Archive for category Generosity

2 Corinthians 8:7-15 Generous Love 20170701

Now as you excel in everything–in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in utmost eagerness, and in our love for you–so we want you to excel also in this generous undertaking. do not say this as a command, but I am testing the genuineness of your love against the earnestness of otheFor you know the generous act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become richAnd in this matter I am giving my advice: it is appropriate for you who began last year not only to do something but even to desire to do something–  now finish doing it, so that your eagerness may be matched by completing it according to your means. For if the eagerness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has–not according to what one does not have. I do not mean that there should be relief for others and pressure on you, but it is a question of a fair balance between your present abundance and their need, so that their abundance may be for your need, in order that there may be a fair balance. As it is written, “The one who had much did not have too much, and the one who had little did not have too little.” [NRSV]
Learning from Past Generosity

How wonderful are Paul’s words of encouragement to the church in Corinth and Rock Spring. We have been blessed with a tremendous opportunity to complete our building fund with a matching gift. The initial response in the first year reflected the creativity, generosity and commitment of the membership to tackle this challenge. It is with gene rose faith this mission was begun and in Generosity it will be completed. 

Faith in Finances

We have been faces with opportunities to do many things and it has been hard to put things on hold while we best utilize this matching challenge.  

The Balance
Paul speaks of a balance between the areas that receive our attention. Those of single vision saying feed the poor instead of pay for building overlook the generosity of:

  • the home of Lazarus 
  • Those who provided the upper room
  • The boat in the sea
  • The well to draw water
  • The price of the field with a hidden treasure
  • The cost of the pearl

Counter Weights /Waits

  • Judus is famous for helping us remember the other voices that eat away at our Generosity 
  • Those times we look only at the management of monies
  • Those ways sees gift and value its price in currency
  • Those words we insert that reflect fear, control and. Isplaced power

Listen to Words of faith from Corinth

  1. Now as you excel in everything–in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in utmost eagerness, and in our love for you–so we want you to excel also in this generous undertaking. 
  2. I do not say this as a command, but I am testing the genuineness of your love against the earnestness of others. 
  3. For you know the generous act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich. 
  4. it is appropriate for you who began last year not only to do something but even to desire to do something– now finish doing it, so that your eagerness may be matched by completing it according to your means. 

May we revive our first excitement t in showing love in gifts of generosity 

For if the eagerness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has–not according to what one does not have. 

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Matthew 24:36-44 The Unexpected Gifts

“Reclaiming Christmas: The Unexpected Gifts

But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. For as the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the coming of the Son of Man. Then two will be in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. Two women will be grinding meal together; one will be taken and one will be left. Keep awake, therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour. [MT 24.26-44]

A Look at the gift that is missing from Christmas and why

This Advent will be a series of messages that can help you reclaim Christmas

Q: What is there to reclaim?

A: More than “Merry Christmas” instead of Happy Holidays, More than traditions and decoration.

Q: Why celebrate Jesus’s birth now, when for the first 1000 years the church didn’t celebrate Christmas. What are we celebrating anyway?

Christmas has become something that we DO know the day and the hour. All the angels of heaven and every believer and non-Christian alike, knows when Christmas is going to happen, December 25th. We have seen the decorations at Walmart. We have marked Black Friday. Tomorrow is CyberMonday, and that will mark 30 days until Christmas.

[statista.com] Overview of US Christmas Season, 750K people employed, e-commerce holiday season sales of $95B, Average on gifts $830B, $30 on cards, $127B on Cyber Monday [Last Projections might double this year], Number of gifts per person on average: 14, % who by gifts online 50%, Christmas tree retail value in US. 1.32B.

We need cards, foods, gifts, a tree, lights, decorations, songs, and a quick reading of the beginning of Luke’s Gospel or watch “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” No matter if someone knows about Santa Claus or Jesus, Christmas has little to do with what is unexpected.

The First step in reclaiming Christmas is to prepare for God’s unexpected.

From the text: In Noah’s time the flood surprised the world, except for Noah.

@ The reality that God is not planning for the Christmas, we are planning, is a most likely reality.

(Some who have heard me say this for years call me an old Scrooge.)

In our Christmas list making: What are we expecting to happen at Christmas?

The first year Ebay became popular, a staff member couple at the church I was serving ordered ALL of their Christmas gifts online and NONE of the items were delivered in time for Christmas morning. The gifts arrived like a gentle snowfall over several days, but that morning when the three children came down the stairs they found only a stocking and promissory notes of things to come.

