Archive for category Preparation
Homecoming, by another way Oak Grove 2018
7 Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. 8 He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.” 9 After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route. [NRSV]
I have such wonderful memories of racing out from Emerson to Euharlee and trying to beat the long coal train heading to-and-from the Bowen. It is so good to be back. I have been here on a cold and snowing morning when it was only two, and no more and we had Good Preaching. So I hope that is the case today. I am proud to see the growth of the ministries and good work at Oak Grove and am honored to be with you today.
I began to think back about the years I was pastor, student and neighbor. The years would have been between 1985 and 1989. Some remarkable things happened while we were in ministry together:
• The infamous “New Coke” was released, The Titanic found, The first report of Mad Cow disease
• and Madonna was holding the place Taylor Swift holds today. Michael Jackson released his “Bad” album and MTV actually played music videos.
• The Kroger in Cartersville and Town Center Mall opened. The news of the Atlanta Olympics was
• The movies out during that time included: Back to the Future, Top Gun and Dirty Dancing
• Some notable songs were: Walk like an Egyptian, The theme from Phantom of the Opera, and We are the World.
• Imagine back to the time of the start of the Internet, the first Game Boy and Nintendo, The first intel processor and MS Office and Windows debuted.
• We were witnesses of Haley’s comet, the Galileo mission to Jupiter and removal of the Berlin Wall with Mr Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan.
• People were watching: “The Cosby Show”, “Cheers”, “Hill Street Blues”, Johnny Carson, Magnum PI and the start of the Simpsons.
We are not the same people today. The world has changed and is changing in a whirlwind of transformation. As our denomination looks ahead to the Winter of 2019 we know that more change is to be expected.
As important it is to look back and remember from where we have come, it is the witness of the magi that call us to look to the present and prepare for the future.
I have always found it remarkable that the Bible contains the story of people of faith who look for God in the movement of the starts, in a distant country with a different culture and perspectives and yet God is self-revealing in all creation.
I had a conversation with young man in his mid-twenties who was convinced that there was no need for God. The wonders and marvels of creation were but the finely tuned change of random variables that brought him more peace and “common sense” to his perspective. I asked him from where did the forces of gravity, fission, fusion, physics, mathematic and love evolve. He uncomfortably had no clear answer except to say they were only explained as observations that followed rather than formed the universe. He left the conversation and went home the same person. I hope that some of the conversation helped change his fears and desire to control rather than to follow and trust.
We live in a divided culture that is more segregated than at any moment in our lifetimes. The struggles leading through Civil Rights Era and the Civil War are not our finest moments. Now more than ever are we needing to make a life-giving, hope-sharing, love-trusting impact on the world around us.
When I was at Oak Grove I was married to Sarah Jane, who search the Cassville Church for a couple of the years. We enjoyed covered dish dinners, singings, and being with you in worship and in your homes. That is no longer the relationship that shapes my life. She loved the idea of being married much more than being married to me. I didn’t share that at the time, as I was immature and unwilling to share what it mean to fully share what it means to be a community of faith. I finally learned that 1) clergy are people who struggle with marriage too, 2) I’d be happier unmarried or married for a few years than to be miserable for 50 pretending a marriage. 3) I have learned that God’s path for us is only as straight and narrow as our willingness to trust. But grace goes before, with and behind us.
Now I have three children: Susanna at Stanford, Luke at 1st Leu in the AF, and Frances a sophomore studying AP Chinese and my wife Wendy is beginning her second career in Insurance. (If you ever seen the Hot-ones sign, a Hardees star, a Georgia Tourism commercial or a magazine in a plastic bag you have seen her work.) The past ten years we have cared for her parents in our home, her mom having Dementia and her father having Kidney failure, was not the road that we had planned, but God has carried us through a different way that blessed and shaped us profoundly.
Why the Wise-men passage on Home Coming?
During my years at Emerson and Oak Grove, Singer, James Taylor, released a song by David Bailey called, Home By Another Way. David Bailey was the son of a Presbyterian minister. As a fellow preacher’s kid the song resonated with me: Here was a famous hippy trippy ballad rocker singing about a bible verse: Not the paths that typically cross. Listen to the lyrics of his song:
Those magic men the Magi, Some people call them wise, Or Oriental, even kings, Well anyway, those guys
They visited with Jesus, They sure enjoyed their stay, Then warned in a dream of King Herod’s scheme
They went home by another way
Steer clear of royal welcomes, Avoid a big to-do, A king who would slaughter the innocents, Will not cut a deal for you, He really, really wants those presents, He’ll comb your camel’s fur
Until his boys announce they’ve found trace amounts, Of your frankincense, gold and myrrh
Time to go home by another way
Home is where they want you now, You can more or less assume that you’ll be welcome in the end
Mustn’t let King Herod haunt you so, Or fantasize his features when you’re looking at a friend
Well it pleasures me to be here, And to sing this song tonight, They tell me that life is a miracle, And I figured that they’re right, But Herod’s always out there, He’s got our cards on file
It’s a lead pipe cinch, if we give an inch, Old Herod likes to take a mile
It’s best to go home by another way
Home by another way
What does it mean to Go Home, by another way?
To God home is hopefully a place of security, grounding and belonging.
Hear the Good News: God’s home, “Oikos”, is with us! With us!
It starts in a garden, it travels in a wilderness, it crosses paths in the crucifixion, it opens through an empty tomb, it blow as the wind around us, and surrounds us.
We are not who were once were:
In Christ we are those who make straight the paths for others
In grasp of the Holy Spirit we are those who open hearts and conversations
In the love of God we are those who God is creating new life and ways of living.
I regret that I must leave without a longer visit but I am leading a class for the district to build our skills in sharing Difficult Conversations as churches and church folks. As I look back on the Roads and Paths that God has lead, carried, and immersed me, I see at:
• Oak Grove taught me that God can take a mustard seed an make something grand and purposeful beyond our dreams.
• Grant Park I learned from one of the most diverse congregations in the Southeast what it means to share love
• In some other congregations I learned what looks like when we live in fear, pride, greed and worship of self.
• At Candler and Gammon I learned how to prepare for God to use me in changing ministry conditions.
• At Rock Spring I am ready to see how God will lead us into being a relevant part of the body of Christ in the 21st century.
The message I have received from much prayer, much prayer, much study, much conversation, much reflection, writing and reading is this:
1. Change is to be assuredly expected. (It is ok to embrace change, WHEN God leads us.)
2. What will be has not yet been revealed.
3. But when it is revealed: Count on seeing Jesus or not seeing at all.
• Therefore it is all important to make our home in God who does not change.
• Therefore it is essential that we find our way through what has been revealed.
• Therefore it is our purpose, passion and path to stick with Jesus, not for our sake but for Christ.
God Lord, we give thanks for these and all other blessing, for Christ’s sake. Amen.
Matthew 11:28 “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
Romans 5:6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die. 8 But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.
2 Corinthians 5:17 So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!
John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. 17 “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
Ephesians 2:4 But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us 5 even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ —by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God— 9 not the result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.
Acts 10:36 You know the message he sent to the people of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ—he is Lord of all. 37 That message spread throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John announced: 38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. 39 We are witnesses to all that he did both in Judea and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree; 40 but God raised him on the third day and allowed him to appear, 41 not to all the people but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses, and who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. 42 He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one ordained by God as judge of the living and the dead. 43 All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”
Luke 15. Lost sheep, lost coin, lost child (prodigal son/elder brother)
Faith Sharing: some practical How to-s
-It is: Role as announcer of the gospel, God will use us to reveal
-It is not: Sharing your faith, verse persuading your point, using your faith.
Simple starting point:
1. Starting: The best way to share your faith is to start sharing your faith.
2. What to say: When it is your story
-you don’t have to figure it out,
-it is authentic, real and genuine
3. Pray for people around you.
-Pray for neighbor, even if it’s for 10 seconds.
-Pray for them to be receptive, open, willing
Start thinking of yourself as announcer: practice- “attention ladies and gentlemen..”
