Archive for category #rsumc

Matthew 15:10-28 Feed the ‘Dogs’

DogScrapsThen he called the crowd to him and said to them, “Listen and understand:  it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but it is what comes out of the mouth that defiles.” Then the disciples approached and said to him, “Do you know that the Pharisees took offense when they heard what you said?”  He answered, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted.  Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. And if one blind person guides another, both will fall into a pit.”  But Peter said to him, “Explain this parable to us.”  Then he said, “Are you also still without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth enters the stomach, and goes out into the sewer? But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this is what defiles. For out of the heart come evil intentions, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile.”  Jesus left that place and went away to the district of Tyre and Sidon.  Just then a Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.” But he did not answer her at all. And his disciples came and urged him, saying, “Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” He answered, “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus answered her, “Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed instantly. [NRSV]
The story is about is clean and acceptable to God and what is not.

Clean and Neat

I once had a local barber who said his hairstyles were guaranteed to make one “clean and neat.” He also loved buzz-cuts and flat-tops and used his Georgia Tech degree to talk about subjects far above the heads of most customers who had never even dreamed about anti-matter, black holes, and general relativity.
The teaching moment from Jesus would say to my old barber that God is not concerned with our hairstyle or any physical or cultural context.
Rather, what is acceptable is measured by our words and actions.

A Timely Teaching

This passage is important to hear in our hypersensitivity to politics, racism, and contextual priorities.
The debate and argument, in these exchanges, contain (1) racial-cultural division,  (2) accusations of fundamentalist theologies, and (3) challenging questions about who is correct.

(1) Racism/Culture

The story is interrupted by a Canaanite woman (double challenge: the descendants of Cain and a woman) The division between the Jews and the Canaanites were a polorized as any today.
The role of women is transformed in the Gospel as God works through women as often as men to reveal, teach and serve.

(2) Accusation of Fundamentalism

This woman comes to Jesus requesting healing for her daughter and hears Jesus say she was not going to have her prayer granted and for her to leave his presence. He declares that his mission was more important than the people. His response is that he had not come to work with the Canaanites. His mission was to the Jews. Those who were connected to Cain were cursed from generations before. (Why so harsh? hang on we are getting there in a moment)

(3) Who is correct in the Context?

Wouldn’t it be great to get a clear judgment these days about who is right and who is wrong? Is it the conservatives or the progressives? Is it the rich or the poor? Is it the wise or foolish? Is it the needed or the greedy?
Jesus is clear on the counts of culture, mission, context, and purpose:
Some folks will not be healed,
some will not have prayers answered,
some will be rejected and some sent away.
(As hard as that is, feels or sounds: This message confirms that some are defiled.)

What Defiles, what makes us unacceptable?

  • evil intentions:
    • Wishing, work and hoping that evil will come to another. “I wish he were dead, gone, out.”
  • murder:
    • Willful taking of life, and the neglect of loving one’s enemy
  • adultery:
    • Disregard of marriage and family covenants
  • fornication:
    • Misplaced use of our sexuality
  • theft:
    • Taking what does not belong to us, taking advantage of the system
  • false witness
    • Speaking in ways that protect ourselves over what is true in the eyes of God.
  • slander
    • Discrediting our enemy and our neighbor instead of loving and encouraging them.

CONTEXT:

Jesus and the Disciples change their context, leaving the region of Tyre and Sidon and in Canaan, they are confronted with a woman who challenges the words of the teaching with faith and persistence.
Q: What has she done that defiled her that would warrant Jesus’ rejection of her request and her presence:
She comes asking for healing, for her child, recognizing the power and authority of Jesus, she comes from a different culture, gender, and no apparent charge by Jesus of her behavior being unacceptable. The rejection is on theological and missional grounds:
You’re not Jewish, You’re not in the plan, You are not the right gender, You are not at the right time.
The transforming moment comes when she expresses her faith and trust in God.
All I need is a crumb.
All I need is a mustard seed.
All I am is one lost sheep.
Lord have mercy on me a hungry sinner in need of a crumb of the bread of life.
Recognition: Even in our different back stories, Jesus’s measure is faith.
Recognition: Even in poverty, what we need is Jesus more than fairness.
Recognition: God’s plan changes on the side of including the faithful, not just the poor.
Recognition: Faith is measured by the persistence of staying in the conversation, at the table.

