Archive for category Politics

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

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

The World is divided

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

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

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

Paul writes at the opening of his letter.

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

He urges us to think about how we define ourselves.

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

Paul’s Letter begins with a Super Nanny Interruption.

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

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

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

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

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

Paul’s call is #1, first step

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

#2, Second Step: Remember the Goal,

  1. Agreement
  2. Same Mindedness
  3. Same Purpose

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

Number #3, Step three

Personal Question of Faith and Self-Reflection

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s be clear about step #3:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your hope, Your Peace

And Jesus leads the way from there.

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

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

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

, ,

Leave a comment

Hebrews 11:(12-16) A Better Country 20160807 RSUMC

  • HeavenBeacons

    Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Indeed, by faith our ancestors received approval.  By faith, we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was made from things that are not visible.  By faith, Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain’s. Through this he received approval as righteous, God himself giving approval to his gifts; he died, but through his faith, he still speaks.  By faith Enoch was taken so that he did not experience death; and “he was not found because God had taken him.” For it was attested before he was taken away that “he had pleased God.” And without faith, it is impossible to please God, for whoever would approach him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.  By faith Noah, warned by God about events as yet unseen, respected the warning and built an ark to save his household; by this, he condemned the world and became an heir to the righteousness that is in accordance with faith.  By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to set out for a place that he was to receive as an inheritance; and he set out, not knowing where he was going.  By faith, he stayed for a time in the land he had been promised, as in a foreign land, living in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise.  For he looked forward to the city that has foundations, whose architect and builder is God.  By faith, he received the power of procreation, even though he was too old—and Sarah herself was barren—because he considered him faithful who had promised. Therefore from one person, and this one as good as dead, descendants were born, “as many as the stars of heaven and as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore.” All of these died in faith without having received the promises, but from a distance, they saw and greeted them. They confessed that they were strangers and foreigners on the earth,  for people who speak in this way make it clear that they are seeking a homeland.  If they had been thinking of the land that they had left behind, they would have had an opportunity to return.  But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; indeed, he has prepared a city for them. [NRSV]

 

A Better Country

  • What kind of country will our nation have become in forty years? 4 years? 4 months?
    • Are you optimistic or pessimistic about what will be?
  • What kind of church will our congregation be in forty years? 4 years? 4 months?
    • Are you hopeful or filled with doubts?
  • What will your faith look like in forty years, four years? four months?
    • Are you empowered or searching?

A Better Country

We have so entwined religion and politics that we have become polarized and paralyzed in our misappropriated patriotism. It is not a matter of separating church and state conversations, it is about using the freedoms our nation has to most fully express and experience of faith in Jesus Christ. Our freedoms allow for many faiths, but we place our trust in a better country. W

If we were as preoccupied with living as citizen of heaven as we are citizen of the USA, what would it look like??

  • Facebook would be filled with words, pictures, and messages about our faith and church
  • Our conversations would be about news and report of where we see God at work in the world. We would be trying to out-do each other in love and service.
  • We would stay up at night worrying about how many people we had reached, transformed, and welcomed into the fellowship of the church.
  • People would see our commitment to the citizenship we hold highest is in the heart of God.

The OT Case for Building a “more perfect union.”

Creation, Able, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac and Jacob, key examples of faith that have shaped the faith we now live. The bottom line of each of these persons witnessed examples of placing themselves and their personal trust in God to lead, protect, save, heal, and bless. The fruit of seeking our ultimate allegiance is in God, is that God uses us to build a better country, a heavenly one.

New Testament Case

In the parable that the lawyer asks Jesus who is my neighbor, we find it is the one who shows grace and loving kindness.

In this faith-history lesson begs the question: What is my home? What is my citizenship? To home and where do I belong?

What is my home? Is it only the building at my address? Is it the sum of my stuff and assets and debts? Is only my family and extended family?

The Call to Live in our Heavenly Citizenship, (On Earth as it is in Heaven)
Is this the story of our nation? Is this the story of our people? Is this the story that bears fruit in our lives?

Call to make disciples:

  • Love one another in service, AND
  • Inspire others to join the fellowship, AND
  • Worship and Fellowship to strengthen another before God.

Leave a comment

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

hamburgerhelper

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

Hamburger helper

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

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

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

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

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

Spiritual Helper

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Those who keep my Word..

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

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

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

Jesus is connecting the dots before the dots become holes.

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

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

We are spiritual people.

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

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

We look around and

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

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

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

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

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

We start at the table and leave for the world.