-think of a ball game, see the actions. Tell what you see
be an announcer of the gospel, God will use us to reveal
–Prayer is essential for each session of preparing
1. out pouring of the HS
2. a ew awakening by God’s church
3. the teachers and participants of the class
4. God’s grace to empower you to build relationships and share your faith
5. the world to come to know Jesus Christ
What exactly do I say? How to start?
-Begin with invitational statement
-“a send of a question within it and waits for an answers”
Example: Good weather today… That looks like a warm coat… “
TASK: Start the conversation
1. Start with a statement
2. Speak in the first person: I hope you are doing well today.
3. Know you only need one minute to get to the point
or nothing,.. either, lead to conversation of the next
-Fruit any homework: Most helpful, personal experience determined,
I hope you are doing well today.. 99 I get a smile, most people are not interested in cashiers.
TAKE ONE MINUTE
Practice the transition:
“It’s raining cats and dogs”
“Jesus said it (Matthew 5.45) rains on the good and the bad”
“I find peace knowing Jesus care about me when it rains and when the sunshine’s”
A bible verse, faith observation, that introduces faith topic
A person statement I believe
The door is open
Announce the gospel message and wait on the Holy Spirit, and follow HS lead
Why share our faith?
-Christ commanded, not suggested, maybe you should make disciples, nope, you shall
-Christ loves disciples, we are more willing to do something asked by someone who loves us.
-We know what is at stake for us and for those who do not know,
Some success stats
Why should we refresh / share our faith?
77% people become disciples through someone they trust
a year of trust building make be required to earn/build trust
we have to be plain and clear, we can no longer use Christina language
we can no longer depend solely on programs of the church
many people have difficulty building new relationships with new persons.
lots of people have no christian memory
Reasons we stop Sharing (of Church people)
-unaware of sin 1%
-indifferent to sin 16% they live as they want, self id as Xtn, but don’t care
-worried about sin 39% (have not moved on, still worried)
-Forgiven from sin 9% (unhappy members, unfulfilled
-39% Forgiving/Active in Church 24% of those 89% have stopped being transformed or refreshed
Churches historically have been teaching that when you become a member that’s it, your done
11% (Even to 11% need to step it up)
6% have a holy discountent (Know the core, but
3% broken by God ( God will make life good and easy)
1% surrendered / submitted (Do what you will)
0.5% have a profound love for God.
0.5% love for people. (Isnt this the greatest commandment ) love God and neighbor.
NO WONDER WE ARE NOT WITNESSING
Mentally/Spiritually Want to be BUILDING NEW relationship everywhere we go, example is Jesus not at other example
DAILY INITIATING ONE MINUTE CONVERSATIONS
….more practice next week
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that is taking place among you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you are sharing Christ’s sufferings, so that you may also be glad and shout for joy when his glory is revealed. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the spirit of glory, which is the Spirit of God, is resting on you.
But they will have to give an accounting to him who stands ready to judge the living and the dead. For this is the reason the gospel was proclaimed even to the dead, so that, though they had been judged in the flesh as everyone is judged, they might live in the spirit as God does. 7 The end of all things is near; therefore be serious and discipline yourselves for the sake of your prayers. Above all, maintain constant love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaining. Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received. Whoever speaks must do so as one speaking the very words of God; whoever serves must do so with the strength that God supplies, so that God may be glorified in all things through Jesus Christ. To him belong the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen. [NRSV]
I do not remember being excused from taking final exams in my schooling career. Some of the final days of each term were easier than others. There is something fundamentally missing if we exclude the final exams.
I realize it has become the incentive to study and work hard all along and if you do so throughout the term, the final would be a redundant pressure, and yet, real life is filled with final exams that we ‘wish’ we could skip, but we are not given the pass.
Do you remember any particular finals?
I remember feeling overloaded with information that I questioned its importance on the remainder of my life.
I remember wondering in some classes, would I have an “A” and others would I have a “D” and be grateful.
My studiousness improved the longer I went to school. Kindergarten to the senior class, two years at Oxford, two years at Emory, three years at Candler, five years at Gammon at the ITC. 25 of my 53 years have been spent in school. 53 of my 53 have been filled with tests and exams that question, measure, and challenge my faith.
If I gave myself a grade on my spiritual maturity I would prefer to be compared and measured with the hitters in baseball. Where a good season might be in the .300-.400s. comparing that is still failing compared to the A,B, C etc scale.
What I can say, is that my needs improvement is improving, the more exams I prepare for, face, endure, and reflect upon in my life.
For our Students and for us all
Real life/Faith is not excused from exams, tests, & trials.
Verse 7 begins with a call for the end of all things as the context in which we live.
Live as if the final exam is tomorrow.
- Be Serious: Be responsible for your own actions
- Don’t sign up for the blame your neighbor course
- Don’t be uninformed or excuse yourself from
- learning and
- Discipline Yourself
- No one else can have faith for you
- The prayers of others are not enough
- Take the mindfulness of #1 and apply it with accountability
- Maintain Constant Love for one another
- The extra credit is to matriculate in practicing love for each other
- The place to get on track, when we fall off the wagon, is to love
- and keeping practicing love,
- even if you don’t feel it,
- love will come to life.
- Hospitable without Complaining
- Hospitality: Doing what it takes to connect, welcome, share, interact, with others
- Even when we have reason to complain, do not let that stop us from showing hospitality
- Even when we disagree with one another, err on the side of hospitality, (not just a southern thing.)
- Be responsible with God’s grace as a good steward
- We thrive on Grace but know that with freedom that Grace afford
- Arrogance, Apathy, Anger, Selfishness, Coveting, Untruthfulness, and the like cloud and distance us from living in Grace.
- If the teacher allows you to rework your paper if you received a failing grade, don’t wait to fail in the future. God see us as we are.
- Use the gifts you have been given
- Don’t wait to get started for the new equipment
- Don’t hesitate to procrastinate
- See that God gives each of us, what we need to begin in faith.
- If you talk, speak God’s word
- Not everyone’s gift is speaking, but if you do, make clear that your message is true in reflecting God’s Word and not our twist on God’s word.
- If you serve, rely on God’s strength alone
- Not everyone is good at responding and acting when it comes to sharing your faith, but know that God does not take a summer break from expecting us to trust God’s strength and not rely on ours alone.
- The Goal: All this, so that God get’s the glory in all things through Jesus Christ
The Catch/Hook: Final exam is the same as daily exams.
- Do you wait and study only when you must?
- Do you procrastinate?
- Do you get lost in the getting prepared to learn and lead and are so organized but never find God’s strength or grace?
- Do you give us when it get’s difficult?
- Do you find yourself distracted?
- 1 Peter is a prayerful call to action and accountability
- The Teacher has left the room but will show up at any moment, what type of student will you and I become?
Hear the Good News!
Jesus is our strength and teacher
Jesus is our grace and hope
God’s Holy Spirit is our guide and power
If Christ’s return is today, tomorrow or 10,000 years from now, the final exam is in progress.
A Strange Order to Keep Quiet
- Could it be Jesus we testing reverse psychology?
- Could it be Jesus didn’t think they understood what they saw
- Could it be Jesus want these disciples to have something the others did or couldn’t know?
- Could it be Jesus had more than one purpose in taking the disciples along to see this event?
Learning the timing when to tell
- If Jesus had multiple reasons for the trip, what were they?
- Jesus sharing with Moses and Elijah, Law and Prophets
- Jesus is confirmed for being foretold
- Jesus is confirmes preparing to complete the law
- Jesus places himself in the context for the disciples
- What did the disciples learn from the trip
- Peter, James and John were either more mature or needed remedial reinforcement
- Peter receives a lesson in
- asking before declaring,
- praying before acting,
- trusting before explaining.
- If Jesus had multiple reasons for the trip, what were they?
Can you keep Quiet about who Jesus is to you?
- Do you notice that the disciples 2:1 keep quiet on the mountain.
