Archive for category Resurrection People
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.
..but the people became impatient on the way. The people spoke against God and against Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we detest this miserable food.” Then the LORD sent poisonous serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many Israelites died. The people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned by speaking against the LORD and against you; pray to the LORD to take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. And the LORD said to Moses, “Make a poisonous serpent, and set it on a pole; and everyone who is bitten shall look at it and live.” So Moses made a serpent of bronze, and put it upon a pole; and whenever a serpent bit someone, that person would look at the serpent of bronze and live. [NRSV]
The snakes remind us that Moses and the Hebrews were in the wilderness. They were not in their regular place of what now seems like comfort and ease. (Even though the we slaves and had no freedom, they were given food and had regular shelter and a general sense of privacy and home.) In the Wilderness there were no comforts, no food lines, no house, no bed, and snakes. Remembering the scene in Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark, he and heroin, Marion, they are lowed into the Well of Souls where there were countless asps, lethal vipers in every direction.
“Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?” *Getty Image
Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford): “Snakes. Why did it have to be snakes?”Indiana Jones: (Passing a torch) “Take this. Wave it at anything that slithers.” Marion: “Thanks. Oh, my God! This whole place is slithering!”
Whether your comfort level is high or low, snakes are the villain from Adam and Eve, to Ka and Mogli, to Harry Potter and Nagini, to the numerous Snakes on an airplane. So it is, they remain a symbol of threat, danger, fear and evil.
One of the most common complaints about God from those who are outside the faith, is that if God is so loving and knowledgable when would God allow evil to harm God’s chosen people? Why do bad things happen to God’s people? Why would a loving God send snakes out to punish grumbling people? Thing how faithfully the Hebrews had done following Moses out of Egypt and traveled in the Wilderness, shouldn’t they at least be allowed some room to complain when the conditions are less than usual and a good bit uncomfortable?
Think about the Wilderness of the world today, don’t we deserve some special protection if not some comforts… The catch is Moses promised them a land of freedom. But that does not mean a freedom from struggle. Even God shows God’s desire and willingness to work six of seven days.
God charges Moses with the task of “Making a poisonous snake” and place it on a pole. I don’t suppose Moses was suppose to make a live poisonous snake? He makes one of bronze and puts it on a pole, and it become a restorative tool of resurrection and resuscitation from those who are bitten by the servants in the wilderness.
God does not stop the snakes from bitting. God does not scare off the snakes and prohibit them from threatening the people. People are still painfully bitten and suffer the affects of poison, but there are offered a remedy… resurrection, as their healing salvation.
Evil is a real power and it causes us pain and suffering. But we have a remedy, we hav a cure, we have Salvation in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ!
The lesson is that we face the painful bite of fear, struggle, pain and death as people of God, but God has a sign that is our salvation: It is found in the resurrection of Christ, raised up on the cross for the world to see, that death no longer is the end. But never everyone is forced to look to God for the salvation.
So what do we do with this passage in our wilderness?
Where is evil biting us?
What is it that threatens our lives?
What brings fear into our sleepless nights?
What worry do we carry to school and work and home each day?
We have a sign::
We have more than a sign, we have a living SAVIOR
not made of bronze, not written in words, not limited to our minds and calculations
Where there is evil in our hearts and the world there will w user and know loss and pain, but there is a hope God will save us, restore us and make us new.
May that day come soon and may we trust God every day until that da comes.
The next day the great crowd that had come to the festival heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord— the King of Israel!” Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it; as it is written: “Do not be afraid, daughter of Zion. Look, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt!” His disciples did not understand these things at first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written of him and had been done to him. [NRSV]
The words of praise. Hurray! Glory! Wonderful! come to mind, but this is a more unique word that Hebrew and recorded in Jesus’s native Aramaic. It is a phrase word. Just as the folks from Athens, GA might say: “How ‘bout them Jackets” (haha, twist intended) it would be a celebratory “Glory, Glory to ole Georgia.” If these phrases were encapsulated into a word we would the idea of ‘Hosannah”
Hosanna began as Lord, God Save us! and through the Gospel’s has come to mean, Highest Praise, who has saved us. So their use of the original context is twisted with the early church’s use of the old testament word.
So we have Palm Sunday as a pre-celebration that Jesus coming into the world, and in our hearts and lives, is the celebration of our salvation.
Which means if Jesus does not come to the world, to our heart, and to our town, then we are NOT saved. Here in is theological of preparing for a life as Easter People.
We usually only read this passage as an observer of a historical event, but it is shared in the Gospels as Good News and not just historical newspaper clippings.
Hosannah: Jesus has saved me, even though we celebrate the death on Good Friday and the Resurrection of next Sunday as Easter, we look at this story of entry into the city as a necessary part of the process.
We prepare for Easter knowing it is our victory march! The ASSURANCE of what WILL be and not just hope of what MIGHT be.
The disciples did not gather to get Creighton’s Florist to order dozens of palms to be ordered, the palms were a response from the people who are making a traditional sign of welcoming the king.
This is a difficult time for us to respond in unison with any unifying act of praise and celebration because we have become a culture of suspicion, rebellion and divided support.
Some might hope, in our country that the “Stars and Stripes” would be an obvious rally flag. For some, it an illicit political protest.
I hope that you will do the spiritual work to see that the people might have divided reasons for welcoming Jesus as King.
Some who were in the crowd that day had experienced Jesus teaching, healing or miracles, while others knew only the oppressive Roman rule, and still, others were supporting glorious days of kings of the past hoping for the revival of political greatness.
Bottom line the palms are unifying symbols of many different individual reasons, some helpful and some dangerous.
Why a donkey’s colt?
Jesus came to town with is Colt? Would mean have met the expectation of many who were hoping for a new sheriff to clean house and restore order. When in fact, Jesus comes in humility to spiritually reorder the whole world and all time.
Think of the Jesus riding in a church parade. If this were a political parade there would have been legions of soldiers, a banner of the empire and emblems of Cesear. This is a church parade. Not everyone entered a float, but the people respond as if it is a political, flag-waving event.
Jesus rides in, not in a BEAST of an armored car, not on the back of a convertible, not even proud Clydesdale stallion. It’s more like he rides in on a pickup truck, not a four-door, HEMI, but a simple work truck.
But the symbol for some would be as if the self-proclaimed president was riding in ‘on’ a smart car. You know that Consumer Reports does not the rate the “Smart Car” in their rating in a polite way of saying: “If you can’t say something good and helpful, don’t say anything at all.”
The palms and praises are the people’s response, Jesus message is the spiritual work that is being completed through the events of the week at hand. We call it Holy Week, but it is the week when everything we hold dear is lost and hope is out of our grasp… Oh, how we long for Easter, Salvation, Life, and Christ!
Wave OUR palms because we need to lead others out of hopelessness, fear, and sin into the joy that aways through the journey at hand.
This is what we share, this is why we praise, this is why we are the church, we are Christian, not for ourselves, but for OUR collective hope in the ONE who does save us. This week of Journey is the toughest part. Reach out to one who is in the hardest part o that spiritual and physical journey sharing the hope and joy that we KNOW is coming soon!
Again the call is to share the journey with those who cannot see this week is holy.
From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.” But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.” Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life? “For the Son of Man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay everyone for what has been done. Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.” [NRSV]
Making Disciples: What is a life worth?
A very difficult thing asked of me was after mom’s death, from being hit in a head-on car accident was to give a value of her life. The attorney asked my brother and me, what was the value of mother’s life for the court case. To come up with a number for the judge. The determination was to be made on what her contributions to the common good would be. The value of her reading to middle school students, mentoring graduate school students, visiting in prison ministry, writing Sunday school lessons, volunteering at her church, and the impact would have a neighbor and citizen. If one were compensated for volunteering at a reasonable rate a figure could be determined for the projected number years she would likely live to serve and that number came to roughly $200,000. But was that value of her life? The young man who drove his uninsured luxury car into her had no assets, and his family had twenty-six previous suits against them, so the final assessment of her life was valued at 1000 hours of community service and no dollars. Is that justice? Is this how God measure our lives? For me, it was a life lesson about the misplaced value of one’s life.
What is your life worth to God?
- You are worth the life of his only child,
- You are worth designing energy, matter, gravity, physics, and mathematics,
- You are worth sharing a relationship with God.
- God has paid for our life, but does not force us to pay God back,
- God offers a way to joy, peace, and wholeness, yet wants us to want to appreciate, trust and follow.
- God says your life is worth it all, hoping you will choose the life God paid for you to live.
The journey of our life is about what we do with the time we have: Choosing God or humanity as our highest goal.
Discipleship: It Ain’t Easy
- Peter declares: God forbid it to be difficult, hard, challenging, unpleasant or demanding
- Jesus responds, Get away your evil thoughts away from me.
- It is evil lived from only a human point of view.
Remembering we are Spiritual People in a Physical Incubator.
There are times that we make following Jesus even harder,
this is a charge against the church if we hold the keys and call the shots for what it means to follow, then there is room for abuse
Jesus models choosing God’s call for his life or the voice of emotions and reason alone.
Peter says: Don’t take the hard path, choose the path most traveled.
Sometimes things get in the way of our best plans:
A story about a country farmer who had a mule with blocked-up plumbing, he called the new veterinarian in town to come help. The young vet had a bottle of large laxative pills that modeled the phrase, ‘horse pill’ that was fast acting and guaranteed to unstop the most stubborn gastric stoppages. He found a long piece of pipe with a contraption to secure one end into the mouth of the mule and the other end he would insert the pill and make certain the pill went right to work. He secured the pipe and straps around the mule, added two horse pills, took a deep bread, but the ass blew first.
Jesus calls Peter a stumbling block
setting one’s mind on human things instead of divine things
Pray right now!
ACTION: “Lord, forgive me for being a stumbling block..”
- Disciples recognize that life devoted to Jesus is greater than the life we can make without him. (justice)
- Disciples recognize that life is a gift and God gives us a choice to use our life as we choose. (freedom)
- Disciples recognize God desires good for us but does not force God on us. (meaningful relationship)
- Disciples recognize that a good life is not measured by having stuff, or a comfortable life. (worth/value)
- Disciples recognize God is willing to follow the choice we are called to make. (sacrifice)
Choose God’s self over the self you choose
To follow God is to find:
- meaningful relationship,
- worth, value and
in 2017 We live in mountain top period of thinking that is human focused.
- What is best for humanity, the majority, the minority
- What is best for me and those like me
- My right and the right of others to choose what it good and right
- It’s my life, my decisions, my definition, my right, my understanding, my dream, my ideal
When we exclude God or even allow God to slip into second place, we choose with the best of humanity has to offer, but without the love, wisdom, grace, and power of God.
When hearing this when others say things like: (Human limitations)
- Love me or accept me for choosing myself
- It is my life, my will
- Accept me for choosing my own way,
- Accept me for believing the common denominator is our safest place.
- Shame on you for not accepting my choice made from my perspective.
The court of public opinion may have the majority of human perspective and still miss the mind and heart of God.
Peter, one of Jesus’ chosen, is telling Jesus,
you know what is best for yourself,
we don’t want to see you suffer
You have God powers, just zap trouble out of your way,
The Heart of the passage: Losing and Finding
finding ourselves in following Jesus
The Journey of sharing our faith is affirmed where our trust, faith, and allegiance is grounded.
Faith means we see that for all you and I can do, we never can do enough on our own
Trust God means we know we are awesome creations with great minds and dreams, but without God death is our worst limitation.
Walking with Christ, we bring together the best of being human into a relationship with God.
Choosing a different path is ends in trusting what is evil, broken, limited, empty and apart from God.
How many people do you know today who have:
evil rules in their lives?
experience brokenness in their bodies, relationships, minds, and hearts?
find themselves living at the limits or out of bounds on a daily basis?
someone who feels lost and empty and distant from God and God’s people?
These are the people who need the gift of Christ that guides us..
- Step one for today: Pray that I am not a stumbling block. (At least don’t let me lead someone astray)
- Step two for today: know it is a daily choice to walk with Christ ourselves
- Step three for today: acknowledge it is not easy, and we need Christ to lead, bless, carry, push and call us on.
Let’s get to the journey today
Matthew 13:31-33; 44-52
He put before them another parable: "The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches." He told them another parable: "The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened."
44 "The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. "Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it. "Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and caught fish of every kind; when it was full, they drew it ashore, sat down, and put the good into baskets but threw out the bad. So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous and throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. "Have you understood all this?" They answered, "Yes." And he said to them, "Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old. [NRSV]
Jesus the parable painter
- Mustard seed
- Treasure hidden
Every story is a out the same thing. The kingdom of Heaven. Billy Graham preached for all his years and always the same sermon: Jesus Christ and him crucified fir our sins.
Parables train us for what is new and old.
Scripture through the eyes of
Not any one or two of the other.
The Old is the scripture the new is the contemporary context. Jesus is giving the new as examples of the old
Jesus is establishing building blocks: look at the pieces.
The kingdom of heaven is larger and with more purpose then we can imagine
The kingdom of heaven spreads and transforms whatever it comes in contact with
The kingdom of heaven is worth security and investing in pursuing
The kingdom of heaven is something to be searched for and pursued and is worth more than what we have
The invitation to the kingdom of heaven is open to a home but not everyone will find it is their home for eternity.
The kingdom of heaven:
1. TKoH is more than we expect
2. TKoH is to be shared
3. TKoH is worth the journey
4. TKoH cost everything
5. TKoH is open to all but all will not find it home
- begins here and now
- Is found when we share it
- Is the labor of our life
- Is priceless
- Some will give it up
Is Gods Heavenly Kingdom
- Something you are experiencing
- Are you Sharing it
- Is your life devoted to loving God completely more than thinking God correctly
- Are you at home in God, with the People of God now?
Bottom line: get to
- giving & sharing
- loving & trusting
- Building & doing and
- worshiping & growing
Or else (Parables can kick us in the butt)
- You just have a seed stuck in you shoe
- You just have the ingredients but no cake
- You just have treasure but never use it
- You just stay busy without joy
- You talk and think but are like the grass that withers when it dies.
So then, brothers and sisters, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh— for if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ—if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.
I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.
We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. [NRSV]
We are Spiritual
- Children of God
- Living to fulfill/follow the Spirit
- Preparing to inherit God’s kingdom
We Suffer Spiritually
- Comparing Physical and Spiritual
- I’m only human, I’m just a man/woman/child is not our spiritual excuse
- We live in hope of being set free from suffering
Groaning of Labor Pains
- The mixed blessing of suffering for the gift of life.
- Groaning inwardly in anticipation of adoption
- Trusting hand hoping in what is known but not seen
- Acknowledge the reality of suffering and Labor of faith
- Call for encouraging the children of God
- Hold one another and our self in patience.
- Know it is struggle to live in the Spirit
- Know we are not alone nor forgotten
- Trust God who loves, saves and call us is worth the work and waiting.
“A disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above the master; it is enough for the disciple to be like the teacher, and the slave like the master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household! “So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known. What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops.
Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. And even the hairs of your head are all counted. So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.
“Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven; but whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in heaven. “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. [NRSV]
We know too well many ways to ignore, reject, and avoid sharing our faith and allowing others into our faith journey. This passage warns us of the consequences of pushing others away. Don’t tell folks to talk to the hand, share the hand of Christ who loves, saves and calls us into life together.
Acknowledging Jesus is With Us
- Talking About who Jesus was, is and will be is the easiest and beginning point of our promise to Witness Jesus Christ.
- Learning the stories, details, and information about Jesus is the foundation, but it is only our starting point.
- More people stop at this place and find know many things about Jesus something of which to be proud and comfortable
- Example: you and I might know many stats and details about a person who plays a sport and many seasons of many players, but that never assumes that we are on the field ourselves. But knowing the rules, stats and stories are a place to begin to connect.
Acknowledging Jesus Saves Us
- Developing a Relationship with Jesus begins in a relationship with the people of Jesus’s body, church folks.
- We live in a an era where we have to earn the respect and opportunities to share the church’s message.
- No longer can we assume we have a voice in the community.
- No longer can we take a pass waiting for someone to ask us about Jesus
- No longer can we bemoan or complain about how easy the church once had a central role.
- Now is the time for the church to rekindle and reclaim that faith story of salvation, hope, and love we assume the world knows, trusts and believes.
Acknowledging Jesus is Shaping Us
- The Good News is acknowledging Jesus is not a regurgitating of historical information to a lost and hurting world.
- Acknowledging Jesus is giving the invitation to join in a spiritual journey where the answers unfold along the way.
- Acknowledging Jesus is seeking Jesus’s story is woven through our story.
- Acknowledging Jesus is finding our role is leading others to follow, as we follow Jesus.
- Acknowledging Jesus is placing our purpose in the heart of the one who died and lives for our present and our future.
I challenge you to acknowledge Jesus Today
- Find someone here today and practice: Tell how you become a follower of Jesus,
- Tell someone why you continue to grow as a following of Jesus
- Confess a struggling place you fail without Jesus’s saving help.
- Give someone the opportunity to give their brokenness, emptiness, questions, doubts, and fear to Jesus.
Together we find ourselves in sharing ourselves in Christ. This is the daily work:
- Lord, I am broken without you, Save me again today,
- lead me in your work even though I don’t deserve or even know how to start again,
- I recognize, affirm, acknowledge, proclaim and accept, you complete me. Make me yours
- Make us restore us in the ways you have worked, hoped and created us to become.
- Go Repeat, share and lead others
Sermon Broadcast: Remote from Culebra, PR on Facebook on the RSUMC FB page on 20170610 at 9am and 11am EST.
In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day. And God said, “Let there be a dome in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.” So God made the dome and separated the waters that were under the dome from the waters that were above the dome. And it was so. God called the dome Sky. And there was evening and there was morning, the second day. And God said, “Let the waters under the sky be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.” And it was so. God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good. Then God said, “Let the earth put forth vegetation: plants yielding seed, and fruit trees of every kind on earth that bear fruit with the seed in it.” And it was so. The earth brought forth vegetation: plants yielding seed of every kind, and trees of every kind bearing fruit with the seed in it. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, the third day. And God said, “Let there be lights in the dome of the sky to separate the day from the night; and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years, and let them be lights in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth.” And it was so.
God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars. God set them in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth, to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day. And God said, “Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the dome of the sky.” So God created the great sea monsters and every living creature that moves, of every kind, with which the waters swarm, and every winged bird of every kind. And God saw that it was good. God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” And there was evening and there was morning, the fifth day. And God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures of every kind: cattle and creeping things and wild animals of the earth of every kind.” And it was so. God made the wild animals of the earth of every kind, and the cattle of every kind, and everything that creeps upon the ground of every kind. And God saw that it was good. Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.” So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.” God said, “See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so. God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day. Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all their multitude. And on the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that he had done in creation. [NRSV]
The Core of our faith is God.
The creation account in Genesis chapter 1 teaches us three things about God. Intentionality is Love, Purpose is Order and Order is to share that relationship of God.
I will go and prepare a place for you, if it were not so I would have told you. Jesus describes to the disciples and early followers that God’s ongoing purpose is to prepare a place for us. The story of the promised land is a story of the grand adventure of God preparing a place for us to be in relationship. The story of the garden of Eden is witness of God preparing a place for us to be in relationship. The story of Jesus’s death and resurrection is a witness the God is committed to doing whatever is necessary to give us a path, access, to a relationship.
No matter how much emptiness and chaos, God chooses to prepare and order a place for us.
God orders relationship.
I will have a side of fries with that. God speaks and calls for a physical, tangible place as preparation for being with us.
It is through this very passage, in Monterrey, Mexico in the summer of 1983, while on a mission trip at the John Wesley Seminary, that God revealed a call to create a relationship for ministry in my life.
I can’t say that it was orderly. I was struggling down a path to become a pharmacist. Can you picture me sitting quietly behind a counter, wearing a white lab coat, in the basement of hospital or as the drive-in window of a Walgreen’s/ CVS? A life spent orderly counting pills, filing insurance forms and dealing with hospital or retail bureaucracy and politics? Why was I ever interested in such a career?
First it paid a respectable wage and I loved Dr “Red” Connelly.
Through much prayerful reflection and a specific night in a worship service, staring at a 100 watt light bulb, what had compelled me to love the job, was the person and personal ministry of Dr Connelly. It was not running a store that inspired me, it was the conversations over the counter, the listening to a hurting words and offering a response of hope, compassion and healing that reflected God’s presence through his vocation. It was not the job, it was the relationship.
God is about Good Order
Looking at the brokenness, failures, emptiness and chaos in our lives we see things through the eye of disappointment, defeat, regret, anger, shame and others. None of these bring order, peace and the type of relationships that make us whole or joyful.
God is very intention about, not only bringing order, but structure that is filled with cycles, processes, systems, and inter-connected relationships.
When we are around someone who is ordered by brokenness we feel the physical, emotional, financial and others feelings of being drained. There is never enough money to fix, there is never enough words to comfort, the are never enough things falling into order, that open us to the wholeness and goodness that God has given for us.
In all of creation, God names it’s purpose: Goodness
God orders dark and light, day and night, earth and heavens, fish, animals and people for the purpose of Goodness. Every story of sin and brokenness in the Bible and in our lives reveals how we take what is ordered for Good and use it for what is not Good/evil.
God alone can take what is broken and evil and make it into Goodness.
When the world takes was is Good, sees it as a threat.
When the world takes what is Whole and crucifies it to prove point
When the world takes what is God’s love, and turns it into order without live
The God of creation
Order’s Wholeness and
The complexity of creation
The building blocks of mathematics, physics and energy
The charge and challenge to subdue, have dominion and feast on Christ
Creation and all that orders it and the reason to suggest that none of it has meaning, purpose or intentionally, reveals that God continues longing for us to chose a relationship of Goodness.
So what is the relationship of Goodness?
All these gifts of God are good when they direct us to a relationship with God.
When they do not we sin, twist the purpose and celebrate chaos.
If your give your child or grandchild a puzzle, you hope they will find both challenge and joy developing motor skills, perspective and proportional reasoning, the benefits of trial and error and you want them to have fun in the process.
If instead they use it as a material to start fires, they have missed the fuller gift.
If you gift your child or grandchild a sum of money you hope there will learn to make wise choices about saving, investing and making value judgements of Goodness. you know they will often make poor choice, but if you never teach them and they never ask for instruction, why would we expect them to choose the good use of your gifts?
We know too well about making poor choices: concerning money, health, relationships, time, energy or strength.
God has given gifts, words and Spirit to teach us.
If we throughout the instructions because we want to do it on our own, then we rely on chance that our way is God’s good way. We are 99.9999% likely to choose poorly.
The story of creation in Chapter one is a faith account of intention, purpose and challenge.
Chapter two reveals how quickly we choose what is not Good, what is not God, and the consequences effect us and others, immediately and eternally.
Here the Good News
God has created for Good for us. God has not given up, even if the rationalist, the political community, and the fear-filled folks have:
The basic instruction is to use the gifts around us for God.
Guide the relationships around us, toward God and Good will complete us.
Guide our relationship around ourselves, and Good will be farther from us, hidden.
Everyday life, outside garden
More days are work days, days to rest in God are more rare.
The ratio of 6:1 is an interesting idea.
52 days of rest and 313 days of work each year.
God is investing a work of Goodness that we might meet God, heart to heart
God is gifting us in the struggle that connects 1/7th of the time.
We think perfection is wholeness. striving to be the best..
The best place to be is in the heart of God’s goodness.
You don’t have to rich, smart, short or tall, fat or thin, young or old, you and I DO have to be in God to find this goodness.
Work on it six times to hear it the seventh.
Lector Divina: Re-reading to hear the text in different ways: What if you committee to listen and reading this passage seven times today. You will be six times more likely to hear it’s message.
But who wants to give the time?
God does. This is the goodness. God is faithful to the order and process of a relationship of Good shared with us.
- Revealed in Creation
Revealed in Resurrection
Revealed today in Spirit and fellowship as the church.
I thank you for the support and prayers to take part in mission trip and to share this word from Genesis today. This verse interrupted my life 34 years ago and it continues to reconnect me to God’s call upon outlives.
- God creates to show us love
God orders to give us a path/process to follow
God waits to meet us on the road, even while we are yet sinners.
God longs for us to find our peace, rest and heart resting in God’s heart.
We come to Culebra tardy to share this love with neighbor in PR and in RS.
Look what God has done for us,
Let us find our rest in him, together.
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.