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

Leave a comment

Luke 19:28-44

PalmCross  As [Jesus] was going up to Jerusalem. When he had come near Bethphage and Bethany, at the place called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of the disciples, saying, “Go into the village ahead of you, and as you enter it you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, “Why are you untying it?’ just say this, “The Lord needs it.’ “ So those who were sent departed and found it as he had told them. As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?” They said, “The Lord needs it.” Then they brought it to Jesus; and after throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it.
  As he rode along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road. As he was now approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen, saying, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!” Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, order your disciples to stop. He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.”
  As he came near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, “If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. Indeed, the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up ramparts around you and surround you, and hem you in on every side. They will crush you to the ground, you and your children within you, and they will not leave within you one stone upon another; because you did not recognize the time of your visitation from God.” [NRSV]
The entrance into the holy city Jerusalem is akin to the presidential motorcade after the inauguration swearing in service. People lined the way, shoulder to shoulder, waving and cheering the confirmation of their new leader. But Jesus did not arrive in the usual way. Neither had he been endorsed by the Sadducees nor Pharisees. He entered riding on the back of a humble work animal instead of a proud steed of power and status. He was praised by the disciples, those who had been healed, fed, blessed and taught along the way of Jesus’s ministry. I make NO contemporary political correlation to candidates running today, only to the stress and strife of a non-establishment figure being ushered into the city by the voice of the people.
We may have more insight into the context of this event that other generations. The Pharisees saying, “If this Jesus becomes our leader, I’m leaving Jerusalem” The Sadducees saying, “If they don’t get a handle on this outsider, we will take steps to bring our own man in.” Do you get the scene and the tensions?
The establishment says, stop your people from this circus. Teacher, we hold you responsible for the chaos. It’s your fault. We will stop you if you don’t stop the unruly crowd. [Again, I am not suggestion that any of our political figures are messianic leaders, but I am listening to the similarities of the crowds and the commentators and voices of the establishments then and now.]
All this sets the stage for Palm Sunday. We would much rather look at the scenes of the children lining the streets waving along the Jesus parade as a sweet image of Palm Sunday and not see the emerging political unrest that blows up in less than a week. I believe it is vitally important to look at the politics that is very much part of the Palm Sunday story.
The sweetest fruit in this passage from Luke’s Gospel is about seeing and not seeing. It is about believing and refusing to believe. It is about choosing to accep or closing our eyes, “sticking our heads in the sand in times of fear”,
instead of proclaiming
  • Jesus Christ is real,
  • Jesus is King, and
  • Jesus is with us.
The secondary witness is about praise that cannot be held back.
  • When we know Jesus is real, this becomes the foundation of our life
  • When we know Jesus is King, this becomease the guide for our living
  • When we know Jesus is with us, nothing can stop us from praising.
So What is “Palm Sunday About?”
  • There story is about preparing for worship
  • The story is about making way/room for Jesus in our public/fears
  • The story is about remaing awake and aleart that it is Jesus that leads us and not anything or anyone esle.
Where does Peace come from? The Prince of Peace:
  • Peace does not come from armies and weapons
  • Peace does not come from governments and policies
  • Peace does not come from acts of kindness and justice
  • Peace comes from God, through Jesus Christ, guided by the Spirit, through the church, through us for for the whole world.
Palm Sunday is about seeking peace from God with us.
If we cant’ see God with us, we will never find Peace.
Peace in Syria?, in Instanbull?, in the media? in the streets of our nation? in our homes? in our hearts?
  • Peace comes when Jesus comes in.
  • Peace comes when Jesus is praised
  • Peaces is possible to see when we see God showing up on our streets.
We life our palm brances as signs of a
  • new life,
  • a new way
  • a new day, made possible thorugh Jesus Chirst, our King.
The Practice response..
Start with what we have: cloaks and branches and pave the way.
Start with our
  • Praise
  • Words
  • Witness of kindness
  • Forgiving first,
Loving even though others have not loved us first
  • Our hearts
  • Our gifts
  • Our time
  • Our presence
  • Our wintess
Use these to pave the way for Christ to enter our
  • hearts,
  • conversations,
  • homes,
  • streets,
  • communities,
  • nation and the world.
That means raise the praise in church but don’t stop there, don’t stop now,
LIft Christ… and let a hurting, hateful, fearful, broken world know Jesus is here.

, , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 5.16-21 LENT: Your Jesus is Showing 20160306 RSUMC

reflect_jesusFrom now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. [NRSV]

The One sentence sermon: Because of God’s work of grace in Christ makes our spirit  new, we are charged with a ministry of doing the same with the world through Christ.

