Archive for category #repentance
The vision of Isaiah son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah….Hear the word of the Lord, you rulers of Sodom! Listen to the teaching of our God, you people of Gomorrah! What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? says the Lord; I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats. When you come to appear before me, who asked this from your hand? Trample my courts no more; bringing offerings is futile; incense is an abomination to me. New moon and sabbath and calling of convocation— I cannot endure solemn assemblies with iniquity. Your new moons and your appointed festivals my soul hates; they have become a burden to me, I am weary of bearing them. When you stretch out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood. Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your doings from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow. Come now, let us argue it out, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be like snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool. If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land; but if you refuse and rebel, you shall be devoured by the sword; for the mouth of the Lord has spoken. [NRSV]
A Vision of Isaiah
Concerning Period 3 Kings and 1 regent
The period of time is between 790 to 690 BC. Isaiah lead as a prophet through the end of Uzziah into the reign of Hezekiah.
During this period, God’s people of Judah fought with God’s people of Israel and made expedient allies of Syria and Egypt as they needed help. The people shifted for faithfulness to completely selling out to Idolatry with the Canaanites, with King Ahaz made a replica of the idea of Baal in the temple of Judah and made offering go his son’s life to the altar of Molech. Hezekiah finally brings faithfulness back after heading Isaiah’s warning and even invited the Northern Kingdom to celebrate Passover together.
An Argument with God.
First, it’s acceptable to argue with God if you know in the end that God is God and that you and I are not. With that said God is supremely patience, but will, in the end, call us to faithfulness and obedience.
Isaiah’s Account of God side setting up for the argument:
- rulers of Sodom!
- you people of Gomorrah!
- So you talk about the many sacrifices?
- Do You think that your offerings buy my favor?
- Your many holiday and celebrations? I don’t want your songs and gifts.
- Why would I want to be at your good holiday, and you ignore your sin?
- You think you have figured out creation, and use the heavens as a tool to measure and control me?
- You can raise your hands and prayers and songs, I’m not listening.
- If this is how you make religion replace a relationship of trust and obedience, then I don’t want you in my sight.
- Wash yourselves;
- make yourselves clean;
- remove the evil of your doings from before my eyes;
- cease to do evil,
- learn to do good;
- seek justice,
- rescue the trampled, taken advantage of, or forgotten.
When you have done these things, then let’s argue.
The Good News is that when we find ourselves through obedience to God, we find the Goodness in life.
- It is easy to dismiss this passage as history and not hear it applying to ourselves.
- First, as this is presented as God’s Message for the political and spiritual leaders of the day.
- So it is easy to point fingers and blame the king.
- This word does not excuse the king of doing what is Godly.
- Nor does this word excuse US for doing what is Godly and obedient, we can’t blame our leaders for all the sin.
You pick the topic of news, debate, crisis, and threat of this past week alone, and know-how quickly people look for blame. Isaiah’s word is for Judah and Israel. It is for you and for me.
- Stop Blaming
- Stop making excuses
- Stop looking for our own ideas and solutions
- Turn back to God
- Trust God’s Goodness and Word
- Trust God’s will and wisdom
- Trust God’s way and place ourselves as a servant of God and God’s people and will then God will make us the witness to all the nations.
We live more in time like Ahaz rather than Hezekiah. When the world is rejecting God and replacing anything and everything in God’s place, it is no wonder that evil and chaos.
So what are we to do about our nation and our leaders?
We are not only called to
- Repent of our sins,
- Stop acting like knuckleheads
- Start witnesses to those who are
- and be a strength to those who are trampled and taken advantage of.
But not in reverse:
We’d rather just do one or two on the list… but its a process
- It’s not about just serving the oppressed
- It is also dealing with sin, ours and theirs
- It’s not just about talking about forgiveness and change
- it is becoming an actual example of obedience.
The Greatest Park of a Yard Sale
Live Like you are a child of God
- Set your mind on the things of God
- Clothe your spiritual self with Christ’s glory
Live as a Citizen of Heaven
Don’t live like God is busy up in heaven:
- fornication, impurity, passion, (Fulfilling the desires of the body are not eternal.)
- evil desire – Invested and claiming what we declare as good but God does not.
- greed (idolatry). (what we control and how the world values & measures.)
