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Archive for category grace

1 Corinthians 12:3-13 Use Your Giftcards

useyourgiftcardsTherefore I want you to understand that no one speaking by the Spirit of God ever says “Let Jesus be cursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except by the Holy Spirit.  Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord;  and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone.  To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.  To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another, the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit,  to another faith by the same Spirit, to another, gifts of healing by the one Spirit,  to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses.  For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.  For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. [NRSV]

Unused Gift Cards:

We’ve all experienced the unbridled joy of finding a $10 bill in the dryer after a washing load or $5 on the sidewalk. But nearly all Americans could have untapped cash just sitting in the back of our wallets or the bottom of our purses.

The most requested gift by far

Gift cards may get a bad rap for being impersonal. However, they are the most requested holiday gift for 10 years running. In 2016 more than 60% of people surveyed by the National Retail Federation said they wanted a gift card this holiday season.

So how many gift cards actually get bought — and how many go unused?

Over $970 million in gift card cash went unused in 2015 alone. Meanwhile, total gift card spending in 2015 clocked in at $130 billion, up 6% from the year before. Despite the billions of dollars that go unused, it’s estimated that gift card sales will make another 9% jump this year up to $143B.

Since 2005, some $45.7 billion has been floating around in unused gift card balances. For cards that are lost or accidentally thrown away, that money may never be used.

Why this isn’t free money for companies

Sounds like free money for businesses, right? It’s all in the accounting.

When gift cards are sold, they are counted as a liability until spent. Only when they are spent does that money count as revenue. This means that US businesses carried $970 million in liabilities on unused cards last year.

Further, closed-loop gift cards — or gift cards that can be used at a single store or chain only — are generally bought through card vendors. These vendors can charge for everything from setup to stocking the card inventory. When you’re not using, they’re losing.

The state of gift cards in 2016

Despite all the unused gift cards out there, 2016 is slated to bring on even more gift card purchases. It’s estimated that $140 billion will be spent on gift cards in the US alone.

To give you an idea of just how much money that is, with $140 billion you could buy the Chicago Cubs 140 times over. (Given their recent World Series win, that might not be a bad idea.) Of that $140 billion, it’s projected that over $1 billion will go unspent. Still enough to buy the Chicago Cubs once.

So Put your Gifts to Work

If you don’t want to use them, donate in addition to your regular gifts and we will find ways to make them meaningful in ministry.

  • We will buy bibles and small group study materials from Barns and Nobles,
  • we will feed hungry folks with food cards,
  • and clothes for homeless.
  • If you have generic cards we can use them in limitless ways,
  • If they are not doing you any good, re-gift them.

Our Spiritual Gift Cards

To each of us is given gifts of the Spirit. Different outlets and different amounts for different work and witness. God is ready to fill us with limitless possibilities if we will

  • identify and recognize these gifts
  • not attemp to save, ignore or store them for some other day
  • trust the verse in Phillipians that we can do all things in Christ who gives us Spiritual strength

What Spiritual Gift Cards are in your purse, billfold or dresser drawer?

  1. What would you do if you had an unlimited gift card to sing, praise?
  2. What would you do with an unlimited gift card to share stories of your faith?
  3. If your unlimited gift card could teach, inform, inspire?
  4. If your gift card could multiply in value for others to use in a variety of ways
  5. If your gift card were kept safely, privately, quietly for a special occasion that may never come by, all the while folks are hungry, thirsting and passing by empty.

Holy Communion is our re-fill station

We come to this holy meal and God fills us with grace, purpose, love and makes us whole, read for:

  • spiritual living,
  • spiritual giving,
  • spiritual loving,
  • Spiritual growing,
  • Spiritual sharing,
  • Spiritual Praising..

Don’t come to the table and go home that same as you came. Don’t keep your Spiritual gift cards hidden in your wallet or purse,

Come to the Table and Get busying living growing, love, sharing the Spirit.

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John 10:1-10 “Entrance Gate”

gate_lock“Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers.” Jesus used this figure of speech with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them. So again Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.[NRSV]

I am the gate.

