Archive for category Hope

Assurance 1 Peter 1:3-9 Benefits of Faith

assurance

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who are being protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.  In this you rejoice, even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials,  so that the genuineness of your faith—being more precious than gold that, though perishable, is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.  Although you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy,  for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. [NRSV]

SALVATION

  • Kept in heaven,
  • protected by the power of God
  • an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled and unfading

SUFFERING and SUFFERING for our faith

  • You will know trials for a little time, but God’s salvation forever.
  • This is one of the most difficult to accept parts: God doesn’t make it any easier on us than the next person.
  • God doesn’t make it any easier on us than the next person.
  • Living as a person of faith means:
  • Knowing you are ultimately love and valuable to God who gives us breath, lives, love and hope.
  • Choosing God’s ways AS our ways
  • Choosing God’s way as our ways when the world says, begs, models challenges us otherwise.
  • EXAMPLES

FAITH TESTED BY FIRE

  • Faith is more precious than gold
  • Love without Seeing
  • Genuiness of faith rather than Successfulness of FAITH
  • Faith is expressed in Praise, Glory, and Honor

ASSURANCE of REWARD

  • Rather than cut each other down, be challenged to live one another up.
  • Rather than focus on the loss in the moment, look to the hope in eternity
  • Rather than be devastated in the current disappointments, know Jesus is readily available to restore and renew us living as a commitment.

Athletes: commit to

Scouts: Getting it done and completing the task

Work: Doing what no one wants to do builds character and strengthen the team bond

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Colossians 3:1-4 Easter: Hidden with Christ

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Colossians 3:1-4
So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth,  for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.  When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory. [NRSV]

Revealed in Christ

To be Raised with Christ
The story of Jesus’ death and crucifixion occurs during the celebration of Passover. At a time the Hebrew community is celebrating and reclaiming what it meant to be chosen people, a saved people, a protected people, and a chosen people. Jesus, the Son of God, is revealing the truth and heart of God, and becomes the Passover lamb, without the approval of those threatened by Jesus in the first place.
The power of the Passover celebration was confirmed and experienced when the family of faith, 1) gathered under the sign of the blood on the door of the lamb that was slain, The lamb was to be quickly roasted because they were to leave quickly out of Egypt. The bones of the lamb were not to be broken and when ready to be eaten, the whole family was to eat of the flesh.
The covenant is sealed in the eating of the flesh and drinking of the cup. God provided a salvation but not until the people gathered under the sign of God’s grace and eat the sacrificed meal, did they confirm to God and one another they this gift of grace is something they wanted personally.
The people could have ignored God’s grace and found the consequences of not eating, drinking and sharing in God’s table of promise.

The Big Change in the Meal

Jesus offers himself, through the bread, as the flesh to be consumed for the salvation  and he offers offer the cup of wine, as the cup of blood.
God is more interested in living sacrifices, than festivals of barbecue and rivers of animal blood.
There are times that a parent might say, “I would offer myself in the place of my child so that they would not have to endure suffering of an illness or a poor decision.  Such a transference is neither possible nor effective.” But the love behind the offer is like that of God’s. The difference is, God can do what we cannot. God who loves us, do so not because we first loved, but the reverse.
Easter Sunday Morning
This is the morning we celebrate that God continues to stand in the place of brokenness and takes the judgement for us. Even though Jesus is willing to stand in our place in judgements, relationships and every day-to-day events, we don’t always
The Easter Sunday Morning is to look at what is empty and see the Christ has made us full.

Who am I in Christ Jesus

Look at me without Christ I am broken lost and filled with emptiness, fear, greed, and void of hope.
In Christ I’m clothed with Grace, hope and love.

Easter People Celebrate

We are those who have set our minds, and hearts and souls in Christ Jesus to give us light, hope, joy and grace.
At a birthday party we celebrate we have endured another years and want to celebrate that days that are to come.
Easter is the day that we affirm that we can not only endure, but do thrive in the wholeness of God and that our days are as eternal as God’s.
The hitch is when our minds become set on other ways and other things.

