Archive for category Missions
Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.” But he said to him, “Friend, who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you?” And he said to them, “Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.” Then he told them a parable: “The land of a rich man produced abundantly. And he thought to himself, “What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?’ Then he said, “I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ But God said to him, “You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.” He said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear. [NRSV]
Capitalizing on the Word
Annually throughout the 1990s, crowds of over 80,000 of faith and proof seekers gathered in Conyers, Georgia to visit the site of Nancy Fowler’s home each October 13th for a visitation from the Virgin Mary. In the area of Conyers, signs began to post in Chamber-of-Commerce style reading: Visit Conyers: Eat, Drink and See Mary. Drawing on the text from Luke’s gospel capitalizing the entrepreneur spirit of the text.
Even now, instead of seeing, hearing and experience Christ among us, we might settle for a crowd with generous pockets instead in place of visit with Jesus.
This text opens forcing Jesus, in the role of Moses or a rabbi, charged with settling matters of inheritance. The request is for Jesus to resolve our financial disputes when Jesus is interested in preparing our spiritual selves.
I recall a moment of misdirected attention on my very first mission trip. While visiting a home worship service, of one of the seminary students from the Juan Wesley Seminario, one of the neighbors began speaking in tounges. This style of worship was not a tradition of our mission team, and one of the group leaders insisted I take photos to show the Rotary Club, the Men’s and Women’s groups and others who had helped fund our trip. “That picture will be worth a $1000 for our next trip.” Somehow a moment of personal worship was being transformed into a monetary moment. (I took several photos, but they were all blurry when I developed the film.)
Why Leave Home to Serve?
With every mission trip, there are always those who asked, suggest and even demand: Why don’t we take care of our neighbors in our home neighborhood before we go giving away our money, time and resources?
The answer is simple: We are a community of people with ample goods. We have the ability to feed and clothe our neighbors here in Jerusalem AND help neighbors in Judea, Samaria and the ends of the earth.
Sometimes the travel outside our communities to serve allows us the perspective to “practice” what we can continue in our home communities. If we mess up, strike out, and just plain fail where we are not known, we are less likely to give up trying at home. Those who know us best are too often the quickest to judge and criticize our efforts.
And finally, the risk that we take to serve is the place we experience measurable growth in our spiritual practice. This week our Culebra team was starting work on a project where we assumed proper communication had approved the work before we arrived. The ‘homeowner’ had not received the message we would be digging holes in their yard and building a pole barn over the rusting old bus/van they used for a home. What would you do if a team of foreign folks began digging holes in your yard? There is a risk that cross-culture and language barriers are not working.
Taking the RISK to Find Christ
Entering someone’s home with the intention of sharing the love of God and not fulling knowing the language you need to speak, call for faith to override the situation. That is risky business.
We are a month away from when we would like to resume the Feed My Sheep Ministry but we need someone to take charge of that ministry and deliver or build a team to deliver the food, or that ministry will come to an end. That is a risky place to put the meals our neighbors who have come to depend on that meal.
We are weeks away from packing backpacks, will we have enough food? Enough money? Enough volunteers?
This lesson of the barn and bigger barns reminds us that we have the means and the persons to do all these AND even more.
Jesus’s work to disciples like ourselves is not to worry about ourselves, our opinions, our limitations, our excuses and focus on what God CAN do through us.
Risk Taking Service: Is doing whatever it takes to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, house, comfort, support, nurture, remember and stand with those who suffer.
We need persons willing to deliver food. If you have a vehicle and a license your barn is big enough.
We need persons willing to pack, buy and hand out food. If you can do these tasks, your barn is full enough.
We need people who will go to Culebra, and other destinations where we can share the living Christ, your barn is full enough.
OUR Barns are Full Enough
Turn off your political filters.
Turn off your speakers that sound off, “I can’t do something like that.”
Turn off your “I’m too busy.”
Turn to your neighbor and remind them, In Christ, your barn in full enough.
In Christ, your barn is full enough.
Christ calls us to serve those around us and the world.
Our barns are full enough to serve.
Therefore, go and do likewise.