Here are the power questions to answer honestly:

Are the polarized messages you and I hear about what divide us questions about what someone deserves or acknowledgments of what God can do?
In the stories of what persons of different races, culture, gender or economics bring to the conversation about how wrong and evil the establishment is or how possible healing and transformation are for God?
In the story is the woman trying to receive justice or give witness to her trust in God?
In the example is the woman trying to demonize and prove how evil others are or is she calling on God to show up where faith is present?
In this passage, what defiles: the faith we hold in our hearts and minds or the persistence in which we voice it on behalf of those who are lost, dying, broken and alone?

Our society has it all backward:

  1. It is not about having the correct ideas in our heads, it is about having trust in God in our requests.
  2. It is not about putting down the establishments, leaders, and systems, it is about telling the world how to trust God to show up.
  3. It is neither about being made whole,
  • fair nor equal, it is about the power of God at work in the crumbs, in the small things,
  • in the daily bread, in the hourly actions, in moments of our real actions.
  • in the hourly actions, in moments of our real actions.
  • in the every moment of our real actions.

Take Away:

We are defiled when our actions and words DO NOT reflect God’s power and presence.
Even if it is only daily crumbs, let God be our persistent trust.
When the woman asks for a mustard seed of what God can do, Jesus celebrates her faithfulness.
All the slander, divisions, false witness, evil intentions, murder, theft, disregard for covenants and responsibilities and the passionate preoccupations with vilifying our enemies: leaves us mistaking passionate lip service instead of actions of trusting God.
  • When you hear evil, divisions, and fear: This is our call to trust God.
  • When you are tempted to join in the tradition divisive agenda: Trade that for a crumb of faithful trust.
  • When you see, read words of hate and separation: Persistently remind yourself and all others what God can do.
And Jesus will praise our faithfulness, heal our brokenness and make us whole in grace.

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Assurance 1 Peter 1:3-9 Benefits of Faith

assurance

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who are being protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.  In this you rejoice, even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials,  so that the genuineness of your faith—being more precious than gold that, though perishable, is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.  Although you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy,  for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. [NRSV]

SALVATION

  • Kept in heaven,
  • protected by the power of God
  • an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled and unfading

SUFFERING and SUFFERING for our faith

  • You will know trials for a little time, but God’s salvation forever.
  • This is one of the most difficult to accept parts: God doesn’t make it any easier on us than the next person.
  • God doesn’t make it any easier on us than the next person.
  • Living as a person of faith means:
  • Knowing you are ultimately love and valuable to God who gives us breath, lives, love and hope.
  • Choosing God’s ways AS our ways
  • Choosing God’s way as our ways when the world says, begs, models challenges us otherwise.
  • EXAMPLES

FAITH TESTED BY FIRE

  • Faith is more precious than gold
  • Love without Seeing
  • Genuiness of faith rather than Successfulness of FAITH
  • Faith is expressed in Praise, Glory, and Honor

ASSURANCE of REWARD

  • Rather than cut each other down, be challenged to live one another up.
  • Rather than focus on the loss in the moment, look to the hope in eternity
  • Rather than be devastated in the current disappointments, know Jesus is readily available to restore and renew us living as a commitment.

Athletes: commit to

Scouts: Getting it done and completing the task

Work: Doing what no one wants to do builds character and strengthen the team bond

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Colossians 3:1-4 Easter: Hidden with Christ

Lemonade
Colossians 3:1-4
So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth,  for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.  When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory. [NRSV]

Revealed in Christ

To be Raised with Christ
The story of Jesus’ death and crucifixion occurs during the celebration of Passover. At a time the Hebrew community is celebrating and reclaiming what it meant to be chosen people, a saved people, a protected people, and a chosen people. Jesus, the Son of God, is revealing the truth and heart of God, and becomes the Passover lamb, without the approval of those threatened by Jesus in the first place.
The power of the Passover celebration was confirmed and experienced when the family of faith, 1) gathered under the sign of the blood on the door of the lamb that was slain, The lamb was to be quickly roasted because they were to leave quickly out of Egypt. The bones of the lamb were not to be broken and when ready to be eaten, the whole family was to eat of the flesh.
The covenant is sealed in the eating of the flesh and drinking of the cup. God provided a salvation but not until the people gathered under the sign of God’s grace and eat the sacrificed meal, did they confirm to God and one another they this gift of grace is something they wanted personally.
The people could have ignored God’s grace and found the consequences of not eating, drinking and sharing in God’s table of promise.