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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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Micah 6:1-8 A New People, Yes or No?

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Hear what the LORD says: Rise, plead your case before the mountains, and let the hills hear your voice. Hear, you mountains, the controversy of the LORD, and you enduring foundations of the earth; for the LORD has a controversy with his people, and he will contend with Israel. “O my people, what have I done to you? In what have I wearied you? Answer me! For I brought you up from the land of Egypt, and redeemed you from the house of slavery; and I sent before you Moses, Aaron, and Miriam. O my people, remember now what King Balak of Moab devised, what Balaam son of Beor answered him, and what happened from Shittim to Gilgal, that you may know the saving acts of the LORD.” “With what shall I come before the LORD, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt-offerings, with calves a year old? Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of [Dodge] rams, with ten thousands of [pipelines] rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? [NRSV]

Living in a World of Protests

The Presidential Election was a protest voice giving upheaval to our political system.

The various marches and movements are protest voices. Have any of us here and everywhere not heard the voice of those drawing attention to racism, class-ism, sexism, socialism, communism, ism-ism.  The Voices have been heard!!

It is time for active transformation, healing an Atonement

  • We are living in a time when people are talking and not thinking.
  • We are witnessing a period where people are acting and not grounded.
  • We are experiencing a rending of our national fabric stumbling over our righteousness in the name of God’s righteousness.
  • We have woven identities of like-minded factions using the threads of grace and gifts of our collective spiritual journey.

Atonement: At-One-Ment

When we deserve entombment God intervenes in human experience to save, claim and restart our lives.

  • We call this grace.
  • God created Atonement,
  • We think we need extra credit home work, God just starts us fresh.

God’s Good News has something to say about our collective sins AND God offers a solution for healing.

Two Roads Diverge in a Nations Path

  • God has doubled-down our on innocence.
  • The world is being driven by blame, guilt, shame, fear, and failures.

God is all-forgiving. He does not seek to judge and punish us, but to correct and heal us. He is not invested in our guilt but in our innocence. The spiritual principle by which He helps us return to love when we have strayed from its ways is the principle of Atonement. The Atonement was introduced into human consciousness by God Himself, as a response to our capacity for fear. It is our eternal opportunity to choose again. That is what makes the Atonement a miracle: it is something introduced into the laws of time and space, by a power beyond them both. Grace supersedes the law of karma. To atone is to admit our errors, praying that God free us from what would otherwise be their inevitable consequences. It is a humble return of our minds to God’s love. It is to recognize where we ourselves have taken a path away from God’s will, and ask to be corrected and forgiven and healed. The story of the Prodigal Son makes clear how delighted God is when the son who strayed returns. By willingly and consciously unburdening ourselves of the weight of our mistakes, we are given the chance to begin again, to go forward in life from a healed perspective. Could America not use a miracle? The command to atone is a universal spiritual theme. In the Jewish religion, Yom Kippur is the Day of Atonement, where Jews admit our errors of the past year, asking God’s forgiveness and for His willingness to inscribe us in the Book of Life for another year. (Healing the Soul of America, Marianne Williams p.92)

The Lord Requires a relationship

[1 Cor. 18-31] For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”  Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?  For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.  Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles,  but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.  For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.  Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth.  But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”

  • The First Action for Healing: Confession

  • The Second Step of Action is GOD’s work of Atonement. God Forgives and restores FIRST.

  • The Third is to model God’s Atonement and make whole to the extent that we can.  We Follow God’s lead.

  • Note: Law can give leverage to Atonement, but only God can make us new, whole, complete.

  • The Final Step is to continue walking with God, until such time that we wander again.

 

Frustrating Game of Jenga: by Hasbro. The fun of the game is tearing the tower apart, God’s game is about building a people together.

Something to try this week: If you hear/see/experience someone protesting, tell/email/notify them this:

  • “I hear your voice,
  • Your Voice is Heard.”
  • Now let’s ask God to heal us,
  • make us new (God is not about revenge or back-pay, God simply starts us over.)