- Reasons for speaking
- Reasons for listening and observing
- Learning lessons for future opportunities
- Trusting the lessons of the law
- Trusting the lessons of the prophets
- Affirming the mission and minsitry of Jesus
- knowing they can Get up and do not be afraid
- Trusting God’s time for telling.
Knowing your time to listen and your times to tell.
- Being in the right place and time for learning
- Taking time to wait and listen to God
- Asking for guidance instead of declaring (our agenda/thinking/etc.
- Jumping ahead: This story is appears in Matth 17, Mark 9, and Luke 9, it is retold for us.
Someone needs to hear about Jesus
- Have you prepared for those moments?
- Have you mis-spoken in the past?
- Have you ever gotten up from fear of taking what we have experienced and kept it in the past?
- Go tell someone what Jesus Christ has done for you.
- If you don’t then spend this Lenten season in prayer and study, because Easter is coming!
Now 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?
- You either talk to no one and TRY to avoid the conversation and grow cynical and isolated?
- You surround yourself with like minded people for comfort and protection.
- 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
- 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,
- Same Mindedness
- 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.
Advent: Series RECLAIMING CHRISTMAS
“ReClaiming Christmas: The Unexpected Gifts
A Look at the gift that is missing from Christmas, and why.
“But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. For as the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the coming of the Son of Man. Then two will be in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. Two women will be grinding meal together; one will be taken and one will be left. Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour. [Matthew 24:36-44]
ReClaiming Christmas: The Christmas Cards
A Season of Sharing the Story, “The John The Baptist Collection” of Cards: Repent, You Brood of Vipers,
In those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea, proclaiming, “”Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.“” This is the one of whom the prophet Isaiah spoke when he said, “”The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.’“” Now John wore clothing of camel’s hair with a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then the people of Jerusalem and all Judea were going out to him, and all the region along the Jordan, and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. But when he saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, “”You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit worthy of repentance. Do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our ancestor’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. “”I baptize you with water for repentance, but one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and will gather his wheat into the granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”” [Matthew 3:1-12]
ReClaiming Christmas: Why Celebrate Jesus
Why Care About the Reasons for the Season
“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”” [Luke 1:46b-55]
Reclaiming Christmas: Christmas Delivery
Will the gifts we share bring hope, life and joy?
Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “”Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.“” All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: “”Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,”” which means, “”God is with us.“” When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus. [Matthew 1:18-25]
Posted by myoikos in #2016, #costofdiscipleship, #cross, #forgiveness, #jesus, #mysundaysermons, #relationship, #sacrifice, bonhoeffer, Church, Communion, Disicpleship, Hope, Meaning, money, posessions, Preparation, Resurrection People, Sacrifice, Salvation, Service, Spiritual, Trust, Witness on September 3, 2016
Now large crowds were traveling with him; and he turned and said to them, “Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it will begin to ridicule him, saying, “This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or what king, going out to wage war against another king, will not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to oppose the one who comes against him with twenty thousand? If he cannot, then, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for the terms of peace. So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions. [NRSV]
This test describes four points of discipleship: Family, Carrying the cross, Following through what we start, and Giving up possessions.
Bonhoeffer devoted much of his life to this text from Luke and we can learn from his faith investment for our own journey as disciples.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Apart from his theological writings, Bonhoeffer was known for his staunch resistance to the Nazi dictatorship, including vocal opposition to Hitler’s euthanasia program and genocidal persecution of the Jews. He was arrested in April 1943 by the Gestapo and imprisoned at Tegel prison for one and a half years. Later he was transferred to a Nazi concentration camp. After being associated with the plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler, he was quickly tried, along with other accused plotters, including former members of the Abwehr (the German Military Intelligence Office), and then executed by hanging on 9 April 1945 as the Nazi regime was collapsing. [Wiki]
- Discipleship: One who devotes one’s life to following Jesus.
- To Disciples others: To invite, support, and equip/teach others how to follow Jesus.
- Q: If I am not a Disciple of Jesus, to whom/what do I devote my life?
The Rude Awakening: To be a disciple is to wager our own life, all our relationship, all our possessions and struggle toward the Spiritual person God wants us to become in a broken and sin-filled, hurting world.