Our tendency is to have a backup plan. Random cards and gift cards, bonus gifts or a gift vault of hospitality. Maybe the unexpected gives us reason to prepare differently than we have before.

What if, instead, we began to name why we give gifts in the first place.

Some suggestions:

  • Tradition
  • Expression of love
  • Fun and Celebration
  • Duty or Social Graces
  • Guilt or Fear of Embracement
  • Longing to be Loved
  • Fear of Rejection
  • Appeasement or
  • Justification or
  • Control

If we give and receive gifts that are weighted with lavage, then they are not gifts at all.

So, we hope, we give and receive gifts that are offerings of love, expressions of joy, tokens of affection.

Here is the TWIST: Why are we giving and receiving gives at Christmas?

Reclaiming Christ at Christmas begins with remembering whose birthday we celebrate. Jesus.

Your birthdate might fall one December 25, [the fewest of any date of the year, 6,574 on avg. Thedailyviz.com] Which if the unexpected visit by the angel left Mary in the usual condition of expectation, of the visit, must have happened in early April.

Even if you share the 25th, Christmas is not YOUR birthday.

  • Christmas is the celebration of God’s moving in with us, in a human form, as child, born just as each of us was born.
  • Christmas is the recalling that saw how confused and twisted people had made religion, faith, life and relationships that he chose to become one of us, for our sake, and not God’s own.
  • Christmas is the retelling of the story that God so loves us, that God gives God’s self to us, still today.

 

The second part of answering why we celebrate Christmas is:

How do the things we do, plans we make, the gifts we give, reflect one another, ourselves and the world anything about God’s love for us?

If Christmas is to be about Jesus, and God, and the Holy Spirit, and scripture or the church, we need to own up to the reality that, sometimes, we call Christmas something that is not glorifying God. [I’m not saying everything has been thrown out with the bath, but this season of Advent is the time to making a spirited Christmas list.]

Think of it this way: if the whole world were preparing to remember, honor and celebrate your birthday would you want your celebration to look, sound, feel and mean what Christmas is to the world.

  • Why am I spending money in the way I am spending or borrowing?
  • Why am I longing for gifts to give and receive in this season, under the name/umbrella of Christmas?
  • Interruption: But I don’t want to do this. I want Christmas will all the fun and it sounds like a bummer.
  • Why are you messing with Christmas?
  • Because: Christmas is about God’s love for us. What is the difference between giving/receiving gifts that connect each other with God rather than something that pleases me?

Good News: God is all about celebrating, sing, banquets, and gifts.

What if you gave me a pair of blue jeans with a note that state why you wanted me to have that gift. “Every time you wear these comfortable Jesus, I hope you know the God’s comfort holds and protects you.”

  • What if along with a new pair of blue jeans that don’t have a hole and fit just right. I put on my Wish List
  • The widow who gave me five nickels she found on the street, taped them to a repurposed Christmas card from years past and wrote these words: “I want you to know how much I appreciate you. Yours in Christ,” Glenda
  • What if Santa left a letter for a child that places the significance of giving on God’s gift that is given to us in Christ?
  • What if instead of dirty Santa games we played other reindeer games that are only enjoyed by a few at the party and instead we filled health kits, mitten/glove/hat/sock kits for kids and adults with personal notes that example why we, of all people this season, know God calls us to give gifts of love.

I want to make this first step in reclaiming Christmas for God simple and easy:

In everything you do in the name of Christmas, find a sincere way to connect it God for yourself and others.

  • We place this tree in our house to remind us of God’s everlasting love
  • We place these decorations as they remind us of the light of Christ in a dark, sinful world
  • We tie these red ribbons to remind us of the gift of the holy spirit that is with us always.
  • nope{We give this bottle of Old Spice, because it was less than $10 and easy to reach at the drugstore.}
  • I gave you this gift because I know you love it and it is only a fraction of how much God treasure you.
  • I prepare this food and share it with you because Jesus taught whenever we ate to remember the gift of his life and love.
  • Do you get the trend: Intentionally make the link for every celebration, every gift and if you can’t find a link, consider it something other than Christ-mas.

Give them the unexpected Link to Christ this Christmas.

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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.

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Colossians 3:12-17 “Clothes for Christmas” 20151227 RSUMC Xmas1

Socks4Xmas

94% of American’s celebrate Christmas (3). We have verbal and ideological battles with 6% of the population who don’t feel comfortable greeting each other this season by saying, “Merry Christmas.” It’s important to keep this in perspective. The number who keep a religious Christmas is about 70% with 29% celebrating some holiday during the same period of holidays (4). And yet we hear political debates about our nation not being a Christian nation, when 70% of the 94% who celebrate Christmas do so for religious reasons. Tis the Season to be religious.

