Archive for category #redemption

Advent2 Mark 1:1-8 “Tying Laces”

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The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. As it is written in the prophet Isaiah, “See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way; the voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,'” John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” [NRSA: Mark 1:1-8]

  • It is interesting that Mark’s gospel begins with Jesus and John the Baptist.
  • The starting point is baptism. John’s invitation was a call for people to repent.

REPENTANCE

Moving spiritually closer toward God requires that we acknowledge our separation from God.

  • Some of the spiritual distance comes from our moving away from God by wilfully choosing what we know to be harmful to others, ourselves, and/or the opposite of God’s best for us.
  • Some come as we allow other relationships and responsibilities to come before God. It is not that the relationship and responsibilities are bad, it is that we look for strength, judgment, discernment from ourselves, or others ahead of God.
  • In this year we have particularly been asked to trust the science, trust the scientists. We appreciate those who devote themselves to using the mind, research, calculations, measurements, and follow the methods and practice of science. But even science is the discovering, understanding, and use of God’s creation. There are those who want science to be void of God and stand as an authority that needs no idea of God, this is not why God has given us the ability to reason, to be self-aware, and to imagine new solutions. If we study at the marvel of God’s creation and not honor that God is greater than our greatest minds, then we create our own God. (commandment #2)
  • Some the gap is created when we choose little, by little, our will over God’s: The fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden was just one piece of fruit. What difference does one tangerine, one apple, one pomegranate make in a garden of plenty?
  • God is gracious to forgive, but our failures to follow God’s direction and call in our daily lives in whatever form reveals the chasm we are from God. (Lazarus and the Rich Man)

John drew crowds of people from all around who came to hear him help them see their weakness and make changes. The sign of this fresh start was given through baptism in the Jordon.

  • Think about a good athletics coach, their job is not to only talk about the good things that the team accomplished, but they spend more time pointing out the problem, potential problems, studying tapes of past problems, assistant coaches to look out for offense and defense, all to make changes to improve each player and the team.
  • Even the very best teams, in every sport and league, are made of players that have mistakes, misjudgments, poor choices, grow weary, break the rules, miss opportunities, don’t score, and lose games and seasons.
  • Repentance is looking at the tapes and seeing where we failed and grace is knowing there are another game and other opponents the next day or week.

SANDALS and SERVANTS

John’s illustration is about a simple task that most everyone in this room and stream has done throughout their lives… tying shoes and sandals.

Do you remember learning to tie shoes? We have a different experience with our footwear. The task of washing feet was the task of the least person of status to prepare people for leaving the dirt of the world in the street and washing the feet to be clean in the house.

There are strong images of baptism in foot washing. Recall how Jesus surprised everyone when he washes the disciple’s feet.

There are several example of sandals, feet, and laces in the old testament:

  1. Gn 14 Abram tells the King of Sodom that he would take even a thread from his sandals so he would be faithful that the Lord’s work provides and not the wealth of other nations.
  2. Dt 25. If a woman’s husband died, her husband’s brother was to take her in and provide a family for her. If he would not, the woman would take offer her sandal and spit in his face.
  3. Ruth 4. If someone took off their shoe and give it to his neighbor, he was disowning their friendship and not welcome them as part of the community.

These three examples cover, tithing, marriage, and care of one’s neighbor, and now baptism. Key themes we weave together through laces.

John’s connection is that the Messiah was so much more qualified, able, AND worthy to look for, follow and trust, that John, himself, was not even worthy to carry his shoes or untie his laces.

The baptism John is offering is a helpful sign of washing away the past to start fresh, but it was only symbolic, and all the ‘work’ and the need to ‘wash’ happens as often in daily life. BUT, Jesus is coming to wash our spirit!

LACES and BETTER FIT

  • When we tie our laces we are drawing together the wide open gaps to a snug fit.
  • When we untie our laces we are making room and setting free our feet for rest and welcome.
  • What can set our spirit free to be fulling God’s People?

John the Baptist:

  • I’m famous, but I am not worthy to set you free,
  • I’m a good coach, but I am not worthy to hold your faith together;
  • I can draw a crowd, but I am not worthy to keep your family safe;
  • I can offer you a valuable message, but I am not worth enough to make you wealthy,
  • I am not able to hold the community together, BUT the Messiah can do all that and more…

Here John Proclaims the coming Good News: Jesus both holds’s us snug in this world and free’s our spirit and makes us both physically and spiritually whole.