Paul Case for the Church:

  1. God has been busy.
    1. God has changed the world, the rules and has changed us.
    2. The rules and boundaries have changed.
    3. We are no longer in control and no longer responsible for our salvation.
    4. Because God lived, died and conquered death, we now know God, in this new resurrection life.
    5. Everything old has passed away.
    6. Everything is being made new
  2. God’s goal is to make things whole.
    1. Reconciliation: God making our relationship whole.
    2. Why would God want to reset the relationship with us? The old ways are not working for us.
    3. What are the old ways?
      1. Choosing to Trust God with the purpose of our living.
      2. Choosing What God would want for us, because we trust God’s love and authority
      3. Choosing not because death is the alternative, rather because trusting God is
        1. Good
  3. God is working through us, just as God worked through Jesus.
    1. Ministry of Reconciliation
    2. Work as Ambassadors
    3. Being whole is God reflects our purpose,
    4. get your Jesus Shine on, show them, Chrost

 

Ambassadors for Jesus Christ. Official spokespersons and witnesses of Jesus.

  • Because
  • In Christ we are a new creation, the old passes away,
  • This is made possible by God, through Jesus, for a ministry of reconciliation.
  • We are entrusted with God’s message of reconciliation,
  • As resident representatives.
  • God appeal is make through us, when we are in Christ.

Ministry of reconciliation:

Be Reconciled, find the common ground, that leads to truce, which gives space for steps toward what is consistent with both parties and for Christians that is when we recognize that we are sinners, made new in Christ, to be witnesses to others sinful, broken, hurting folks toward the whole world accepting the work of Grace God has done through Christ for us all.

  • Be reconciled is be working toward Christ.
  • Be Ambassadors of the Journey
  • Be come the Child of God, through Christ, for the transformation of the world.
  • Key verse for being United Methodist

so what?

Applied to how we relate to sin, shine the light of Christ on our family, neighbor, communion, nation and world.. Show Christ

  • sometimes Jesus says take a sword other times put them away
  • sometimes Jesus says come to me and at the same time go and sin no more
  • sometimes Jesus rides in triumphantly and walks on water, other time he disappears in the crowd
  • sometimes Jesus says feed the hungry and  times he says eat this bread

To reflect Christ is neither conservative nor liberal

To reflect Christ is allow the new creation to thrive and the old self to let go

To reflect Christ is to be close enough to Christ, by faith/trust, that it’s Christ the world sees

Go let God make is so through Christ, Shine on!

 

, , , ,

Leave a comment

Luke 13.1-9 Lent3 Bearing Fruit Let’s Get Figgy 20160228

figs.jpg
At that very time there were some present who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. He asked them, “Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were worse sinners than all other Galileans? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as they did. Or those eighteen who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them—do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others living in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did.” Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and found none. So he said to the gardener, “See here! For three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree, and still I find none. Cut it down! Why should it be wasting the soil?’ He replied, “Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig around it and put manure on it. If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’ “ [NRSV]

Shootings, terror incidences, oppresses and abuses!! It feels as if each day brings terrible news of violence and tragedies. We either struggle to renew our claim to hope or add to the calluses built on the previous tsunamis of chaos and generations of apathy.

But from these witnesses of evil we look and hope for the good. We hear people ask:

  • Is the racism of the systems that cause police to unjustly do their jobs or is it the lawlessness of thug culture to blame? Which is the evil and which is the good?
  • Are we to blame drugs and alcohol, those who produce and traffic them, or those who use them for the death and mayhem associated with their abuse, or those who stand by and watch to only direct blame? Which is the evil and which is the good?
  • Are those killed as victims of holy wars made especially righteous for their martyrdom or are they only casualties of evil. Where is the good? Are we safe? Are we Saved?
  • Why do bad things happen to good people?
  • Why do bad people seem to get away with anything?
  • Why do the good die young?
  • Did those faithful and innocent folks loose salvation because their deaths were tainted with the evil acts of an oppressive government? This question, like those above are put to Jesus for understanding:

A Question, An Answer. A Warning, and a Parable.

Jesus is asked a question. He gives a straightforward answer. He adds a warning and teaches with a parable.

  • Is the life of a faithful person of more value than the life of a criminal?
  • Is the life of a victim more important than the life of an oppressor?
  • Is the life of an innocent person of more worth than the existence of a thug?
  • Is the life of a politician worth less than a… well you know what I mean.