- get rid of all such things–anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive talk.
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.
At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.” He said to them, “Go and tell that fox for me, “Listen, I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my work. Yet today, tomorrow, and the next day I must be on my way, because it is impossible for a prophet to be killed outside of Jerusalem.’ Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! See, your house is left to you. And I tell you, you will not see me until the time comes when you say, “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.’ ” [NRSV]
Jesus Agenda: Casting out evil, Curing the broken, and finishing his work on the third day.
- A fore telling of Jesus’ arrest, conviction and crucifixion are addressed by the disciples and Jesus.Jesus is talking back. Calling Herod by his action, a fox, cunning, callus and calculated. Skills of self preservation for the fox. Jesus’ mission, in Luke’s Gospel, requires him to be back in Jerusalem, positioned for the crucifixion.The Agenda cannot be stopped by Herod or any evil. But that will not stop evil things from happening.KEY:
God’s presence cannot be taking away, but neither are we to expect evil to disappear in the world.Prophet’s Job is Seldom Appreciated.
- Jesus points to the difficult task of being a prophet.The Prophet says nothing new. The prophet reminds us of the rails that our collective train should be running.The Prophet reminds us that God desires up to be with God.Jesus is more than any prophet. Jesus is God showing up first hand, the real deal, the actual.Jesus’s lament is how the necessary role of the prophet has never been without attack and often takes one’s life.We have at least two prophetic voices for our capital city:
I would suggest that our two leading political candidates (S&T) have tapped into the telling the people what the want to be reminded of, but their trains are running in opposing directions. Neither of them claim to be God’s prophets, but folks are desperate for a prophet and will follow until the find the prophet’s flaws or the prophet’s message becomes too personal. Mud-Slinging Campaign: (Interesting to hear from Jesus and John the Baptizer) Herod, was the secular leaders and he was a ‘fox’. The Sanhedrin were the religious leaders and they were a brood of vipers. God desires us to be together.There is a VERY powerful moment of self-disclosure and God’s heart being revealed in these words of Jesus outside of Jerusalem:The Mother Hen and her brood: How I wish my chicks would trust me. (Not just after they are in trouble, not after they are lost to evil, not just when faced with their own mortality, BUT when there was time to “walk together in the garden”) Remember the relationship with Adam and Eve, where God would walk and talk with them face-to-face, and explore the garden along side with them (Gen 3.8)The Prophets role is to remind God’s people of the relationship of Good and Evil. Helping folks remember what side of the fence they are too live.
- Are we people who put God first?Are we a people who put God 2nd or third or last?Are we people who honor our parents and their generation?Are we a people who lie, cheat, steal and murder?Are we people who choose our own agenda or God’s?Are we people who hunger and thirst to be correct or forgivenAre we people who satisfied with God or we want more?Are we people who listen to snakes and foxes?Are we people who will call out what it is evil, broken and diseased?Are we people who will turn to God or Government to define us?
These are the prophet’s questions: What are our answers?The Declaration:Blessed are those who come in the name of the Lord.
Making Life Easier to find and Share God.
In the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was ruler of Galilee, and his brother Philip ruler of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias ruler of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah, “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’ ” [NRSV]
Proclaiming a baptism of repentance.
Acknowledge that we are broken, incomplete and more than physical and mental. We are a spiritual being, created of God with the free choice to do as WE please, or do as God pleases. If we are in charge our time on earth is all we have and we are to blame for our sins and have no provision for relationship or life after death.
If God is in charge of our lives, we are to blame for our sins but God promises to judges us for our sins and Jesus takes the sentence and blame for us, as a sign of God’s love and as a fix/ connection we could not make without God’s help.
I’m the problem. Not someone or something else. I might not be responsible for the whole world, but I’m responsible for my part.
- We live in a time that we confuse being responsible for creation with being responsible to the creator.
- We live in a time where we confuse my will and self-determination and free will with the consequences
- for not using our choice to build a relationship with God and God’s people.
- We live in a time when the church is not seen or known as the presence of Christ, rather an institution of affirmation of our ideals, traditions and behaviors.
Why would I need to say I am broken or incomplete if God has made me?
- Even before I am of age or development to make a choice of my own. You and I lived in a world bent toward selfishness and self-preservation.
