Archive for category #lovelikejesus
Now this is the commandment—the statutes and the ordinances—that the Lord your God charged me to teach you to observe in the land that you are about to cross into and occupy, so that you and your children and your children’s children may fear the Lord your God all the days of your life, and keep all his decrees and his commandments that I am commanding you, so that your days may be long. Hear therefore, O Israel, and observe them diligently, so that it may go well with you, and so that you may multiply greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, as the Lord, the God of your ancestors, has promised you. Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead, and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. [NRSA: Deut 6:1-9]
The Greatest Commandment: You shall love the Lord your God with all you heart, and with all you soul, and with all your might.
The Key commandment, the one rule that binds them all. Is to love God.
It is the simplest instruction. Love God, Trust God, Depend on God. Follow God. Love God. Say these aloud to God with me:
· I love you God
· I trust you Lord
· I depend on you Jesus
· I believe you are my Savior
· I follow you Holy Spirit.
· I love you God.
The First instruction is to learn, remember and to recite the nature of our relationship with God.
“God I love you.”
This instruction is simple and direct profession of faith. But it goes a bit further than just loving God.
The instruction is to love God with our whole heart.
Think of the pie charts from school and business meetings. If the whole pie is dedicated to loving God how much is left to love others people and other things?
If the whole pie indicated the amount we are the devote our heart and soul to God what part is lift for being a fan of something else?
If the whole pie reflect that all our energy, strength, and resources are going to God, how much is left over for things other than God.
SURELY THIS IS NOT WHAT GOD MEANS!
If this one commandment is to summarize all the others, it does mean that we devote the fullness of who we are to God, as a sign of our love, trust and devotion.
Who can do this? This is where grace comes to the rescue. We have all sinned and fallen short!
This is the heart of our target. Some days we do better than others, but our goal remains the same, to love God completely.
There are other things that fall under loving God.
· Trusting God’s word.
· Caring, protecting, and witnessing to our families, to the community and to the world.
· We love God by caring for God’s creation.
· We love God by seeking justice and showing mercy.
· We love God by feeding those who are hungry,
· clothing those who are naked,
· friending the lost, lonely, and hopeless.
· We love God by gathering to worship
· We love God by using the body, the spirit, the talents, the mind, the gifts, the time entrusted to us to show both God, the world and ourselves what it means to live as a person of love.
There is no great love, than a person to give their whole life for another
THIS is what makes Jesus’s death on the cross the most powerful witness of love
To give to us, those who squander the treasures and time of our life looking for purpose and meaning and God has already revealed that purpose to us.
Favorite Prayer in Seminary: “O God, you love is so big, thank you for your bigness.” Amen.
What does it take for us to do a better job remembering our purpose, goal, and JOY is to love God?
· Keep these words in your Heart.
· Teach by modeling these words to each generation
· Keep them when you are at home and wherever you travel
· Close and Start the Day with them on your lips
· Wear them on your hand
· Wear them on your head
· Write them on your door and gate.
A modern translation might be: memorize them and recite them in your household, as you begin and end the day. Keep them on your home screen, in your bathroom mirror and in your car rear view mirror. Wear them as you would wear clothes and jewelry, teach them to everyone you meet and live by them everywhere you go.
Love God with all of your heart, soul, and strength.
The Power of a Post-it Note
· Put one on your bathroom mirror and remind God ever time you wash you hands, brush you teeth, shave or make up your face.
· Put one on the dash of your car
· Put one in your wallet on your debt and credit card
· Take a picture of one and make it your screen background
· Have you ever written a reminder on your hand hoping it won’t sweat off before you get the list of things from the store?
Having a visual reminder increases connection of memory and action dramatically.
Having a visual remind, a physical touch, and audible sound is the strongest way to remember to act in a certain way.
Try this: Clap you hands, and say “I love your God, Help me to love you more.” A good strong clap, awakens our nerves and sets to memory our words with out actions. The next time you clap you hands or hear others clap their hand, you will bring together a reminder to love God and love God more.
If not clapping, snap you fingers, touch you ear, squeeze you finger, some action to have reinforce the reminder,
· Sometime we need it in front of our eyes:
· Sometimes we need to hear the words:
· Sometime we need to connect our breathing with love so we remember how often we are to love.