  • You and I help each other see our sins and Jesus is the one who saves us
  • You and I care for those who hunger, and Jesus makes our spirit new and full.
  • You and I can do great things, but if we think they are possible without God, we steal the glory
  • You and I cannot do all things, but Christ can.
    • This is who we seek,
    • this is who we trust,
    • this is who we praise.

In this second week we review the tapes from this year’s season and see what we need to repair, renew, and restore… Through this we repent and make ourselves ready to meet Jesus who is our salvation, hope and joy.

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Galatians 3:27-29 Mortar is to Bricks as Christ is to Us

As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise. [NRSA: Galatians 3:27-29]

It is important for us to know some context of this area. More of a recognized state or region of the people who have Greek and Roman heritage. Thus, making it a place of blended culture and religions.

The region in what we now know as central and southern Turkey was in Paul’s time known as the region of Galatia. Historically a Greek formation, the Celts, were later occupied by the Roman empire in our period of the Apostle Paul and his missionary work in this area. It was more than a city, but rather an area with thirteen divisions. It is from the accounts in both Paul’s letter to the Galatians and in Luke’s recording in the Book of Acts, that we learn about this region.

Paul was extraordinarily successful in connecting the know cultures and religions and using those as entry points to show the inadequacies of the local gods with the One, universal God by belief in His Son. Paul is likely to have been building upon some missionary work from Peter and Sillas as his typical approach was to start with the Jewish communities at local synagogues, which were rare in the region of Galatia.

But what of any of this speaks to us?

Paul offers Christ to a diverse and divided culture that has been bouncing through generations of sweeping religious, political, and cultural changes. It is in this context that we see Paul being particularly helpful in transforming devotion into discipleship, and loyalty into faith and belief.

What if the world, the nation? Georgia? North Georgia? Our communities? Or our fellowship was so clothed in Christ, that the first thing we see in one another is Christ.

When you introduce yourself through writing, what is the first detail you would share about yourself?

  • Would it be career?
  • In some type of relationship?
  • Having kids or grands?
  • Would it be gender, or some other physical descriptor?
  • Would it be your hobbies or talents?
  • Most would say it differs by the context.
  1. Facebook: “Human, husband, father, pastor, writer, #humorinlife #foodie #techie #zippermerging #zoomevangelist”
  2. Twitter: “a sinful child saved by Christ, pastor, husband, father, writer, techie, foodie, neighbor, voter looking for humor, and humor in life. clergy.pro
  3. Business Card: “Sharing Christ and the Journey”

And how would you describe Rock Spring in 100 words?

Is their any church that would not consider starting with the words, “We are a friendly church” no matter if we were or were not.

                Many times we are, Sometimes we are not, and sometimes most are friends, but always a handful on any give Sunday are distracted with something else in lives or on their heart.

  • Would we share our missions because we are proud of our accomplishments or how much Christ has done for and through us?
  • Would we list our activities we like or think others would like or how Christ shapes, guides, and challenges us?
  • Would we describe what we enjoy about our worship, or how God is blessed by our praise and fellowship?
  • Would we tell about how easy it is to visit and join, or how much work and devotion it takes to continue growing, serving, and following Christ?

Paul starts reminding the church: You are the baptized in Christ. You are clothed in Christ.

  • Baptism is the sign of our adoption as sons and daughters of God, through and with Christ.
  • Baptism is the moment we celebrate our life being more than our own.
  • Baptism is our joining the family as heirs of the witness, work, and reward that God would bestow.
  • Baptism is our spiritual birth into our heavenly citizenship.
  • Baptism is not just something we hope people have done before they die, it is the belonging-relationship that we celebrate while we are living.

Paul is reminding the church that we are first responders to the fires burning in peoples hearts and minds, we have something better than Kevlar and Nomex, we are clothed with Christ who has died for us and lives for us to be in God, forever.

Paul encourages the church painting the warm quilt of love, faith, and prayer that surrounds us in the cold world, and the from the emptiness of being lost or alone. We are clothes with Jesus Christ who renews and restores and walks with us in all of life and death.

Paul is teaching the church to put on the arm, put on the baptism, put on the quilt, put on the strength, wisdom, and faithfulness of Christ because without it we are wearing the [Emperor’s New Clothes/ ‘naked’] instead that the world is selling as truth, safety, and meaning.

Once we wear the team uniform of Christ we are no longer divided; we become united in Christ.

If we are clothed by opinions, ideologies, data-points, peer-reviewed conclusions: all these change for day to day and as the context and balance of power shifts in the world. We are clothed in the life of Christ, don’t forget, don’t let go, don’t exchange it.