The Big Change in the Meal

Jesus offers himself, through the bread, as the flesh to be consumed for the salvation  and he offers offer the cup of wine, as the cup of blood.
God is more interested in living sacrifices, than festivals of barbecue and rivers of animal blood.
There are times that a parent might say, “I would offer myself in the place of my child so that they would not have to endure suffering of an illness or a poor decision.  Such a transference is neither possible nor effective.” But the love behind the offer is like that of God’s. The difference is, God can do what we cannot. God who loves us, do so not because we first loved, but the reverse.
Easter Sunday Morning
This is the morning we celebrate that God continues to stand in the place of brokenness and takes the judgement for us. Even though Jesus is willing to stand in our place in judgements, relationships and every day-to-day events, we don’t always
The Easter Sunday Morning is to look at what is empty and see the Christ has made us full.

Who am I in Christ Jesus

Look at me without Christ I am broken lost and filled with emptiness, fear, greed, and void of hope.
In Christ I’m clothed with Grace, hope and love.

Easter People Celebrate

We are those who have set our minds, and hearts and souls in Christ Jesus to give us light, hope, joy and grace.
At a birthday party we celebrate we have endured another years and want to celebrate that days that are to come.
Easter is the day that we affirm that we can not only endure, but do thrive in the wholeness of God and that our days are as eternal as God’s.
The hitch is when our minds become set on other ways and other things.

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Matthew 4:1-11 Get Away from Sin

skunkgetaway

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished. The tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.”  But he answered, “It is written, “One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ ”  Then the devil took him to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written, “He will command his angels concerning you,’ and “On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’ ” Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’ ” Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor; and he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.”  Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! for it is written, “Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’ ” Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels came and waited on him. [NRSV]

There have been an unusually high number of skunks trying to cross the road on Long Hollow and Burning Bush Roads.

The ride smells horrible for days, just when the odor relents there are other carcasses on the road and the stench continues for a few more days.

Sin and Temptation to Sin are equally as persistent

Confession Time: What are you tempted. Gluttony, Pride, Greed, Lust, Fear, Laziness, Apathy, Arrogance start my list. Whats on your list?

Jesus’ temptation covers a wide, wide range.

  • Physical Hunger: strength. It takes more than satisfying the body to eternally satisfied
  • Physical Health: heart and mind. It takes more than a single act of healing or protect to have eternal salvation
  • Self will: mind, you can fool yourself all of time, and that can fool everyone except God.

Lk 10:27 He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’

  • one does not live by bread alone
  • do not put your Lord God to the test
  • away with you, Worship God and serve only him.

Jesus was tempted and tested.

  • Jesus was tested by the devil in the wilderness.
  • Jesus was tested at the most vulnerable time. (at the end of the fast,
  • Jesus was tested with integrity (at issue is the why of sacrifice, cross, why not just skip the suffering and hard parts.
  • Jesus was tested when the whole world was at stake

Temptation and Testing are Real for us

Jesus responds with scripture, not for the devil’s benefit but for his own reference and strength.

Bear Encounters  [Direct from the National Parks Service website] Ref to Jesus to show similarities are not on the nps site.

Once a bear has noticed you and is paying attention to you, additional strategies can help prevent the situation from escalating.

Identify yourself by talking calmly so the bear knows you are a human and not a prey animal.[Jesus starts the conversation directly leading the situation] Remain still; stand your ground but slowly wave your arms. Help the bear recognize you as a human. It may come closer or stand on its hind legs to get a better look or smell. A standing bear is usually curious, not threatening.

Stay calm and remember that most bears do not want to attack you; they usually just want to be left alone. Bears may bluff their way out of an encounter by charging and then turning away at the last second. Bears may also react defensively by woofing, yawning, salivating, growling, snapping their jaws, and laying their ears back. Continue to talk to the bear in low tones; this will help you stay calmer, and it won’t be threatening to the bear. A scream or sudden movement may trigger an attack. Never imitate bear sounds or make a high-pitched squeal.

Pick up small children immediately.

Hike and travel in groups. Groups of people are usually noisier and smellier than a single person. Therefore, bears often become aware of groups of people at greater distances, and because of their cumulative size, groups are also intimidating to bears.

Make yourselves look as large as possible [Jesus started relying on scripture] (for example, move to higher ground).

