Archive for category #freedom

Matthew 16:21-28 “Worth the Journey”

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From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.” But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.” Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life? “For the Son of Man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay everyone for what has been done. Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.” [NRSV]

Making Disciples: What is a life worth?

A very difficult thing asked of me was after mom’s death, from being hit in a head-on car accident was to give a value of her life. The attorney asked my brother and me, what was the value of mother’s life for the court case. To come up with a number for the judge. The determination was to be made on what her contributions to the common good would be. The value of her reading to middle school students, mentoring graduate school students, visiting in prison ministry, writing Sunday school lessons, volunteering at her church, and the impact would have a neighbor and citizen. If one were compensated for volunteering at a reasonable rate a figure could be determined for the projected number years she would likely live to serve and that number came to roughly $200,000. But was that value of her life? The young man who drove his uninsured luxury car into her had no assets, and his family had twenty-six previous suits against them, so the final assessment of her life was valued at 1000 hours of community service and no dollars. Is that justice? Is this how God measure our lives? For me, it was a life lesson about the misplaced value of one’s life.

What is your life worth to God?

  • You are worth the life of his only child,
  • You are worth designing energy, matter, gravity, physics, and mathematics,
  • You are worth sharing a relationship with God.
  • God has paid for our life, but does not force us to pay God back,
  • God offers a way to joy, peace, and wholeness, yet wants us to want to appreciate, trust and follow.
  • God says your life is worth it all, hoping you will choose the life God paid for you to live.

The journey of our life is about what we do with the time we have: Choosing God or humanity as our highest goal.

Discipleship: It Ain’t Easy

  • Peter declares: God forbid it to be difficult, hard, challenging, unpleasant or demanding
  • Jesus responds, Get away your evil thoughts away from me.
  • It is evil lived from only a human point of view.

Remembering we are Spiritual People in a Physical Incubator.

There are times that we make following Jesus even harder,

this is a charge against the church if we hold the keys and call the shots for what it means to follow, then there is room for abuse

Jesus models choosing God’s call for his life or the voice of emotions and reason alone.

Peter says: Don’t take the hard path, choose the path most traveled.

Sometimes things get in the way of our best plans:

A story about a country farmer who had a mule with blocked-up plumbing, he called the new veterinarian in town to come help. The young vet had a bottle of large laxative pills that modeled the phrase, ‘horse pill’ that was fast acting and guaranteed to unstop the most stubborn gastric stoppages. He found a long piece of pipe with a contraption to secure one end into the mouth of the mule and the other end he would insert the pill and make certain the pill went right to work. He secured the pipe and straps around the mule, added two horse pills, took a deep bread, but the ass blew first.

Jesus calls Peter a stumbling block

setting one’s mind on human things instead of divine things

Pray right now!

ACTION: “Lord, forgive me for being a stumbling block..”

  • Disciples recognize that life devoted to Jesus is greater than the life we can make without him. (justice)
  • Disciples recognize that life is a gift and God gives us a choice to use our life as we choose. (freedom)
  • Disciples recognize God desires good for us but does not force God on us. (meaningful relationship)
  • Disciples recognize that a good life is not measured by having stuff, or a comfortable life. (worth/value)
  • Disciples recognize God is willing to follow the choice we are called to make. (sacrifice)

Choose God’s self over the self you choose

To follow God is to find:

    • wholeness,
    • justice,
    • freedom,
    • meaningful relationship,
    • worth, value and
    • sacrifice.

in 2017 We live in mountain top period of thinking that is human focused.

  • What is best for humanity, the majority, the minority
  • What is best for me and those like me
  • My right and the right of others to choose what it good and right
  • It’s my life, my decisions, my definition, my right, my understanding, my dream, my ideal

When we exclude God or even allow God to slip into second place, we choose with the best of humanity has to offer, but without the love, wisdom, grace, and power of God.

When hearing this when others say things like: (Human limitations)

  •   Love me or accept me for choosing myself
  •   It is my life, my will
  •   Accept me for choosing my own way,
  •   Accept me for believing the common denominator is our safest place.
  •   Shame on you for not accepting my choice made from my perspective.