The National Retail Federation reports

  • average spending per person reaches $805.65 in 2015
  • Gifts for family members will total $462.95 this year
  • 46 percent of their shopping this holiday season was conducted online,
  • 21.4 percent of smartphone owners used their device to purchase holiday merchandise in 2015,
  • 47%) said free shipping/shipping promotions are important factors  where to shop.
  • 55.8 percent of holiday shoppers will splurge on themselves

 

The number one anticipated “item” for Christmas is what category? ____ Clothes. Men 48% / Women 56%. But the number one “non-item” requested is gift cards. Men 51% / Women 66% (3)

What does that say? We expect Clothes at Christmas and more than half the time we’d prefer to pick out our own clothes than have people guess.

So this is where we begin hearing this passage from the church to Colossae:

As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.  Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. [NRSV]

Clothe one another in love

  • compassion
  • kindness
  • humility
  • meekness
  • patience

Imaging celebrating the 12 days of Christmas. Not just the first one.

Imaging, after all the celebration of Christmas morning of day one, we continues giving the gives of compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.. all together as example of Christ’s love for us.

What does that look like?

Seeing or hearing the needs of someone who is hungry or wanting and we take them food for the day. It does not solve their every need, but it gives them one more day of perspective that they are not forgotten and their transformation is not hopeless. Or teach them skills to work or to deal with their brokenness, fears or depression. This is not the task of someone to do FOR us, but for us to give one-on-one. Gifts of compassion.

You could think of sarcastic and judgmental comments, that might be accurate, yet, instead you find kind words of encouragement or forgiveness. In speaking where you would have remained silent and offering kindness instead of leading with what’s wrong, you lead with the kindness you would hope to hear when someone is speaking with you. A gift of Kindness with words.

You and I could choose to give a gift out of our abundance away. You know how special it makes you feel to know someone has given you a gift of love, think how sharing what you have might make you both feel loved, even if it is yours to keep. A Gift of humble sharing, it cost no more because it is yours to give.

Often it is not the value of the gift, but rather the appropriateness of the gift. We wait and save up to give expensive gifts, when it is our present half-hour each day that transform lives around us. Which would I rather have today: a grand gift from my father, who died a decade ago or 20 minutes talking about the day with him face-to-face?  In the meekness of time, we share the lives we have to share.

Or could you find it possible to not fix someone’s problem, but rather be one who stands with them while they work through the trial and error of failures. So often we don’t want folks to live life for us, we want someone with us, to make certain we are not alone. Can you be present with someone who is alone and listen, encourage and wait with them, the gift of patience, for you and them.

For the remainder of the Christmas season, ten more days, try giving these gifts in love for Christ.

In the next ten days: Let everything you do, be done in Jesus name.

As you wake to start the day: In Jesus Name

As you write a check or open your purse or wallet: In Jesus Name

As you open you mouth to speak or your mind to consider: In Jesus Name

As you cook, clean, travel, read, share or listen: Do so in Jesus Name

As we shall then be clothed in love.

—–

(1) http://www.statista.com/topics/991/us-christmas-season/

(2) https://nrf.com/media/press-releases/retailers-very-digital-holiday-season-according-nrf-survey

(3) http://www.berkshireeagle.com/local/ci_29153886/from-spending-celebrating-2015-holiday-season-25-stats

(4) https://www.barna.org/barna-update/culture/699-tis-the-season-how-technology-is-affecting-the-holidays#.Vn9dPpMrLBI

 

 

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Twas the “Real” Night Before Christmas

ROOMintheSTABLE.jpg

When all through the town,
Folks were snuggled comfy and sound.
All my night guests had checked in,
And I was exhausted and tucked in my kin,
When out at the door the I heard a swift rap,
of the door knocker knocking interrupting my nap.

I sprang up from my cot to see what was the issue,
Couldn’t they read. “NO VACANCIES! We’ll miss you.”
But my old grandpa’s business voice, said clear as day,
“There’s still some money to be made, and bills to be pay.”

So I thought about the stable stalls out back,
I knew there was fresh straw, out with the tack.
“Meet me in the back yard,” I told the young couple,
His wife was expecting; it looked like a double.

The sky was dark but for an enormous new star,
That lit up the night from so very far.

There among cows, donkeys and sheep,
I offered them the last place to sleep.
It was so late; they were wearier than I,
So I left them to rest, until morning came by.

As much as I hoped that would be all for the night,
after a few hours later, the yard was a sight.
Shepherds and sheep had come straight to the stable,
Some were young while others, barely able.