Writing on you hand and head
Personally, I have never been a fan of tattoos. In saying that I risk alienating many people. I don’t love anyone any less for having one. I have seen tattoos fifty years after they have been installed and they communicate something very differently. I have see people live with names of people they have divorced. I have seen people cover themselves with images that have one meaning at the beginning that are a regret that are carried daily. What most these days are very detailed, colorful and great works of art, there seem to more reasons not to carry such a permanent billboard for most of the images people receive.
But I can also heart this passage from Deut 6 and see how people might literally take to heart the instruction to write God’s commandments on their hand or head. But I have only seen a fraction of tattoos that ink this commandment or images reflecting God. While tigers, reptiles, birds, and skulls are all part of God’s creation, I’m not hear these images inked as a testimony of our love for God.
I risk opening this conversation because some people will take this instruct literally and see the process of using their bodies as a place to witness God’s love in that is unseen in their hearts, minds and souls. And so if a tattoo is telling the world of your devotion to God then that is bold and definitive witness.. But most religious tattoos are in places easily hidden. I know the art of Tattooing is ancient, one of the reasons why it is considered to be taboo, (taboo tattoos) is the practice associate with temple worship of pagan gods with fertility practices. As your pastor, I’m not saying never get a tattoo. I am saying this passage calls us to let the world know who we love with our whole heart, whole soul, and all our strength. And if the world can better see God’s love in you with a reminder in inked in your skin, then that’s a permeant way to say to God, to yourself and to the world: I love you God! Just know there is pain, risk of infection, cost, and in fifty years It might not be as legible.
Throughout the generations Jewish families have a mezuzah at the front door with a small scroll reminding them of this passage. Some traditions literal tie box with the a scroll of this passage on their forehead. We are more familiar with WWJD bracelets and other pins, rings, jewelry — all are tangible ways to remember.
So what do we do with this passage today?
We remember our highest purpose and the meaning of our lives is to love God.
If you are or know someone who is searching in this “time of craziness” help them get on the track of learning to Love God, for the first time or renewing that love.
We Love God, and ask God to help Love even more.
We encourage one another, by reminding ourselves and others through physical and spiritual ways. We not only can pray, we can send someone a loving reminder, a gift, “agape” – something that has no expectation of love return, just a something that opens door to sharing love.
The more the world says to fear, hid, withdraw, prepare for the worst.. the more you and I need to encourage one another to love. The more evil abounds, the more love we need to conquer it.
This is the promise of God; the simple commandment. Love and it will go well. Hate and it will not go well.
When I feel the hate, fear, dread, worry, rage…. Make that my prayer: Oh Lord Jesus my savior and friend: make this evil remind me of your love and teach me to love as you have loved. Love is the way. Love is the answer. Love is our foundation. Love is our salvation. God’s love is big enough for whatever the world want to throw our way. “I love you God.”
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? [NRSA: Matthew 5:43-47]
Koinonia Fellowship is hard
a. We are already doing what is hard these days, why tackle something else that is hard?
b. It is the one thing that God has commanded us to do.
c. It is the motivation on God’s part that provides for our own salvation.
d. Finally, we see what heaven is like, every time we love someone who is difficult to love.
e. And if do don’t want to love then we are not likely to enjoy, being the body of Christ, heaven, nor eternity with God and the al People of God.
Typically this is how the conversations start:
Q: Preacher, When it comes to loving our enemies, the favorite example, “do you mean we are suppose to love someone like Hitler?”
A: the easy to say, but difficult to do answer is: a 100% yes!, but..
If you are sharing a conversation with someone and they respond to you by saying, “Yes, but ..” then 99% of the time they think they are being polite or kind, and follow up explaining why your wrong with their perspective. It is a good way to start or continue an argument or have someone stop communicating?
Return to the example
In this case, our answer to the radical question, “Are we we suppose to love someone like Hitler?”, will answer with this question: “is there someone who need to learn how to love more than a Hitler?”
In this case, the yes is a Yes!, and the “but” is a qualification that it is not easy to follow through in action with the words about being loving.
In the example of Hitler, there is nothing acceptable about his beliefs, leadership, behavior, or role in history. Someone filled with evil is not our excuse to judge them and skip loving them as the person of God’s creation that has become so twisted.
Our role is not to judge, it is to be witness to a world of sin, evil, corruption and destruction, a doorway to the grace of God.
How easy it was for people to adopt the group think, to fear retaliation, to not want to take a stand, to exchange the words of faith for the compliance of the community. But let us not be stuck on the character of history.