The court of public opinion may have the majority of human perspective and still miss the mind and heart of God.

   Peter, one of Jesus’ chosen, is telling Jesus,

     you know what is best for yourself,

     we don’t want to see you suffer

     You have God powers, just zap trouble out of your way,

The Heart of the passage: Losing and Finding

finding ourselves in following Jesus

The Journey of sharing our faith is affirmed where our trust, faith, and allegiance is grounded.

Faith means we see that for all you and I can do, we never can do enough on our own

Trust God means we know we are awesome creations with great minds and dreams, but without God death is our worst limitation.

Walking with Christ, we bring together the best of being human into a relationship with God.

Choosing a different path is ends in trusting what is evil, broken, limited, empty and apart from God.

How many people do you know today who have:

evil rules in their lives?

experience brokenness in their bodies, relationships, minds, and hearts?

find themselves living at the limits or out of bounds on a daily basis?

someone who feels lost and empty and distant from God and God’s people?

These are the people who need the gift of Christ that guides us..

  1. Step one for today: Pray that I am not a stumbling block. (At least don’t let me lead someone astray)
  2. Step two for today: know it is a daily choice to walk with Christ ourselves
  3. Step three for today: acknowledge it is not easy, and we need Christ to lead, bless, carry, push and call us on.

Let’s get to the journey today

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Luke 24:13-33 Walking, Talking, Sharing

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Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” They stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?” He asked them, “What things?” They replied, “The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.” Then he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures. As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. But they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” So he went in to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?” That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. [NRSV]

Imagine having a four-hour walk home?

Travel experiences:  WALKING

  • We walk from our homes to our cars to parking lots to our destinations.
  • We might walk for “race-for-a-t-shirt” or
  • a fund or awareness event to show support
  • we might walk to exercise for health
  • we might walk on a hike to see the view
  • What about walking to be spiritual present with someone?

Many would say that’s not for me.

[Note: Honestly, I am not sure why mini-pilgrimages have not been the tradition on Easter afternoon?]

  • Maybe walk home from church on Easter?
  • Or, walk back to church Easter Sunday evening for communion?

Travel Stories can be very powerful.

When we travel with someone, we have concentrated time together.

  • Have your ever recounted funny, interesting or challenging events?
  • Past vacation?
  • Meet new friends who were strangers on a previous vacation. The Hymian’s
  • Events that happened where you are passing on the road?
  • Anticipating what will happen when we arrive at our destination?
  • Sharing common adventures

If you had four hours travel time. How would you use that time in your car?

Would your faith come up as a topic of conversation?

If it did, What verses would you turn to reveal Jesus to a stranger?

Before we get to Bible verses:

  • Some people are better at striking up a conversation than others.
  • Some people are slow of heart to believe.
  • Some people know the details of the story yet they doubt or are still searching.

Excused assignment?

A: There is not one verse that reaches and convinces or convicts all people.

A: Some people are uncomfortable discussing their faith and spiritual life

A: I’m uncomfortable when people talk about their faith with it is different from mine.

A: Isn’t it more polite to not be pushy.

Question: What is Jesus’ model?

  • He is observant, see’s the sadness and disappointment
  • He is inquisitive, asking for clarification
  • He is instructional, drawing on scripture to transform the sadness and disappointment.
  • He is well studied, and well prepared to share.

One Easter Sunday, the first appearance of Jesus is modeling what disciples are called to do.

When the words are not enough, he resorts to actions.

There is a problem with the saying: “Your Actions may be the only Gospel someone sees”.

  • It assumes we have the heart of God in all our actions
  • It assumes how we act always reflects God
  • It assumes we are intentional about modeling our faith in all situations.
  • It assumes we know why we do the things we do in the name of Christ.

CONFESSION

All my actions are not always reflecting Jesus.

I need to know the core of my faith before I rely on actions only.

Think of Train leaving the tracks

If I see the resurrection as God’s ultimate victory over death and complete sacrifice of love for you and for me and name that as the core of my understand of LOVE:

If someone says, I love peanut butter or I love you if you agree with my world view, then are they talking about the same LOVE?