- Long before we are aware of choosing what is good from bad, we live in the process of trial and error. We touch the stove and burn and hand and learn we’d rather not experience that again. We push, hit, or raise our voice to get attention, power or response, We validate the influence we have in the world.
- Before I have developed neural synapse memory patterns, I live in a world that is broken and hurting, cut-throat and starving, filled with rich and poor alike.
- Charles and John Wesley fought over the our state of sin. Charles felt are hopeless without any chance of goodness. John said, we have the presence of God’s power and spirit in us that is at work to help us, and while “bent toward sinning” we have the choice to choose God’s help and strength.
To say it most plainly:
If there is one perfection it is impossible for trillions of human beings to individually unique and yet perfect. The reality that we are unique and different, also means that while there is good in us, we are fundamentally missing the “God-part” of our relationship with the world.
- We live in a world where plateaus shift and volcanos erupt and storms swell and the sun bakes, and sinkholes open and asteroids impact. Processes beyond our control and strength.
- We live in a world where people have different abilities and aptitudes. Different skills and perspective. If everyone were given the same resources, we would continue to have rich and poor, different politics and languages, different interpretations, successes and failures.
SO: even we made every good choice as an individual, we are surrounded by broken, selfish folks in a hurting, unfair world. All the more reason to secure God’s blessing and help in being whole, individually and collectively.
Making Easier Instead of More Difficult.
Finally, John’s invitation to repent, is a personal and individual way we can help make our relationship with God and one another better is by intentionally making it easier for ourselves, others and for God to be in our lives.
- Stop making poor choices
- Stop working against God’s will
- Stop justifying both/and living
- Make the path easy and straight for yourself, others and God.
- This is our personal responsibility…
- Start making room for God
- Make time for God
- Extend grace for God’s people, who are also broken and struggling and imperfect
- See the best in each other and not preoccupied with being right, in charge or in control.
It is better not to put millstones around our necks or others, make the world a better place my making room for a relationship with God and God’s people.
So how do we make the path straight?
- Do No Harm
- Do all the Good You Can do
- Practice intentional Spiritual Growth (A Goal for RSUMC to have every member in a small group)
So Advent 2 is a call to prepare by making faith, love and life easier by living straight toward God.
King Herod heard of it, for Jesus’ name had become known. Some were saying, “John the baptizer has been raised from the dead; and for this reason these powers are at work in him.” But others said, “It is Elijah.” And others said, “It is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old.” But when Herod heard of it, he said, “John, whom I beheaded, has been raised.” For Herod himself had sent men who arrested John, bound him, and put him in prison on account of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, because Herod had married her. For John had been telling Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” And Herodias had a grudge against him, and wanted to kill him. But she could not, for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he protected him. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed; and yet he liked to listen to him. But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his courtiers and officers and for the leaders of Galilee. When his daughter Herodias came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests; and the king said to the girl, “Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will give it.”
And he solemnly swore to her, “Whatever you ask me, I will give you, even half of my kingdom.”
She went out and said to her mother, “What should I ask for?” She replied, “The head of John the baptizer.” Immediately she rushed back to the king and requested, “I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.” The king was deeply grieved; yet out of regard for his oaths and for the guests, he did not want to refuse her.
Immediately the king sent a soldier of the guard with orders to bring John’s head. He went and beheaded him in the prison, brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl. Then the girl gave it to her mother. When his disciples heard about it, they came and took his body, and laid it in a tomb. [NRSV]
John the Baptizer
John the Baptizer is best known for pronouncing the arrival of Jesus as the Message and baptizing Jesus in the Jordon river. As a prophet, he is not only preaching to the crowds of ordinary folks. He is also the voice holding the leaders accountable. People throughout the region respected John; some thought he might be the embodiment of the prophet, Elijah, promised from generations ago.
The role of a prophet is to be a messenger reminding people of the things they should already know. Occasionally a prophet will have an apocalyptic message, but it general always followed with, a warning to repent and return to being faithful for God. John the Baptizer is no different.
His message to the king was the same as it was to the people. Repent. Namely John was called out Herod for inappropriate marriage. He married his brother’s wife.
