Archive for category God

Matthew 5:38-34 The New Commandment

enemylove

You have heard that it was said, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you. “You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax-collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. [NRSV]

Love your enemies

The prescription for healing our personal relationship, to our national and global relationships, requires love.

That makes this teaching one of the hardest.

The Big Ten Commandments are a list of “do and don’t,” Jesus raises the bar beyond following rules of “do or don’t.” Jesus is after our “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'” [Luke 10:27]

To love our enemies requires more resource that we have.

God’s Love can do what nothing else can do.

In order for us to love with God’s love, we must rely on God’s love to shape our love.

  • STEP 1: Love God and know God Love you
  • STEP 2: Love God and know God loves your enemy
  • STEP 3: Model God’s love by loving first, without merit, rather because we are modeling God’s work in us.

Easy Love, does not require God’s help.

Find someone who likes you,

  • Find those who think and believe as you do like you,
  • Find those who will not challenge your actions or opinions, and
  • You can easily be successful in love that is self-affirming.
  • This might feel or seem to be loving others,
    • but love is actually not even noticed
    • and may not even be real.

What is the difference in Easy Love and Challenging Love

One we can do without God’s help and lasts as long as everyone is of like mind.

But when someone challenges the core, we desire “them” to return to the comfort and conformity of “us”

While we yet sinners.

God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. [Romans 5:8]

  • Jesus didn’t wait for us to go first,
  • Jesus didn’t judge us first to see if we are worthy of forgiveness
  • Jesus didn’t make us prove any reason to receive love, grace and new life.
  • Jesus loves us. Period.

In our Steps toward loving our enemies:

  • STEP 1: Love God and know God Love you
  • STEP 2: Love God and know God loves your enemy
  • STEP 3: Model God’s love by loving first, without merit, rather because we are modeling God’s work in us.

God’s love is preemptive

  • God goes first.
  • God makes the first move toward forgiveness
  • God makes the way possible where there is division.

The model for our loving those who are difficult to love

  • Begins by opening the conversation
  • Begins by making a way for grace
  • Begins by reminding ourselves and our enemies that God loves us even though we are at odds, broken or divided.

BUT WHY? Why does God loves us first?

It is the fundamental core of the nature of God

The core of our relationship with God and one another

God intervenes because we have broken the trust, we have divided our hearts, we have sided with like-minded.

If one side is righteous and the other totally corrupt, we would expect God to ‘smote’, flood and drive out the sinner from the garden. All these leave us separated and divided.

Jesus Reveals God’s Love as THE way to the heart of God.

Why don’t we move a far apart from one another and don’t cross paths, don’t interact, just avoid each other?

Why not write off the relationship and the people that are enemies?

  1. It’s not what God does
  2. It’s not what God has called us to do
  3. It keep us both from knowing Love/God

 

You can Never make someone love you

But you and I, as God models for us, a love, respect, hope, and longing for good with our enemies.

  • They may never repent
  • They may never respond in love
  • They may never relent

But their response is

  • not our responsibility,
  • not our challenge, and
  • not our calling.

The Way God’s Love Works

  1. It goes first, overlooking sin, broken, past, etc, with the hope of restoring the relationship
  2. It waits, not condoning sin, but hoping that by being loved first, the door/conversation/way is opened.
  3. It is genuinely longing for good, peace, joy, reunion, and the like to follow.
  4. It remains even if rejected.

Dirty Work, but Most Rewarding

  • Loving our Enemies is more difficult than following any rule or commandment
  • It is the primary work that we are all called to share.
  • Our ability to love and reciprocate love is linked to our salvation and eternity.

This is where it matters.

The challenge is to be perfect as our Father in Heaven is perfect.  Yikes!!

It is crucial that we define perfection as wholeness, completeness and not correctness, or a test score.

To be able to love those who have sinned, who are our enemies, is God’s work

And God gives us the same task to find wholeness by loving sinners.

To your Neighbor:

I’m a sinner, love me, forgive me and love me more

Back to your Neighbor: I’m a sinner too, I love you, I forgive you and need you to love me more,

God says: repeat daily.

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Hebrews 2:14-18 “For Folks Like Us.”

Seven dealdy sins signpost

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]

Christ Came to for sinners like us.