Which do we value more?

God’s heart or our freedom?

God’s word or our comfort?

God’s grace or our opinions?

God’s hope or our answers?

God’s patience or our resourcefulness?

God’s work or our work?

God’s love or

Bottom Line: Easter people need to know the scriptures, AND be ready to show them in action, AND meet people at Christ’s table.

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2 Timothy 2.8-15 Unchained Gospel 20161009 RSUMC

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Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, a descendant of David—that is my gospel,  for which I suffer hardship, even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But the word of God is not chained. Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, so that they may also obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory. The saying is sure: If we have died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he will also deny us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself. Remind them of this, and warn them before God that they are to avoid wrangling over words, which does no good but only ruins those who are listening. Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved by him, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly explaining the word of truth. [NRSV]

The Title song, “Unchained Melody”, of the 1955 movie Unchained has been sung and recorded by many different sings becoming a platnum recorded hit in both the US and UK. The list of singers included:

  • Co-Authors: Alex North and Hy Zaret
  • Les Baxter
  • Roy Hamilton
  • Todd Duncan
  • Liberace
  • the Righteous Brothers
  • Elivs Presely
  • Perry Como
  • the Platters
  • Roy Orbison
  • U2
  • Neil Diamond
  • Barry Manilow
  • And my others.

The original theme song captured the torn heart of a man who while in prison was pulled between escaping prison and serving his term to return to his love and family.

Oh, my love, my darling
I’ve hungered for your touch
A long, lonely time
Time goes by so slowly
And time can do so much
Are you still mine?
I need your love
I need your love
God speed your love to me

Lonely rivers flow
To the sea, to the sea
To the open arms of the sea
Lonely rivers sigh
“Wait for me, wait for me”
I’ll be coming home, wait for me

Oh, my love, my darling
I’ve hungered, for your touch
A long, lonely time
Time goes by so slowly
And time can do so much
Are you still mine?
I need your love
I need your love
God speed your love to me
Lonely mountains gaze
At the stars, at the stars
Waiting for the dawn of the day

All alone I gaze
At the stars, at the stars
Dreaming of my love far away

We live in a culture where it is easy to be torn between hearing the Gospel as a message that frees us to live for God while others hear it as exclusive words that harn and divide.

Each time you hear song, one of the most popular songs worldwide, in the 20th century, think of God singing it to the church.

  • Time goes by so slowly, and time can do so much, Are you still mine?
  • .. Wait for my, I”ll be coming home, wait for me. wait for me.

Paul again is sharing with Timothy, call him to remind the church to not be ashamed of the Gospel but live as a person who is free to live for God, even if you are in prison.

Think of all the reasons to keep silent? To escape the grace of the Gospel?

Remain Faithful.

If we have died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he will also deny us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful

Q: The Task for us to how to encourage one another in remaining faithful.

Actions over Words: The say is true and sure: Your witness may be the only Gospel someone reads.*

*Note the asterisk: I don’t have to preach, teacher, prophet, or spokesperson as long as I am presenting myself as one who is freed in Christ, as one approved and accepted by God.

The (*) requires that we make sure know of the message has been received as intended.

Present Yourself as a Worker for God.

  • “Dressed” for work that reflects God’s grace. Not a church dress code, rather dressed to serve.
  • “Dressed” to witness
  • “Dressed” to represent God.

“Dressed” is an act of preparation:

Prepare not by having the right words, but the Godly actions

  • am I prepared to love?
  • am I prepared to forgive?
  • am I prepared to lead others to Christ?
  • am I prepared to feed, clothe and comfort?
  • am I prepared to be persecuted, rejected, inconvenienced?
  • am I prepared to tell God’s truth or my convenient version

The Path Taken

Whether broad or narrow: God is with us.

There be faithful in sharing the Gospel.

Last week I invited you to make contact and pray for someone

This week our homework is to prepare to show some part of the Gospel in our actions.