How lovely is your dwelling place, O LORD of hosts! My soul longs, indeed it faints for the courts of the LORD; my heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God. Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, at your altars, O LORD of hosts, my King and my God. Happy are those who live in your house, ever singing your praise. Selah (two of 74)
Happy are those whose strength is in you, in whose heart are the highways to Zion. As they go through the valley of Baca they make it a place of springs; the early rain also covers it with pools. They go from strength to strength; the God of gods will be seen in Zion. O LORD God of hosts, hear my prayer; give ear, O God of Jacob! Selah
Behold our shield, O God; look on the face of your anointed. For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than live in the tents of wickedness. For the LORD God is a sun and shield; he bestows favor and honor. No good thing does the LORD withhold from those who walk uprightly. O LORD of hosts, happy is everyone who trusts in you. [NRSV]
A psalm, a hymn for worship, to be sung by the choir/praise team. Not a congregational hymn but more of a solo or at least for the choir, [psalm for *Korah]
Denote 2 of the 74 Selah references are in this one psalm/hymn.
God’s Temple is our Refuge, heart’s home
Song begins remembering the temple/tabernacle is beautiful.
My heart longs to be there, my bones ache to sing for joy and know God is alive.
Secondly, God’s house is a place where everyone is welcomed. Even the least little bird (swallow) finds a home at the temple. Who wants the swallow? Bugs, mites, disease, messy? But God’s house has room for all of us.
Bottom line of verse one: People find God at the temple and love to worship when there are in the magnificent gates. Come and find God present in the sanctuary. The ornate nature of the space reminds us of God’s presence and our belonging.
SELAH, pause to praise, breathe and find God with us.
Finding God outside the walls.
It makes us happy to know God is near, even when we are not in this place…
It is a blessing to know God is with us, even when we are not at church…
When you are at home or your place of safety, all is well. You make it through the day back to base, you can breath easy because you are thankful for all that is “home”.
Perspective is looking at the “place of comfort” when you are not there.
The Valley of Baca (Weeping)
Instead of focusing on the being lost, focus on the being at home, where you are.
Happy are those who know the way home. But what of those who have lost their way… those who don’t know where to turn? It can be a comfort, that even though we have gone astray, we know the way home, the way back. the GPS coordinates match up.
Those who know the Strength of the Lord, That’s Us.
BUT VERSE 3
WHEN ALL I HAVE IS A SHIELD
What about those who are outside or
those who have lost their way, or
those who have not heard?
Imagine hiding from the struggles, turmoil and threats in life, picture yourself out in the open, a shield is a protection but only on one side and the arrows are hurling in from every direction: money, hunger, rejection, fear, shame, sin, etc.
When we realize we are far from the walls of safety, belonging and peace.
A place between the House of God and the tents of wickedness.
Our place is between, bridging the gap.
Our Space is halfway in and halfway out.
Claiming Space in God
Happiness is : Content/at Peace/at one/ complete
Shield: temporary help, but we need to claim/reclaim temple life, when there is no temple.
Door Keepers: The greatest service is to be one of the choir members of Korahites, sing so someone will hear and find their way to God.
Happy are those who trust in God
God’s House has room for us all
Someone is living in the valley of weeping adversity
Our place is not in the temple, but out singing, knowing/remember the comfort of home, but reaching out to be shield
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.
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. But Herod the ruler, who had been rebuked by him because of Herodias, his brother’s wife, and because of all the evil things that Herod had done,
added to them all by shutting up John in prison. Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” [ NRSV ]
I baptize with water
- Reclaiming the terms: Dunked, dipped or drizzled
- TELL USE ABOUT YOUR BAPTISM. Giving witness to our journey.
I am not worthy: we can do great things as good folks but without Jesus our value is he whim of popularity or eternity.
- Not the time for Jesus to be shut up. The corrupt government figures tried to quiet and stop the voice of the faithful, but God is not in our government. God is beyond laws.
- Baptism: the first step of many. John’s ministry begins with preparing us for a life with Jesus. Dressed in grace to transform the place.
Reclaiming our mission to baptize the world as the entry point to a life in Jesus Christ. Think of the people who we work, live, play, fellowship or struggle every week: who amount them does not know the power of Jesus living in there hearts?