Do NOT allow the bear access to your food. Getting your food will only encourage the bear and make the problem worse for others.

Do NOT drop your pack as it can provide protection for your back and prevent a bear from accessing your food.

If the bear is stationary, move away slowly and sideways; this allows you to keep an eye on the bear and avoid tripping. Moving sideways is also non-threatening to bears. Do NOT run, but if the bear follows, stop and hold your ground. Bears can run as fast as a racehorse both uphill and down. Like dogs, they will chase fleeing animals. Do NOT climb a tree. Both grizzlies and black bears can climb trees.

Leave the area or take a detour. [Jesus ends the stand-off, and calls for the devil to leave.] If this is impossible, wait until the bear moves away. Always leave the bear an escape route.

Be especially cautious if you see a female with cubs; never place yourself between a mother and her cub, and never attempt to approach them. The chances of an attack escalate greatly if she perceives you as a danger to her cubs.

Ultimately, it is having the strength to say, no, and get away from me.

 

 

Jesus models how to deal with temptation, Go back to the Garden, the same remedy

Address it for what it is, head-on

Rely on the strength of scripture and God’s presence to speak, not our spin or the twisting ideas of others.

Jesus is in charge, calling for the devil/evil to leave and have no power over. [The devil can’t make you do anything]

Choose, this day whom you will serve and follow God and no one else.

Practice: Get away from me.

Name sin and temptation for what it is in your life

Rely on God’s word and strength to be your starting point

Finally, Get away!! You take responsibility for your own choice and choose not to eat from the tree at the center of the garden.

 

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Matthew 5:38-34 The New Commandment

enemylove

You have heard that it was said, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you. “You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax-collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. [NRSV]

Love your enemies

The prescription for healing our personal relationship, to our national and global relationships, requires love.

That makes this teaching one of the hardest.

The Big Ten Commandments are a list of “do and don’t,” Jesus raises the bar beyond following rules of “do or don’t.” Jesus is after our “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'” [Luke 10:27]

To love our enemies requires more resource that we have.

God’s Love can do what nothing else can do.

In order for us to love with God’s love, we must rely on God’s love to shape our love.

  • STEP 1: Love God and know God Love you
  • STEP 2: Love God and know God loves your enemy
  • STEP 3: Model God’s love by loving first, without merit, rather because we are modeling God’s work in us.

Easy Love, does not require God’s help.

Find someone who likes you,

  • Find those who think and believe as you do like you,
  • Find those who will not challenge your actions or opinions, and
  • You can easily be successful in love that is self-affirming.
  • This might feel or seem to be loving others,
    • but love is actually not even noticed
    • and may not even be real.

What is the difference in Easy Love and Challenging Love

One we can do without God’s help and lasts as long as everyone is of like mind.

But when someone challenges the core, we desire “them” to return to the comfort and conformity of “us”

While we yet sinners.

God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. [Romans 5:8]

  • Jesus didn’t wait for us to go first,
  • Jesus didn’t judge us first to see if we are worthy of forgiveness
  • Jesus didn’t make us prove any reason to receive love, grace and new life.
  • Jesus loves us. Period.

In our Steps toward loving our enemies:

  • STEP 1: Love God and know God Love you
  • STEP 2: Love God and know God loves your enemy
  • STEP 3: Model God’s love by loving first, without merit, rather because we are modeling God’s work in us.

God’s love is preemptive

  • God goes first.
  • God makes the first move toward forgiveness
  • God makes the way possible where there is division.

The model for our loving those who are difficult to love

  • Begins by opening the conversation
  • Begins by making a way for grace
  • Begins by reminding ourselves and our enemies that God loves us even though we are at odds, broken or divided.

BUT WHY? Why does God loves us first?

It is the fundamental core of the nature of God

The core of our relationship with God and one another

God intervenes because we have broken the trust, we have divided our hearts, we have sided with like-minded.

If one side is righteous and the other totally corrupt, we would expect God to ‘smote’, flood and drive out the sinner from the garden. All these leave us separated and divided.

Jesus Reveals God’s Love as THE way to the heart of God.

Why don’t we move a far apart from one another and don’t cross paths, don’t interact, just avoid each other?

Why not write off the relationship and the people that are enemies?

  1. It’s not what God does
  2. It’s not what God has called us to do
  3. It keep us both from knowing Love/God

 

You can Never make someone love you

But you and I, as God models for us, a love, respect, hope, and longing for good with our enemies.