But all reported hundreds of angels in the air,
Singing the world’s savior is born, “Have no dispair.”
Have no fear they proclaimed,
Peace on Earth was their refrain.

It was odd how they left their posts in the night,
They risked losing their jobs, to report on their sight.
I walked out the back and up to the rail,
I saw the young beaming mother, the father quite pale.

But there shown a warm aura of light in the barn
I half-worried about fire and sounding the alarm,
But the numinous, radiant, wonder I saw,
was a life changing scene that filled me with awe.

My Lord and My God was born on that night.
To love and to save and to give us all life.
I went to my front door and pulled down the sign,
I’m glad I made room for my Savior, divine.

As keeper of strangers and travelers and folks,
Mine is the task of lifting the yoke.
I hope that you will find Christ in your way,
to make room for Jesus, who lives still today.

A “Real” Merry Christmas,  Jesus is born,
Afresh and anew in your heart, sound your horn. Merry CHRISTmas to all! 

JTB with inspiration from the meter of CC Moore

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2 Corinthians 4:3-6 RSUMC “Shine Jesus Shine” 20150215

lightindarknessAnd even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For we do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake. For it is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. [NRSV]

  • Shine Jesus
  • Shine your shoes
  • Shine as in moonshine
  • Shiner as in a black eye
  • Shiny as in a new car, red Corvette or a white Tahoe
  • Shiny as in a proof coin

But today we talk about the Flashlight.

Some debate:

  • in 1886 the first dry-cell batteries were made which powers a variety of emerging ideas
  • In 1898, Russian immigrant inventor, Conrad Hubert made the first flashlight. And later founded the Ever-Ready Battery Company.
  • In 1899, English inventor David Misell invented the first flashlight. He was the first to use the “D” battery which had a stronger light.

But those early models had a weak and inconsistent power source and bulbs that were more fragile and temperamental than modern LED and HID flashlights. The name flashlight came from the intermittent light that burn for a short while and had to rest before it was read to be used again. Thus the short flash of light gave the battery with bulb stick the nickname: a flashlight.

I suggest that we have much to learn from the early flashlight as an example of our spiritual development.

1. When we find ourselves connected to the power God gives us, that is within each of us, we tap into a the source of awareness, knowledge, guidance, counsel and spiritual strength. We seem to quickly do one of two things: a) doubt it is a way of life that God has intended for us and/or b) confuse our personal power, talents and strength with God’s.

Like the flashlight, God’s presence is revealed in the darkness of a broken and sinful world and when we turn it on in the dark, the darkness is no more. But for some reason we turn off the lights.

Life in the Dark, holding a flashlight.

It sounds unbelievable, buy there a just a few times (denote the sarcasm) that while we are holding on the the switch that connects us to scriptures, worship, Christian fellowship, prayer, opportunities to serve, witness and give, we allow the darkness to take us over.

The Reality of Darkness

  • When human beings behead, cage and burn, degrade and devalue women and children. Here we see the darkness of evil.
  • When other the teachings of other faith’s say Jesus is but another prophet and deny Jesus is God’s present in our history and at the thrown as the begotten of God. When Jesus is left behind, or left out all together, darkness grows stronger.
  • When human beings long for governments to provide what God gives or what God equips us to provide for ourselves, evil has made dark the world.
  • The less we proclaim the light of Christ, the more expanse of darkness increases along with the grip of evil and brokenness.

The starting point is to affirm that some things are good and some bad, some light and some dark:

  • Shine the light, the light erases the darkness. The darkness is not present where the light shine
  • Darkness, where is the darkness? In your check book or cupboard? In your plans and dreams? In you behavior and attitude?
  • The Gravitational darkness of the back hole of evil.
  • Stumbling in the dark.
  • The futile task of traveling in the dark… without night vision.
  • Thermal signature from the energy emitted from a beating heart.

AFRAID OF THE DARK:

  • As a boy I had a teddy bear that would allow me to hide under the covers and was brave enough to keep his head out in the dark room to keep watch over shadows and strange noises. He would occasionally be willing to be held by his feet and look under the bed or even fly across the room to check the closet door.
  • We have more than a teddy bear to watch over our fears. We never out grow fear. We manage and mature over different fearful situations, but fear is a life long struggle. Jesus is our stand in. Jesus hold us and grounds us while we explore a fear-filled world.
  • Be Afraid of the Dark, Don’t be Afraid to take Jesus with You when it IS dark.