In this season of political turmoil, we can easily find folks either sticking one’s head in the sand OR being consumed by the drama. What are disciples to do in the next 64 days?
- By all means, be an informed voter and vote.
- By all means, trust that God will be your salvation and strength and not the government.
- By all means, study, pray and encourage those who choose blindness/ignorance to be informed and those consumed to evaluate what is most important in every day, not only election day.
- Seek God first, and all else will be revealed and added.
Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple:
The family is the core community in the human community. Jesus is calling us to compare our family of choice and our family of birth.
Just because we have people who are blood kin does not mean that they are living, acting, supporting, forgiving and trusting like our struggling faith family.
The community of the saints is not an “ideal” community consisting of perfect and sinless men and women, where there is no need of further repentance. No, it is a community which proves that it is worthy of the gospel of forgiveness by constantly and sincerely proclaiming God’s forgiveness…Sanctification means driving out the world from the Church as well as separating the Church from the world. But the purpose of such discipline is not to establish a community of the perfect, but a community consisting of men [and women] who really live under the forgiving mercy of God.”― Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship
Carry the Cross
To be a following of Jesus is to imitate what we see and hear Jesus doing.
When Jesus welcomed the marginalized, forgotten and excluded folks, he talked, ate, fellowshipped, touched, and healed them, AND he sent them to go and “Sin No More.”
Following Jesus is both being touched and blessed by Jesus, but it is then our responsibility to become the new person that follows the new way of life in Jesus.
- To “Carry the Cross” is to feed people AND call people to be fed spiritually
- To “Carry the Cross” is to clothe people AND wrap them in spiritual encouragement.
- To “Carry the Cross” is to visit, stand with AND be Christ for someone
It is easy to carry the cross in symbolic ways, but it is ultimately allowing CHRIST to carry us on the cross.
Bonhoeffer: There is a way to measure if we are carrying the cross:
“The messengers of Jesus will be hated to the end of time. They will be blamed for all the division which rend cities and homes. Jesus and his disciples will be condemned on all sides for undermining family life, and for leading the nation astray; they will be called crazy fanatics and disturbers of the peace. The disciples will be sorely tempted to desert their Lord. But the end is also near, and they must hold on and persevere until it comes. Only he will be blessed who remains loyal to Jesus and his word until the end.” ― Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship
Finish what we Start
How many projects have been started at your house, shop, work, school, and life with great excitement and zeal, but when we meet resistance, a conflict of time, or lack of resources, or loss of focus, we lay it aside.
We know in our heads and hearts what following Jesus is about, doing it is where the power is found.
“So many people come to church with a genuine desire to hear what we have to say, yet they are always going back home with the uncomfortable feeling that we are making it too difficult for them to come to Jesus.” ― Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship
Give up Posessions
This is where we usually head out the door or start thinking about lunch or find some other explanation other than the obvious one.
Bonhoeffer helps us with a suttle difference about posessions and a life devoted to Christ.
“Earthly goods are given to be used, not to be collected. In the wilderness God gave Israel the manna every day, and they had no need to worry about food and drink. Indeed, if they kept any of the manna over until the next day, it went bad. In the same way, the disciple must receive his portion from God every day. If he stores it up as a permanent possession, he spoils not only the gift, but himself as well, for he sets his heart on accumulated wealth, and makes it a barrier between himself and God. Where our treasure is, there is our trust, our security, our consolation and our God. Hoarding is idolatry.” ― Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship
There is a falacy that giving our money away obsolves us from material management. Saving money to fund a life of service rather than a life of ease.
Wesley: Make all the money you can; save all you can; to do all the good you can.
Being a disciple is making a commitment that all that we have is God’s and we are intrusted with the responsiblity of doing God’s good work with all we have.
God knows we need material things, we living in the physical bodies God has made for us. Our bodies and things are not bad. BELIEVING they are our value, work and meaning becomes our God.
Cut it out because it too hard!
“Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock. Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son: ‘Ye were bought at a price’, and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us. Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon his Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered him up for us. Costly grace is the Incarnation of God.” ― Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship
The Hard life of Discipleship is Costly living.
“Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.
Costly grace is the treasure hidden in the field; for the sake of it a man will go and sell all that he has. It is the pearl of great price to buy which the merchant will sell all his goods. It is the kingly rule of Christ, for whose sake a man will pluck out the eye which causes him to stumble; it is the call of Jesus Christ at which the disciple leaves his nets and follows him.
Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock.
- Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow,
- and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ.
- It is costly because it costs a man his life,
- and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life.
- It is costly because it condemns sin,
- and grace because it justifies the sinner.
- Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son: “ye were bought at a price,”
- and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us.
- Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon his Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered him up for us.
- Costly grace is the Incarnation of God.”
― Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship
- What do our relationships need most of all
- What does our daily life look like if not like Jesus
- What does our life feel like if we lay Christ aside for something new?
- Are we possessed by that which cannot love or save us?
What does it cost to not be a disciple?
- What does it cost to not seek a faith family’s support
- What does it cost to not let Jesus shine and show
- What does it cost to stop in the middle the race?
- What does it cost to invest in that which cannot love?
Posted by myoikos in #2016, #askseekknock, #findingJesus, #gotell, #jesus, #relationship, #weareprophets, 5 Practices, Boldness, Citizenship, Extravagant Generosity, Intentional Spiritual Growth, Meaning, Passionate Worship, Preparation, Prophets, Putting God First, Radical Hospitality, Resurrection People, Risk Taking Mission and Service, Spiritual Growth, Trust, Truth, Witness on July 16, 2016
This is what the Lord God showed me—a basket of summer fruit. He said, “Amos, what do you see?” And I said, “A basket of summer fruit.” Then the Lord said to me, “The end has come upon my people Israel; I will never again pass them by. The songs of the temple shall become wailings in that day,” says the Lord God; “the dead bodies shall be many, cast out in every place. Be silent!” Hear this, you that trample on the needy, and bring to ruin the poor of the land, saying, “When will the new moon be over so that we may sell grain; and the Sabbath, so that we may offer wheat for sale? We will make the ephah small and the shekel great, and practice deceit with false balances, buying the poor for silver and the needy for a pair of sandals, and selling the sweepings of the wheat.” The Lord has sworn by the pride of Jacob: Surely I will never forget any of their deeds. Shall not the land tremble on this account, and everyone mourn who lives in it, and all of it rise like the Nile, and be tossed about and sink again, like the Nile of Egypt? On that day, says the Lord God, I will make the sun go down at noon, and darken the earth in broad daylight. I will turn your feasts into mourning, and all your songs into lamentation; I will bring sackcloth on all loins, and baldness on every head; I will make it like the mourning for an only son, and the end of it like a bitter day. The time is surely coming, says the Lord God, when I will send a famine on the land; not a famine of bread, or a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord. They shall wander from sea to sea, and from north to east; they shall run to and fro, seeking the word of the Lord, but they shall not find it. [NRSV]
Sackcloth, baldness, morning only child, a bitter day.
- Sackcloth, baldness and morning, oh my!
- Sackcloth, baldness and morning, oh my!
- Sackcloth, baldness and morning, oh my!
• Sackcloth: A sign of sinfulness
• Baldness: A sign of unhealthiness
• Morning an Only Child: Grief for this generation and the next
• Bitter Day: A sign of our separation from God.
Sending a famine instead of a fruit basket.
Not a famine of land, bread or thirst
But a famine of HEARING the words of the Lord.
God’s bringing a basket that we fill find as empty.
• If I bring fruit every day, and no one takes even a bite, it will eventually spoil
• If I bring healthy snacks and no one even samples, we will eventually starve
• If I bring hope for this generation and the next and no one trusts and believes, we have nothing left.
The basket is full of unwanted, un-tasted, un-sampled, un-digested, un-used nourishment: It lies in waste (or lingers in our waists)
Seeking and not finding, Knocking and nothing opening, Asking and receiving none.
The question of the day is
how long will the famine take?
How many attacks can we stand?
How many bodies left on the ground?