Let us find God’s foolishness our new way together and walk together in grace, humility and seeing the justice God has shown us all.

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1 Corinthians 1:10-18 Divided? Power in the Cross

Wooden cross hanging on antique teal blue wallNow I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you be in agreement and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same purpose. For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there are quarrels among you, my brothers and sisters. What I mean is that each of you says, “I belong to Paul,” or “I belong to Apollos,” or “I belong to Cephas,” or “I belong to Christ.” Has Christ been divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, so that no one can say that you were baptized in my name. (I did baptize also the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.) For Christ did not send me to baptize but to proclaim the gospel, and not with eloquent wisdom, so that the cross of Christ might not be emptied of its power. For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. [NRSV]

The World is divided

Politics, Religions, Football Teams and Left Twix or Right Twix. Have you tried having a meaningful conversation about the hot topics of the day?

  1. You either talk to no one and TRY to avoid the conversation and grow cynical and isolated?
  2. You surround yourself with like minded people for comfort and protection.
  3. We dare begin the conversation because we think we can change someone’s mind and end up fueling fires we didn’t intend to start or
  4. We love starting arguments because we enjoy bullying, shaming or agitating people.

I suggest we need to show the world an alternative to the division. Hear Paul’s challenge and calling to do just that:

Paul writes at the opening of his letter.

  • His first letter,
  • his first matter,
  • his most important point is about agreement and division.

He urges us to think about how we define ourselves.

  • I’m one of Chloe’s people
  • I belong to Apollos,
  • I belong to Cephas
  • I belong to Paul
  • I belong to the original member core
  • I belong to the newbies
  • I belong to this Preacher or that minister
  • Well, I belong to Christ, with a self-righteous tone of judgment.

Paul’s Letter begins with a Super Nanny Interruption.

You know the Super Nanny, that British nanny that sets up cameras throughout a frustrated parent-child home and observes and then lays down the new laws to correct the dysfunctional and divided family.

Paul’s Letter begins laying the hammer down on what divides us.

  • I will tell you what divides us?
  • It is not Christ that divides us,
  • WE divide ourselves

We are being called to take responsibility for what divides us.

  • It’s not social media
  • It’s not tv and politicians
  • It’s not elections and conversations
  • It is what is cooking in our own hearts, mind and souls.

Paul’s call is #1, first step

  • Stop with the groupings.
  • Stop with the interest groups.
  • Stop with the privileged class, stop being in the victim group.

#2, Second Step: Remember the Goal,

  1. Agreement
  2. Same Mindedness
  3. Same Purpose

As an aside, one of the things I love about this passage is Paul’s (wasteful misuse of paper in writing his rambling thoughts about who he did or did not baptize in the middle of a power challenge and stern instruction.)

Number #3, Step three

Personal Question of Faith and Self-Reflection

What does the cross of Jesus Christ actually mean to you and your life?

We are studying the Apostle’s Creed as a historic listing of points about God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and the church. But there is a core question that is at the heart of any statement of beliefs:

What does the cross of Jesus Christ personally mean to you and your life?

When we have come clinging to the power of the death and resurrection as our only hope and salvation, then we have a place to reflect on our differences.

Facebook proves verse 18 to be true. “The cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but a power to those being saved.”

When we start talking to another person, we might heart lovely words about Jesus, but sometimes the words are a

  • noisy gong,
  • empty platitudes,
  • self-righteous memes, or
  • “the correct answers, without listening to the questions.”