Let Christ’s light shine:

  • Sometimes that darkness is people’s behaviors and attitudes and we need not face the conflict alone.
  • We face conflict knowing the Jesus never promised to have a life free of fear, but to be our counsel when the darkness surrounds, threatens and tempts us.

JESUS COME QUICK

  • Sometime Shining the light is calling on Jesus out-loud and directly.
  • Sometime Shining the light is deliberate words and actions that unfold over time.
  • Sometime Shining the light is charging our spiritual batteries when we are strong for times we are weak.
  • Bottom line: Shine the light of Christ is allowing CHRIST to shine through me and through you.

PAUL the PHYSICS AUTHORITY

I doubt Paul knew the speed of light. But lighting a lamp in a darken room; carrying a torch into a dark street; proclaiming and trusting God to show up in a cell in prison, or in conflict in the church, or the pull of governments and other types of worship.. Paul calls on the Spirit that cause him to become blind, so that he could see, to guide his steps in all things.

SO WHAT:

Turn on the flashlight. Not with the weak beam of light that you and I have to add. Rather allow Christ to light through us.

Let the world hear the Good News in our words, songs and witness

Let the world hear that evil is present but not in charge.

Pray, Speak up, be pro-active, Don’t wait for darkness to leave, Shine Christ in it.

Where is the darkness around you?

At work: Pray for the trouble makers, and difficult cases, and stumbling blocks to see Christ in you.

At home: Make time for study, worship, fellowship and communication.

In community: Small groups, worship, service, witness and fellowship.. bring the dark to the light

Online: For all the good that comes with information overload technologies, comes the easy access of evil and darkness to be at our fingertips 24/7. Set limits, support accountability and confess our sins.

Around the World: God didn’t wait for God’s people to get their act together, but went to the Shepherd and Magi to and revealed where they looked into the darkness and show them THE GREAT LIGHT at Jesus’ birth.

HomeWork:

Carry your a flashlight with you. When you see evil and darkness, shine the light of Christ.. your flashlight might be scripture, songs of faith, words of hope, and lessons of accountability. Don’t sit in the dark and don’t let others either.

 

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Mark 1:14-20 “License to Fish” RSUMC 20150125

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Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.” As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea–for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” And immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him. [NRSV]

Licensed to Catch

To be authorized to fish on state waters and waters that lead to state waters you must have a license to fish. It is a piece of paper with slopping dot matrix ink that is barely legible that cost just a few dollars for a whole year of fun and recreation, but try to sneak out without one and you will wish you had the permit. That license helps keep lakes and rivers stocked, rangers on watch and some efforts to protect waters for future fishing. It seems to me that it sounds much more impressive to call one’s permit a license to fish, rather than a stocking fee or a wildlife protection fee or a ranger administrative fee. Now I complain every time they increase the rate, but its still one of the best values our state provides.

With a license to fish it sounds like your are a professional catcher of fish, a regular James Bond in the wilderness. Licensed, licensed to fish. And yet that little piece of paper is your letter of authorization to attempt to catch a fish.

Catching Fish

Unless you use your bare hands or a catchers mitt, I suggest that the whole endeavor is misnamed. Catching fish is the rarity in my experience. Practicing is the art of hoping and trying to catch. I have cast my line MANY more times than I have ever caught a fish.

And when I have successfully retrieved a fish from his watery home, I generally use every method I have to capture the little creature. And in my experience, my catch is a small creature; one I probably should use my bare hands to ‘catch’ rather than a load of specialized gear, bait and practice.

Successful Fishing

To be successful at fishing might have nothing to do with catching anything, except a nap in the great outdoors.

To be successful at fishing might be in helping someone catch what you have little or no success achieving yourself.

To be successful at fishing I know that the cost to procure a fish is not measured by the total investment, rather in the most recent success story. (Boat, poles, line, lures, trailers, flotation devices, motors, umbrella, wetsuit, waders, various must-have pieces of tackle, just to get started.) The cost of a ‘catch’ is the most recent worm and and the gas to transport you to the best spot.

A Failure at Fishing

You might think you have failed a fishing if you came home with no fish, but learning WHY you came home empty handed might be the successful lesson.

Coming home with a boat load of fish actually means more work of cleaning and cooking your catch which might be the last thing you want to do after three hours of driving, unloading and loading a boat, working on a broken boat, waking a mile back to go to the bathroom because your little helper doesn’t want to go in the woods, enduring some mud and rain, going through the first aid kit from miscellaneous hook injuries and only finding the little ones that need to be returned to grow bigger.

Luxury of Catch and Release

It is such a mixed message to take a child fishing when it’s catch-and-release season. First all the hype about “catching” fish and bringing it home to eat for dinner is the stuff that beginning fisher-folk legends  are founded. You finally catch one, beginner’s luck you find the biggest one of the whole fishing parting and you have to throw it back.  I wanted to eat it and mount it for all posterity, not through it back!

But there is actually a great level of maturity, delayed-gratification, or at least perspective when you can use all at your disposal to hook and retrieve your catch and not have to keep it

  • because that is not the only meal your family might have is at the end of your line.
  • because you don’t need to show anyone your catch,
  • because you have learned to enjoy to sport of fishing
  • because you want to leave fish for those who need the meal they provide
  • because you don’t want to clean them
  • because you found your enjoyment in the journey rather than the trophy

“Catching” is not the high-water-point of fishing!

Sharing fishing with someone else is the joy of fishing.

  • You need no license to share the story
  • You need no experience, success nor failure, to share the fun
  • You don’t have to know what your doing and you may be the most practiced professional

Sharing the adventure of catching is heart.

Jesus goes a long way to share an INVITATION to share the ADVENTURE of FISHING

Jesus never promised that we would catch a single person

Jesus invites us to go on an adventure bigger than what we could catch if we tried, practiced,

Jesus extends INVITATION rather than LICENSES

Jesus calls us to use the skill and talents we know and have and INVITES us to share them with the work of the Kingdom.

Jesus continues to call disciples

Look to the persons on either side:

  • Remind them “You are a disciples”
  • Remind them “You are a fisher, not a catcher”
  • Remind them “You don’t have to know what you are doing, just follow Jesus”
  • Remind them “Lead with what you know”
  • Remind them of the tough part: “Sometimes following Jesus is leaving other things behind”

Jesus Calls Disciples who make new Disciples, who fish for more disciples…

The ADVENTURE is ours,

we never graduate,

we never retire,

we may have weary, uncertain times, but

there is always more fishing to be done. So keep it up

Let’s go fishing

  • It’s too cold
  • It’s too wet
  • I don’t have a license
  • I don’t know where to go
  • I don’t have the right equipment
  • I don’t know how
  • I’m tired of fishing
  • I don’t like fish
  • I want someone to fish for me, I like the restaurant/grocery story method.

So why are we here as church, if we are not about the one thing Jesus asked disciples…

I’m up for the ADVENTURE!

I have a story to SHARE!

  • I don’t know how to fish, but I know who does!
  • I don’t have license, but I have forgiveness and love!
  • I might have skills and equipment, God wants what we bring! God fulfills what we leave behind.
  • I might get tired, God plans for rest.
  • I might not like the people God sends me to, but I know God loves us all
  • If I don’t follow, what will I miss and who will miss God….

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Camp Glisson Sunday at RSUMC 20150111

Visit www.glisson.org glissonlivinggroup

My Glisson Story. Several generations back Tommye McCoy helped church youth gather stones for the rock chapel by Cane Creek Falls at Glisson. Tommye’s daughter Vicky worked as a camp counselor when Glisson begin the Rustic Camping program. Later Vicky’s sons attended as campers and later counselors at Sparrowwood and Village camps. At the right side of the alter in that stone chapel I heard and felt Jesus Christ claim my heart and spirit. Later Vicky’s oldest grand-daughter began at age 4 to attend with her father as T.I.R. at Pioneer/Summit Camp and Susanna continued as a camper each year until her senior year of high school. If you think back about the power of moving a few stones in the wilderness can transform lives for over four generations. The same waters fall over the same rocks, by the same chapel where the same sounds of music, faith and fellowship continue to make a life-change difference in hundreds of campers and their families each year. Will you make a gift that will start a new chain of faith witnesses by the forest of folks who treasure the exponential gifts that make Glisson God’s futile souls for children, youth, young adults, families and grandparents. Don’t let the water pass you or others by. Get into the water and share the story.

http://www.glisson.org/schedule

Guest speakers, camper and counselor testimonies will be shared.

Join us at RSUMC at 9am via streaming worship and in the sanctuary at 11am

3477 Peavine Road, Rock Spring, GA 30739

Also Join us for January 18th at 6pm for “Back Home” Live in Concert at RSUMC, this is a free concert with all donations supporting sending our community children to experience the power of Camp Glisson. Thanks for your support. See you there!

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John 1.1-16 The Word Moved In With Us RSUMC 20150104

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Merry Christmas: Jesus Moved In With Us!

 

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him.  But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. (John testified to him and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, “He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’ “) From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. [NRSV]

Christmas: A Moving Story

Have you ever stopped to think about the Christmas storying has a great deal of movement.