How many reports of violence before we are numb?
Where is the fruit basket?
• The basket of milk and honey?
• The basket of power and grace?
• The basket of truth and certainty?
• The basket of goodness and peace?
We want that fruit basket, then
1. Why not eat it when it is placed in front of you?
2. Why wait until there are famine and ruin?
Today is the day for feasting on the Word of God.
• Open and read it
• Read and share it
• Share and sing it
• Sing and Teach it
• Teach and live it
• Live it and find the God, who loves us, living with us, still.
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
- 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.
- 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)
-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.
Now every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the festival of the Passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up as usual for the festival. When the festival was ended and they started to return, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it. Assuming that he was in the group of travelers, they went a day’s journey. Then they started to look for him among their relatives and friends. When they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem to search for him. After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him they were astonished; and his mother said to him, “Child, why have you treated us like this? Look, your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety.” He said to them, “Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” But they did not understand what he said to them. Then he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them. His mother treasured all these things in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favor. [NRSA]
For starters, it’s still Christmas season and its not too late to find Jesus.
My guess is that we have covered in the last 50 years of Peanuts,(TM) Linus rendition of the first part of Luke’s Gospel about the decree from Ceasar Agustus, the baby born in the manger, the shepherds and the heavenly multitude, but have we found Jesus?
One of my favorite lines from the Forrest Gump movie is when Sergeant Dan asks Forrest if he had found Jesus, to which Forrest replies, “I didn’t know he was lost.”
While the passage for today gives us a rare glimpse into the childhood of Jesus, it also gives an opportunity to identify with losing Jesus. And the how quickly we lose what we think we have. Rather than asking have you found Jesus, we need to ask more often: Have you lost him?
The story of the parents, Mary and Joseph, who found favor and blessing to be the parents of Jesus as good and faithful folks, they too lose connection for a variety of reasons in one passage:
The parents were busy doing what moms and dads do and in those responsibilities and distractions a door is opened to focus on themselves than on Jesus.
Can we turn off the TV, stop talking about work, stop worrying about the grown-up things to play-teach-listen-and-be present without children and grandchildren? (Not entertaining, distracting or pacifying them, rather being present with them, doing nothing else.)
As important as Parental/Adult/Grownup responsibilities demand, they are not more important than time present with Jesus.
We certainly know what ‘you’ and ‘I’ are when we ASSume. What does one day assuming we have Jesus securely in our lives look like. What’s one day?
The classic Christmas movie, Home Alone, points to the room for evil and fear to take hold when we leave Jesus behind. And it happens most likely unintentionally.
But in the real world, what could be so bad about one day without praying? Without reading? Missing one Sunday? Missing one time of service? Not only are we missed by God and others we never expected, but ‘we’ also make ourselves vulnerable.
It starts the downward spiral if “I can do it by myself.” which we started at age two and somehow favor over “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” Don’t assume Jesus is with you, check in daily, hourly, with every breath.
Mary and Joseph were at the point of fear and anxiousness in dealing with the absence of Jesus. Rather than being in communication in the first place, there is the moment when we see the fear of what life looks like without Jesus leading us.
How devastating our perspective becomes when we are grieving. It is a natural process of dealing with loss. It might be the loss of a relationship, a job, a dream, or any other confrontation with separation.
Frantically, Mary and Joseph begin to search. The look, they ask, the retrace where they had been. Jesus is right where they left him. Mary and Joseph were distracted, preoccupied, assuming someone else had their relationship for them; they begin to recognize the separation and are each torn by fear, anxiety and grief. From their place separation, they begin to search.
The search until they find Jesus. Our journey toward Jesus is the remedy for sin and separation: “We search until we find.”
Some folks are searching for “God’s love in the flesh” and mistaking that for physical things and physical feelings and physical relationships. These physical things are all part of our human experience, but the ‘things’ that gets lost is our spiritual self, our spiritual relationship, our spiritual nature.
As we conclude the Christmas season, let us make sure, for all the gifts given, received, exchanged and returned, that we are certain we start the new year having found Jesus, fresh and new.