  1. Plan for it
  2. Expect God to send someone in your path
  3. Dress for the Gospel, live like you work for the Kingdom.
  4. Remember you are not chained but freed to love and live for Christ.
  5. Know you are free in Christ to set other free.
  6. Be ready to share what happens when you show your faith.

 

 

 

 

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Luke 7:1-10 “Go, Come, Do: Jesus Calls Us. 20160529 RSUMC

ServeHimGoComeDo

After Jesus had finished all his sayings in the hearing of the people, he entered Capernaum. A centurion there had a slave whom he valued highly, and who was ill and close to death. When he heard about Jesus, he sent some Jewish elders to him, asking him to come and heal his slave. When they came to Jesus, they appealed to him earnestly, saying, “He is worthy of having you do this for him, for he loves our people, and it is he who built our synagogue for us.” And Jesus went with them, but when he was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to say to him, “Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; therefore I did not presume to come to you. But only speak the word, and let my servant be healed. For I also am a man set under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to one, “Go,’ and he goes, and to another, “Come,’ and he comes, and to my slave, “Do this,’ and the slave does it.” When Jesus heard this he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd that followed him, he said, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.” When those who had been sent returned to the house, they found the slave in good health. [NRSV]

We have the ability to look back and compare the disciples Thomas and Peter and others to this unnamed Roman centurion. Based on his military training the soldier recognizes the power and authority of a command. On the other hand, Thomas, Peter, and John felt they had to see and touch to trust and believe.

This switch is a reversal of what we would assume to be the reality. The disciples would seem to have the blind faith and the Roman soldier who was expected to be an avoided adversary. But the story of what is assumed is not the story of the Gospel message.

This account is most accurately knows as a story of healing. The centurion’s servant found in good health after a remote conversation between Jesus and the soldier. (This is an early example of the range of divine Bluetooth/WiFi healing.) But as remarkable as the healing this is also an example of trust.

I am very proud of my son Luke for finishing his work at the Air Force Academy and becoming a second lieutenant. Four years ago, his being an officer in the military was something neither of us could picture. All Luke knew for sure was a good school; they let him play on the football team and is in the western part of the US. Four years later I can see he has rapidly increased his ability to make informed decisions, to communicate effectively, to take calculated risks and set goals of his choosing, all the while remaining committed to growing his faith.

In the early days of his training, they took daily photos during boot camp to preoccupy family and friends by seeing evidence that they had not quit and run away. There were a few days where fear, exhaustion and disappointment were in the photos, but others had smiles, comradely and confidence. This last semester I learned of some of the struggles he was called to discern and hopeful times that his delegation would not require any further follow through.

This moment in Luke’s Gospel is one of those times of delegation. Jesus is asked to delegate his authority to heal.

This request comes from the soldier who trusts Jesus do be able to do what is needed by making it so. Say the word, and so shall it be done.

  • It is like asking for the quilt committee: We need a prayer quilt. And sometimes, overnight, it is done.
  • It is like asking for help with Show and Sell: We need food preppers and server, and it is so.
  • It is like asking for a SS teacher or new Wednesday helper in the children’s department, and we have to turn folks away… ( ..well I was on a roll and hoped it would be so.)

But this is right where the difference between the devoted disciples and serving soldiers paths cross.

Who is worthy? The faithful who have been by Jesus’ side all this time or those willing to Go, Come, Do?

Somewhere in our model of being and doing Church we build some assumptions that you must be old enough to be accountable and able to serve in meaningful ways AND you have to be young enough to be responsible and able to help in meaningful ways. So we excuse you when you are a kid and retire you when you get tired.

Your church is calling you to Go, Come and Do right now.

“Oh, now it’s summer break. We are going to be gone, and we will see you when we get back into the fall routine.”

  • When you have occasion to travel and cannot be present here, remember to worship where you are. Either experience worship, in a different place or log in the streaming of the early service. Find God with you where you travel.
  • Practice talking to strangers about Jesus; you might never see them again, and that is one reason to share your faith, and the other is if you do, you might transform a person’s, life you would otherwise not be present to reach.
  • Remember the ministry of your church continues even when you are in other locations. Be consistent with your giving. Use the online giving, send a check early or remember to catch up.
  • Be open to finding God where you Go, to bring back new experience that helps us DO ministry here.
  • The purpose of a vacation is renewal and relationship building. What better time to spend with your travel mates and family than to sing praise/hymns, share the scriptures, and learn how God is at work in new places.