Let’s be clear about step #3:

  • Does the cross of Jesus Christ mean that Jesus died for all your mistakes, sins and failures?
  • Does the cross of Jesus Christ mean that Jesus Died for your times of pride and arrogance?
  • Does the cross of Jesus Christ mean that Jesus Offers himself in your place in judgment?
  • Does the cross of Jesus Christ mean that Jesus Promises to stand with you in the face of fear?
  • Does the cross of Jesus Christ mean that Jesus Promises to stand with you in the fiery furnace?
  • Does the cross of Jesus Christ mean that Jesus Gives your strength in the face of persecution when you are trying to be faithful to his example?
  • Does the cross of Jesus Christ mean that Jesus Encourage and empower you to see the best in others?
  • Does the cross of Jesus Christ mean that Jesus Divides us into groups, camps, parties, etc.?
  • Does the cross of Jesus Christ mean that Jesus Calls us to bully and shame one another as long as in his name?
  • Does the cross of Jesus Christ mean that Jesus Wants us to continue sinning and testing?
  • Does the cross of Jesus Christ mean that Jesus Wants us to act nice when we are together, but ponder evil in our hearts?
  • Does the cross of Jesus Christ mean that Jesus excuses us from avoiding evil and confrontation because we are uncomfortable?
  • What power does the cross of Jesus give your daily life?

If you don’t have an answer, then we have found our place to start.

We will not find agreement, one mind, one purpose until we find the POWER of the cross.

Paul calls on Chloe’s people, people of Apollos, Cephas, Paul, Rock Spring, Peavine, D.C., Chattanooga, Atlanta, Detroit, Chicago, Dallas, and every nation and tribe.

God offers us the power of true hope, complete salvation, and confidence to see a way out when we have closed our hearts, our minds, and doors.

If you are ready to claim the power of Jesus has for you, for our church, for our country, for a world hurting and divided. We let go of control and commit ourselves newly or renewed, Take my Life and let it be filled your power, your word, your love, your truth,

Your hope, Your Peace

And Jesus leads the way from there.

Paul’s call here is for the faithful, the church, not the unbeliever. His task is to make sure the GOSPEL has a POWERFUL hold on our hearts.

Ask your neighbor: Do you know the Power of Jesus Christ

  • IF they say yes, say praise the Lord
  • If that say no or I’m not sure, say, let’s talk
  • If they don’t say anything, then say, Today’s the day to “get of the pot/fence” and live in Christ.
  • When you hear division: Call on Christ to heal, protect and bring solutions.
  • When you see chasms of thought: Think what does the Cross compel me to do or say.
  • When you experience a brother or sister remaining quiet and not backing you up, ask them if they want to know more about Jesus or are in their silence are they choosing someone/thing other than Christ. Now is when the world needs the cross.

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Luke 14:25-33 The Cost of Discipleship 20160904 RSUMC

Now large crowds were traveling with him; and he turned and said to them, “Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it will begin to ridicule him, saying, “This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or what king, going out to wage war against another king, will not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to oppose the one who comes against him with twenty thousand? If he cannot, then, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for the terms of peace. So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions. [NRSV]

This test describes four points of discipleship: Family, Carrying the cross, Following through what we start, and Giving up possessions.

Bonhoeffer devoted much of his life to this text from Luke and we can learn from his faith investment for our own journey as disciples.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Apart from his theological writings, Bonhoeffer was known for his staunch resistance to the Nazi dictatorship, including vocal opposition to Hitler’s euthanasia program and genocidal persecution of the Jews.[2] He was arrested in April 1943 by the Gestapo and imprisoned at Tegel prison for one and a half years. Later he was transferred to a Nazi concentration camp. After being associated with the plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler, he was quickly tried, along with other accused plotters, including former members of the Abwehr (the German Military Intelligence Office), and then executed by hanging on 9 April 1945 as the Nazi regime was collapsing. [Wiki]

  • Discipleship: One who devotes one’s life to following Jesus.
  • To Disciples others: To invite, support, and equip/teach others how to follow Jesus.
  • Q: If I am not a Disciple of Jesus, to whom/what do I devote my life?

The Rude Awakening: To be a disciple is to wager our own life, all our relationship, all our possessions and struggle toward the Spiritual person God wants us to become in a broken and sin-filled, hurting world.

In this season of political turmoil, we can easily find folks either sticking one’s head in the sand OR being consumed by the drama. What are disciples to do in the next 64 days?