  • They may never repent
  • They may never respond in love
  • They may never relent

But their response is

  • not our responsibility,
  • not our challenge, and
  • not our calling.

The Way God’s Love Works

  1. It goes first, overlooking sin, broken, past, etc, with the hope of restoring the relationship
  2. It waits, not condoning sin, but hoping that by being loved first, the door/conversation/way is opened.
  3. It is genuinely longing for good, peace, joy, reunion, and the like to follow.
  4. It remains even if rejected.

Dirty Work, but Most Rewarding

  • Loving our Enemies is more difficult than following any rule or commandment
  • It is the primary work that we are all called to share.
  • Our ability to love and reciprocate love is linked to our salvation and eternity.

This is where it matters.

The challenge is to be perfect as our Father in Heaven is perfect.  Yikes!!

It is crucial that we define perfection as wholeness, completeness and not correctness, or a test score.

To be able to love those who have sinned, who are our enemies, is God’s work

And God gives us the same task to find wholeness by loving sinners.

To your Neighbor:

I’m a sinner, love me, forgive me and love me more

Back to your Neighbor: I’m a sinner too, I love you, I forgive you and need you to love me more,

God says: repeat daily.

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Titus 3:4-7 ‘Living the Good News’

strawberrycheesebiscuitRemind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show every courtesy to everyone. For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, despicable, hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy, through the water of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit. This Spirit he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. The saying is sure. I desire that you insist on these things, so that those who have come to believe in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works; these things are excellent and profitable to everyone. [NRSV]
My mother, Vicky, made wonderful cheese biscuits. I tried for years to replicate the recipe without success, but finally found where she had written down the recipe I was able to make them at will. My waistline can testify to the accuracy of the formula.
The recipe: Vicky’s Cheesy Biscuits
  • Preheat the oven to 410*F
  • 4 level cups of White Lilly’s self-rising flour
  • 1/2 cup of Crisco all vegetable shorting
  • After the dough begins to form add
  • 4 cups of coarsely grated extra sharp cheddar cheese
  • approximately 2/3 cup of whole milk, base on temperature and altitude
  • Mix by floured hands or in KitchenAid with three hole mixing blade
  • Roll with a wooden rolling pin on floured cheese cloth
  • Cut with a medium size round cutter
  • Bake for 9 to 11 minutes based on temperature and altitude
  • Brush tops with melted butter to taste
  • Make enough for one sitting for a family of four with friends.
Now comes the gravy on top: Serve hot with Land-O-Lakes butter and strawberry preserves
Titus 3 is a letter for the faith seeking folks like us who have gathered here to know the ingredients for Christian living plus the how-to enjoy and use them together for maximum benefit.
The Christmas story reminds us how much God wants to be in a collective relationship with us. The ‘gravy’ is that God is willing to love us, save us, and be with us.
We live in a world that knows more information that we can process, but too many have lost faith in the power of Christmas story. They might remember the ingredients, but how and why to combine and used them for our own good is our mission to share.

Advice for 2017 from Paul through Titus

  • Trust and Obey
  • Ready for Good
  • Avoid Fussing
  • Be Gentle
  • Courtesy to everyone

Q: How different 2016 would have been if we Trusted God, obeyed authorities, lived expecting Good, avoided fussing, acting out of gentleness, and showed courtesy to all?

But How? Jesus is How!

The Good News for 2017: But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy, through the water of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit. This Spirit he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

Know the story:

  1. God is good, loving and kind
  2. God showed up as Jesus
  3. Through Jesus, God saves us from sin

So What, Footnotes:

  1. Note 1: God’s actions have nothing to do with our worthiness
    1. Tell you neighbor: “I’m not worthy. You’re not worthy. We are not worth it, but God loves us anyway.
  2. Note 2: through baptism, we find the rebirth and renewal of God’s gift through the Holy Spirit.
    1. Ask you neighbor: “I want the Holy Spirit to make me new.” “Fix me, forgive me, make me whole!”
  3. Summary: The Spirit is poured out on us, richly, through Jesus who makes us whole through God’ s grace which makes us kin to Jesus, belonging to the ongoing work of God from now and forever.
    1. Join hands with your neighbor and lift hands to Jesus: “I have holes in my heart, in my track record and I want you to make me holy, whole and new.

Memory Verse for 2017

The Good News for 2017: But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy, through the water of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit. This Spirit he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. [Titus 3.4-7]

Challenge

  • By the end of the year, you will know this very my memory, you will know it by heart.
  • By the end of the year, you will learn to share this verse with many other people.
  • By the end of 2017, you will be known as a witness of Titus 3.4-7
  • By the end of the year, you will experience what it means to be gravy coated and ready for the heavenly banquet that we share here on earth and for eternity.

 

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Christmas Sunday Luke 2:1-21 20161225

In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!” When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. After eight days had passed, it was time to circumcise the child; and he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb. [NRSV]

The Appropriate Response

One fun Christmas movie is “The Holiday.” This romcom by Nancy Meyers about two women on opposite sides of the globe who swap houses only to discover that a change of address can really change their lives. At one point the character played by Jude Law professes his love to Cameron Diaz’s character, oops spoiler aleart. To which Cameron is speahless. Jude’s line is “Well I guess if your first response is not, ‘I love you’ then..”
Likewise the Christmas story, a grand love story, gives us the gifts of hope, joy, peace and love in Jesus Christ. What is our first response?

Shock and Awe

The first response to experiencing the blinding lights and thundering chorus of angelic choirs turning the night sky into daylight has the nightworkers huddled in fear.
We know they are afraid, not only by assumption, but by the angel’s first words. “Be not afraid.”
Why would God’s messengers be sent to the shepherds and not the political and religious authorities. Who should hear the news first? Shepherds: those working third shift, those least likely by the society, those who had been promised hope, joy, peace and love and were the most likely to need to hear news that was Good.

The Shepherds Go

Once having heard and understood, their first repsonse was to go see if these things were true. Given this past year of controversy and stress about “news” and its authenticity and accuracy, the shepherds model a very responsible and proactive step. They go to verify the varsity, (truth), and the meaning of what they have heard.
The heard that God had sent them Good News, and the proof was in the arrival of the Messiah. God’s savior has come for the least, the last and lost.

Who is Christmas Intended?

The most popular answer in my personal research is, “the children.” And that is one of the good answers, but the strong clue from Luke’s Gospel directs our first attention to the engaged teemage new mother delivering her first child in a barn far from her home town. The first visitors are not family and friends but those working third shift and the animals of strangers. The text yeilds that “the child” is for those who have the least give and those most willing to believe, trust and follow.
This familliar passage, recited by Linus in the Charlie Brown’s Christmas classic, reminds us that the ugly, small, rejected and left out are those who Christmas is first revealed.
When is the time to go and share the Good News: the hope, joy, peace and love of God in the world today? Right! Today, and everyday!

Christmas on Sunday

The interruption of our comfortable Christmas traditions is the heavenly day of Spiritual Rest, Worship and Renewal. If Christmas has not interrupted your daily routine to touch your heart to share the hope, joy, peace and love of Christ, then I offer you the interupption of Sunday into your Christmas worship.
Look and Listen for fear and brokenness and you will find the best time to share the Good News of Jesus. Without shame and full pride of God’s works of love and power for the world, show up and join with angels and sing praise, go share the news that everyone may know for him and herself that Jesus shows up for us. God’s gift has been wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger for the whole world.

Our Responses?

  • Thank you Jesus
  • Sharing the News
  • Going to See, Show and Retell
  • Pondering and Remembering in our hearts

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Matthew 1:18-25 Reclaiming Christmas: Christmas Delivery

coke-can-nativity

Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “”Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.“” All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: “”Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,”” which means, “”God is with us.“” When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son, and he named him Jesus. [Matthew 1:18-25]

The Christmas story is an experience with DELIVERY.

  • Fedex plans to deliver 317 million packages this shopping season, Black Friday to Christmas Eve.
  • UPS plans to deliver 700 million packages this shopping season.
  • USPS plans to deliver 750 million packages

God promises deliveries, too!

  • God delivers on the promise to live with us.
  • God delivers on the promise to claim and give us eternal life.
  • God delivers on the promise to use us, you and me, to deliver and forward God’s gifts.

The postal carrier’s “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds” – while by no means an official creed or motto of the United States Postal Service – have long been associated with the American postman. The motto is inscribed on New York’s James Farley Post Office, but it has no official status.[1]

This statement is a paraphrase derived from a quote from HerodotusHistories, referring to the courier service of the ancient Persian Empire:

The different in the two is the first and last word, with the last words being significantly different: these are stayed neither by snow nor rain nor heat nor darkness from accomplishing their appointed course with all speed.