We have plenty of people that we would not want to have lunch with, not want to invite into our homes, not what to sit next to – even in church. If you started a list of people be careful because these may be the very people God is calling you to reach out with your witness of love and grace.
This is where the words of love come to life and reveal what we hope for in heaven.
Daily we are surrounded with the push and pull of people calling for us to be politically intolerant of someone else. There is not a parable, teaching, or example where Jesus says for us to divide up people in the groups and to hate one and love the other. That’s the task of politics these days.. It is not our command, goal, or charge.
The First step is to have a reversal prayer: When I hear some, I try my best to give that moment to God. Sometimes I fail, and social media is vicious. I am hopeful we will soon no longer be dependent on FB to provide our streaming. (we will share it on multiple platforms, but no longer require people to use FB to share our worship, that’s like only using wine in communion for those who struggle with alcohol, an aside.)
When we are confronted with someone difficult to love or to think of in a loving way, begin to look at them as God see them. God loves us while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us before we ask for his help. Someone who is our enemy be based on something about them, ourselves, or both.
The prayer is this. “God help me to see the world from their perspective, your perspective, and see the sins and evil in my own life. Transform us all to your will and heart. Amen.” Or something toward seeing these three perspectives.
The second action is not just pray but make a first step toward loving.
An action is not simply a good thought and a hurried prayer. Allowing the words of our faith and heart to marinate with God’s word and love, prepares us to begin with INTENTIONAL steps of loving, reconciliation, forgiveness, invitation, opening dialogue.
For those stuck on the Hitler example, there are times that were a mortally at risk for showing love. What would Germany have looked like if every person stepped forward in love rather than either joining the crowd or keeping to themselves?
The End of Days:
It has been the most frequent question I have been asked in the month of July. I offer the two things we do know from scripture: While no one know the hour or the day, we all can see the seasons and signs.
Behind that question is desire to have some order in the chaos we experience in the world. The more hurricanes, tropical storms and tornados, flooding and earthquakes in China, pandemic threats, political ultimatums, and the drama of being on the winning side, not to mention that threat to split our denomination…
a) Its fair to ask is this it? If yes, then we just need to hang on and be faithful a little while longer,
b) If no, we don’t have to deal with the tribulation AND all this chaos..
People are asking this because they want to know is God going to show up and fix things?
Is God going to speak those words to justice and healing to the nations?
Is God going to let us suffer and die, ask the persons with leprosy outside the city?
Is God hearing our suffering and struggles, our fears and lack of control?
Do God love us?
Is God’s love based on events of the world, or is God’s love for us greater than all the chaos??
Step 1. Reversal Prayer, Step 2. Taking the first steps in ACTing in love. Step 3.
Do not measure love by the world’s standards.
We need God’s love most when we are not pacified by being part of the majority.
We need God’s love most when its not easy to see with our eyes and heart alone.
We needs God’s love when we are afraid, broken and pressed down more than when we can manage.
And if “WE” need that much love, then so do our enemies.
Go back to the idea of a list of enemies. Don’t list them all, but who are the first three people who you picture or name when you hear enemies. (Don’t list groups of people, name the first personal names that fill you heart and mind.)
1. Pray for that person all day, all afternoon, all evening. Ask God to help you see the world and you from their perspective. Pray for God to transform their heart and your heart to find some point of grace between you.
2. Pick up the phone, reach out in person/at a distance, write a prayerful email, send a love letter to that person telling them what you are praying for them and yourself. Make the first step.
2B. To not act, to not take the first step is to not trust God’s love to heal. Try and fail is rewarded, ignoring is participating in the lie that we are loving as we have been loved.
3. The Reward for loving first, is the treasure of seeing who God deals with us in Christ. God has no idea if we will love back, God has been disappointed many times… And yet, it is that never failing love that is my only hope and grace.
We don’t have to love people’s ideas, behaviors, choices… and we don’t have to give them what they want us to give them to prove our love… the love is what we are commanded to do by God, with God, for God.
Failure is to not try loving because we are afraid, or have failed before. Koinonia people love because Christ loved us first, and continues to love us always. Hear the Good News and live it!
But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. Do to others as you would have them do to you. “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. “Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.” [NRSV]
Have you read this as the way God loves us?