Jesus gives an answer:

Are you ready? The answer is.. No!

Not complicated, not filtered, not qualified, no need for interpretation. Just, No.

No the life of the innocent, the victim, the faithful one is no less valued to God than the life of the criminal, the oppressor, or the thug.

  • Which leads to Jesus’s warning.
  • Our salvation, value/existence are connected to our relationship with God in this life.
  • WARNING: Worry about repenting more than blaming.
  • Worry about grace instead of rules and laws

Focus on God instead of yourself or anything that leads you away from God.

Crazy Questions: This warning leads us to ask questions:

  • Are the Jews Going to Heaven?
  • Are the Muslim Lost?
  • If someone has not been baptized are they saved?

Answer is not about words and thoughts as much as it is about actions

Jesus answers with a WARNING:

  • Were they trying to live a life that leads to God?
    • Can you look at their lives and see God at work in them?
  • Were they working with the hope of finding God?
    • Were they working to assure themselves an entrance ticket or a relationship with God?
  • Was God an add-on to a host of things they did?
    • Was God the reasons they woke up live and lied down to rest?
  • Are you more worried about what you can’t control
    • or more assured with what God CAN control?

The Warning: Don’t live or die without repenting.

REPENTANCE: Turning one’s life toward God’s heart.

  • Repentance is not about the words we speak and the thoughts we think
  • Repentance is the fruit of a searching heart
  • Repentance is the evidence of our struggle toward God and overcoming evil.
  • Repentance is active, observable and gives at witness to others and encouragement to ourselves.

The Parable: Jesus uses a time of worry, fear and evil as a time for faith and fruitfulness.

The Fig Tree

It should be cut down, but it is not, because the gardener has patience and grace

The prescription is for intentional work, nutritious effort and waiting for fruit.

The Goal is fruit

  • The Process is Grace
  • The Danger is to
  • Not work
  • Not Study, Struggle and Share
  • To end up empty

The Challenge:

  • This is a day to work on the relationship
  • This is a day to study, pray, serve, forgive, love, teach, question, grow
  • This is a day to look for the presence of God bearing fruilt
  • If there is not fruit, the get to work.

BECAUSE: No fruit waists the soil, wastes the trust, wastes the grace, wastes the time.

So What?

  • The question is not about are we saved?
  • The question is God’s presence obvious in my life, thought, words, and actions?
  • The question is what am I waiting for, if not for God?
  • Are the things and thoughts that consume me, bringing God closer to me and closer to God’s people, or not?
  • If you don’t see the fruit, get to work, add some fellowship, worship, study and service and wait for God to work through God’s process.

Begin by the act of spiritual inventory:

Do I need to repent? Do I need God? Want God? Have I got it covered?

Ask your neighbor: Where do you see God at work in my life? Tell your neighbor the truth because their salvation weighs in the balance.

Or keep to yourself, mind your own business, assume the best and stay away from your enemies the best you can… that is not what Jesus said.

Jesus said, the harvest is coming, surly. Where’s fruit? (Where’s the beef? dated, ref)

—–Ramblings

-When we gather with one another at the funeral home or around the pews at times of shared grieving, we struggle for comfort and perspective and utter questions

-As each day grows closer to the November election, the shouts and rants of politicians and publicists point rear-view fingers of blame, current insults of shame, and future dreams of promise filled salvation for those on their side. Some are compelled to take sides, while others retreat into the camps of apathy and indifference.

, , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

Luke 9.38-50 Avoiding Firey Worms RSUMC 20150927

IMG_0221

John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.” But Jesus said, “Do not stop him; for no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. Whoever is not against us is for us. For truly I tell you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ will by no means lose the reward. “If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea. If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life maimed than to have two hands and to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame than to have two feet and to be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to stumble, tear it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and to be thrown into hell, where their worm never dies, and the fire is never quenched. “For everyone will be salted with fire. Salt is good; but if salt has lost its saltiness, how can you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.” [NRSV]

Hey, Who cares about the Pope, we are not Catholic

Jesus is more concerned about actions and relationships than titles and divisions

The Popes visit was somewhat historic, this guy is Pope and he had never traveled to the super power of nations.

There were surely folks at the Vatican who were saying:

we do t need to go on some foreign mission when we have so many folks in need here in Vatican City, Italy and Europe

the trip is a waste of money, they have churches they can take care of this themselves

just stay here and send the, a letter or post a YouTube video

The Pope Models our work as Christians

The Hierarchy of he church made sure the Pope had audiences with leaders, congress, the United Nations and benefactors of the church.