The angel appears to Mary announcing the coming birth and she travels to visit her cousin Elizabeth.

Joseph hears about the baby and moves into action trying to fix the problem.

The government is more interested in numbers and taxes than the comfort a mother-to-be or the situation of  a new family and calls for Jesus to be born away from home in a place where people have parked their traveling animals.

The angels tell the Good News to shepherds in the field and calls them to go, leave work and job behind and visit the family.

God moves the heavens to reveal a sign for those looking for inspiration and moves the wisemen into action for a long, long journey.

As soon as Herod hears God’s Good News he is filled with fear and the family is on the run to Egypt.

The Christmas story is a moving story..

  • It is an Action film where God is moving through history, present and future to remodel the lamp that was broken and patched so many times from careless play and intentional deception.
  • You know the lamp or vase or treasure on a shelf that get’s knocked off, first by chance from playing where you knew you were not suppose to play in the first place and the consequences are the treasure gets broken.
  • You try and glue the pieces together but it’s not right, it’s not whole.
  • When the parents find the broken crack, now apparent with dried glue where there should be no glue at all. I don’t know who did it? It wasn’t my fault. It was her fault. She did it.
  • Punishment follows and yet on the next occasion to play the treasure is broken again and the fragments are more difficult to find and there ends up being more glue than parts and paint is added to cover the brokenness and..
  • over time the treasure pass through generations and the brokenness pass as well the treasure is mostly glue and paint. and in comes the Christmas story.
  • Jesus, the baby born comes to take the blame for what was broken then, what is broken now and what will be broken until the end of time.
  • Jesus moves in, to take on what has separated us from truth and wholeness and becomes the brokenness that we might be whole and true.

This is what makes the Christmas story moving.. Jesus moves in, and becomes the broken gap that makes us new.

Christmas is a moving story..

One of the reasons that United Methodist clergy move so frequently originated in a setting where the church was growing so fast that there were more congregations than preachers to preach, teach and administer churches. The circumstances has out grown that movement. [While I am grateful that system has lead me to RSUMC!!] The role in many churches is the clergy and lay leaders are overwhelmed with the task of maintaining and preserving the past as a way of appreciating donors and keeping dreams of the past alive. That is not very moving.. to live in memorial.

Christmas is Moving Story..

Because it celebrates that Jesus has moved in with us. His spirit remains with us. His body, the church, lives as a perpetual witness that the story continues. Moving through history continuing to tell that God’s love and grace are for us and not just shepherds and wisemen back then. If Christmas is only a memorial of what happened in Bethlehem it would have faded over time and some other tradition of some mythical gift-giving elf turned reindeer herder and resident of the North Pole might become more celebrated… {Oh, that’s confusing, is he talking about this is a good thing or a bad thing?} I’m just say, crazier things have happened.

Christmas is a Moving Story because it’s power travel through time

The celebration of Christmas has two more days to go in the 12 days of the season. Don’t pack up all the decoration just yet.

Jesus has come to our house and moved in with us.

I would make a case that it would be fun to have a live tree in the house all year long to help us keep Christmas all year long.

We pack up the treasures for a future occasion when we just might need to leave them out.

The day my parents dropped off my younger brother at college they went and bought the nicest stereo equipment, television and car they could afford. The next time I went the their house my response was, “What’s Up with this stuff, now? Why didn’t we have this when we lived here?” They answered, “Because you lived here then.”

As I was going through my parents house to sell it this year I found this equipment well used and worn out. It fetched only a tiny fraction of its original price tag at the yard sale. It was no longer the same treasure, but it’s lesson remains with me beyond the physical items will be long past.

So it is with Christmas, it moves in and the decorations go out, but the power of Jesus grows beyond the physical person, beyond the sheep and manger, shepherd and frankincense. (More on that next Sunday when we start the season of discovery in Epiphany)

Today, while the season of Christmas draws close the power of Christmas moves into “THE REST OF THE STORY..

Allow Christmas to move you..

Not just to remember, but to shape your present.

Not just to keep traditional alive, but to prepare to find Jesus all year, each day.

Jesus moves into our living, not just our story books, because this is where we find the struggle with power of sin.

God has moved in with us because most of the days are not holidays, folks are not kind hearts and generous, sin is a real as ever and lamps and treasures and Christmas morning toys are already broken… Thankfully God is Good, all the time.