Comedian, Jim Gaffagin, reflects on heaven having a pearly gate and wonders why Heaven is a gated community. He suggests that they probably had to go to hell to find a contractor to build it.
A gate implies a fence, a wall or some image of division, and the doorway is the expected and intended place of entrance.
Jesus is our gateway to grace, to eternity and most importantly, our gateway to God.
This reference connects to the sacrificial lamb that was roasted and eaten by the Israelites the night before the journey toward the promised land. The blood of the lamb as a sign over the doorway, marked who would be saved and who would die.

Jesus said, he was that gate.

There are walls and boundaries, physical and perceived, that divide us and separates.
There are times, in the name of safety, that we are thankful for fences and particians:
Between the road the playground
The privacy door in the restroom
A understanding of mutual respect and the unintentional wandering of a stranger
There is a place for gates and fences.

The metaphor of a gate.

A gate is a path of access
A gate is an openning, in what is a barrier
A gate is permission
A gate is not always open and not always closed
A gate is grace and judgement
A gate is freedom and restriction
A gate is point of passage.
Jesus said, “I am the gate.”
We come to a holy meal, communion, where Jesus offers himself, still today and eternally, as a gateway to grace
a gateway to forgiveness
a gateway to starting over
a gateway to trusting God
a gateway to life
a gateway to trust
a gateway to, or back to, God.
Jesus joins us at the table, that opens the gate, that has the sacrifice of the lamb as our entry, and himself as the tangible door to enter into a life of sacrificial living for God.
Here is the powerful part of the story: through Christ, through his body and blood, opens us into the life of being gate-keepers. Those who open the door for others or those who close the door.

Is the gate open or closed?

Do we stay huddled in the comfort of what pleases us, makes us feel in control, OR
Do we open it wide and offer all that is good and evil come in under our watch
Do we open hearts or close hearts
Do we close minds or open minds
Do we open the scriptures and trust them
Do we close them and replace them with our own choosing
Do we slip into becoming the door
Christ invites us to be those who place the hand of someone else on the latch,
and allow Christ to welcome them in.
It is not our place to be the door,
rather we are to lead others to the door.
If we remain inside the fence there is no way to go out to welcome others
If we remain outside the fence, there is no need for a way to God, we choose to serve another.
We cross the threshold, back and forth, knowing our place is at the table and in the world.

In or Out: What side of the gate?

What doors, gates, minds and hearts are you and I personally directing toward God?
Our denomination is racing toward a crossroads and we have lost sight of the gate.
Rather than finding the true Christ, we make our own door way in and are committed that our way is the better way.
Lord have mercy on me a sinner
I come to your table and confess I have brought no one to your heart and hand today.
I come as a bandit, and a thief, taking and claiming what is not mine, comfortable in what my mind tells me without concern for your word and comforted in your word without understanding what it means.
This passage calls us to stop looking for a door the left or the right, but to search for the gate that IS Jesus Christ.

Jesus is the gate, we trust the gate.

It is my calling to proclaim to the church that our Jesus, who welcomes us to the table also sends us our into a would that rejects and would persecute us for opening grace and power to them in Jesus name.
Our calling is not to make people believe, but lead people to Christ, lead people to the gateway that has given us hope, transformation, and salvation.

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Hebrews 10:4-10 A Body of Offering

For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. 5 Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, “Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body you have prepared for me; in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure.  Then I said, “See, God, I have come to do your will, O God  (in the scroll of the book it is written of me).” When he said above, “You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings" (these are offered according to the law),  then he added, “See, I have come to do your will.” He abolishes the first in order to establish the second.  And it is by God’s will that we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. [NRSV]

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Here the Good News:

While we were still sinning, God loved us. Sending Christ to make us whole.

The Core of this passage from Hebrews is found in two parts:

  • a. It is impossible for us to eradicate of sin
  • b. Jesus does what is impossible for us to do, on our behalf

Grace:  God loves us, God hopes we will complete the love, Offers us Faith, We trust, love complete.