- This is the year to have the conversations of intentionality and purpose: open our relations and interactions to be ways of revealing Jesus.
- Dont keep him imprisoned in our hearts, sing out the witness, love and presence of Christ. Leave it to guessing people have Christ or be certain. NOT FOR THIER SALVATION BUT FOR OURS
94% of American’s celebrate Christmas (3). We have verbal and ideological battles with 6% of the population who don’t feel comfortable greeting each other this season by saying, “Merry Christmas.” It’s important to keep this in perspective. The number who keep a religious Christmas is about 70% with 29% celebrating some holiday during the same period of holidays (4). And yet we hear political debates about our nation not being a Christian nation, when 70% of the 94% who celebrate Christmas do so for religious reasons. Tis the Season to be religious.
The National Retail Federation reports
- average spending per person reaches $805.65 in 2015
- Gifts for family members will total $462.95 this year
- 46 percent of their shopping this holiday season was conducted online,
- 21.4 percent of smartphone owners used their device to purchase holiday merchandise in 2015,
- 47%) said free shipping/shipping promotions are important factors where to shop.
- 55.8 percent of holiday shoppers will splurge on themselves
The number one anticipated “item” for Christmas is what category? ____ Clothes. Men 48% / Women 56%. But the number one “non-item” requested is gift cards. Men 51% / Women 66% (3)
What does that say? We expect Clothes at Christmas and more than half the time we’d prefer to pick out our own clothes than have people guess.
So this is where we begin hearing this passage from the church to Colossae:
As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. [NRSV]
Clothe one another in love
Imaging celebrating the 12 days of Christmas. Not just the first one.
Imaging, after all the celebration of Christmas morning of day one, we continues giving the gives of compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.. all together as example of Christ’s love for us.
What does that look like?
Seeing or hearing the needs of someone who is hungry or wanting and we take them food for the day. It does not solve their every need, but it gives them one more day of perspective that they are not forgotten and their transformation is not hopeless. Or teach them skills to work or to deal with their brokenness, fears or depression. This is not the task of someone to do FOR us, but for us to give one-on-one. Gifts of compassion.
You could think of sarcastic and judgmental comments, that might be accurate, yet, instead you find kind words of encouragement or forgiveness. In speaking where you would have remained silent and offering kindness instead of leading with what’s wrong, you lead with the kindness you would hope to hear when someone is speaking with you. A gift of Kindness with words.
You and I could choose to give a gift out of our abundance away. You know how special it makes you feel to know someone has given you a gift of love, think how sharing what you have might make you both feel loved, even if it is yours to keep. A Gift of humble sharing, it cost no more because it is yours to give.
Often it is not the value of the gift, but rather the appropriateness of the gift. We wait and save up to give expensive gifts, when it is our present half-hour each day that transform lives around us. Which would I rather have today: a grand gift from my father, who died a decade ago or 20 minutes talking about the day with him face-to-face? In the meekness of time, we share the lives we have to share.
Or could you find it possible to not fix someone’s problem, but rather be one who stands with them while they work through the trial and error of failures. So often we don’t want folks to live life for us, we want someone with us, to make certain we are not alone. Can you be present with someone who is alone and listen, encourage and wait with them, the gift of patience, for you and them.
For the remainder of the Christmas season, ten more days, try giving these gifts in love for Christ.
In the next ten days: Let everything you do, be done in Jesus name.
As you wake to start the day: In Jesus Name
As you write a check or open your purse or wallet: In Jesus Name
As you open you mouth to speak or your mind to consider: In Jesus Name
As you cook, clean, travel, read, share or listen: Do so in Jesus Name
As we shall then be clothed in love.
1 O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever. 2 Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, those he redeemed from trouble 3 and gathered in from the lands, from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south.
4 Some wandered in desert wastes, finding no way to an inhabited town; 5 hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted within them. 6 Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress; 7 he led them by a straight way, until they reached an inhabited town. 8 Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wonderful works to humankind. 9 For he satisfies the thirsty, and the hungry he fills with good things.