This is where we learn how awesome God’s Love is all about
- God listens to us
- Give loves when we don’t,
- God loves when hate
- God blesses when we are not deserving
- God speaks to us when we ignore God
- God expects to be attacked
- God expects to loose more to reach us
- God expects to be asked for help
- God is willing to sacrificed for us
- God treat us the way God Hopes we will treat others
- God expects loving to be difficult
- God expect to help and not be helped,
- God judges and loves us anyway
- God forgives first
This love becomes the example for us
Those who love:
- Listen to Christ
- Love enemies,
- Do good for those who hate
- Bless those who judge you
- Pray for your abuser
- Expect to be attacked
- Expect to loose your coat and shirt
- Expect to be asked to help
- Expect to loose your stuff
- Treat others who you’d like to be treated in their situation
- Expect love to be difficult
- Expect to help and not be helped
The most impossible list.
We fail miserably!
What do we do when we have not loved as God loves?
This is where we learn how awesome God’s Love is all about
“God have mercy on me a sinner” is our best defense and starting place.
Start the day praying this prayer at the beginning, end and middle of everyday.
Love through me because on my own I cannot love. “I” can’t do it
But God can through us.
Jesus, Love me
If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love. [NRSV]
These verses are the definitive description of the extremes and expressions of love. Love is indeed the greater power. Love is the great gift. It is freely give, but requires all things to be fully experienced and shared. To be loved takes no effort on our part as the recipient. Yet, it means the most to make good on its reality.
What or Who do you love?
To love a thing, or an idea, or a goal, or a dream, is an impossible investment of love. To say I love donuts, mashed potatoes or country-fried steak may reveal a passion for carbohydrates, but these items will never return love to me.
I can more appropriately say I extremely enjoy the taste, experience of flavor of these items but to love them is to invest in something that can never return love, which will ultimately lead to an emptiness when the temporary fullness passes.
To say that I love my job, my house, my car or my hobbies is also a misinformed valuation. These treasures surely provide, means, space, access and interest in my life, but they will never have the capacity to complete the circuit of love I might try to bestow.
More than semantics, Love should be reserved and invested in persons and relationships that have the potential to love.
God loves us.
What does it say about US and about God, that God loves us enough to trade God’s-self for us on the cross?
God does no see us a objects in creation. We are more than bird, tree, day, night, snow days, or sunshine.
You are my Sunshine.. as important as sunshine is for light, warmth and vitamin D. The sun does not love us knows nothing of us although we depend on it continually. It is not the source of our being loved, but it is a gift from the one who does love us.
The Son, for love
God loves us enough to exchange our inability to return love, so we can love. Our society has doubled-down on being able to so definitely define and determine and self-declare every detail, label and category except for the most stubborn of them all: for example..
Every human that has ever lived has failed to be loving, kind and worthy of the existence we have been born into. Even those in the most deplorable of conditions has value, chromosomes, living and multiplying cells of possibility that are not self-willed into being.
We are born into a world filled with every example of those who precede us with some level of brokenness, self-focused not compassionate moments, some more than others, and some we assume are continually so bent.
I have yet to have business card printed that state my name and underneath that name says sinner.
John Thomas Brantley: Sinner
I profess to this be true and claim it in my daily prayers, but I don’t introduce myself this way. Before I met Wendy, a host of friends, family and church members set me up with people to date. (Worst were those who had dreamed of being a pastor’s wife, yikes!) I finally printed up a card that came closest to the plain “Sinner” card.
On the front it listed in 30 words the reason I would be a good, safe and decent person to spend time with. One the back of the card we 30 word of confessions what to expect when I was not presenting my front side. I presented this card two four women at the end of the first date. Two of them never called back. One called back to ask for a copy because they lost it and wanted to show their friend, but was not interested in a second date. Wendy met for the lunch two days later.
The old tourism catch-phrase from the Virginia board of Tourism stated: VA is for <heart/emoji>. Imagine the bumper sticker from God that reads: “Life with God is for “Sinners” with an emoji of our own face.” We don’t like to see ourselves as such. And if we do we spiral in depression and self-hate which is not the purpose of acknowledging our trouble with loving God.
I have trouble love God and Loving my neighbors.
If I love my neighbors it is typically because they are easy to love and we share things in common. If my neighbor is very different I tend to be cautious and hesitant until we find some common ground. Our common ground with all humanity is that we all have moments where we love ourselves more than we love God or our neighbors and some of us have more times we don’t love even ourselves.
Most of this we probably know in our heads.