  1. By all means, be an informed voter and vote.
  2. By all means, trust that God will be your salvation and strength and not the government.
  3. By all means, study, pray and encourage those who choose blindness/ignorance to be informed and those consumed to evaluate what is most important in every day, not only election day.
  4. Seek God first, and all else will be revealed and added.

FAMILY

Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple:

The family is the core community in the human community. Jesus is calling us to compare our family of choice and our family of birth.

Just because we have people who are blood kin does not mean that they are living, acting, supporting, forgiving and trusting like our struggling faith family.

The community of the saints is not an “ideal” community consisting of perfect and sinless men and women, where there is no need of further repentance. No, it is a community which proves that it is worthy of the gospel of forgiveness by constantly and sincerely proclaiming God’s forgiveness…Sanctification means driving out the world from the Church as well as separating the Church from the world. But the purpose of such discipline is not to establish a community of the perfect, but a community consisting of men [and women] who really live under the forgiving mercy of God.”Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship

Carry the Cross

To be a following of Jesus is to imitate what we see and hear Jesus doing.

When Jesus welcomed the marginalized, forgotten and excluded folks, he talked, ate, fellowshipped, touched, and healed them, AND he sent them to go and “Sin No More.”

Following Jesus is both being touched and blessed by Jesus, but it is then our responsibility to become the new person that follows the new way of life in Jesus.

  • To “Carry the Cross” is to feed people AND call people to be fed spiritually
  • To “Carry the Cross” is to clothe people AND wrap them in spiritual encouragement.
  • To “Carry the Cross” is to visit, stand with AND be Christ for someone

It is easy to carry the cross in symbolic ways, but it is ultimately allowing CHRIST to carry us on the cross.

Bonhoeffer: There is a way to measure if we are carrying the cross:

“The messengers of Jesus will be hated to the end of time. They will be blamed for all the division which rend cities and homes. Jesus and his disciples will be condemned on all sides for undermining family life, and for leading the nation astray; they will be called crazy fanatics and disturbers of the peace. The disciples will be sorely tempted to desert their Lord. But the end is also near, and they must hold on and persevere until it comes. Only he will be blessed who remains loyal to Jesus and his word until the end.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship

Finish what we Start

How many projects have been started at your house, shop, work, school, and life with great excitement and zeal, but when we meet resistance, a conflict of time, or lack of resources, or loss of focus, we lay it aside.

We know in our heads and hearts what following Jesus is about, doing it is where the power is found.

“So many people come to church with a genuine desire to hear what we have to say, yet they are always going back home with the uncomfortable feeling that we are making it too difficult for them to come to Jesus.” ― Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship

Give up Posessions

This is where we usually head out the door or start thinking about lunch or find some other explanation other than the obvious one.

Bonhoeffer helps us with a suttle difference about posessions and a life devoted to Christ.

Earthly goods are given to be used, not to be collected. In the wilderness God gave Israel the manna every day, and they had no need to worry about food and drink. Indeed, if they kept any of the manna over until the next day, it went bad. In the same way, the disciple must receive his portion from God every day. If he stores it up as a permanent possession, he spoils not only the gift, but himself as well, for he sets his heart on accumulated wealth, and makes it a barrier between himself and God. Where our treasure is, there is our trust, our security, our consolation and our God. Hoarding is idolatry.” ― Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship

There is a falacy that giving our money away obsolves us from material management. Saving money to fund a life of service rather than a life of ease.

Wesley: Make all the money you can; save all you can; to do all the good you can.

Being a disciple is making a commitment that all that we have is God’s and we are intrusted with the responsiblity of doing God’s good work with all we have.

God knows we need material things, we living in the physical bodies God has made for us. Our bodies and things are not bad. BELIEVING they are our value, work and meaning becomes our God.

Cut it out because it  too hard!

“Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock. Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son: ‘Ye were bought at a price’, and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us. Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon his Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered him up for us. Costly grace is the Incarnation of God.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship

The Hard life of Discipleship is Costly living.

Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.
Costly grace is the treasure hidden in the field; for the sake of it a man will go and sell all that he has. It is the pearl of great price to buy which the merchant will sell all his goods. It is the kingly rule of Christ, for whose sake a man will pluck out the eye which causes him to stumble; it is the call of Jesus Christ at which the disciple leaves his nets and follows him.
Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock.

  • Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow,
  • and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ.
  • It is costly because it costs a man his life,
  • and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life.
  • It is costly because it condemns sin,
  • and grace because it justifies the sinner.
  • Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son: “ye were bought at a price,”
  • and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us.
  • Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon his Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered him up for us.
  • Costly grace is the Incarnation of God.”

― Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship

SO WHAT?

  • What do our relationships need most of all
  • What does our daily life look like if not like Jesus
  • What does our life feel like if we lay Christ aside for something new?
  • Are we possessed by that which cannot love or save us?

What does it cost to not be a disciple?

  • What does it cost to not seek a faith family’s support
  • What does it cost to not let Jesus shine and show
  • What does it cost to stop in the middle the race?
  • What does it cost to invest in that which cannot love?

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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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Luke 4:14-21 “Full Today, Full.” 20160124 RSUMC

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Full Plate for a Hungry World: Today is the Lord’s Day, let’s fill it up!

Then Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country. He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone. When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” [NRSV]

  • Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.
    Good News to the Poor
    Release to Captive
    Sight to the Blind
    Freedom to the Oppressed
    To Proclaim, Now is the Lord’s Moment
  • The Rest of Isaiah
    Bind up the brokenhearted
    Comfort the mourning
    Provide for the grieving in Zion
    Beauty instead of ashes,
    oil of joy instead of mourning
    garments of praise instead of despair

These will be called mighty oaks of righteousness
The destroyed will be rebuilt
There will be a reversal where the world serves the holy in the holy places.

  • To Follow Jesus is to do these types of things for the glory of God.
  • To Follow Jesus is to begin doing these things today
  • To Follow Jesus is to transform the world

Why Do These?
Good News, freedom, vision, encourage, comfort, beauty, joy, praise.. all to reveal God’s claim on this day.

United Methodist 3 Rules Applied
Practicing our Piety, Doing Good and Silencing Evil.

  • Ministry of Sharing Good News and praise
  • Ministry of addressing physical needs
  • Ministry of addressing emotional needs
  • Ministries of showing beauty and joy
  • Start with one and move to the next

God lays upon our hearts, opens doors in our lives, gives us opportunities to serve,

What Jesus did not say:

  • Take the weekends off, nope.
  • Show up when you feel like it, nope.
  • Retire when you are tired, nope.
  • Don’t start until you get your act together, nope.

Jesus is talking to family, friends, neighbors and hometown folks.

  • This is not a message in the wilderness
  • This is not a message in the market place
  • This is not a message in meadow by the sea
  • This is sitting at the kitchen table conversation…

This is a message for homefolks, us!

  • If we are tired, let these words charge us up
  • If we are afraid, let these examples give us courage
  • If we are weak, let these gifts become our strength
  • If we are lost, let these paths be our way back to God
  • If we are too busy, let these instructions interrupt us.

Affirming our mission to make Disciples of Jesus Christ.

The Year of the LORD’s Favor, Isaiah 61 [NRSV]
1 The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, 2 to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, 3 and provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORDfor the display of his splendor. 4 They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated; they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations. 5 Strangers will shepherd your flocks; foreigners will work your fields and vineyards. 6 And you will be called priests of the LORD, you will be named ministers of our God. You will feed on the wealth of nations, and in their riches you will boast. 7 Instead of your shame you will receive a double portion, and instead of disgrace you will rejoice in your inheritance. And so you will inherit a double portion in your land, and everlasting joy will be yours. 8 “For I, the LORD, love justice; I hate robbery and wrongdoing. In my faithfulness I will reward my people and make an everlasting covenant with them. 9 Their descendants will be known among the nations and their offspring among the peoples. All who see them will acknowledge that they are a people the LORD has blessed.” 10 I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. 11 For as the soil makes the sprout come up and a garden causes seeds to grow, so the Sovereign LORD will make righteousness and praise spring up before all nations.