Rekindling the spiritual power of Christmas is found in picking up the job of postal carrier, delivery person, one who is delivered, sharing Christ with those who have not, or have forgotten or have lost their way.

What keeps us from Delivery of the Good News?

  • God did not wait for Mary and Joseph to work out all the social, economical and family systems issues before delivering the news that God was choosing them for witness and service.
  • God did not wait for Mary and Joseph to begin parenting in their hometown, surrounded by family and friends to help raise and train up their child in the way they should grow.
  • God did not wait for the politics to be peaceful and safe to show up for us.
  • God did not wait for penthouse hotel accommodations, God did not wait for a
  • God did not wait for a convenient, simple time, God delivers into the middle of the mess.

Where do we find things in a mess?

  • Poverty and Politics
  • Families and Freedoms
  • Drugs and Debts
  • Religion and Racism
  • Churches and Checkout lines

We find lives broken, messed up, tested and stretched everywhere!

  • Don’t be afraid, God is with us.
  • Didn’t stop the doubt
  • Didn’t stop the evil
  • Didn’t stop the humility and struggle of the birth
  • Didn’t promise to show up at midday at the palace rather now. A stable in the dark of night

God’s continues to deliver on promises for us..

  • God didn’t stop fear, nor doubt, no evil nor struggle nor darkness nor troubles, Christmas is about keeping close, continuing to reveal, share, tell
  • God delivers on crying out where we suffer
  • God delivers on shining as an alternative in darkness
  • God delivers by calling those willing to Go, See and Tell to share Good News for a searching and hurting world.Christmas is about keeping close, continuing to reveal, share, tell
  • God delivers signs that inspire those who are wise. Those who see Jesus as a gift, are wise enough to reply with sharing the gifts that they have.

This is our model, our cue, our response:

  • God delivers God’s promises, God’s self, God’s strength, God’s light, God’s glory
  • God delivers Grace, Forgiveness, Hope, Love, Restoration of Trust,
  • And you and I are the recipients, the winners, the benefactors, the gifted. (Tell your neighbor, “You are Gifted”

God’s Back Bumper has a sticker that reads: “All my Children are Gifted”

Picture Holding God’s Hand: Why is it a comfort to hold you parents hand as a toddler, an embarrassment as a teen and, and a lost opportunity as an empty nest parent ourselves?

  • Remember a time you were trying something new, confronting someone difficult or when we are in a dark time of grief, illness or loss? What does it mean to have someone be preset with you? Maybe they are silent, but they bring their strength to yours.
  • When you and I were born, the very first thing we needed to do is breathe, to fill our lungs, not with with something parents provide but something God has made before any of us could breathe.
  • God breathed on the face of the earth and gave us breath to be present before we’re came to be delivered, God had already delivered just what we needed
  • Before we imagined, discovered and formed notions that we no longer needed a God, God delivered us with minds, emotions storage for Growth and maturity,
  • God ordered mathematics and physicist so that we can benefit from the, before we even understood how these constants work

Reclaiming Christmas is about reclaiming the comfort and joy that God is with us. God was before us and God will be with and for us long after these bodies wear thin.

A practical way of reclaiming Christmas is to become a vessel, an instrument, a channel, a highway or portal for God to keep shoeing the work that the promise to continue with us is still true.

This Advent season, we have shared how reclaiming our Christmas Traditions if they help us proclaim Jesus Christ with us. We talked about that even a Christmas card can become the physical and spiritual manifestation of Christ connecting us.

reclaiming our Christmas Traditions if they help us proclaim Jesus Christ with us. We talked about that even a Christmas card can become the physical and spiritual manifestation of Christ connecting us.

We talked about that even a Christmas card can become the physical and spiritual manifestation of Christ connecting us.

We suggested making intentional lists that force us to connect the dots between what we know about Christ and how we share Christ in our lives.

Today, I add, that there is a final step. Making the delivery of Christ. We can sing about Jesus, Read about Jesus, Give and Recieve in Jesus, But there is a core thing that you and I are called to do: Go Postal! Be the one who brings Jesus to the doorstep. That offers the gift and places Christ in the hands of the

Be one who leaves no doubt that all that we do in the name of Christmas is to deliver Christ joy, comfort, hope, forgiveness, trust, love, power, grace, truth, praise to a world filled with sorrow, struggle, doubt, revenge, separation, hate, weakness, guilt, lies and silence. That’s what God has done for us; we who have been delivered are called to share the deliverance. This is the work of Christmas.