The Pope interrupted all the plans each day to make small difference in the lives of individuals.

Dont ignore the witness of Christ through the Pope

What was going on in the US Thursday? 8:00pm

  • Thursday night football 3.2 million
  • Bill ORiley 2.7M watching the news
  • WWE Smackdown 2.3M watch the important professional wrestling
  • 2.1 m watched mountain men on the history channel
  • 1.9 watched the new episode of ‘ castle’
  • 12 and a half million citizen age 2 and older were focused on watching TV
  • 23 Million were estimated to be online

Popes modeling servanthood and we are media driven

2. If your not going to be modeling Christ, certainly don’t lead other astray

A) the old Miletone torture treatment: it’s a horrible statement from Jesus:

B) mangle the human body rather than leads the little/young in faith.

c) if you lead folks away from God by out example: the ultimate punishment is A hell never dying worms and flames that are an eternal torture.

If Jesus the Prince of Peace is working about all sorts of torture what’s going on here ?.

What must we do to avoid these terrible atrocities.

“Be salt”

make grains of difference

feed someone and tell the, why you are feeding them for Jesus, not your salvation

clothe someone and tell them how God is working I their presence not making you safe

visit someone, befriend someone and you build a relationship of Jesus with us that is genuine and real

co fort and heal as Christ working and you share the work of Christ in Suffering terror filled world that is still afraid of red moons and and threats of war.

Bottom line

what will it take to get serious about our faith?

for some, you are already on that journey

for some, you think your done, but you are not

for others, you Think it’s not your calling, that’s for others, you feel too busy, to weary, to thin, to full, to committed

A: will it take loosing your limb to see that you need Jesus

B will it take your death or someone else to see your life needs Jesus at the core

C will you eternally seek what worms can eat and fire can burn to find what is actually spiritual and actually eternal?

Lets help each other, I forage one another rather an ignore or scare each other.

Cardiologist said eat little to no salt. Jesus said, be the salt.

be the flavor

be the preservative

be the difference in one persons life of faith… And you will not go wrong

 

 

Leave a comment

Mark 7.24-37 Racism: “How about them Dawgs” 20150905, Facetimed from COS to RSUMC

From there he set out and went away to the region of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know he was there. Yet he could not escape notice,but a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately heard about him, and she came and bowed down at his feet.Now the woman was a Gentile, of Syrophoenician origin. She begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter.He said to her, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.”But she answered him, “Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.”Then he said to her, “For saying that, you may go–the demon has left your daughter. So she went home, found the child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.Then he returned from the region of Tyre, and went by way of Sidon towards the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. They brought to him a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech; and they begged him to lay his hand on him.He took him aside in private, away from the crowd, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spat and touched his tongue.Then looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.”And immediately his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. Then Jesus ordered them to tell no one; but the more he ordered them, the more zealously they proclaimed it.They were astounded beyond measure, saying, “He has done everything well; he even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak. [NRSV]

The Politics of Racism:

It is in influx of racially motivated incidents AND the fires fueled by political factions that our United Methodist Council of Bishops has asked us to address the topic of Racism this Sunday. They ask us to 1) acknowledge that racism is a sin and to 2) affirm the church’s roll in eradicating Racism is to be a priority. I find this passage that is typically remembered for its emphasis by Jesus on miraculous healing, is an interesting perspective on dealing with assumptions and prejudice, regarding racial divisions.

The passage is about seeing and hearing Racism.

First, the passage is about Jesus healing people from different political and geographical regions.

Gentiles of Syrophoenician heritage, Folks from Tyre, Sidon and the Decapolis regions.

We generally focus on the healing miracles and skip over the very thing we need to hear and see in the passage:

Might Jesus be a racist?