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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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June 22, 2014   Luke 24:13-35 “On the Road” Sharing Christ and the Journey

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Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him.  And he said to them, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” They stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?” He asked them, “What things?” They replied, “The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people,  and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him.  But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place.  Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning,  and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.”  Then he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared!  Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?”  Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.  As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on.  But they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” So he went in to stay with them.  When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them.  Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight.  They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?”33 That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!”  Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread. [NRSV]

The car I most often drive has over 271,000 miles registered on the odometer. I wish they were all business miles because Uncle Sam would allow me nearly $150,000. While many are work related, some include trips to the beach, Braves games and a 30 minute glimpse of the Grand canyon. A good many reflect trips to the grocery store, school events and gatherings with friends. But the bottom line is that every miles is part of many journeys with many people where the Love of God, the Grace of Jesus Christ and Power of the Holy Spirit have carried me. My hope and prayer is that I have used those opportunities to share these very gifts with folks along the way. Otherwise I have wasted more than gas and insurance.

As difficult and unsettling as it is to uproot and change churches our appointive system allow me to great opportunity to journey here to share God’s love, Christ’s grace and the power of the Spirit as we share our lives together. For half a century I have been moving and sharing a journey of faith. All those previous miles and experiences have lead me to this very moment.

But let me be clear: as happy and excited as we are to be here in ministry together, I am not here because of what I have done, rather I am here with you because what God has done for me and through me.

In our text today, Cleopas and his wife are walking on the road from Jerusalem toward to village of Emmaus. Three years ago I had the opportunity to walk along that path. I can’t say it was the very spot where Cleo and his wife were talking to Jesus but I was powerful to imaging sharing the same road. The text describes the seven mile walk as one filled with grief and disappointment.

The passage is one of my favorites. It is an Easter passage. The risen Jesus Christ is present but not recognized through the perspective of grief and disappointment. These are emotions and experiences that we all share at different times throughout our lives. Not may of us are shepherd or fisherman or tax collectors. but all of us experience broken hearts, lost dreams and unrealized hopes.

The passage is also about a two of the ordinary folks, not the chosen 12 or main characters of the temple court. Instead we have two family members who found themselves caught up and invested in politics and religion and they are heading home focus on what they lost.

How familiar? How many people within 2o miles of where we sit at this very moment can’t see the forest for the trees, this very morning.

Jesus meets them on the road, in the middle of their journey, sharing the witness and power of the scriptures, using the occasion of their loss and detachment as a time to reach into their hearts and bring them to the table.

At the table.

My grandmother always had a bring round oak table at her house. My maternal grandfather was ousting me from his familiar chair at the declaring he was king of the castle and as such he was at the head of the table and only he was to be seated in the throne. (Halmark never call him to play the part of grandfather of the year) My grandmother called me to the kitchen. She told me about her table, explaining that it was round. And many chairs could fit around the table and that everyone who had a seat at the table was seated at the head, because they had a place they were welcomed to break bread together.

So we could let grandman think he was whatever he wanted to be because the table was for us all.  it is in the blessing and breaking of the bread that Cleo and his wife see what they had bee missing all along. The Risen Lord.

This is the work we share now and until Christ return. As long as our bodies hunger and thirst. We are called to share Jesus and the scriptures along the journey and through the meals and prayers. This is what we are saved and charged to do. And so it begins a new chapter of the journey for us together.

On the Road..

We will do many things together in this place for the glory of God and the strengthening of our faith and fellowship, but we do so for work outside these doors. Where our paths cross. Where our ideas and opinions differ and are strained. Where our experiences and perspective intersect and even conflict.

It is in these moments that we help one another and even strangers come to find Jesus lives and reigns for us. The story and scriptures are true and they are lifted up that we might have faith, hope, joy and new life together.

 

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