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Sanctification:

God sanctifies us through the body of Jesus

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Sanctifying Grace

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Through the body

  • Before we were born God knows us. God is working prophylactically on our behalf.
  • Before we have any responsibility of sinning, we have God’s helping grace.
  • It is God choosing for us to have a body, born in a broken world, God joins us in the journey.
  • All different, unique both autonomous and interdependent

The Goal is Wholeness, Perfection, and completeness.

  • God is working before we are ready to work
  • God is making a way where there is no way
  • God is ultimately ready to complete our brokenness

WHAT IS OUR PART?

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This Sanctifying process of Maturing God’s work in our body, time, live, and even then God holds our hands through the muddy, mucky mire.

The Equation of Grace

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The maturity of faith is the growing in trust through practice.

Practice: This is the root of my suggestions of “homework”

We practice, stretch, test and mature our faith by taking steps toward God

  • Worship
  • Prayer
  • Study
  • Service
  • Christian Fellowship
  • Christian Accountability
  • Witnessing, Sharing, Teaching, opening our faith to others

God is not interested in our management of the rules as much as our practice of trusting God in each day.

  • Practice with our words
  • Practice with our bodies
  • Practice with our actions
  • Practice with our thoughts, songs, and stories of faith
  • Practice with our Hospitality, Worship, Intention Study, Service, and Generosity.

Our purpose is not the be right, correct and blameless, our goal is to be faithful.

  1. Our Confirmation Class has begun discussion of this journey
  2. Our SS Classes and Small Groups practice the community
  3. Our church is the struggle to be the body of Christ with our bodies.
  4. This is the practice of Lent and the life as an Easter People.

Let’s help one another practice.

 

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Matthew 5:38-34 The New Commandment

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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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Matthew 5:21-37 “People of a New Heart”

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“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.

“It was also said, “Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I say to you that anyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

“Again, you have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, “You shall not swear falsely, but carry out the vows you have made to the Lord.’ But I say to you, Do not swear at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let your word be “Yes, Yes’ or “No, No’; anything more than this comes from the evil one. [NRSV]

Core Values of One Made New in Christ

Core Value Number 1 (Murder with Words)

How you communicate affects your relationships and your identity.

Sticks and Stones AND words can kill someone’s spirit, reputation and ability to be included into the community.

Word’s spoken in anger carry poisoned daggers that kill one’s spirit, identity, reputation and relationship to the community.

  • “Well I only thought it, I didn’t do anything wrong”
  • “What’s in my own head doesn’t hurt anyone.”
  • “I was so angry at what I saw on FB I had to teach them a lesson, I didn’t kill anyone.”

 

Core Value Number 2 (Satisfying Self in a Covenant Relationship)

How we respect one another, affects both them and us.

Sexual sins occur first in the heart and head. Stop the sin there to avoid going further to lessen the effect on others. But best of all see that sin occurs before the action.

  • Don’t be looking
  • Don’t just love the one you are with
  • Don’t invalidate the person by objectifying the person and justifying a behavior that is harmful to God, self AND the other person.

Our society has so twisted the self-satisfaction, self-pleasing and self-affirming our sexual selves has become paramount in movies, songs, and laws and even in the church.

Core Value Number 3 (Don’t Look at the Line, much less cross it)

Marriage is the basis for integrity and of the family unity.

Marriage is a covenant with God, while you can’t change your spouse you can add to their relationship with God or you can pull them away from God by your actions of both fidelity and by infidelity. Everything we do affects our spouse. Don’t get into a marriage covenant if you are not holding God the whole time because marriage is not always easy nor simple.

Core Value Number 4 (Integrity Speaks truth in love)

Speaking as a person of integrity.

Speak the truth.

Don’t dodge the difficult conversations, don’t blame anyone or anything. Speak with respect, certainly don’t add God’s name to your ideas, thoughts or excuses. The practice of taking an oath or swearing our testimony assumes that most of the time we are untruthful except on these special circumstances.

