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Archive for category grace

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

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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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Isaiah 64 Easter Sunday: A Buffet of Grace for a people of Injustice 201260327 RSUMC

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17 “See, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind. 18 But be glad and rejoice forever in what I will create, for I will create Jerusalem to be a delight and its people a joy. 19 I will rejoice over Jerusalem and take delight in my people; the sound of weeping and of crying will be heard in it no more. 20 “Never again will there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not live out his years; the one who dies at a hundred will be thought a mere child; the one who fails to reach a hundred will be considered accursed. 21 They will build houses and dwell in them; they will plant vineyards and eat their fruit. 22 No longer will they build houses and others live in them, or plant and others eat. For as the days of a tree, so will be the days of my people; my chosen ones will long enjoy the work of their hands. 23 They will not labor in vain, nor will they bear children doomed to misfortune; for they will be a people blessed by the LORD, they and their descendants with them. 24 Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear. 25 The wolf and the lamb will feed together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox, and dust will be the serpent’s food. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain,” says the LORD.. [ Isaiah 65.17-25, NRSV]
The prophet Isaiah spoke as an advocate for God and talked to challenge and encourage the People of God. He tells of a time coming soon when God would do something transforming in Jerusalem. The new ‘thing’ revealed to us is seen in the death and resurrection of Jesus. We gather to celebrate the fulfillment of this promise of God that has been awaited.
Except, having to get everything heated, the table set and the bread in the oven at the exact time, Easter Sunday dinner was one of the rare times that family dinner time was relaxing and enjoyable family time in my childhood and youth. Some years we were at home around our table, other time we gathered around my grandmother’s table. But never at the farm. It was too far to drive on Easter Sunday after church to Johnson County, but we would say, “one year we will find  a way.”  My mother had her cheese biscuits, and strawberry jam and her mother had her yeast rolls and orange and coconut ambrosia, but we never made it to the family gathering at the farm.
Easter Dinner at the farm: three types of meat, four pies and chocolate layer cake, hand rolled bread and collection of eight to ten vegetables covered the dining room table and spilling over to the chest freezer filled the house with the fruit of the labor or many hands. There is something extra special about sharing a meal with your family and friends that come from your work and love. Love and work that is not just in preparing the food, but also growing, tending and harvesting the food. It is convenient and more restful to eat out. That meal is more satisfying when we see the full perspective of the food.
The good news for Easter is God’s handiwork continues to meet us at the table.
During the time of Isaiah, The tribes of Judah lived through three kings and saw the kingdom of Israel destroyed and taken to Assyria. Isaiah is prophesying about time that there would be a joy in Jerusalem.
Joy in Jerusalem was an unbelievable promise. People might remember stories when David and Solomon made Jerusalem a jewel and envy, but now it was a dim memory at best. The prophet gives us a big picture look at the presence of God along the way. His words say “remember when?” And his words promise, encourage and help keep faith alive for all who share the faith and hope. There will be a day of Joy! There will be a time of reversal! There will be a moment that God brings all things to wholeness and justice.

Preaching on Easter Sunday has a seesaw of expectation. It’s Great news to celebrate the Resurrection and a challenge to tell even more.

 I step back into a spiritually lean time in the memory of our faith history to help give perspective on how God’s transformation by grace will come to be. The text tell us that the prophet foretells that God will make Jerusalem a Joy!

Jerusalem. A Joy?

If we look back in our remembered history, Jerusalem has been a place of turmoil, feud and war for generations and generations.
When will the time be? First, we learn how God works through epochs as well as nano-seconds. We want everything in an instantly unless we enjoy it, and then we want to take our time. We want a Spring Break vacation to last for twice as many days as we are allowed, but we want our cancers healed instantly. God works in God’s time. 1) GOD IS VERY PATIENT WITH OUR IMPATIENCE!
God’s time is entrusted with us. I believe with all my heart if the whole world would turn toward Jesus Christ in repentance and faith, that would be the moment that we found Joy in Jerusalem, and everywhere else. this possibility is inherently in the charge to make disciples of all the world.
The Apostle, preacher-teacher-leader encourages the Mediterranean church in Corinth, (1 Corinthians 15:19-26)
 If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died. For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead has also come through a human being; for as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father, after he has destroyed every ruler and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. [NRSV]
But this Easter we are somewhere between Isaiah and that final day.  Both Paul and Isaiah point to one hope: Jesus who died and rose from the dead as atonement, payment, for the brokenness and sin that keeps Joy hidden, beaten down and afraid, left-for-dead.
Easter Sunday is about Joy!
  • Joy that we have hope even though Terror fills the earth
  • Joy that we have faith even though correctness challenges beliefs
  • Joy that we have grace even though we want it immediately
  • Joy that we have life even though we need it eternally
  • Joy that we have love even though our hearts still know how to hate
  • Joy that we have each other because the body of Christ is entrusted to the church
  • Joy that we have forgiveness
  • Joy that we have songs for praise
  • Joy that we prayers for conversation
  • Joy that we have time for repentance
  • Joy that we have history to learn from past mistakes
  • Joy that we have a future that is prepared and paid for by Christ
  • Joy that Jesus was not just a teacher with good life lessons
  • Joy that Jesus was not just a historical figure
  • Joy that the Holy Spirit is our power
  • Joy
Why be afraid, Why be sad? Why think you alone? Why see the empty?
When we have Joy, Joy from Jesus Christ who lives, today, here, with us.
so we come to the Easter buffet of Good News:
What will go on your plate?
Q: chocolate bunnies and eggs that are tummy abs fun for a moment
or a taste of Joy?
ASK: your neighbor: How Does Jesus bring you, Joy?
WHAT,  you have no joy?
Have you forgotten? Already?
Today begins our serving the buffet of Jesus throughout our world:
  • to Celebrate Easter is to feed not eat
  • to Celebrate Easter is to forgive not hold over
  • to Celebrate Easter is to love the difficult to love
  • to Celebrate Easter is to live for Christ and not ourselves
  • to Celebrate Easter is to bring hope to the sad
  • to Celebrate Easter is to open hardened hearts
  • to Celebrate Easter is to offer life to the dying
  • to Celebrate Easter is to free those who hoard
  • to Celebrate Easter is to be the body of Christ living in the world for the transformation of the world toward Christ how lives forever.
Happy Easter, get to work!!
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Psalm 126 Bringing in the Sheets 20151025 RSUMC

BringingInTheSheetsWhen the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream. Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy; then it was said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.”  The Lord has done great things for us, and we rejoiced.  Restore our fortunes, O Lord, like the watercourses in the Negeb.  May those who sow in tears reap with shouts of joy.  Those who go out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, carrying their sheaves. [NRSV]

Recently I was listening to one of Frances’s new, favorite Taylor Swift songs, where I once again mis-heard the words of the chorus. Instead of standing in a new dress, I heard, “standing in an ice chest.” I suppose both could be signs of love and devotion depending on the weather and if the ice chest was filled with ice. This familiar passage from Psalm 126 is at the heart of the Knowles Shaw‘s hymn, “Bringing in the Sheaves.”

This American Gospel hymn draws us to turn to and trust God to bring us to fruitfulness and to restore what was invested long ago. If you look at the Top 100 popular songs for this week in October, you find these 25 titles that speak of the message of our current culture:

Cant’ Feel my Face,  Locked Away,  Wildest Dreams,  Hotline Bling,  Hit the Quan,  Ex’s and Oh’s,  Same Old Love,  Trap Queen,  Renegades,  My Way, Drag Me Down,  Where Ya At,  Strip it Down,  Love Myself,  Worth It,  Earned It,  Bad Blood,  Break Up With Him,  Anything Goes,  Come Get Her,  Nothing But Trouble,  Stressed Out,  Live From the Gutter,  $ave Dat Money, Love Me.

Do these sound like words of joy and fulfillment? Now I’m picking on important genre of the population’s voice and expression. But it is always important to listen to, and to understand the words. The words have meaning and power.

The Pslamist is a song writer: The songs begins by reminded us that God has done GREAT things for us in the past.

The next words, remind us that sometimes all we have left at the moment is the dream of what was. The vital importance of keeping the dream alive.

A call to remember what brought us laughter, joy, comfort, peace and a time where fear, doubt, worry were not our driving realities.

Remember times that you were so happy you and your neighbor could be heard shouting for joy.. (back when the Dawgs could expect to taste sugar at the seasons end.)

Remember when all the other nations would look at our nation and say, God is at work through them in great ways… Not our reputation, but God’s reputation.

The Seasons of emptiness, depression, doubt and loss.

The Negeb water courses…There is a seasonal change, expect the drought, expect the flood, expect the in between conditions. God is present throughout all the seasons.

Exchange program, you bring me tears, I bring you joy. The Rag Man, the Christ

Tears of sadness from the joy. Joy is meaningless without the tears. God is fruitful in both times, all times. Turn toward God in sadness and bring God home in joy.

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James 1:17-27 Jesus Wants Dewars 20150830 RSUMC

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Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. In fulfillment of his own purpose he gave us birth by the word of truth, so that we would become a kind of first fruits of his creatures. You must understand this, my beloved: let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger; for your anger does not produce God’s righteousness.  Therefore rid yourselves of all sordidness and rank growth of wickedness, and welcome with meekness the implanted word that has the power to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves. For if any are hearers of the word and not doers, they are like those who look at themselves in a mirror; for they look at themselves and, on going away, immediately forget what they were like. But those who look into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and persevere, being not hearers who forget but doers who act–they will be blessed in their doing. If any think they are religious, and do not bridle their tongues but deceive their hearts, their religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world. [NRSV]

What do we know in our head?

  • Love neighbor
  • feed hungry
  • clothe the naked
  • forgive your enemy: doesn’t mean they are not to be accountable, we allow them the opportunity to change
  • read and study the scriptures
  • Remember the forgotten, the widow and children/orphan

Today we have heard about a terrible social problem. (Trafficking)

Is it enough to know about the problem

or is there something we can we about the problem

  • report abuse and crimes
  • give children safe place to be
  • get involved in community and schools
  • Get help to victims and support change in he hearts of abusers
  • Others

Jesus empowers us as a moody not a museum

  • Don’t be deceived is the repeated warning
  • the devil is known as the great deceiver: say one thing and do another
  • we can be deceived
  • deceive others and deceive ourselves
  • but we cannot deceive God

therefore, repent and trust God in all things

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Matthew 5.20-30 Marriage, The Law and the Church RSUMC 20150628

MarriageLicenseFor 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.

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