No matter the season, we are called to respond to needs of those who are hurting around us. Here is the tricky part. We respond, not because it makes us feel better or eases our accountability, we serve Jesus when we do. The centurion works with Jesus as Jesus command.

There is an obsessive amount of ‘worthy’ language in such a short passage. The “I’m not worthy” language.

Here is the point about Jesus:

  • First, Jesus says to us, and to everyone in the scene: I am here because you are worth it to me.
  • Second, Worth is not determined by the government, peers not even the church. God declare we are worthy, because of Jesus.
  • Third, Jesus responds not because what the soldier had earned with the religious leaders. Jesus responded to the trust and authority the centurion acknowledges in Jesus.

Our calling to heal the sick, feed the hungry, visit the lonely, care for the lost is because it gives witness to us and the world that Jesus is at work in us.

The soldier came to Jesus because he knew Jesus could do what no one else could do. Not because he felt bad about his servant. Not because of his desperation. Not because of his business dealing with the elders at the synagogue. The soldier came in faith.

This weekend we honor those who made a worthy choice to serve under another authority, trusting that they were part of a larger force of good. Not every soldier helps for reasons of faith, but this centurion has shown us that even in serving his command, he found a way to connect with Jesus.

We thank those who given their lives in service. We honor their willingness to Go, Come and Do what they were called to do. They are for us an ongoing challenge to do the same for Christ as the church.

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Luke 24.36-48 “What’s For Lunch?” RSUMC 20150419

broiled_fishWhile they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost.  He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds?  Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself ! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.”  When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?”  They gave him a piece of broiled fish,  and he took it and ate it in their presence.  He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses,the Prophets and the Psalms.”  Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.  He told them, “This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day,  and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. [NRSV]
Jesus is not just an idea, a theory, a collection of stories, Jesus was a real, person, human, like us: a spiritual being in a physical body.
  • Ideas don’t get hungry
  • theories don’t need to eat
  • collections of stories and moral teaches don’t need physical nourishment.
The resurrection Jesus is a physical person freed up, by the resurrection to affirm we are more than our bodies.
  • We are more than our physical needs
  • We are more than our material posessions
  • We are more than the health of these bodies
  • We are more than the suffering of this present age
  • We are Spiritual people, child of God, joint heirs, brother/sisters with Jesus, God’s people, God’s family.
Jesus continues to show the faithful the signs of the struggle and proof of the resurrection.
  • Jesus keeps showing up, directing us to OUR purpose.
  • We need the signs just like everyone else.
  • We need reminding and encouragement
  • We need Jesus to show us the same old story because our doubts and fears are real.
We need proof of the resurrection because we:
  • forget
  • let go
  • look away
  • taste other fruit
  • wrestle
  • break the commandments
  • are unfaithful individually AND collectively
  • THESE are the FAITH STRUGGLES in the OT, NT, and today.
The old testament is not to be forgotten, rather stands to say that Jesus is not an after-thought. But God has been at work since the beginning.. for our purpose, our foundation… our base..
Yes, it’s all about the base: the basis for God’s work of creation to this very day and beyond is LOVING RELATIONSHIP.

The base and foundation of our relationship is expressed in the Gracious give and take of

REPENTANCE: God loves us so much we know we can ask and God will forgive.

FORGIVENESS: God loves us so much, when we ask, God sees our change of heart and forgives.

We mess us… See list above… and offers of Forgiveness when we repent, turn around.

of repentance and forgiveness. The corrective and creative renew of relationship.
RESURRECTION PEOPLE can turn around, 180 degree.
In the power of Jesus Christ our lives can turn around,
God gives us the power to change, the freedom to choose, no matter what world, family, politics, etc. We can choose to follow God,
So do a 180, eat lunch and get to work sharing the signs the Christ is living in you.

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