What?  This might be an uncomfortable question for Christians to ask given this text.
Our immediate response likely is, “Of course not! Jesus couldn’t possibly have been racist!”
 What are you talking about?
But Jesus’ conversation with the Syrophoenician woman seems to raise the question. In it, Jesus calls the woman, who was desperate for a miracle for her child, “a dog”, a dehumanizing ethnic slur common at the time. No matter what theological tap dance we might create to avoid this uncomfortable truth, eventually, we have to face this stark truth.
Jesus uttered a racial slur. “Dog’s are not worthy.” Blessing is not for you, you are a female dog.” We have a word for that term.
If we only knew Jesus was talking with a women, we might Just call his statement Sexist.
But since she is first identified by her race and as a women. Its a double whammy.
What in the world is going on here?
 (Have you ever read or studied this passage? It is troubling but crucial to address.
Part of the difficulty of this passage is that as Christians,
we want Jesus to be the simple,
clean-cut,
white or black with absolutely no shades of grey
Jesus must have easy answer to all our problems and to all of society’s problems.
When in fact: 100% x 2 is not 200%
The passages show us that Jesus is 100% God who can heal beyond any medicine and all limits.
This passage shows us that Jesus is 100% human. A man who was raised in a culture, filled with real people who struggle to choose good from bad and right from wrong.
This passage reveals the complexities of personal and institutional racism, it is much easier to think of Jesus as being above them all and loving all people regardless of skin color or culture of origin.
But that is not what we want to see and hear from Jesus, but, “Whoop, there it is.
And yet, he says: You are a dog: You are not legitimate, you are not worthy, you are less than human, as a woman and as a Canaanite.
 This does not fit our picture of Jesus at all:
After all, that’s what our children’s song teaches us. Jesus loves the little children. All the children of the world. Red and yellow, black and white. They are precious in his sight.
But how about them Dawgs?
Does Jesus love them too? Is every team unworthy of support?
Here we are in the start of SEC Football season kicking off and you are bring racism in religion and sports into
The difficulty of this passage particularly for white Christians is that we want Jesus to be colorblind.
We want Jesus to be colorblind because that’s what we want to be or think we should be. But, in truth, at least in the Gospel of Mark, Jesus is anything but colorblind.
In fact, and not being part of the solution to racism or ethnic prejudice, Jesus seems to be very much part of the problem, according to this story.
So What?
So what does it mean, exactly, that the Son of God, the Incarnation, the Christ, the Second Person of the Trinity, utters a racial slur?
Because that is exactly what Jesus does in his dealing with the Syrophoenician, Canaanite heritage woman.
When confronted with the gentile pagan in this story, he explains that his message and ministry are for Israelites only, a comment of ethnic exclusion and prejudice that calls to mind a similar refrain – “whites only” – that is part of our history not too long ago.
It wouldn’t be fair, Jesus explains, to take the banquet ready for his people – the children, the humans – and give it to gentiles – the dogs, the less than human.
He is “Just a Joking” trying to get someone’s attention?
A some scholars whistle past this ghastly put-down by explaining that perhaps Jesus called the woman a dog with a twinkle in his eye, as if he winked at her knowingly to say he didn’t really believe her to be a dog. Like she was in on the joke when he uttered this well-known racial slur.
Others emphasize that the word for dog that Jesus uses isn’t the typical strong language usually associated with this racial slur. They explain that the word Jesus uses takes the diminutive form, implying perhaps a beloved pet or a lap dog, and therefore takes the sting out of the slur.
Of course, white Americans have had their own diminutive versions of racial slurs to imply endearment. Still unconvinced?
Look at the picture
Perhaps we can put this story in better context, our current context. Imagine the Syrophoenician woman as an African-American woman who comes to Jesus, a white male, seeking to be healed.
In response, Jesus dehumanized her, calls her an animal, a female dog. She is coming to Jesus for healthcare for her daughter and calls her a welfare abusing mother of a litter that has not paid taxes to cover the care.
If those slurs are too harsh, choose a different one. Does a more kind-sounding name make the sting go away?
I will always remember my Grandmother’s conversation with my Grandfather. He called the people he hired to help around the farm: Negros. My Grandmother corrected him repeatedly, Now Charlie they preferred to be called Coloreds. The terminology did not change the foundational relationship. And similarly, I don’t think Jesus’ diminutive case of “dog” in this text softens the bite of his own racism either.
So what are we to make of this conversation?
Clearly, racism is a sin, an evil, systemic sin which Christians everywhere should stand against. But how are we to do stand against racism when our own Lord and Savior has so clearly uttered such a heinous racial slur?
Does it make Jesus a racist? Does it make him a sinner? What flag would Jesus have raised to this woman?
Q: Does this passage change the way you  think of Jesus?
This, I think, is the great lesson of the Syrophoenician woman:
It teaches us about Jesus and it teaches us the dynamics of racism, of how even the best of humanity — Jesus himself — can get caught up in systems of oppression, in a culture of supremacy.
I Slice of Real Life
As a good Jew, Jesus would have been reared to give thanks daily that he was born a Jew, not a Gentile, a man and not a woman. Jesus could not help but become entangled by such a sexist and racist snare.
His statement reflected his heritage, his culture, his up bringing, his community understanding of men and women.
Jesus, given his embedded culture, could not be colorblind. And neither can we.
But being caught in such evil, however, does not make one an overt racist. It is what happens in the moments afterwards that makes that determination. How we respond, when confronted with the narratives of the oppressed, reveal who we truly are.
Do we continue to ignore or deny these realities of oppression? Mock them?
Continue to brush them aside as dogs? less than human?
Or do we, like Jesus, do the miraculous and listen to them, be changed by the power of the truth of they are speaking?
When this woman, in boldness, confronts Jesus and his racist, sexist slur, Jesus listens, and hears. It is the only time recorded in the gospels where Jesus changes his mind.
“But even the dogs get table scraps,” she replies, a complex response often required of the member of the “lesser race” who stands up to dismissive racism even while accepting its instituted, ugly, dehumanizing order.
I heard, for the first time.
Jesus is astounded, the holy wind knocked out of him. A moment before, she was but a dog to him.
 In the next, he listens to her and sees her for what she truly is, a woman of great faith, a moral exemplar, his teacher.
Jesus does the most difficult thing for those of us born into the unfortunate privilege of dominance or prejudice.
He listens. And allows himself to be fundamentally changed.
The very next healing miracle Jesus conducts is to open a man’s ears to here.
 