The church, the governed, our neighbors and even our families are begging to be loved, valued, included, shown compassion, taught what is meaningful, corrected when we are lost, listened to, trusted, and the like.
The admonition from Paul to the church to model loving one another in the ways we find God loving us:
- Don’t talk about love and not actually love.
- Don’t talk about your expertise becase your not always perfect.
- You may know I love, but do you know those who need love around you?
- You are a person of faith but others are watching when we don’t model faithful speaking and acting.
- Don’t let our stuff and wanting stuff get in the way of actually loving others.
Ask some to be totally honest and ask all these each day:A
- Am I patient with you others around me?
- Do you experience kindness from me?
- Am I jealous?
- Do I look out for what’s good for me before others?
- Am I as wonderful as I think I am?
- Have you seen me be arrogant?
- When was the last time you saw me treating someone rudely?
- Is it my way or the highway?
- What do I sound like when I’m irritable?
- Do I cheer when my enemies get what’s coming to them?
- Do I celebrate when God shows up?
- Does my faith show in all things?
- Am I always hopeful?
- Am I committed to see our relationship through the hardest things and times?
That is a heck of a check-list.. This makes it easier to simply claim the business card and acknowledge, Yes, Lord! Have mercy on me a sinner!
Here the Good News: God loves us while we are still sinning.
God doesn’t want us to keep living in these broken ways, but that does not stop God from loving us. God does not give up!
Who in your life needs to hear these words? Who in your areas of influence needs to see God showing love through you to them?
The best marker in journey of learning to love are the moments we love like an adult loves. A child loves because she or he needs. And adult loves not only from the point of need, but also because we know that self-love is never enough. We need God’s help. We need the power of God’s Spirit surging through us, because our Sinner List of when we are not loving shows we have the capacity to try, but not the frequency to make it through.
Loving in the Mirror
If we look in the mirror and see only our own reflection we will fail. The task it to seek God through us.. and we will love for ever.
The Greatest thing is the hardest.
You can do it, in Christ!
Come to the table, and start allowing God’s love to shine through you afresh and anew.
Sing aloud, O daughter Zion; shout, O Israel! Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter Jerusalem! The Lord has taken away the judgments against you, he has turned away your enemies. The king of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst; you shall fear disaster no more. On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem: Do not fear, O Zion; do not let your hands grow weak. The Lord, your God, is in your midst, a warrior who gives victory; he will rejoice over you with gladness, he will renew you in his love; he will exult over you with loud singing as on a day of festival. I will remove disaster from you, so that you will not bear reproach for it. I will deal with all your oppressors at that time. And I will save the lame and gather the outcast, and I will change their shame into praise and renown in all the earth. At that time I will bring you home, at the time when I gather you; for I will make you renowned and praised among all the peoples of the earth, when I restore your fortunes before your eyes, says the Lord. [NRSV:OT]
John said to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruits worthy of repentance. Do not begin to say to yourselves, “We have Abraham as our ancestor’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” And the crowds asked him, “What then should we do?” In reply he said to them, “Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.” Even tax collectors came to be baptized, and they asked him, “Teacher, what should we do?” He said to them, “Collect no more than the amount prescribed for you.” Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what should we do?” He said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusation, and be satisfied with your wages.” As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, John answered all of them by saying, “I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” So, with many other exhortations, he proclaimed the good news to the people. [NRSV:NT]
Actions have consequences
- When we do what God asks of us to do God is revealed and order and justice follows.
- When we do not do what God asks of us we make God look bad, and chaos follows.
- And inaction neither reflects God nor ourselves.
- Key words: repentance, rejoice, festivity
This week in the Advent season is known as the Sunday of joy. The Pink candle is the interruption of “Joy” to remind us of why we prepare for Christmas.
Don’t rush ahead to the end of the story though, the Joy begins with God’s desire to love us, bless us, and to restore us from the chaos. Rather than only finding meaning at the end of the journey, it is important for us to cherish the joy found along the way.
Did you ever know someone named, Zephaniah? The prophet’s text promises that the people’s fortune and future have been changed from judgment to hope, from destruction to restoration, from oppression to liberation and from dread to praise (Zeph. 3:14-20).
This message comes in the process. Too often we are discontent and give up hope when the struggle is long, chronic and weary. Advent is our intentional infusion of joy into the journey toward Christ.
As those who know this hope in a 21st century world who is rushing toward winning, success and ‘profit’, little if any attention is give to the prophetic words of hope and joy before we arrive.
In the gospel text, John the Baptizer opens the curtains before those who seek to stop and thwart goodness and godliness of the coming of the One, the Messiah, who will bring a new act of salvation, (Lk. 3:7-18).
The festivity right now center on the “Doing.” God has promised to change the people’s plight from a world of corruption, misplaced faith, failed authority, captivity under an oppressive powers, and inequities and injustices severely affecting the whole community.
In the Old Testament passage we see the trouble when the spiritual folks, those concerned for holiness, worship, love for the poor, respect for God’s laws were all abandoned, and the prophet was sent to call the covenant people on it!
Eventually, God’s mercy is granted, and the promise expressed in the final chapter of Zephaniah’s divine oracle brings a new beginning. There is a song of joy in the air and a call to Do! This tiny word has a message of assurance and comfort.
“Do” implies that some action can help turn things around. In 3:16-17, we hear the prophet’s message: “On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem: DO NOT FEAR, O ZION; DO NOT LET YOUR HANDS GROW WEAK. THE LORD, YOUR GOD IS IN YOUR MIDST.”
The DO is to a call to worship, to praise, to celebrate, to recall the words of promise, the remember God is for us, to remind one another we are called to love even though we have not always been loving. The results: “Loud singing, a day of festival, disaster removed, renewal in God’s love and much more” (Zeph. vv. 17-18).
In the gospel, What is the good news?
- God loves us even though some consequences we bring upon ourselves, and some are the ripe or rotten fruit of others. (My bee hive) (National politics) (trusting others to ‘do’ for us – user/consumer mentality) God still loves us, longs for our trust,
- The “DO” that we are beginning is in our 2Mile Ministry. [INTRO TO PREPARE FOR 12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS] the work we “DO” now is in anticipation of the joy we will share.
- We need Folks to share gifts to our neighbors through 2mile to show love without cost, hospitality of grace and the welcome of Christian community.
SIGN UPS: 2mile and 12 Days of Christmas for our neighbors…. anticipation of the hope to share!
Beloved, let us love one another because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us. By this, we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and do testify that the Father has sent his Son as the Savior of the world. God abides in those who confess that Jesus is the Son of God, and they abide in God. So we have known and believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them. Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness on the day of judgment, because as he is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love. [NRSV]
We love because he first loved us.
Those who say, “I love God,” and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also.
It would seem simple, easy and direct to follow the commandment to love one another.
At the heart of this is the most recent addition to the promises we make when we become a member of the United Methodist Church. We promise our prayers, presence, gifts, service, AND our witness.
This last step is what brings our faith full-circle. The first four are a progression toward the fifth which was assumed since we know what happens when we ass-u-me too much?
Love must be shared to be found.
The idea of sharing our witness is the intentional living a life of Love that does not assume people will automatically see Jesus in my actions.
We gather in worship today to play music/sing and worship for whose benefit?
If we say the number one reason is my me, what I get out of it, we would benefit more from re-learning why do “church” in the first place.
The church is a place that we gather to pray, grow in spirit, share our talents and practice our faith with one another. But we come to worship, the largest gathering of our church for
#2 Those around us and those outside the church
#3 For our own faith and strength.
We live in a consumer society that generally assumes its a three-in-one product, but that is not always true.
Getting the Horse in front of the Cart
vs 21 “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love”
Our witness is to a world that is afraid. Where we see and hear fear, we know love is absent or at best weak or at risk. We talked about making disciples and faith sharing for three months of sermons. Some of you have shared faith-sharing stories and I’m excited and proud of your boldness and progress.
When you hear me say, “I am afraid” I have lost hold of God’s hold on me.
We all know fear at different parts of our lives: new environments, as we grieve lost relations, when we cannot control a given situation, etc. When we meet people in moments of their fear, we have the very best opportunities to connect people with God.
It does not take long to hear someone share:
I’m frustrated, etc.
it is a great time for faith sharing and witnesses of God’s love.
1 John Reminds us that God loves us. The example is most clear in the sacrificial gift of Christ, AND yet there are times we still let fear cheat us out of our inheritance.
Said another way: On our worst days and nights is the time we most need to be taught or reminded how very extraordinary it is to be loved by God and God’s people.
The tendency, when someone is scared, is to boldly retreat into protection and self-preservation mode or to rashly grab the reigns of self-made control mode. Neither example is relying on God’s love and strength to protect or order our lives.