  • “Don’t lie to me, we are in church.” But if we weren’t at church it might be alright to bend the truth, is the implied false assumption.
  • “I’m not under oath” I don’t have to be completely truthful with you because we are not in court. The rules are flexible to benefit me, especially when I might be in the wrong.
  • I said, “Yes, your honor, I believe I completely certain that No, I have no recollection of having said what you thought I said or did. That is my honest testimony”

 

Jesus said: The ten commandments were easy, I’m stepping up the game.

How will we ever measure up? Don’t be Discouraged:

Jesus model’s some real life issues that we twist:

Jesus said: you will need to out behavior the most devout religious leaders. Jesus said this knowing we also say/think things like:

  • I want to be right
  • Its what they do in the movies/tv, in songs, etc.
  • I want there to be an absence of conflict, so it’s ok to keep quiet even if it is not true
  • I want to be served and satisfied
  • I want to be able to say/do whatever gets me out of this mess in the name of grace and love
  • I don’t want accountability; I ask you to continue trusting me in grace.
  • It’s my turn

The Remedy starts small:

Jesus begins with the small stuff.

  • Start with how you treat the people that are around you every day.
  • Be a truthful person of integrity
  • Speak with strength, but know your words matter, speak truthfully.
  • Speak with integrity
  • Be one who respects boundaries
  • Don’t objectify people
  • Don’t forget marriage is about covenant and not being served
  • If you are looking away from God, spouse or good, you are looking at what is evil, broken even in the name caring for ourselves.
  • Speak with respect, boundaries, and integrity and you will be trusted, blessed and respected.

Don’t let your words kill someone’s spirit

Don’t objectify people in the name of pleasing yourself

Don’t believe you can buy your way out of sin

Don’t let your body kill your spirit.

Don’t think you are caring for your spirit by pleasing your body

Don’t believe your actions only harm yourself.

Don’t look for excuses, look for Christ.

Community Support: The Role of the Church

It is quick and easy for us to judge, blame and segregate ourselves in the name of protection or ideology.

  • Help those who are blaming find Christ
  • Help those who are destroying marriage to refocus on Christ/Covenant
  • Help those who focus on pleasing themselves to see they sin and model loving them.
  • Model speaking the truth instead of swimming in the ocean of blame, regret, fear, etc.

We are people of the New Life in Christ, Protect the heart of God within you and do not trade it for the world.

 

 

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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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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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1 Timothy 1:12-17 Best Sinner Make the Best Saints 20160911 RSUMC

churchleadbysinnersI thank him who has given me strength for this, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful by appointing me to his service, though I formerly blasphemed and persecuted and insulted him; but I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. And I am the foremost of sinners; but I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience for an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. To the King of ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen. [NRSV]

Christ Came to Save Sinners

Paul gives Timothy and the church a great motto of the early church. “Christ Came to Save Sinners.”
  • It’s not new but it remains our hallmark.
  • It is opposite of the image we have sold to the unchurch and de-churched.
  • It remains our message and work of being the body of Christ for the world.
The foxes are in charge of the hen house.

I am the gold medal Sinner

The image of winning a gold medal is not only a sign of excellent physical conditioning and performance, it is also a symbol of excellence in sportsmanship and honor.  That is why when athletes use performance enhancing drugs or when they break curfew and make fools of themselves or target for fools, that the world questions the meaning of the prize.
Paul names himself as the worst of sinners. The best at choosing poorly.
  • The best at choosing poorly.
  • The best at being bad.
  • The best at placing God’s seal of approval on our blindly seeking what we determine God wants for ourselves and the world.
*Turn to your neighbor and tell them all your sins and we will see who is the worst sinner among us. Too uncomfortable? Too transparent? too vulnerable?
We are in good company of sin, but that is not what we want to world to see?
This is why those who are sinful in the church mislead those who are sinful outside the church.
Bottom line: Different sins bring different levels of consequences in the moment, but all sin wedges our way between the heart of God for eternity.

Sin is the perfect place for Jesus to shine.

The corrective message to be able to reclaim this motto Paul shares with Timothy and the church is this: Where ever we find sin, is the place to look for and share the living, loving, life-change grace of Jesus Christ.
What’s sin? Any choice that I make for the use of time, thought, energy, resource/money, influence, that does not lead ourselves and others toward God
  • is working in the backwards direction,
  • is leading us away from the heart of God,
  • is our sin.