10 Some sat in darkness and in gloom, prisoners in misery and in irons, 11 for they had rebelled against the words of God, and spurned the counsel of the Most High. 12 Their hearts were bowed down with hard labor; they fell down, with no one to help. 13 Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress; 14 he brought them out of darkness and gloom, and broke their bonds asunder. 15 Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wonderful works to humankind. 16 For he shatters the doors of bronze, and cuts in two the bars of iron.
17 Some were sick through their sinful ways, and because of their iniquities endured affliction; 18 they loathed any kind of food, and they drew near to the gates of death. 19 Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress; 20 he sent out his word and healed them, and delivered them from destruction. 21 Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wonderful works to humankind. 22 And let them offer thanksgiving sacrifices, and tell of his deeds with songs of joy.
23 Some went down to the sea in ships, doing business on the mighty waters; 24 they saw the deeds of the Lord, his wondrous works in the deep. 25 For he commanded and raised the stormy wind, which lifted up the waves of the sea. 26 They mounted up to heaven, they went down to the depths; their courage melted away in their calamity; 27 they reeled and staggered like drunkards, and were at their wits’ end. 28 Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he brought them out from their distress; 29 he made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed. 30 Then they were glad because they had quiet, and he brought them to their desired haven. 31 Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wonderful works to humankind. 32 Let them extol him in the congregation of the people, and praise him in the assembly of the elders.
33 He turns rivers into a desert, springs of water into thirsty ground,
34 a fruitful land into a salty waste, because of the wickedness of its inhabitants.
35 He turns a desert into pools of water, a parched land into springs of water. 36 And there he lets the hungry live, and they establish a town to live in;
37 they sow fields, and plant vineyards, and get a fruitful yield. 38 By his blessing they multiply greatly, and he does not let their cattle decrease.
39 When they are diminished and brought low through oppression, trouble, and sorrow, 40 he pours contempt on princes and makes them wander in trackless wastes; 41 but he raises up the needy out of distress, and makes their families like flocks.
42 The upright see it and are glad; and all wickedness stops its mouth. 43 Let those who are wise give heed to these things, and consider the steadfast love of the Lord [NRSV]
One thing that strikes me about this psalm is that describes so many thing we recognize in the life and witness of Jesus. So it is important that we keep in context the words of this hymn for worship as images that Jesus later embodies that those who were familiar with the psalm in the Jewish community could see as fulfillment of God’s presence in Jesus.
If on Father’s Day, a dad wanted to see the good works of his son, the psalmist gives a good list that Jesus reveals in his teaching and witness.
- Water for the woman at the well
- The tearing of the curtain at the temple at the crucifixion
- The woman who avoided death because none could cast the first stone
- The calming of the sea
- The healing of the sick at the gate
- Jesus’ parables of sowing
- Jesus’ parable of loosing saltiness
- Jesus multiplying food for the hungry
- The invitation for the prince to sell and follow
This somewhat obscure psalm tells so many of Jesus’s teachings and stories in one and was written a millennium-plus before hand. It is remarkable inclusive of many ways God’s presence and message is revealed across the testaments.
Verse 42 is the response to the stories of God’s work.
When we see the ways God is reveled in the world, we can response in one of two ways:
a. We see God at work and we are glad, energized and joyful to see God at work.
b. We see God at work and shut our mouths.
The admonition (advice) is to
- be wise,
- give heed and
- consider God’s love at work among us.
2015 Shut our Mouths or Proclaim God’s love?
Conference statistician Darris Baker reported the following 2014 statistics compared to 2013: And are we yet alive?
Conference Membership: 361,329 (Down 2054)
Professions of Faith: 5,398 (Down 204)
Average Worship Attendance: 119,976 (Down 3,121)
Average Sunday School Attendance: 48,888 (Down 296)
The mighty North Georgia conference is no longer the leader and we pray it is not on the same track that Mr Wesley’s beloved Church of England was on. But it begs the question: When we see God’s love present in the world do we give God the praise and witness to God’s presence? Are we considering and looking for God’s revelation in the world? Are we following in the witness of Christ in our actions and bolding in our words or have shut our mouths too long?
Homework: Outline this psalm and see at least 10 ways to practice our piety, to grow our spirit and witness God’s love through Christ in our lives, and then act accordingly. For we live in a world and season when people
- long for God and are thirsty. Give them living water.
