follow and trust.

We live in a divided culture that is more segregated than at any moment in our lifetimes. The struggles leading through Civil Rights Era and the Civil War are not our finest moments. Now more than ever are we needing to make a life-giving, hope-sharing, love-trusting impact on the world around us.

When I was at Oak Grove I was married to Sarah Jane, who search the Cassville Church for a couple of the years. We enjoyed covered dish dinners, singings, and being with you in worship and in your homes. That is no longer the relationship that shapes my life. She loved the idea of being married much more than being married to me. I didn’t share that at the time, as I was immature and unwilling to share what it mean to fully share what it means to be a community of faith. I finally learned that 1) clergy are people who struggle with marriage too, 2) I’d be happier unmarried or married for a few years than to be miserable for 50 pretending a marriage. 3) I have learned that God’s path for us is only as straight and narrow as our willingness to trust. But grace goes before, with and behind us.

Now I have three children: Susanna at Stanford, Luke at 1st Leu in the AF, and Frances a sophomore studying AP Chinese and my wife Wendy is beginning her second career in Insurance. (If you ever seen the Hot-ones sign, a Hardees star, a Georgia Tourism commercial or a magazine in a plastic bag you have seen her work.) The past ten years we have cared for her parents in our home, her mom having Dementia and her father having Kidney failure, was not the road that we had planned, but God has carried us through a different way that blessed and shaped us profoundly.

Why the Wise-men passage on Home Coming?

During my years at Emerson and Oak Grove, Singer, James Taylor, released a song by David Bailey called, Home By Another Way. David Bailey was the son of a Presbyterian minister. As a fellow preacher’s kid the song resonated with me: Here was a famous hippy trippy ballad rocker singing about a bible verse: Not the paths that typically cross. Listen to the lyrics of his song:

Those magic men the Magi, Some people call them wise, Or Oriental, even kings, Well anyway, those guys

They visited with Jesus, They sure enjoyed their stay, Then warned in a dream of King Herod’s scheme

They went home by another way

Steer clear of royal welcomes, Avoid a big to-do, A king who would slaughter the innocents, Will not cut a deal for you, He really, really wants those presents, He’ll comb your camel’s fur

Until his boys announce they’ve found trace amounts, Of your frankincense, gold and myrrh

Time to go home by another way

Home is where they want you now, You can more or less assume that you’ll be welcome in the end

Mustn’t let King Herod haunt you so, Or fantasize his features when you’re looking at a friend

Well it pleasures me to be here, And to sing this song tonight, They tell me that life is a miracle, And I figured that they’re right, But Herod’s always out there, He’s got our cards on file

It’s a lead pipe cinch, if we give an inch, Old Herod likes to take a mile

It’s best to go home by another way

Home by another way

What does it mean to Go Home, by another way?

To God home is hopefully a place of security, grounding and belonging.

Hear the Good News: God’s home, “Oikos”, is with us! With us!

It starts in a garden, it travels in a wilderness, it crosses paths in the crucifixion, it opens through an empty tomb, it blow as the wind around us, and surrounds us.

We are not who were once were:

In Christ we are those who make straight the paths for others

In grasp of the Holy Spirit we are those who open hearts and conversations

In the love of God we are those who God is creating new life and ways of living.

I regret that I must leave without a longer visit but I am leading a class for the district to build our skills in sharing Difficult Conversations as churches and church folks. As I look back on the Roads and Paths that God has lead, carried, and immersed me, I see at:

• Oak Grove taught me that God can take a mustard seed an make something grand and purposeful beyond our dreams.

• Grant Park I learned from one of the most diverse congregations in the Southeast what it means to share love

• In some other congregations I learned what looks like when we live in fear, pride, greed and worship of self.

• At Candler and Gammon I learned how to prepare for God to use me in changing ministry conditions.

• At Rock Spring I am ready to see how God will lead us into being a relevant part of the body of Christ in the 21st century.