 

Ref Note: I give thanks to the title reference to the Cotton Patch Gospel of John talking about the incarnational gift of Christmas: Jesus Christ

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John 6:25-35 Bread of Our Ancestors RSUMC 20141102

Communion, All Saints, Signs and Spiritual Satisfaction: A full meal

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When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal.” Then they said to him, “What must we do to perform the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” So they said to him, “What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you? What work are you performing? Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'” Then Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.  [NRSV]

First of all: Reminder, there will be no homework during the month of November. Just class work..

It is fitting that we check in with this passage on All Saints Sunday. Each year on the first Sunday in November think back about those who now no longer with us, in the body, but are ever present in Spirit in our hearts and memories and join in worship with us from the stadium seats of heaven.

[the eight people you sit with in heaven: The three in front are three people we have looked for guidance who have gone ahead, they lead us to toward the throne. The three behind are the three folks who have looked over our shoulder, pushed and poke us, and clean up after us all our years. The last two people we think we would want to sit next to for eternity on the left and right. So who would want to go?]

In the passage from John’s Gospel he recounts how the people looking for Jesus remembered their heritage, but they missed the relationship with God of their kin folks.

There is an old preacher story about a student who went to his 25th class reunion and went to the professor and re-introduced himself to the teacher and said, “I am Dan Smith, I was one of your students.” The professor shakes his head and reflects for a time and then replies, “you may have attended my class, but you were never one of my students.”

Do we just go to the church? do we go through the idea or Christianity or is there a relationship in addition to the teachings. I have been reading a remarkable book by the Barna Group that has been studying the church in great detail since the 1970s. There study of Christians in the United States recounts that in the past ten years, the total number of folks who profess to be Christians or believe Christian morals are good has dropped from 49% to 39% (Nearly half to almost a third.) Of that 39% who claim the title and wear the name tag when asked, 8% report having their closes friends in the church. Conclusion: We like what Jesus said, not so much about the people who are talking about him. (RSUMC may not reflect this as drastically, but it does speak of the country as a whole.)

One of the greatest fears of growing old in America, and most everywhere, is that we will be forgotten an alone. Who’s task is it to remember our older generation? Who’s task is it to feed and clothe the poor? Is it the government’s responsibility? (NO!) It is our command, commission and calling!

The Teachers Question and Answer session of teaching

Also in the text, is the first question from the people, after Jesus leaves from feeding the 5000 he goes to pray and rest and the people find him and want to know how he got ahead of them.

Teacher how did you get hear ahead of us? God is not to be figured out..

To the crowds Jesus says, Are you only looking for entrainment? a free meal? something amazing to talk about?

Teaching: Work for what the Son of Man will give you. Feed the hungry and poor so they will know God, Jesus, Spirit, things that are eternal.

Back step 1: How do we do the things that you do? What’s the trick? What’s the power? (We are just like you and we can do what you do if you show us. then we won’t be a bother you any more)

Jesus: First you are not seeing God in Jesus, only a free lunch. Second, I want you all to follow not replicate and replace me….

Back step again: If you want us to know you are God, then give us a sign. We know Our story how Moses and the Israelite tribes ate manna, show us the manna! Show  us the manna. Show us the proof and then we will believe you like our kin believed Moses.

Communion

Jesus: Moses was not responsible for the manna; God sent the manna then, and I am the manna now. I will satisfy your Spiritual hunger.

Q: How often is too often for communion. One of the complaints about communion is 1) Why don’ t we use wine like Jesus did, and not watered down but the good stuff just like Jesus made for the wedding? 2) If we communion too often it will loose it’s meaning. 3) It takes up too much time in the service. 4) It is just a hot-bed of germs and virus waiting to be swapped.

A: 1) Methodist heritage, Wesley didn’t want to promote alcoholism and didn’t want those who struggled with alcohol to be required to taste what was best for them to avoid, just to received the grace,

2) If we eat food too often we will grow tired of eating and will all starve to death because we have taken the meaning out eating food. Doubt it

3) Preparing, serving always take more time and energy than eating. Thank you servers here and every where you are served.

4) More people touched the door handle to get in this building than will touch one of these cups. If you didn’t get germs off the door, your chair or in greeting each other  you are no more nor less likely to get germs from sharing the cup.

Heart of the matter. We are sharing the same menu and same ritual that those who started this church and those who gather in the upper room. It just bigger than we are.

5) Too often is not the question: Is it too often to tell my father that I love and respect and admire him? Now that he has gone to heaven, I think about his most every day. Express you love daily.

Our Class work is to come to the table, with each other.and know we join with those in heaven, and those in this place, and everyone who calls on the name of Jesus to feed and fill and satisfy our hearts today.

Once satisfied, we can do all things in Christ who lives and strengthens us..

 

 

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