One of the Core faith questions is: Why did Jesus have to die for our sins? If God created the world in the first place, why not just speak the word, MULIGUN or DO-OVER and “so be it!”?

How many backyard ball games have been remedied by the power of the “do over”?

The relationship God creates humanity for is one of mutual trust, respect, and love. When we trust our own will, when we disrespect God’s rules, and when we turn “love of God” into “love of self,” we give up the innocence, wholeness, and life. We have no more than our own life to offer, and if we give it up, then we have no relationship with God.

In the Garden of Eden, once sin broke the relationship, Adman and Eve were out of the God-relationship and had to work on their relationship with God rather than only enjoy a relationship with God.

In the Flood and Noah, God tries the do-over, but sin continues to show up as quick as the remedy cleans the way, sin returns and the same as before the cleansing.

God offers to keep the relationship for us, even if we break it, if we will trust God to provide, lead and love us. But the offer is short lived and God’s will is questioned and rejected.

In the “Shark Tank” deal, God offers 100% of the profits, gives 100% of the resources, for us to choose life instead of death, knowing we will throw the whole deal away again and again. To seal the deal: God gives us the life we cannot restore, at God’s full cost, because the one thing God desires most is that you be freed from death, freed from the power of sin and free to ‘be’ with God, all of us.

Still, we listen to voices of talking snakes, tempting devils, and convincing logic within our own minds and we throw the gift away.

For us, Sin: That which distances us from a relationship of trust and love with God and the People of God.

Traditional, the Cardinal Sins our favorite, go-to list that usually needs our attention:

  • Pride,
  • Greed,
  • Lust,
  • Envy,
  • Gluttony,
  • Wrath, and
  • Sloth

Virtue: That which helps build a relationship of trust and love with God and the People of God.

  • The Old Testament virtues are to Love God with all your
    • heart
    • mind and
    • spirit.
  • The New Testament virtues are
    • Faith,
    • Hope, and
    • Love.

We can spend all day a church, feed five hundred people and sing praises till the cows come home and with one little word, we fail God.

Look at the short list

  • Pride, misplaced achievement
  • Greed, the assumption that things and money are our peace and hope and joy.
  • Lust, Self-gratification of power or the absence of love in our relationships, satisfying only the body or mind.
  • Envy, Not being content or satisfied, but alway wanting.
  • Gluttony, satisfying the body, thinking that daily bread will bring us wholeness.
  • Wrath lost in Anger, anger is, at times a healthy response, but when anger seeks revenge and dominance we come to the dark side.
  • Sloth. Apathy and Laziness, the waiting for what we deserve to be given to us.

The remedy and our salvation:

The Gospel Remain, Jesus Christ who dies for our sins and his resurrection for our eternal life.

Because he himself was tested by what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested

  1. We come to communion as it is our reaffirming Christ’s life has been given for our life
  2. We come confession our sins and trusting God’s promise to save
  3. We come to the table to eat, not of gluttony, but of grace
  4. We come giving praise for God’s mighty acts and not our own
  5. We come because we see the wealth in a life of giving ourselves to God
  6. We trust God’s power is greater than our own.
  7. We come knowing that we are empty without God’s mercy
  8. We come knowing God would be justified in being angry with us, but instead God set’s a place for us at the table.

So come, You life is waiting at the table

  • Gilligan’ s Island
    pride, The Professor
  • greed, Mr. Howell
  • lust, Ginger
  • envy, Mary Ann
  • gluttony, Mrs. Howell
  • wrath, The Skipper
  • sloth, Gilligan
  • The Chronicles of Narnia
  • Lion Witch and Wardrobe: Gluttony
  • Prince Caspian: Envy
  • Dawn Treader: Greed
  • Horse and His Boy: Lust
  • Silver Chair: Sloth
  • Magician’s Nephew: Anger
  • Last Battle: Pride
  • STAR WARS
  • Pride, Luke
  • Greed, Boba Fett
  • Lust, Han Solo
  • Envy, Obi Won Kenobi
  • Gluttony, Jabba the Hut
  • Wrath, Darth Vader
  • Sloth. StormTroopers?