- feed hungry,
- encourage the prisoners,
- offer thanksgiving and sacrifice,
- sing songs of joy,
- give peace to those at their wits end,
- go to church to support and be supported.
- be salty and bold in the face of evil.
- water a garden to feed the famished.
- open your mouth and share the joy rather than stay quiet and in your own mind.
Now Get to Work!
And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For we do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake. For it is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. [NRSV]
- Shine Jesus
- Shine your shoes
- Shine as in moonshine
- Shiner as in a black eye
- Shiny as in a new car, red Corvette or a white Tahoe
- Shiny as in a proof coin
But today we talk about the Flashlight.
- in 1886 the first dry-cell batteries were made which powers a variety of emerging ideas
- In 1898, Russian immigrant inventor, Conrad Hubert made the first flashlight. And later founded the Ever-Ready Battery Company.
- In 1899, English inventor David Misell invented the first flashlight. He was the first to use the “D” battery which had a stronger light.
But those early models had a weak and inconsistent power source and bulbs that were more fragile and temperamental than modern LED and HID flashlights. The name flashlight came from the intermittent light that burn for a short while and had to rest before it was read to be used again. Thus the short flash of light gave the battery with bulb stick the nickname: a flashlight.
I suggest that we have much to learn from the early flashlight as an example of our spiritual development.
1. When we find ourselves connected to the power God gives us, that is within each of us, we tap into a the source of awareness, knowledge, guidance, counsel and spiritual strength. We seem to quickly do one of two things: a) doubt it is a way of life that God has intended for us and/or b) confuse our personal power, talents and strength with God’s.
Like the flashlight, God’s presence is revealed in the darkness of a broken and sinful world and when we turn it on in the dark, the darkness is no more. But for some reason we turn off the lights.
Life in the Dark, holding a flashlight.
It sounds unbelievable, buy there a just a few times (denote the sarcasm) that while we are holding on the the switch that connects us to scriptures, worship, Christian fellowship, prayer, opportunities to serve, witness and give, we allow the darkness to take us over.
The Reality of Darkness
- When human beings behead, cage and burn, degrade and devalue women and children. Here we see the darkness of evil.
- When other the teachings of other faith’s say Jesus is but another prophet and deny Jesus is God’s present in our history and at the thrown as the begotten of God. When Jesus is left behind, or left out all together, darkness grows stronger.
- When human beings long for governments to provide what God gives or what God equips us to provide for ourselves, evil has made dark the world.
- The less we proclaim the light of Christ, the more expanse of darkness increases along with the grip of evil and brokenness.
The starting point is to affirm that some things are good and some bad, some light and some dark:
- Shine the light, the light erases the darkness. The darkness is not present where the light shine
- Darkness, where is the darkness? In your check book or cupboard? In your plans and dreams? In you behavior and attitude?
- The Gravitational darkness of the back hole of evil.
- Stumbling in the dark.
- The futile task of traveling in the dark… without night vision.
- Thermal signature from the energy emitted from a beating heart.
AFRAID OF THE DARK:
- As a boy I had a teddy bear that would allow me to hide under the covers and was brave enough to keep his head out in the dark room to keep watch over shadows and strange noises. He would occasionally be willing to be held by his feet and look under the bed or even fly across the room to check the closet door.
- We have more than a teddy bear to watch over our fears. We never out grow fear. We manage and mature over different fearful situations, but fear is a life long struggle. Jesus is our stand in. Jesus hold us and grounds us while we explore a fear-filled world.
- Be Afraid of the Dark, Don’t be Afraid to take Jesus with You when it IS dark.
Let Christ’s light shine:
- Sometimes that darkness is people’s behaviors and attitudes and we need not face the conflict alone.
- We face conflict knowing the Jesus never promised to have a life free of fear, but to be our counsel when the darkness surrounds, threatens and tempts us.
JESUS COME QUICK
- Sometime Shining the light is calling on Jesus out-loud and directly.
- Sometime Shining the light is deliberate words and actions that unfold over time.
- Sometime Shining the light is charging our spiritual batteries when we are strong for times we are weak.