Think of all the descriptors in our lives: We rally around being in different camps: bulldogs, hound dogs, elephants, eagles, tigers, lookouts, Biscuits, owls, gophers, moccasin shoe, pickles, and our family favorite: Mighty, Fighting Okra from Delta State in Cleveland, Mississippi.

We divide up by age groups: Gen Z, Millennials or Gen Y, Gen X, Boomer, WW2ers, Depressists. They all sound terrible. But we try to make generation distinctions to hopefully better understand when we actually labeling and dividing people with names.

The is one race. We are humans. We have different cultures, pigments of skin color, and varieties of traditions and assessments of our identities as individuals and groups. We are all creations of God’s handiwork, created, loved, and saved by God.

  • We have some shared features, but all have different fingerprints, and DNA markers that show God creates, not simply to mass produce, but value us one at a time, here is our weakness and strength.
  • We are free to choose to love God or run from God. But living and seeking God acknowledges our questions, failures and fears and ability, through the grace in Christ, we have a way together, in Christ.
  • We are valued by God both 1) the unique person we are and 2) the whole fellowship we become in Christ.

This week’s realization: The following is not politically bias: In the most recent weeks, I have had more occasions to speak with people who are anti-church, anti-religion, religious in practice-but not thriving in spiritual fruitfulness. I offer a both/and observation. There are flaws in our country, but we continue to be the nation that immigrants desire to leave their home to live. There are divided opinions and bias news surrounding us from every side, but other nations continue to turn to us for support, technology, and protection. There laws that need to be added and improved, but our system of government has built a nation that can welcome, respond, and adapt because it is a both/and relationship: Holding fast to our roots AND continues to amend our flaws.

Paul is telling a region of none Jewish people to believe in a God who is working through the Jew’s messiah, Jesus, God’s Son, to bring hope, meaning, salvation, love, power, grace, and is continuing this work through ALL who are baptized and clothed with Christ. Not destroying the framework but building upon it the work of the church, that whole world may know God through us.

Whether is to church OR state, the foundations have provided the framework, that without it we would not have the opportunities we enjoy today.

  • The State will never love us, only use or appease us.
  • The state will never be our salvation.
  • The State will never die that we might live, rather calling us to suffer for its life.
  • Remember who’s uniform you have been saved to wear?
  • Remember which team that has died for you?
  • Remember it Christ that truly unites us and not common law, identity, or opinion.
  • Be Not afraid, God is with us. Repeat these words of assurance with me: “Be Not Afraid, God is With us!”
  • Don’t let the worldly division sum up your identity or communities. Be those clothed in Christ.
  • Let the world see Christ, just as they have seen your sport team colors and generational style
  • Let the world look to those who are clothed in Christ, as sinners who are made who by Christ.
  • Let the world see God’s presence in the living our faith and sacrifice to follow and grow.
  • Let the world see in this context, this time in history, the eternal love and power of Christ today!
  • Be Not afraid, God is with us. Repeat these words of assurance with me: “Be Not Afraid, God is With us!”

In his letter to the Galatians, he appeals directly to their well-known love of freedom and independence (5:1) and repeatedly contrasts freedom of the spirit through Christ with the slavery offered by pursuing worldly pleasures. He even specifically cites behavior and sins long associated with the Galatians such as jealousy, drunkenness, liberal sexuality, and idolatry (5:19-20) and contrasts these with the freedom from vice and corruption offered by Christianity (5:22-24). His appeals worked well, and the Galatians were converted, exchanging Sabiazos’ and Cybele’s protection for that of Jesus Christ. Herm notes that “the Christian communities under the jurisdiction of the Drunemeton were among the oldest founded” by Paul and Galatia grew into one of the most vital Christian centers of the region (43).

The Galatians by this time were almost thoroughly Hellenized and had further substituted their Celtic-Greco customs with Roman beliefs and attitudes. Christianity replaced their old religion, and the temples were turned into churches. This same paradigm was repeated, with the addition of military force, following the Muslim Invasion of Anatolia in 830 CE when the populace was converted to Islam and churches became mosques. By this time, there was little left of the original Celtic-Greco culture of Galatia. Its name survives today primarily through the biblical epistle of St. Paul and, possibly, the suburb of Galata outside of Istanbul, Turkey. [Mark, J. J. (2019, October 24). Galatia. Ancient History Encyclopedia. Retrieved from https://www.ancient.eu/galatia/%5D

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Romans 11:11-18 Grafted by Grace for a world in Blindness

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Blind by choice, sigh through living faith in Christ

Again I ask: Did they stumble so as to fall beyond recovery? Not at all! Rather, because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious. But if their transgression means riches for the world, and their loss means riches for the Gentiles, how much greater riches will their full inclusion bring! I am talking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch as I am the apostle to the Gentiles, I take pride in my ministry in the hope that I may somehow arouse my own people to envy and save some of them. For if their rejection brought reconciliation to the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead? If the part of the dough offered as firstfruits is holy, then the whole batch is holy; if the root is holy, so are the branches. If some of the branches have been broken off, and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root, do not consider yourself to be superior to those other branches. If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you. [Rom 11:11-18]

Wendy and I recently watch an old classic movie “Mrs Miniver”. If you have not seen it I encourage you to check it out. It’s filmed black and white, but reflects the grey life before World War One in England in a middle class family.

The name sake of the film has a common fellow willing the contest with his rose that he has name name for his friend, Mrs Miniver.

It reminds me of my maternal grandmother. She too was industrious, compassionate, and resourceful like Mrs. Miniver. See loved raising and tending to roses, and often grafts prize roses into existing rose bushes to experiment with many varieties in her very small back yard.

The passage today is about the church being grafted into Jewish roots, through Christ, for the world whole world.

In the lifecycle of church denominations, social perspectives, and upheaval in government, we need to remember BOTH or roots and our opportunities.

Our roots are in Christ, what was the messiah for the Jews and the witness of Grace for the Gentiles. As I child I thought the Gentiles were just another geography group that. Attlee led with Israel, who must have come from the land aNd tribe of “Gentle.”

But Gentiles were not a tribe or separate government, but the category of ‘other’ compared to being Jewish. This there were those who children of Israel, and everyone else.

The olive tree was pruned to the roots and the church became the new branch that was grafted into the witness of God.

Paul’s words in chapter 11 are to both groups. Jews were called to trust and believe Jesus was their Messiah and the small group who did believe were joined with those non-Jewish, none children of Israel, who would now receive the blessing and benefits of the promise of God to Abraham, because they too believed Jesus was not just Messiah, but believed with their hearts that Jesus, is God in the flesh, offering grace and salvation for a future of living in God.

13-15)I am talking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch as I am the apostle to the Gentiles, I take pride in my ministry 14 in the hope that I may somehow arouse my own people to envy and save some of them. 15 For if their rejection brought reconciliation to the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?

A. The new branch, has its life connected through the roots of promise, covenant, and faithfulness.. with the purpose to 1) trust with their hearts, as a 2) witness to BOTH Israel and the world.

B. The pruning of Israel was to make room for where faithfulness would bear fruit.

The prophetic word is that God’s plans will continue, will we be ACTIVELY LIVING, BELIEVING, AND TRUSTING part of the blessing and trust, OR will we be blind to the voices of the world and words of the faith.

The thing I learned about roses from my grandmother is that they need a great deal of nature and pruning. The basic bush would serve as the foundation of most any variety, but without pruning the old root would show return and graft would fade without continual growth and maturing.

Long after she moved from that house I returned and looked in the back to see if the roses were still there. None of the prize roses, in the wild runner were twisted thick together along the fences.

The message for us has two parts. Are we serving as the old stump for what is God is doing and Are we pruning that which is not glorifying God?

Most directly: we have two tasks 1) are we staying connected to the foundation of our faith, are we still trusting Christ promises and expectations, and 2) are we growing toward God’s witness in the world or just taking up nutrients from those who are bearing fruit for the kingdom of God?

What does that look like in my life: 1) we can’t be part of Christ’s work and be separated from scripture. And 2) we neither can we stay the way things were NOR male things our way just be different.

Here is the test? How are we reconciling the holding in to Christ with the call of the Spirit to follow as the wind?

How are we both holding fast and living grounded in God AND responding to an ever changing world in need of salvation and redemption?

The basics: we hold one hand in the hand and heart of God through Christ, while we extend the other to show and live for the world that faith in world that seeks salvation, wholeness, and answers that it will only satisfy when they too are connected to God, through us.

The problems we will face:

1. No matter who wins the election the division, hatred, and condemnation of our neighbors is incompatible with our faith in Christ.

2. No matter how the general conference votes next year, we are called to stand firm in God, with a world that is running from God and from each other.

3. No matter what we hear that we consider to be “news” it is incomplete and empty without the Good News of God’s grace in Christ.

4. The unity’s that God seeks is not by worlds measure, but by being United in God’s promises, blessing, and salvation.

Anything less than these and we too risk being blinded, hateful, divided, excluded,and lost.

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