Harry Potter

  • Pride, professor Gilderoy Lockhart
  • Greed, Dumbledore of knowledge
  • Lust, Snape for power
  • Envy, Wormtail
  • Gluttony, Duddley Dursley
  • Wrath, Voldemort
  • Sloth. Horace Slug-Hornn

Show Time Series

  • Gwen as Wrath.
  • Bridgette as Sloth.
  • Lindsay as Lust.
  • Beth as Envy.
  • Courtney as Pride.
  • Izzy as Gluttony.
  • Heather as Greed.

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John 1:1-14 Starting with a Word

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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. [NRSV]

Let’s have a conversation

  • Talk about bowl games
  • Inaugurations
  • Resolutions and getting in shape
  • the weather
  • Or about purpose, meaning and life.


LATIN ‘Fiat’:  So let it be

  • Before “Let there be light” there was Word,
  • God starts creation with conversation. 
  • John’s gospel is about telling, explaining and persuasion to believe. 
  • Before the bang of creation was the Word. 

There was the relationship of love without the expression of love. If these us only self to love, love is not possible. God formed the meaning of love in our creation and spoke us into being. 

A conversation of relationship rather than just order. 

  • John does not say in the beginning there was 
  • Physics, 
  • Mathematics and 
  • Gravity. 
  • Rather in the beginning was the relationship, conversation and love. 

Antithesis 

A self absorbed creator would only need mechanics. God starts with conversation relation and meaning. That purpose is to love which requires relationship conversations as purposeful constructs. 

Long before galaxies were formed far, far away there was god who had all power purpose and possibly. The meaning at work is not only order but the why before the order. 

God so loved that creation was indivisible with Gods identity and purpose for creating. 

So what?

Speech assumes a conversation and conversation assumes a relationship and the desire to be in relationship is the core of love and thus God speeaks because God wants love, relationship and meaning 

Start a new year committed to preparing for God conversations. 

In a world that is so desperately seeking a world void of God, you and I have a mission to bridge the gap of chaos. 

Love gives the meaning to our lives else we are a purposesless existence 

People live that way every day

Examples: 

Is fairness a principle of gravity?

Is justice necessary in physics?

Is kindness or needed in science?

Does mathematics demand love?

What would we see things develop and evolve if it to find a more perfect interdependence and relationship?

Genesis. God speaks order because God desires to love more than to exist
That’s why God would die for us. It is what gives meaning to our existence and god’s identity of love. 

Because of sin, where we love ourselves more than loving god abs o e another god speaks the word of recreation in Christ to restore our relationship

2017 Resolution to 

  • Talk with God
  • Talk with family about God
  • Prepare to open conversation to God beyond bf out family and friends 

Where there is fear and division open conversations rather than taking sides and dividing relationship

Explain why you believe what you trust

keep choosing chaos over love

Applying Titus 3

Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, 2 to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show every courtesy to everyone. 3 For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, despicable, hating one another. 4 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy, through the water of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit. 6 This Spirit he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. 8 The saying is sure. I desire that you insist on these things, so that those who have come to believe in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works; these things are excellent and profitable to everyone. 9 But avoid stupid controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. 

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Christmas Sunday Luke 2:1-21 20161225

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

The Appropriate Response

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

Shock and Awe

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

The Shepherds Go

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

Who is Christmas Intended?

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

Christmas on Sunday

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

Our Responses?

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

,

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Luke 1:46b-55 ReClaiming Christmas: Why Celebrate Jesus 20161211 Advent3

advent_3My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”” [Luke 1:46b-55]

Christmas is on Sunday

“I hate it when… or “I love it when… Christmas falls on a Sunday. Either way: Christmas is always a sabbath day. A day of worship.

Christmas for us looks back and looks forward.

Looking back we retell the story of birth, incarnation, hope, peace, love and joy.

Looking forward we hear the prophet foretell of who God will work as seen through the life of Mary.

Have you ever looked at the similarities of Mary’s faithful “favor” reflects God’s work through us in Christ?

  • holy is his name. (King of Kings, Lord or Lords, Prince of Peace, Mighty One, the Christ!)
  • mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation, (Grace and Trust go hand in hand)
  • shown strength with his arm; (Incarnational, personally and physically working alongside)
  • scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. (
  • brought down the powerful from their thrones,
  • lifted up the lowly; (Children come to me, women at the well, hemorrhage, demoniac
  • filled the hungry with good things, (feeding the 5000)
  • sent the rich away empty. (Rich Young Ruler)
  • helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, forever (Connection to the covenant with Abraham, eternal)

All these things that God finds favor with Mary’s faith and remembering of God at work through God’s People, tell the Jesus story before he was born.

Christmas is reclaimed in the present

Not I didn’t say in the presences, not necessarily, but Christ is reclaimed in the current moment, right in what we are dealing with, here and now.

In this third week of preparing for Christmas, we work to reclaim Christmas by looking at our own lives:

Making the list of God’s faithfulness in my life and how the faithful has shaped God’s work in me

Mark breaks out singing praise to God when she is told of  God calling entrusting her to serve as mother to Jesus.

It is a whopper of task for sure.

Me the Magnificant? No not me?

What is God calling me to do? to be? to say? to stand for? to witness to a struggling world.

So far was have talked about reminding each other that Christmas is Jesus’s birthday and the gifts are his.

Secondly, we talk about the simple act of sharing a card can begin or continue a conversation of love and faith.

Today, it time to add the list.

Advent is the season of lists.

If you keep them in your head, on paper or in some digital form, the lists are important. (From best to worst list)

  • The Santa List
  • The gift list
  • The cooking list
  • The party and company list
  • The decoration list
  • The clean up the house list

The things we do in response to the special day, the day of the Lord.

Look back at Mary’s list

 

  • How can I share God’s Glory this Christmas (God’s greatness.. God is so great..
  • How might God bring peace and home to my fears? ( Start acknowledging our fears then match of God’s mercy and grace, connect dots.
  • How will I offer my hands/feet/body to be used to reveal Christ? (Feeding, Serving, Gifting, Friending
  • Share what holds our heart captive from loving and forgiving. (Go out forgive and love someone difficult.
  • Power and Pride
  • Teach a child God’s in-the-flesh, incarnation story, Share your story with a stranger or elder or sojourner
  • Feed someone, letting them you are eating together as sharing of Christ.
  • Give a gift that is extravagantly valuable yet cost not money. Forgive, Bless, Teach, Empower, Relent your control!
  • Most importantly, name how your Christmas traditions connect you to God and God’s people through your generations, what do you want the next generation to learn from you about Jesus.

Personalize the Mary List

Of all the things we do to prepare for Christmas, Tackling the Mary List is the best way to reclaim and rekindle Christmas.

Mary has nine things on her list: We would rather have one thing, maybe three or four. But nine sounds like too many to squeeze in with all we have planned.

Three part list: God’s part, Our Part, Connecting the Dots.

That is the point.

  • God Part
    • Praise God
    • Trust God
    • Serve God
    • Confession to God
    • Let go and Rest in God
  • Our Part
    • Share the story
    • Live the faith
  • Key Part
    • Connect the dots.

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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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Isaiah 12:1-6 “God Be in Me” 20161113

godbeinmyhead

You will say in that day: I will give thanks to you, O LORD, for though you were angry with me, your anger turned away, and you comforted me. Surely God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid, for the LORD GOD is my strength and my might; he has become my salvation. With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. And you will say in that day: Give thanks to the LORD, call on his name; make known his deeds among the nations; proclaim that his name is exalted. Sing praises to the LORD, for he has done gloriously; let this be known in all the earth. Shout aloud and sing for joy, O royal Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel. [NRSV]

We have collectively experienced a physical, emotions, spiritual and social wrenching that has come to a crescendo this week.

Some of the most hateful, intolerant and hard-hearted words have been spoken about the election in the past seven days.

  • Some have been riding on a seemingly, unending roller coaster that did not stop where it started.
  • Others are grieving, spiraling, and building a strong case of depression
  • while others have begun acting out of anger, which never leaders to safety, tolerance, and peace.
  • Still others have remained silent and afraid to speak, for fear of ridicule.

It is time for us to HEAR the words of God’s prophet.

  • God is my salvation.
  • I will trust and not be afraid
  • The Lord is my strength
  • With Joy, draw water from the well of salvation.
  • Give Thanks to the Lord, call his name, make his deeds known among the nations.
  • Proclaim and exalt God’s name.
  • Sing Praise to the Lord,
  • Tell the world  how glorious God is,
  • Shout aloud and sing for Joy, God is with us.

It is time for us to SHARE the words of God’s prophet.

  • Salvation is found in God, not our government
  • Trust God and do not be afraid
  • Find your strength in the Lord
  • Draw on God’s joy when yours is missing
  • This is a great time to look for and give witness to God in the world.
  • Sing praises to God to remind us who leads this world
  • Talk of good that God has done for us and the good God will do through us
  • Shout loud and Sing the Good News: God is with us.

It is time for us to LIVE the words of God’s prophet.

  • Our neighbors are divided and God is counting on us to salvation
  • There are people in our workplaces that have lost truth and trust,
  • Don’t ignore fears, but don’t be turned to anger and wrath, Find strength in God, not politics.
  • Make a withdrawal from God’s account when ours is empty or draining.
  • When we are divided is the clearest time to all move toward God.
  • Sing praise to remind ourselves and others the God is speaking through us all.
  • Talk of Good instead of evil. Speak of hope that is to be revealed.
  • Shout, don’t keep quiet, God is with us. God will save us. God will guide us

The Alternative is grim:

  • Continue to hold government higher than God and we will surely fall apart.
  • Count on our political powers to provide for every need and we have no need for God
  • Find our strengths in our efforts, our wealth, our correct thinking, and our feelings and they will all fail
  • Sing praises that are only pleasing and comforting and we will be alone
  • Only talk about our point of view, our goodness, and correct thinking and we will see only ourselves
  • Keep quiet about God and God will speak through someone else who will follow, trust and love.

Lord have mercy on me a sinner.

Lord have mercy on our nation and all the nations, for we are all sinners.

God be in my head, and in my understanding;
God be in mine eyes, and in my looking;
God be in my mouth, and in my speaking;
God be in my heart, and in my thinking;
God be at mine end, and at my departing.
  [Sarum Primer, 1558]

image link

 

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1 Timothy 2.1-17 I’m Not Lying 20160918 RSUMC

truth

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and all who are in high positions, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity. This is right and is acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God; there is also one mediator between God and humankind, Christ Jesus, himself human, who gave himself a ransom for all —this was attested at the right time. For this I was appointed a herald and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth. [NRSV]
Paul gives a rather curious footnote in his letter. “I am telling the truth, I am not lying“. It is usually in our experience that if we think someone needs to hear us say these words that there is some question about our vercity, our truthfulness or trustworthiness.
There are two pieces of instruction to which this appears to be reffering:
  1. First, Paul’s instruction to pray for everyone, including kings and high officials.
  2. Secondly, Paul’s ministry of being a messenger and apostle as a teacher of the Gentiles.

A. Prayer:

Objectively and with humility, it is a simple command to pray for everyone including those who have authority over you and over us all. On the other hand, it is also difficult to carry out with sincerity, to supplicate, intercede and giving thanksgiving for everyone, including those who lead or would choose to lead us.
Two observations:
(1) One Paul is not giving the community of faith the excuse, a pass, to ignore those who oppress, make difficult or misuse their authority, rather it is the community of faith’s role to keep the conversation in the context of God’s grace and God’s working of bringing peace through all people, to all people.
(2) Paul is neither saying the everyone, including those in high offices, are not in need of prayerful help from God and God’s people. Therefore, pray with, pray for and pray into the thanksgiving to which we are called to become.
I challenge to pray for God to be known to our leaders, for our leaders and through our leaders so that God might be known, praised and thanks given to God.

B. Ministry Authority:

Paul appointed: hearld, apostle and teacher.
  • (In readying how Paul was persicuted, jailed, shipwrecked, run out of town, dismissed by others in the Way, in the church: for his earlier persicustion of Jesus, Paul is claiming athority by appointment from God.)
  • As Wesleyan Methodist we see God’s preventative, justifying and sanctifying graces at work. As well as an affirmation that some authority is revealed directly in our experience of the Holy Spirit.
  • God using someone that was the least likely person to reach the Jewish community and certainly not the Gentile community.
  • I believe this is the connection Paul wants to affirm to Timothy because he is conferring this authority Timothy, to the rest of the church and to you and me gathered here today.

Paul’s reminder to Timothy is also a reminder to each of us and to those who believe and trust some other gods, doctrines or principles.

The truthful and trustworthiness of our authority is under attack:
  • Externally, When we listen to the civil view of the church’s role it has become one of many voices.
  • Internally, When we pray only for whom and what we want, rather than for God’s will and work.
  • Communally & Personally, When we listen to fears and hate rather than prayer we attack truth and trust
The instruction is to remember that you and I are appointed to the same work:
Herald: The messengers, witnesses, and advocates for Christ’s presence in the world.
Apostle: Leader, delegator, and  one who shares Christ’s living present in the world.
Teacher: Instructor, one who models the heart of Christ internally and externally, to church and world. for everyone, including the king and other leaders.

Challenge:

Live as people of the Truth of Christ. (Not fighting over what is the principles of truth, rather trusting the truth of Christ to be lived out in how we interact, prayer, prepare and instruct each other.
The challenge to Timothy and to us is one of action. This is where Paul is not lying, not teasing, not suggesting, not holding back!

 Bottom Line:

You and I are the Heralds, Leaders, and Teacher that are called model a life of prayer for this world: teaching, revealing and modeling the grace and power of Christ to save, save us all. Amen.

LinK: I could lie, but I won’t liey to you. God is with us and calls us to tell Christ’s truth. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wherever_I_Go_(song) OneRepublic Lyrics:

I know I could lie, but I won’t lie to you
Wherever I go, you’re the ghost in the room
I don’t even try looking for something new
Cause wherever I go, I’ll be looking for you

Some people try but they can’t find the magic
Others get down on their knees and they pray
I come alive when I’m close to the madness
No easy love could ever make me feel the same
Make me feel the same

Traditional Music : UMBH

  • I Exalt Thee
  • 399 Take My Life
  • 395 Take Time to be Holy
  • 402 Lord I Want to be a Christain

 

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Luke 13.14-17 Get off your ass and rest. RSUMC 20160821

resting_donkey

But the leader of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had cured on the sabbath, kept saying to the crowd, “There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be cured, and not on the sabbath day.”  But the Lord answered him and said, “You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger, and lead it away to give it water? And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen long years, be set free from this bondage on the sabbath day?” When he said this, all his opponents were put to shame; and the entire crowd was rejoicing at all the wonderful things that he was doing.[NRSV]

A story of URGENCY of healing, priorities, and sabbath rest.

Healing:

The emergency room is filled with people who are priorities for treatment every day of the week and every hour of the night. The triage nurses are the first line of identifying the balance of severity of need with the available space and equipment for treatment.

The woman of the text has perplexed doctors and rabbis nearly two decades had been seeking healing without relief. The community was very likely calloused to the condition of a woman, bleeding, chronically. She was at the third strike. She was frustrated and hopeless and so were the caregivers and community.

The first question that Jesus poses to the faithful crowd and leaders is this: “Which is more important: Healing or Rules?” Live without rules is chaotic. Life without healing is a miserable life.

What is most important to me? To God? To the woman? To the authorities? to the community? etc.

Where is the urgency with an 18 year condition? What’s one more day?

Answer: God who made the rules can amend and bend and complete the law/rules.

Healing brought the woman into the heart of the community and that became more urgent.

Priorities:

The second question is a variation of the first: “Does God care more about the law or caring for the people God created?”

It has an obvious answer. It gives perspective to the when we follow the rule and when we break the law. Should you never speed while driving? No, rushing someone to the emergency room who has a critical need would not be expected to sit in traffic and wait for red lights to change, BUT when we do break the rules we need to pay greater attention to our surroundings.

We live in a society where major groups of people act without thinking, and we send law enforcement persons to into situations where people who are calloused to the law and bring anger and anarchy into the urgency that chaos brings.

Answer: Who is setting the priorities? God or the administrators of God’s representatives? Some would say just follow the laws. But when folks are disregarding the law we have to become hyper aware of the circumstances.

We live in a 24/7 society that has lost the power of walking with God in the Garden of Eden.

Sabbath Rest:

The Sabbath rest vs Sabbath rules  Rules over healing on the sabbath vs healing.

The heart of the passage helps us re-frame what the sabbath means to us and for us.God has created us to spend time together. If the rules and law keep us from finding time with God then the law is in the way. But it is more often the case that we use the law to our advantage.

Let’s do our church stuff on Sunday and the rest of the week is our own. Instead of all that I do, I do with God’s help and guidance and mercy and forgiveness and Sabbath is the time after dinner and before bedtime. Just talking, sharing, listening and being together.

This passage is another where we see some of Jesus’s frustration, “You make caring for your animals/transportation on the sabbath, but you don’t heal with is obviously more important and in need of the greatest attention.

The healing on the sabbath glories God; it reminds us that God is working with us, and it reminds us what/who is most important to God.

The Priorities shift, of what time is God’s time and who we live and work for is where we go astray. What is God’s priority vs what is my priority. (even if they over lap, God’s priority comes first.)

ACTION PLAN: 24/6 lifestyle. work hard and rest hard… give up off the sofa and study the bible. Change your comfort and habits to make more time for God. Turn off the bad news and retell the good news, to remember where are priorities are when we go back to work/etc.

 

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Acts 2:1-21 Peter: Drunk or Driven? 20160514 RSUMC

bloodmoonWhen the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability. Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered,

because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.”

All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” But others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.”

But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:

“In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy. And I will show portents in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and smoky mist. The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day. Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.‘ [NRSV]

Prophecy: In the last days..

Jesus instructed the disciples to go to Jerusalem and wait for the Holy Spirit, Comforter, to empower them. In Acts Chapter 2 we see the Holy Spirit Revealed. Peter begins explaining the scene in the context of the prophet Joel. Jesus didn’t tell the disciples this would be in last days.

Remember how Peter had the great idea to build monuments on the mountain of Transfiguration to remember Jesus, Moses and Elijah being revealed. God interrupts and says, “Listen.”
Remember how Peter promises to proclaim Jesus, even to the point of death and Jesus corrects him, no you will deny me three times tonight.
Remember how Jesus hears the Good News of the Resurrection from Mary and does not believe her, but runs to see the tomb for himself, and leaves not finding Jesus, only the empty grave.
Peter selecting a less than accurate passage from the Old Testaments prophets to make sense of the tounges of fire and the understanding of the Good News through different languages.

The Joel passage is similar to what Peter, the disciples and the great crowd of strangers experience that day. The part that Peter points is the Spirit’s presence being revealed through, men and women, slave and free, young and old.

Some say they are drunk on milky grains, new wine.

This festival, celebration that has brought the crowds into town is also known as the Festival of Weeks. This celebration was a way to serve God by bringing first fruits, the early crops, and waiting for God to provide the full harvest, as a remembrance of when Moses came down from the mountain with the law, the ten commandments. .

The youngest, most tender grains of wheat, barley and fruits like grapes and apples. These would be cooked with the old leaven or yeast and set aside to ferment. At the end of the countdown of seven weeks of seven days, the following, 50th, day would be ‘Pentecost, the 50th day.

So it would not be unreasonable for some to say, the disciples had been drinking the new wine, the freshly fermented beer, cider or wine.

The disciples had not been drinking but they were filled with something else:

The Holy Spirit.
God’s presence was poured out like liquid flames, resting on the disciples, similar to Moses’s burning bush event.

Another mis-understood part of the passage is about speaking in tongues. Actually the text suggests that they were speaking Galilean but the hearers from different regions and foreign lands, heard in thier own native language. Some translations go a step further and say they heard in their own hearts.

So Much for the History Lesson?

What do we learn about the Spirit as a take-away as modern day disciples?

First. The Spirit moves like the wind.
2nd, The power is revealed when they were all together, not a solo event.
3rd, The Spirit worked through the disciples, The disciples were vessels, hose pipes, conductors, channels, God uses to reach others.
4th, The Spirit choose the moment and venue
5th. Not everyone will understand or receive, but those who do, find God alive and at work through our willingness to serve.
Pentecost: A Season of Service

The Weeks of Counting: Are a call to serve God in the weeks ahead.

Our response might be: But school is almost over, it’s vacation time!

It is time to remember God calls us together
It is time count the ways God guides us. Review one commandment a week.
It is time to be available for the Spirit to work through us
It is time celebrate God is will with us. We are spiritual people, saved through Christ and empowered by the Holy Spirit.
Young and old, Males and Female, Oppressed or Oppressor, God is in Charge

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