- Bottom line: Shine the light of Christ is allowing CHRIST to shine through me and through you.
PAUL the PHYSICS AUTHORITY
I doubt Paul knew the speed of light. But lighting a lamp in a darken room; carrying a torch into a dark street; proclaiming and trusting God to show up in a cell in prison, or in conflict in the church, or the pull of governments and other types of worship.. Paul calls on the Spirit that cause him to become blind, so that he could see, to guide his steps in all things.
Turn on the flashlight. Not with the weak beam of light that you and I have to add. Rather allow Christ to light through us.
Let the world hear the Good News in our words, songs and witness
Let the world hear that evil is present but not in charge.
Pray, Speak up, be pro-active, Don’t wait for darkness to leave, Shine Christ in it.
Where is the darkness around you?
At work: Pray for the trouble makers, and difficult cases, and stumbling blocks to see Christ in you.
At home: Make time for study, worship, fellowship and communication.
In community: Small groups, worship, service, witness and fellowship.. bring the dark to the light
Online: For all the good that comes with information overload technologies, comes the easy access of evil and darkness to be at our fingertips 24/7. Set limits, support accountability and confess our sins.
Around the World: God didn’t wait for God’s people to get their act together, but went to the Shepherd and Magi to and revealed where they looked into the darkness and show them THE GREAT LIGHT at Jesus’ birth.
Carry your a flashlight with you. When you see evil and darkness, shine the light of Christ.. your flashlight might be scripture, songs of faith, words of hope, and lessons of accountability. Don’t sit in the dark and don’t let others either.
When he entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him as he was teaching, and said, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?” Jesus said to them, “I will also ask you one question; if you tell me the answer, then I will also tell you by what authority I do these things. Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or was it of human origin?” And they argued with one another, “If we say, “From heaven,’ he will say to us, “Why then did you not believe him?’ But if we say, “Of human origin,’ we are afraid of the crowd; for all regard John as a prophet.” So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And he said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things. “What do you think? A man had two sons; he went to the first and said, “Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ He answered, “I will not’; but later he changed his mind and went. The father went to the second and said the same; and he answered, “I go, sir’; but he did not go. 31 Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him; and even after you saw it, you did not change your minds and believe him. [New Revised Standard]
Who is invited?
Text: The question is framed by a conversation about authority. Jesus makes the authorized teachers and leaders nervous and uncomfortable at the temple.
Cut the chase: Jesus you don’t belong here, you are not doing things the right way. You are rocking our boat and we don’t like the waves. We want you and and our comfort restored.
Who is doing what it right?
Text: The challenge of authority is rebuffed through a rabbinical challenge of conversation, logical and teaching. Jesus answers question with a question. Was John the Baptist a prophet? If they say yes just as so many in the community believed they are saying John had authority from God that was different from the temple polity and pecking order. If God can work around the temple leaders, why not work through Jesus as well.
If the teachers and leaders said John the Baptist was not a prophet they would challenge the faith and experiences of the community that found awakening and revival through John. They’re only option to save face is to say, “I dun’ know.”
Who is welcome?
Text: Jesus teaches with a parable, which is a teaching style Jesus introduces for the wise and the not so wise. It is an obvious conclusion: Who is the faithful son of the father? The one who says yes but does not go, Or the one who says no but ends up doing what the father expects? Answer: duh! the one who does the work.
Who is at home? Authority, Welcome, Belonging
Text: John spoke the words the teachers and leaders were suppose to be telling and teaching. The people responded to God’s call but not at the direction of the established insiders.
Who is who is in the teaching? Are we the bold prophets proclaiming a call for repentance? Are we going about our travels proclaiming goodness to those who are forgotten, rejected or excluded? Are we those who are comfortable in the cozy familiar safety of the church and hope people will take it upon themselves to be more like us so they can feel safe and cozy too?
Homework: Tell me you won’t go welcome someone to church next Sunday, but then actually go do just that. Say I won’t do, but do the opposite. Tell you neighbor on your pew. I’m not going to do anything bold this week. Safe and mediocre will do, but during this week you see, hear or find someone who needs grace, love and welcome. And you bring them home to the spring.
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.
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.