The Herod Family: The Royals, Kardashians and Jerry Springer Meet Billy Graham
Herod’s mother was Jewish, therefore Herod was ½ and Jewish by technicality. He married Herodias after they both divorces their spouses. Herodias, grand-daughter of Alexander the Great, married Phillip who happened to be her uncle. Herodias used her daughter, Salome, to entice and entrap Herod to have John the Baptizer executed for calling the family’s sinful behavior out.
Happy Birthday Dear Herod
The scene is a birthday party: Herod’s birthday party. Herodias uses he brother’s daughter to dance provocatively for her uncle/step-father. Herod is pleased so much that he offers half his kingdom to the child. Salome goes to ask her mother how to best cash-in on the oath of an offer. A pony? A chest of jewels? Her own palace? No, mom has her ask for the head of John the Baptizer. ??Happy birthday to you…Oh dear how dreadful.
So let’s get to the lesson: John the Baptizer calls out the twisted, brokenness on which Herod and Herodias family and relationship are held together. Treachery, murder, divorce, inappropriate re-marriage and abuse of children.
1. No one disputes that John is wrong.
2. Even Herodias knows John is right and holy, she simply does not like what she hears.
3. For calling out the family’s sin, Herodias holds a grudge against John the Baptizer, no forgiveness
4. Herod agrees by his silence and complicit behavior.
5. Herod give his word and will not change his word even when it conflicts with God’s word, (though shall not kill for one.)
6. Herod also listened to John the Baptizer and liked what he heard about repentance, but Herod didn’t hear this for himself and apply the teaching to his own life.
Prophets are ordinary folks who: REMIND people and leaders to be FAITHFUL to God
Being a prophet is risky business.
The People might turn on you, and not listen and follow someone they like better.
The Leader might have you killed.
Question: So who would ever want to be a prophet?
I suggest that God calls each of use to be prophets, at different times. As we study and grow in understanding of God’s laws, guides, grace, love and power in our own lives. When I am selfish, brutish and unforgiving, I experience life without God’s love, power and grace.
We can see the same in others. Because we know the power of God’s word, love and grace we are also entrusted with sharing with other where we see sin, as a warning, not a judge.
- If someone is walking too close to the street from the sidewalk, we say, move to the center before you get hit by that truck.
- If someone is speeding down the highway, we say, hey slow down your might get a ticket and you might kill us if someone stops suddenly in front of us.
- If someone is choose a circular pattern of destructive behavior, habitual abuse, addictions, uncontrolled anger, etc. we say, you need to get some help, you need to see a doctor, you need a counselor, you need to stop and break the cycle. There is better way; you have another choice. God loves you more than you love you. Don’t ever forget it.
When we point out sin with the purpose of sharing a way of repentance, we are not judging, we are affirming that sin power, real and destructive in our lives. We have a way out of sin, Jesus Christ.
We are all guilty of sin. We all have different ways that we put our word, ideas, will and value ahead of God’s. John the Baptizer models a way to get back to God. He is not judging, he his holding up a mirror to see the truth..
We are the mirror people. Why don’t we believe were are all prophets? Because it’s dangerous.
We want hazard pay at best. Ask Jesus. He’s got you covered. Now get out there and call for repentance. They world is going on a hand basket. And Gos is calling us to call out sin, offer repentance and bring people back to God.
- Ideas don’t get hungry
- theories don’t need to eat
- collections of stories and moral teaches don’t need physical nourishment.
- We are more than our physical needs
- We are more than our material posessions
- We are more than the health of these bodies
- We are more than the suffering of this present age
- We are Spiritual people, child of God, joint heirs, brother/sisters with Jesus, God’s people, God’s family.
- Jesus keeps showing up, directing us to OUR purpose.
- We need the signs just like everyone else.
- We need reminding and encouragement
- We need Jesus to show us the same old story because our doubts and fears are real.
- let go
- look away
- taste other fruit
- break the commandments
- are unfaithful individually AND collectively
- THESE are the FAITH STRUGGLES in the OT, NT, and today.
The base and foundation of our relationship is expressed in the Gracious give and take of
REPENTANCE: God loves us so much we know we can ask and God will forgive.
FORGIVENESS: God loves us so much, when we ask, God sees our change of heart and forgives.
We mess us… See list above… and offers of Forgiveness when we repent, turn around.