When it happens, when we finally have ears to hear, we will never be the same, will never be able to listen to the lies of the dominant oppressors the same way again.
For me, this happened as a student at Gammon Seminary at the ITC at Atlanta University. Having grown up in the racist culture of the Deep South, I was serving a congregation that had about a quarter of its members we in bi-racial families and my reference to serve and lead as pastor was lacking
I found myself disarmed in my doctoral  class, by the students sharing stories of what it meant to be black in the church in the south and a Christian. We listened to one another’s faith journey stories, by the reflections of my classmates, (by being the a minority as a white person) they heard what it was to be white from a real person seeking God and I heard what it was to be black from real people seeking God.. It happened listening to the stories of Atlanta-area ministers explain the realities of being Black in urban America. It happened as I learned to be quiet, to listen and to allow myself to be changed. I also shared my journey that did not necessarily fit their assumptions about the power of the “whites.”
I also had a well-respected faculty member in the area of Christian worship dismiss my dissertation agenda of addressing Racism in Worship, resigning from being my committee chair because she said she wanted to know, and I quote, “Why do you think a little white boy has any business teaching the black community anything about racism? I believe you have it backwards.”
I knew I was not little.
I was not a boy, and
I was not fitting her definition of racism and its potential for resolution.
I knew God has a better way.
First: Processing, honestly what we hear:
Second: Be willing to change our hearts and minds when we experience oppression.
You see, when Jesus listened to the Syrophoenician woman, he heard not only the truth of her reality. He also heard the brokenness of his own reality.
Both must happen to tackle racism. We must be able to hear the realities of the oppressed and disenfranchised as true. This, in and of itself, can be difficult for those of us who are members of a majority race or gender, to accept a foreign reality without qualifications, to listen without interrupting, to hear without reworking their experiences into the dominant cultural narratives embedded within us.
But we must also be able to hear the brokenness of our own realities and of our own stories.
Things to note:
Racism is about power and can be abused both ways.
The Goal is not colorblind, but to find ways to appreciate one another, even if we offend each other.
The church, by Jesus example, is the agent of transformation of racism.
I would offer this passage needs to be read, studied, shared and brought into life before political correct politics claims another task of the church.
 
So, in the end, Jesus’ conversation offers us perhaps the most powerful story for those of us in majority classes as we stand against racism. It compels us to listen to the narratives of the oppressed we devalue implicitly. It requires us to listen to our own prejudice.
It asks us to do the unthinkable: to own our racism and to be changed by society’s most marginalized.
Having followed Jesus this far, perhaps we can do no better than he did, and that is to learn to listen to those with such different realities than mine and to let that new reality change my reality from– who I am and who I will become through living out our relationships with God together.

, , , , ,

Leave a comment

Mark 13.1-8 Nation Building RSUMC 20141109

Wailing Wall

As [Jesus] came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings!” Then Jesus asked him, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.” When he was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked him privately, “Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign that all these things are about to be accomplished?” Then Jesus began to say to them, “Beware that no one leads you astray. Many will come in my name and say, “I am he!’ and they will lead many astray. When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed; this must take place, but the end is still to come. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. This is but the beginning of the birth pangs. [NRSV]

Building Blocks of the Temple

One of the most well known attractions in Jerusalem is the Western wall of the temple known as the Wailing Wall. It is not first named this for the prayers shared by the millions of visitors, rather because of a rare and miraculous occurrence of water weeping from the rocks. The last time this happen was over seventy years ago.