Sin is not a concrete list of Don’t and Do’s.

The lists help, but the lists are never inclusive enough to cover all the shades of grey.

Practice Application of Shining Christ through our Sin:

  1. Prevention:
    1. “Lead me not into temptation”
    2. Practice Piety (Wesley’s Rule #3)
    3. Membership promises to use the church as a place of faith building/practice
  2. Confession:
    1. When we see our on sin, own up and ask for grace/fresh start
    2. When others see our sins, we confess, make right what can be done and seek grace
    3. When we think we get away with ‘it’ know this day, God knows and hurts with us.
  3. Grace over Judgement:
    1. Jesus looks at our sins and see someone to love and bless
    2. Calls for our repentance (our desire and willingness to be transformed)
    3. Call us to go and sin no more, live in the God direction
      1. Not as a rule but as response to grace

REVIEW:

So are you a sinner? Yep!

Does Jesus want to make you new, no matter if we are the best sinner? Yep!

Does God gives us a minds, a spirit and the church for support to grow toward God.

Who needs to know this? Who can you sit down and explain this to? who needs to hear this from you? GO SHOW THEM how far you have come through Christ.

 

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Luke 10:25-37 Show Me The Mercy 20160710 RSUMC

ShowMetheGrace
Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?” He answered, “You shall 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 your neighbor as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.”  But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, “Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.’ Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.” [NRSV]

JOB #1. Show Me the Mercy

  • Somewhere the passion for justice and mercy has become a political topic.
  • In the News this week we have seen heightened tensions and enraged emotions from people who have a heritage of being marginalized by race, gender and creed have been blamed for the evils of our society.
    • One answer for being oppressed is to fight back and reverse the oppression
    • One answer is to learn from oppression and say, no more oppression
    • One answer is to keep quiet, removed and mind our own business.
  • These are the options in Jesus’s parable
    • Those who turn to the law to help, ignoring the hurting
    • Those who want to keep out of the fray
    • Those who get personal in the process of healing.
  • Putting the verse in a current context might be:
    • Some would look at violence and unjust scene and jump to legal answers. For example USING the situation. Can’t you hear the leader who gets back to the temple and begins talking about Crime and Violence Laws they need to impose to keep people safe? They are more concerned about the LAW than the person.
      • Talking Gun Control instead of Mercy for the Oppressed
      • Pontificating on Social Media about Mercy, but showing no mercy.
      • Work toward healing and wholeness
    • Some might see the violence and unjust scene and talk to themselves or their peers but keep from being informed or involved. The talk and debate but leave the neighbor dying in the street.
    • Someone stops, ignoring the laws, traditions, expenses and inconvenience and shows personal-to-person mercy.
  • QUESTION: Which neighbor would you hope walks by you in your time of crisis?
    • The one who using the situation to address the law
    • The one who only talks about doing good when its easy or simple.
    • The one willing to get you through?
The Model of Mercy
  • Have a heart for God that looks for the good in the midst of evil and brokenness.
  • Seeing the heart of God, even in the lives of our enemies (the victim)
  • Seeing the place for healing instead of winning
  • Healing Wounds
  • Sharing Wine
  • Sharing the expense and opportunities for service.
The Model of Empty Mercy
  • Let’s focus on the laws, rules, getting even and determining what is fair.
  • Let’s identify who are what to blame, but not help
  • Let’s talk about it and keep our distance
  • Let’s just keep attacking people and taking advantage of the opportunity
  • Bad stuff happens, live with it.
Showing Mercy Means: Getting involved, committed & connected
  • Mercy begins by Looking for Goodness, Godliness, Humanity:
  • Seeing yourself in your enemy.
  • Who do you want as neighbors?

What do we do with this passage?

Be the ones who teach

  • mercy over correctness,
  • mercy over distance,
  • mercy over self.. then we become to Good Neighbor with God’s help and grace.