The message I have received from much prayer, much prayer, much study, much conversation, much reflection, writing and reading is this:

1. Change is to be assuredly expected. (It is ok to embrace change, WHEN God leads us.)

2. What will be has not yet been revealed.

3. But when it is revealed: Count on seeing Jesus or not seeing at all.

• Therefore it is all important to make our home in God who does not change.

• Therefore it is essential that we find our way through what has been revealed.

• Therefore it is our purpose, passion and path to stick with Jesus, not for our sake but for Christ.

God Lord, we give thanks for these and all other blessing, for Christ’s sake. Amen.

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Romans 8:12-25 Worth Groaning

laborpainsSo then, brothers and sisters, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh— for if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.  For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ—if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.

I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.

We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. [NRSV]

We are Spiritual

  • Children of God
  • Living to fulfill/follow the Spirit
  • Preparing to inherit God’s kingdom

We Suffer Spiritually

  • Comparing Physical and Spiritual
  • I’m only human, I’m just a man/woman/child is not our spiritual excuse
  • We live in hope of being set free from suffering

 

Groaning of Labor Pains

  • The mixed blessing of suffering for the gift of life.
  • Groaning inwardly in anticipation of adoption
  • Trusting hand hoping in what is known but not seen

Romans 8:13-25

  • Acknowledge the reality of suffering and Labor of faith
  • Call for encouraging the children of God
  • Hold one another and our self in patience.

Applications

  1. Know it is struggle to live in the Spirit
  2. Know we are not alone nor forgotten
  3. Trust God who loves, saves and call us is worth the work and waiting.

 

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Hebrews 2:10-18 Childish vs Childlike

childish.png

It was fitting that God, for whom and through whom all things exist, in bringing many children to glory, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through sufferings. For the one who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one Father. For this reason Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters, saying, “I will proclaim your name to my brothers and sisters, in the midst of the congregation I will praise you.” And again, “I will put my trust in him.” And again, “Here am I and the children whom God has given me.” Since, therefore, the children share flesh and blood, he himself likewise shared the same things, so that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by the fear of death. For it is clear that he did not come to help angels, but the descendants of Abraham. Therefore he had to become like his brothers and sisters in every respect, so that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make a sacrifice of atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself was tested by what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested. [NRSV]

Act Like Children

Looking back twenty, forty and sixty years ago, Being able to be “Child-like” has radically changed.

  • Does it mean to seen as miniature adults
  • Are equally gifted with limitless possibilities
  • Do children have voice, vote or rights
  • Do children have to worry or work
  • Do children have privileges or are privileged

Children of developed and developing countries have a common starting point:

We all start dependent.

This is the relationship God desires for us all.

God steps up our relationship from simple dependent into children of God’s household.

A Relationship of Kinship

One of the few Greek words that stuck with me from seminary, thanks to XX, is the work ‘oikos’.

Predating the yogurt crazy, Oikos is kinship.

  • Oikos is term meaning household,
  • particularly, for us it is the household of the people of God.
  • We share a common spiritual fire
  • We share a common home
  • Our belonging includes all those in the household not limited to bloodlines.

Jesus becomes one of us so we know how to find God’s family.

So, What?

Living like a child of God

  • Knowing Jesus shows us we are brother in sisters in grace, in faith, in God
  • Knowing Jesus lived and died for us to both KNOW and ACCESS the God’s family
  • Living as one empowered and saved to love
  • Living to show that God has created us to see past our difference to be God’s family.

This first Quarter’s Project

  • Identify a member of God’s family that feeling excluded from the community
  • Model and teach them that you are their brother or sister in Christ
  • Share the fellowship of church community, God’s family
  • Continue until Christ returns.

What if I don’t want to work on that project?

  • I risk moving myself and others away from God
  • I test God’s grace rather than trust God’s grace
  • I model love of self, convenience, or laziness to myself and others
  • My disconnect from loving and connecting with the disconnected separates me from God.

You and I were born to be dependent on God

You and I are called and challenged, saved and claimed to model that with others

The New Year’s resolution is to not be childish, rather claim the help of our Oikos, our kin, all God’s people: and show the world how God’s children think, behave, trust, love, forgive, etc.

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