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2 Timothy 2.8-15 Unchained Gospel 20161009 RSUMC

unchainedgospel

Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, a descendant of David—that is my gospel,  for which I suffer hardship, even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But the word of God is not chained. Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, so that they may also obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory. The saying is sure: If we have died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he will also deny us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself. Remind them of this, and warn them before God that they are to avoid wrangling over words, which does no good but only ruins those who are listening. Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved by him, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly explaining the word of truth. [NRSV]

The Title song, “Unchained Melody”, of the 1955 movie Unchained has been sung and recorded by many different sings becoming a platnum recorded hit in both the US and UK. The list of singers included:

  • Co-Authors: Alex North and Hy Zaret
  • Les Baxter
  • Roy Hamilton
  • Todd Duncan
  • Liberace
  • the Righteous Brothers
  • Elivs Presely
  • Perry Como
  • the Platters
  • Roy Orbison
  • U2
  • Neil Diamond
  • Barry Manilow
  • And my others.

The original theme song captured the torn heart of a man who while in prison was pulled between escaping prison and serving his term to return to his love and family.

Oh, my love, my darling
I’ve hungered for your touch
A long, lonely time
Time goes by so slowly
And time can do so much
Are you still mine?
I need your love
I need your love
God speed your love to me

Lonely rivers flow
To the sea, to the sea
To the open arms of the sea
Lonely rivers sigh
“Wait for me, wait for me”
I’ll be coming home, wait for me

Oh, my love, my darling
I’ve hungered, for your touch
A long, lonely time
Time goes by so slowly
And time can do so much
Are you still mine?
I need your love
I need your love
God speed your love to me
Lonely mountains gaze
At the stars, at the stars
Waiting for the dawn of the day

All alone I gaze
At the stars, at the stars
Dreaming of my love far away

We live in a culture where it is easy to be torn between hearing the Gospel as a message that frees us to live for God while others hear it as exclusive words that harn and divide.

Each time you hear song, one of the most popular songs worldwide, in the 20th century, think of God singing it to the church.

  • Time goes by so slowly, and time can do so much, Are you still mine?
  • .. Wait for my, I”ll be coming home, wait for me. wait for me.

Paul again is sharing with Timothy, call him to remind the church to not be ashamed of the Gospel but live as a person who is free to live for God, even if you are in prison.

Think of all the reasons to keep silent? To escape the grace of the Gospel?

Remain Faithful.

If we have died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he will also deny us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful

Q: The Task for us to how to encourage one another in remaining faithful.

Actions over Words: The say is true and sure: Your witness may be the only Gospel someone reads.*

*Note the asterisk: I don’t have to preach, teacher, prophet, or spokesperson as long as I am presenting myself as one who is freed in Christ, as one approved and accepted by God.

The (*) requires that we make sure know of the message has been received as intended.

Present Yourself as a Worker for God.

  • “Dressed” for work that reflects God’s grace. Not a church dress code, rather dressed to serve.
  • “Dressed” to witness
  • “Dressed” to represent God.

“Dressed” is an act of preparation:

Prepare not by having the right words, but the Godly actions

  • am I prepared to love?
  • am I prepared to forgive?
  • am I prepared to lead others to Christ?
  • am I prepared to feed, clothe and comfort?
  • am I prepared to be persecuted, rejected, inconvenienced?
  • am I prepared to tell God’s truth or my convenient version

The Path Taken

Whether broad or narrow: God is with us.

There be faithful in sharing the Gospel.

Last week I invited you to make contact and pray for someone

This week our homework is to prepare to show some part of the Gospel in our actions.

  1. Plan for it
  2. Expect God to send someone in your path
  3. Dress for the Gospel, live like you work for the Kingdom.
  4. Remember you are not chained but freed to love and live for Christ.
  5. Know you are free in Christ to set other free.
  6. Be ready to share what happens when you show your faith.

 

 

 

 

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

  • HeavenBeacons

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

 

A Better Country

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

A Better Country

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

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

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

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

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

New Testament Case

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

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

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

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

Call to make disciples:

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

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