Over 60 feet is visible and above ground, but the larger portion of the wall is under ground and accessible by tunnels. The largest stone found in the wall is between 500-600 tons based on different measurements and estimations. It is considered the fourth largest carved stone in the world. If you cut it into pieces it could take almost 156 RAM Max Chassis Cab trucks at maximum capacity to carry the mass to the work place.

The super cranes of today lift 2000-3000 tons. But keep in mind 13 of the top super cranes around the world have been designed in the last six years. And even at their current designs require a minimum 400 foot boom and are situated 200 feet away from the object.  Large amounts of animal fat (pigs particularly) burns hot and fast and could be tunneled under the foundation and cause the swift destruction from the massive weight collapsing on itself.

The disciples are as amazed of the scope and size of the temple as every visitor to the temple mount is today. As long lasting as buildings appear to be, in one monsoon season, the pyramids would crumble. As a United Methodist Clergy person I have always struggled with forms that ask for my permanent address. I have since given up wondering and now know it is Ringgold, Georgia. Nothing is as solid and eternal I we act like things are.

Jesus gives a basic geology and architecture lesson: look around, all of this will crumble in time, even God’s physical temple. This is why we have a board of Trustee’s to make improvements and repairs to keep this a viable place to worship, fellowship, learn and share Jesus Christ. But as powerful and meaningful as this place it, this is not who we are.

Building Blocks of the Kingdom

Many will come to tear down your spirit.

Many will come to water down your passion.

Many things, people and circumstances will lead folks away from find this house as God’s house.

If you are going to choose what to build up, maintain and nurture: build the kingdom, no matter the temple.

One of the most powerful reports of mission teams that travel to foreign countries or rural parts of our own country is the powerful presence of the Spirit where there appears to be so little, where to physical needs are so great. It seems the Spiritual presence is seen more clearly and with more power and reality.

 

Destruction of the Temple

Think of the things that tear down our places of worship. There are those in churches around the world that have their building torn down because it is simply present in the community of our enemies.

Jesus was clear that war would come in the life time of the church. Just as the Romans came and destroyed the temple in 70 AD, during the lift time of early disciples. Wars surround and threaten us now. Is this the end? Are these the battles of the end of days? The easy thing to say is, “Yes.” I say yes, because it is a clear and present danger that motivates us to action. As compelling case that we might make that this is it, I suppose that folks said the same in on these grounds in the Battle of Chickamauga, World Wars, on the ground in Vietnam, and for forty years or more in Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, etc. There may be 100 years more of wars.

We look back and give thanks for those who have served us through times of war and in the face of war so that we can build back what is hopefully a better world and a better life.

Jesus does not belittle the reality of war, rather saying wars are not the most important sign, instead they are signs that what we treasure will most certainly be threatened and some will crumble. BUT don’t give up on building the relationship that will be eternal.

There will be lean times in the world, but not in the heart of God.

There will be earthquakes and times that very foundations of the earth will shift, crack and fall, but God will never fail.

If our church building were attacked at the hands of terrorist, we sit quietly by and keep the situation to ourselves. (a sarcastic, and foolish thought) We would be up in arms and have every person doing something about it.  We can keep the threat at bay, when it’s over the pond.

Eatonton UMC had the treasured story that their sanctuary was spared because it was used as hospital and barn for Union troops. But a hundred years later one arsonist set fire to that building. But the church was not destroyed. IN FACT, it was the transforming act that forced the congregation out of a rut of safety and protection into growth and a renewal of the mission to make disciples.

Endurance of the Kingdom

Jesus’ promise is the kingdom will endure.

If this is the end time, who has your heart and your back?

If this is only the beginning of years to come, who has your heart and your back?

Don’t worry about the end, Focus on the presence of God right now, right here.

Turn to your neighbor and remind them. This is God’s house, not my house, not your house. This is Jesus’ house. The Spirit is in this house.

Turn to another neighbor and remind them. God has your back just like mine. Jesus has my heart, does he have yours?

Turn to someone in front or behind you and remind them. What is leading you astray? What is crumbing in your spirit? For what do you weep and wail?

This is the conversation Jesus is having with disciples, just like us, just as then, Jesus is now..

, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

%d bloggers like this: