Archive for category government
As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise. [NRSA: Galatians 3:27-29]
It is important for us to know some context of this area. More of a recognized state or region of the people who have Greek and Roman heritage. Thus, making it a place of blended culture and religions.
The region in what we now know as central and southern Turkey was in Paul’s time known as the region of Galatia. Historically a Greek formation, the Celts, were later occupied by the Roman empire in our period of the Apostle Paul and his missionary work in this area. It was more than a city, but rather an area with thirteen divisions. It is from the accounts in both Paul’s letter to the Galatians and in Luke’s recording in the Book of Acts, that we learn about this region.
Paul was extraordinarily successful in connecting the know cultures and religions and using those as entry points to show the inadequacies of the local gods with the One, universal God by belief in His Son. Paul is likely to have been building upon some missionary work from Peter and Sillas as his typical approach was to start with the Jewish communities at local synagogues, which were rare in the region of Galatia.
But what of any of this speaks to us?
Paul offers Christ to a diverse and divided culture that has been bouncing through generations of sweeping religious, political, and cultural changes. It is in this context that we see Paul being particularly helpful in transforming devotion into discipleship, and loyalty into faith and belief.
What if the world, the nation? Georgia? North Georgia? Our communities? Or our fellowship was so clothed in Christ, that the first thing we see in one another is Christ.
When you introduce yourself through writing, what is the first detail you would share about yourself?
- Would it be career?
- In some type of relationship?
- Having kids or grands?
- Would it be gender, or some other physical descriptor?
- Would it be your hobbies or talents?
- Most would say it differs by the context.
- Facebook: “Human, husband, father, pastor, writer, #humorinlife #foodie #techie #zippermerging #zoomevangelist”
- Twitter: “a sinful child saved by Christ, pastor, husband, father, writer, techie, foodie, neighbor, voter looking for humor, and humor in life. clergy.pro
- Business Card: “Sharing Christ and the Journey”
And how would you describe Rock Spring in 100 words?
Is their any church that would not consider starting with the words, “We are a friendly church” no matter if we were or were not.
Many times we are, Sometimes we are not, and sometimes most are friends, but always a handful on any give Sunday are distracted with something else in lives or on their heart.
- Would we share our missions because we are proud of our accomplishments or how much Christ has done for and through us?
- Would we list our activities we like or think others would like or how Christ shapes, guides, and challenges us?
- Would we describe what we enjoy about our worship, or how God is blessed by our praise and fellowship?
- Would we tell about how easy it is to visit and join, or how much work and devotion it takes to continue growing, serving, and following Christ?
Paul starts reminding the church: You are the baptized in Christ. You are clothed in Christ.
- Baptism is the sign of our adoption as sons and daughters of God, through and with Christ.
- Baptism is the moment we celebrate our life being more than our own.
- Baptism is our joining the family as heirs of the witness, work, and reward that God would bestow.
- Baptism is our spiritual birth into our heavenly citizenship.
- Baptism is not just something we hope people have done before they die, it is the belonging-relationship that we celebrate while we are living.
Paul is reminding the church that we are first responders to the fires burning in peoples hearts and minds, we have something better than Kevlar and Nomex, we are clothed with Christ who has died for us and lives for us to be in God, forever.
Paul encourages the church painting the warm quilt of love, faith, and prayer that surrounds us in the cold world, and the from the emptiness of being lost or alone. We are clothes with Jesus Christ who renews and restores and walks with us in all of life and death.
Paul is teaching the church to put on the arm, put on the baptism, put on the quilt, put on the strength, wisdom, and faithfulness of Christ because without it we are wearing the [Emperor’s New Clothes/ ‘naked’] instead that the world is selling as truth, safety, and meaning.
Once we wear the team uniform of Christ we are no longer divided; we become united in Christ.
If we are clothed by opinions, ideologies, data-points, peer-reviewed conclusions: all these change for day to day and as the context and balance of power shifts in the world. We are clothed in the life of Christ, don’t forget, don’t let go, don’t exchange it.
Think of all the descriptors in our lives: We rally around being in different camps: bulldogs, hound dogs, elephants, eagles, tigers, lookouts, Biscuits, owls, gophers, moccasin shoe, pickles, and our family favorite: Mighty, Fighting Okra from Delta State in Cleveland, Mississippi.
We divide up by age groups: Gen Z, Millennials or Gen Y, Gen X, Boomer, WW2ers, Depressists. They all sound terrible. But we try to make generation distinctions to hopefully better understand when we actually labeling and dividing people with names.
The is one race. We are humans. We have different cultures, pigments of skin color, and varieties of traditions and assessments of our identities as individuals and groups. We are all creations of God’s handiwork, created, loved, and saved by God.
- We have some shared features, but all have different fingerprints, and DNA markers that show God creates, not simply to mass produce, but value us one at a time, here is our weakness and strength.
- We are free to choose to love God or run from God. But living and seeking God acknowledges our questions, failures and fears and ability, through the grace in Christ, we have a way together, in Christ.
- We are valued by God both 1) the unique person we are and 2) the whole fellowship we become in Christ.
This week’s realization: The following is not politically bias: In the most recent weeks, I have had more occasions to speak with people who are anti-church, anti-religion, religious in practice-but not thriving in spiritual fruitfulness. I offer a both/and observation. There are flaws in our country, but we continue to be the nation that immigrants desire to leave their home to live. There are divided opinions and bias news surrounding us from every side, but other nations continue to turn to us for support, technology, and protection. There laws that need to be added and improved, but our system of government has built a nation that can welcome, respond, and adapt because it is a both/and relationship: Holding fast to our roots AND continues to amend our flaws.
Paul is telling a region of none Jewish people to believe in a God who is working through the Jew’s messiah, Jesus, God’s Son, to bring hope, meaning, salvation, love, power, grace, and is continuing this work through ALL who are baptized and clothed with Christ. Not destroying the framework but building upon it the work of the church, that whole world may know God through us.
Whether is to church OR state, the foundations have provided the framework, that without it we would not have the opportunities we enjoy today.
- The State will never love us, only use or appease us.
- The state will never be our salvation.
- The State will never die that we might live, rather calling us to suffer for its life.
- Remember who’s uniform you have been saved to wear?
- Remember which team that has died for you?
- Remember it Christ that truly unites us and not common law, identity, or opinion.
- Be Not afraid, God is with us. Repeat these words of assurance with me: “Be Not Afraid, God is With us!”
- Don’t let the worldly division sum up your identity or communities. Be those clothed in Christ.
- Let the world see Christ, just as they have seen your sport team colors and generational style
- Let the world look to those who are clothed in Christ, as sinners who are made who by Christ.
- Let the world see God’s presence in the living our faith and sacrifice to follow and grow.
- Let the world see in this context, this time in history, the eternal love and power of Christ today!
- Be Not afraid, God is with us. Repeat these words of assurance with me: “Be Not Afraid, God is With us!”
In his letter to the Galatians, he appeals directly to their well-known love of freedom and independence (5:1) and repeatedly contrasts freedom of the spirit through Christ with the slavery offered by pursuing worldly pleasures. He even specifically cites behavior and sins long associated with the Galatians such as jealousy, drunkenness, liberal sexuality, and idolatry (5:19-20) and contrasts these with the freedom from vice and corruption offered by Christianity (5:22-24). His appeals worked well, and the Galatians were converted, exchanging Sabiazos’ and Cybele’s protection for that of Jesus Christ. Herm notes that “the Christian communities under the jurisdiction of the Drunemeton were among the oldest founded” by Paul and Galatia grew into one of the most vital Christian centers of the region (43).
The Galatians by this time were almost thoroughly Hellenized and had further substituted their Celtic-Greco customs with Roman beliefs and attitudes. Christianity replaced their old religion, and the temples were turned into churches. This same paradigm was repeated, with the addition of military force, following the Muslim Invasion of Anatolia in 830 CE when the populace was converted to Islam and churches became mosques. By this time, there was little left of the original Celtic-Greco culture of Galatia. Its name survives today primarily through the biblical epistle of St. Paul and, possibly, the suburb of Galata outside of Istanbul, Turkey. [Mark, J. J. (2019, October 24). Galatia. Ancient History Encyclopedia. Retrieved from https://www.ancient.eu/galatia/%5D
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]
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Indeed, by faith our ancestors received approval. By faith, we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was made from things that are not visible. By faith, Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain’s. Through this he received approval as righteous, God himself giving approval to his gifts; he died, but through his faith, he still speaks. By faith Enoch was taken so that he did not experience death; and “he was not found because God had taken him.” For it was attested before he was taken away that “he had pleased God.” And without faith, it is impossible to please God, for whoever would approach him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. By faith Noah, warned by God about events as yet unseen, respected the warning and built an ark to save his household; by this, he condemned the world and became an heir to the righteousness that is in accordance with faith. By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to set out for a place that he was to receive as an inheritance; and he set out, not knowing where he was going. By faith, he stayed for a time in the land he had been promised, as in a foreign land, living in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he looked forward to the city that has foundations, whose architect and builder is God. By faith, he received the power of procreation, even though he was too old—and Sarah herself was barren—because he considered him faithful who had promised. Therefore from one person, and this one as good as dead, descendants were born, “as many as the stars of heaven and as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore.” All of these died in faith without having received the promises, but from a distance, they saw and greeted them. They confessed that they were strangers and foreigners on the earth, for people who speak in this way make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of the land that they had left behind, they would have had an opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; indeed, he has prepared a city for them. [NRSV]
A Better Country
- What kind of country will our nation have become in forty years? 4 years? 4 months?
- Are you optimistic or pessimistic about what will be?
- What kind of church will our congregation be in forty years? 4 years? 4 months?
- Are you hopeful or filled with doubts?
- What will your faith look like in forty years, four years? four months?
- Are you empowered or searching?
A Better Country
We have so entwined religion and politics that we have become polarized and paralyzed in our misappropriated patriotism. It is not a matter of separating church and state conversations, it is about using the freedoms our nation has to most fully express and experience of faith in Jesus Christ. Our freedoms allow for many faiths, but we place our trust in a better country. W
If we were as preoccupied with living as citizen of heaven as we are citizen of the USA, what would it look like??
- Facebook would be filled with words, pictures, and messages about our faith and church
- Our conversations would be about news and report of where we see God at work in the world. We would be trying to out-do each other in love and service.
- We would stay up at night worrying about how many people we had reached, transformed, and welcomed into the fellowship of the church.
- People would see our commitment to the citizenship we hold highest is in the heart of God.
The OT Case for Building a “more perfect union.”
Creation, Able, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac and Jacob, key examples of faith that have shaped the faith we now live. The bottom line of each of these persons witnessed examples of placing themselves and their personal trust in God to lead, protect, save, heal, and bless. The fruit of seeking our ultimate allegiance is in God, is that God uses us to build a better country, a heavenly one.
New Testament Case
In the parable that the lawyer asks Jesus who is my neighbor, we find it is the one who shows grace and loving kindness.
In this faith-history lesson begs the question: What is my home? What is my citizenship? To home and where do I belong?
What is my home? Is it only the building at my address? Is it the sum of my stuff and assets and debts? Is only my family and extended family?
The Call to Live in our Heavenly Citizenship, (On Earth as it is in Heaven)
Is this the story of our nation? Is this the story of our people? Is this the story that bears fruit in our lives?
Call to make disciples:
- Love one another in service, AND
- Inspire others to join the fellowship, AND
- Worship and Fellowship to strengthen another before God.
- Jesus Christ is real,
- Jesus is King, and
- Jesus is with us.
- When we know Jesus is real, this becomes the foundation of our life
- When we know Jesus is King, this becomease the guide for our living
- When we know Jesus is with us, nothing can stop us from praising.
- There story is about preparing for worship
- The story is about making way/room for Jesus in our public/fears
- The story is about remaing awake and aleart that it is Jesus that leads us and not anything or anyone esle.
- Peace does not come from armies and weapons
- Peace does not come from governments and policies
- Peace does not come from acts of kindness and justice
- Peace comes from God, through Jesus Christ, guided by the Spirit, through the church, through us for for the whole world.
- Peace comes when Jesus comes in.
- Peace comes when Jesus is praised
- Peaces is possible to see when we see God showing up on our streets.
- new life,
- a new way
- a new day, made possible thorugh Jesus Chirst, our King.
- Witness of kindness
- Forgiving first,
- Our hearts
- Our gifts
- Our time
- Our presence
- Our wintess
- nation and the world.
For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. “You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, “You shall not murder’; and “whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, “You fool,’ you will be liable to the hell of fire. So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift. Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are on the way to court with him, or your accuser may hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. Truly I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny. “You have heard that it was said, “You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to go into hell. [NRSV]
Q: So is marriage a matter for church and preaching?
Marriage is a relationship founded and grounded in God and has been a faith relationship before it ever was a legal conversation.
A: And for that alone, it is forever an appropriate conversation for worship, study and defending.
June 26, 2015, The Right to Marry
The recent court decision, made by the majority of non-elected-legislative-judiciary, have create a new right to marry that includes all adult persons to marry the adult of their mutual choice independent of genders. Five people have changed an institution they did not create.
If you are celebrating or if you are angry about the new definition of marriage, I ask you:
What are you doing strengthening marriage before June 26, 2015?
- 40% of children live in single parent household. What of marriage, independent of who can marry whom?
- 33% (Barna) of US marriages end in divorce. [The 50% includes people who have been divorced more than once, which skews the overall numbers.] But if one in three divorce, is that an acceptable number we live with as those who so highly value marriage?
- 1% of those who marry commit suicide
- 2% of those who never marry take their life.
- 9 % of married couples deal with alcoholism.
- 24% of married couples deal with mental illness
- 86% of unhappy couples deal with domestic violence
We don’t have a lot of room to talk about marriage, never the less, the court’s decision encroaches on our faith identity of marriage that is thousands of years in the making.
First know this: This is not the end of the church or our country or our society.
- We are people of God and God remains with us.
- Things might change, but God will not church.
- God’s love for us will not change.
- God’s presence with us is unchanging and
- God’s call for us to hear and follow Christ will not change.
Secondly, Remember marriage is not a requirement. [A big shift in the court’s action is to name marriage as a right.]
- 75% of adults do get married. 25% do not marry.
- It has been the responsibilities of each state to license those who get married.
- The government cannot force us to marry to nor force us to be single.
Where Are We, What’s Next?
These past two weeks have indeed been a challenge to our faith. And while I am disappointed at Friday’s Supreme Court’s decision to “legally” redefine what Christians, Jews and Muslims, have believed the covenant of marriage to be for millennia, remember that the court’s decision does not change our Biblical and theological worldview nor does it change our denomination’s stance on the issue of homosexuality and same-sex marriage as expressed in the church’s Discipline.
Only the General Conference speaks for the entire United Methodist Church. The General Conference of the United Methodist church will convene in May of next year in Portland, Oregon to discuss this and other issues that face the church. It has the potential to be divisive, but it also holds the opportunity to be a time of faith renewal.
How should we best respond to the court’s decision: Be Not Afraid.
God is Good, All the Time, RSUMC likes to affirm. Remember that God is still at work redeeming the world to Himself. Trust that even though we do not understand all of God’s ways, God is involved in the events of human history…even as hard and unclear as they may be.
Teach by Loving
Love your neighbor. Let our words, witness and response to all people be loving. A loving response will always be our strongest example of leadership. You will be drawn into conversations and discussions of “winners and losers.” Be respectful to those with whom you disagree. Be slow in anger and even slower to speak, email and post.
Its about God, People and Relationships not rules and laws
Know that you are always talking about someone’s child, grandchild or sibling. It is easy for us to objectify a conversation and forget the laws and commandments are for broken and sinful people in a broken and sin filled world.
Be Faithful in your intentional spiritual growth
This is a time for us to step up our faithfulness in the Christian life. Don’t let other people’s words or actions cause you to do harm to others or to compromise your Christian witness. We are accountable to Christ for what we do and say. We are not responsible for what other people do or say. Trust the Holy Spirit to lead you and do the best you can to express your hope in God’s redeeming grace for us all. (Romans 2.23 For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.)
The Government is not God
Remember: the Supreme Court, even it follows the constitution properly, does not speak for God and does not speak for the United Methodist Church. The General Conference Speaks for the church and the Discipline guides our practices. Our stance on these issues and our practices have not changed. The church only allows me to conduct and attend marriage of one man and one woman. The church values every person with equal value from God, who creates us all.
Trust and Follow the Holy Spirit
In conversation with our D.S. and Bishop I was reminded that as our United Methodist Church is a global body, a global church, and not simply a U. S. church, and it is not at all unusual for the legal, moral and spiritual to be in tension in our various countries. We continue to be the church even though we might be in contrast with the laws of many lands.
We are in this together
As your pastor, you are in my prayers, and as your pastor I ask for your prayers in this matter. We might be tempted to allow anger, fear or ignorance to rule the day, but I ask that we constantly seek to help each other live with current reality. Life is not easy at any time, but we must live trusting in the Holy Spirit’s guidance to enable us to minister to all people in the light of
God is with us.