God is love
There is no fear in love
When you see, experience or faced with those in fear, its time to practice loving as God loves us.
The Heart of the passage
We have the very best example of love in Jesus Christ
He takes our sin and makes us new, calling us to live lives free of sin and fear.
Some days we believe and trust this love
Other days we forget and trust something or someone else and we find the broken state of fear, hurt, rejection, guilt, shame, etc.
We belong to the body of Christ that reminds and encourages us to trust God instead of ourselves or our friends or our enemies, instead we challenges and inspire each other trust. God.
John Wesley’s Covenant Prayer is an example of the witness we are called to share:
Put on these words and trust God to make you whole, give you peace, surround you with love and share this with the fearful divided world around us:
I am no longer my own but yours. Put me to what you will rank me with whom you will. Put me to doing, put me to suffering. Let me be employed for you or laid aside for you, exalted for you or brought low for you. Let me be full, let me be empty. Let me have all things, let me have nothing. I freely and wholeheartedly yield all things to your pleasure and disposal. And now, glorious and blessed God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, you are mine and I am yours. So be it. And the covenant now made on earth, let it be ratified in heaven. Amen. [John Wesley, Covenant Prayer]
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]
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.
God sanctifies us through the body of Jesus
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?
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
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
- 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.
- Our Confirmation Class has begun discussion of this journey
- Our SS Classes and Small Groups practice the community
- Our church is the struggle to be the body of Christ with our bodies.
- This is the practice of Lent and the life as an Easter People.
Let’s help one another practice.
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?
- It’s not what God does
- It’s not what God has called us to do
- 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
- It goes first, overlooking sin, broken, past, etc, with the hope of restoring the relationship
- It waits, not condoning sin, but hoping that by being loved first, the door/conversation/way is opened.
- It is genuinely longing for good, peace, joy, reunion, and the like to follow.
- 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.
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.
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.
It was fitting that God, for whom and through whom all things exist, in bringing many children to glory, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through sufferings. For the one who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one Father. For this reason Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters, saying, “I will proclaim your name to my brothers and sisters, in the midst of the congregation I will praise you.” And again, “I will put my trust in him.” And again, “Here am I and the children whom God has given me.” Since, therefore, the children share flesh and blood, he himself likewise shared the same things, so that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by the fear of death. For it is clear that he did not come to help angels, but the descendants of Abraham. Therefore he had to become like his brothers and sisters in every respect, so that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make a sacrifice of atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself was tested by what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested. [NRSV]
Act Like Children
Looking back twenty, forty and sixty years ago, Being able to be “Child-like” has radically changed.
- Does it mean to seen as miniature adults
- Are equally gifted with limitless possibilities
- Do children have voice, vote or rights
- Do children have to worry or work
- Do children have privileges or are privileged
Children of developed and developing countries have a common starting point:
We all start dependent.
This is the relationship God desires for us all.
God steps up our relationship from simple dependent into children of God’s household.
A Relationship of Kinship
One of the few Greek words that stuck with me from seminary, thanks to XX, is the work ‘oikos’.
Predating the yogurt crazy, Oikos is kinship.
- Oikos is term meaning household,
- particularly, for us it is the household of the people of God.
- We share a common spiritual fire
- We share a common home
- Our belonging includes all those in the household not limited to bloodlines.
Jesus becomes one of us so we know how to find God’s family.
Living like a child of God
- Knowing Jesus shows us we are brother in sisters in grace, in faith, in God
- Knowing Jesus lived and died for us to both KNOW and ACCESS the God’s family
- Living as one empowered and saved to love
- Living to show that God has created us to see past our difference to be God’s family.
This first Quarter’s Project
- Identify a member of God’s family that feeling excluded from the community
- Model and teach them that you are their brother or sister in Christ
- Share the fellowship of church community, God’s family
- Continue until Christ returns.
What if I don’t want to work on that project?
- I risk moving myself and others away from God
- I test God’s grace rather than trust God’s grace
- I model love of self, convenience, or laziness to myself and others
- My disconnect from loving and connecting with the disconnected separates me from God.
You and I were born to be dependent on God
You and I are called and challenged, saved and claimed to model that with others
The New Year’s resolution is to not be childish, rather claim the help of our Oikos, our kin, all God’s people: and show the world how God’s children think, behave, trust, love, forgive, etc.