 

Footnote; the parable is not about befriending the robber or the thieves, nor what the Good Samaritan would/might have done if the thieves and robbers were in progress of about to attack the victim. Mercy remains the same: how we interpret how to show the mercy will always.

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John 14.23-29 “Serving up Jesus Helper” 20160501 RSUMC

hamburgerhelper

Jesus answered him, “Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; and the word that you hear is not mine, but is from the Father who sent me. “I have said these things to you while I am still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. You heard me say to you, “I am going away, and I am coming to you.’ If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I.  And now I have told you this before it occurs, so that when it does occur, you may believe. [NRSV]

Hamburger helper

When I was in college I roomed my junior with Jonathon Eady. Our go-to meals were the many different flavors of Hamburger Helper(TM). I suppose it is a step above Ramon noodles as the helper recipe call for meet to be added to the dish. I don’t think I had a favorite flavor because they all seem to taste the same. But they sustained us through that year of off-campus living.

My senior year I moved past the Hamburger Helper stepping up to cans of Campbell’s soup to replace my culinary flavors. In the way one can alternate the addition of rice, noodles or some other starch to elevate the senses. Still a quick and easy method. The trouble with Ramon, Helper or Campbell recipes is the elevated level of salt and by-products.

As I child my dad always made spaghetti sauce from scratch. Not only was it cheaper than the pre-made, it tasted better. My grandmother never made vegetable soup from a can, unless she had canned the vegetables herself. My mother never used canned biscuits because she could make the scratch ones as quickly for less money.

Somehow we have grown up with fast food and eating out, that is not very good and questionably not as good for us. So, I have come full circle; now it is much more rewarding, healthy and fiscal to gather the basic fresh tomatoes, onions, garlic and herbs to make a sauce that contains the goodness you need and flavors you choose.

The one thing through all these years is food. Every day, every one of us, needs fuel to do all the things we do.

Spiritual Helper

But we are more than the physical body. We are also spiritual people.

Imagine if we took the example of food and focused the energy, time and resources on feeding our spiritual selves.

Oh, the sermon was going so well until now. I was just getting ready for lunch and BAM! we are back on Jesus.

Just as every person is created with a Spiritual self, whether they realize, accept or deny it… we are spiritual people.

So much of the world is broken because it either denies this reality or feeds on a spirit of evil.

  – Do you remember the three rules of being a United Methodist?

  1. Do no harm.
  2. 2. Do all the Good that you can.
  3. 3. Practice your piety.   Do the things that Feed our Spiritual Self.

Those who keep my Word..

  • Know God loves them “
  • Know God will come to them, “The Advocate”
  • Know God’s Peace, “Wholeness”

The part we struggle with, is: How do we Keep Jesus Word?

  • Does that mean to believe certain truths?
  • Does that mean trust scripture?
  • Does that mean follow Jesus’s example?
  • Does that mean follow Jesus’s rules?
  • All of the above? or
  • None of the above?

Jesus is connecting the dots before the dots become holes.

Jesus is introducing an easy way to connect with the Holy Spirit.

  • It is more than keeping rules
  • It is more than saying the correct words
  • It is more than a test or a race or a lifetime.
  • It is love.

We are spiritual people.

  • God loves us.
  • Jesus has shown us that love.
  • so we will continue to love
  • as spiritual people.

John 1: 1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4 in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. [NRSV]

We look around and

  • see a world filled with anger, hatred, fear and doubt.
  • We feel the frustration, mis-trust, separation and animosity.
  • We hear the brokenness, darkness and death.
  • We sense the hold of greed, selfishness and sin.
  • We can even taste it, and it is bitterness and sour.
  • How can the world possible love, forgive,

God will give us a helper, and Advocate, a representative, a spokesperson, a trainer, a coach, a voice, a breath of God’s creative wind. The Holy Spirit.

It is the Spirit of God feeding the Spirit with each of us.

If we do not eat at this banquet, we see what will happen to love

If we do, we find God loves us, died and rose that our spirit can be eternal and that we will continue to help others know to feed and love the spirit.

We start at the table and leave for the world.

  • Do no harm,
  • Do Good.
  • Eat the gifts of love and grace for the work above.

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