Archive for category Scripture
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.
You Are In the Spirit
Mind Set on the Spirit
Life Set on Righteousness
2. Spirit’s part is to make us complete, whole, God’s
Dwelling in God
- Not just following the rules, “Grace beyond Belief“
- Not just accepting Christ, “the uttering of the prayer or confesstion“
- It is the “carrying the cloke as well,”completeing the Spiritual Circuit,
- Devotion to Serve in the Spriit. IT MORE THAN ‘MY’ SALVATION, Our Salvation
- fulfilling our purpose, of being light in the darkness for others.
- living in the promised land, as a model/lighthouse for others
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.
A Strange Order to Keep Quiet
- Could it be Jesus we testing reverse psychology?
- Could it be Jesus didn’t think they understood what they saw
- Could it be Jesus want these disciples to have something the others did or couldn’t know?
- Could it be Jesus had more than one purpose in taking the disciples along to see this event?
Learning the timing when to tell
- If Jesus had multiple reasons for the trip, what were they?
- Jesus sharing with Moses and Elijah, Law and Prophets
- Jesus is confirmed for being foretold
- Jesus is confirmes preparing to complete the law
- Jesus places himself in the context for the disciples
- What did the disciples learn from the trip
- Peter, James and John were either more mature or needed remedial reinforcement
- Peter receives a lesson in
- asking before declaring,
- praying before acting,
- trusting before explaining.
- If Jesus had multiple reasons for the trip, what were they?
Can you keep Quiet about who Jesus is to you?
- Do you notice that the disciples 2:1 keep quiet on the mountain.
- Reasons for speaking
- Reasons for listening and observing
- Learning lessons for future opportunities
- Trusting the lessons of the law
- Trusting the lessons of the prophets
- Affirming the mission and minsitry of Jesus
- knowing they can Get up and do not be afraid
- Trusting God’s time for telling.
Knowing your time to listen and your times to tell.
- Being in the right place and time for learning
- Taking time to wait and listen to God
- Asking for guidance instead of declaring (our agenda/thinking/etc.
- Jumping ahead: This story is appears in Matth 17, Mark 9, and Luke 9, it is retold for us.
Someone needs to hear about Jesus
- Have you prepared for those moments?
- Have you mis-spoken in the past?
- Have you ever gotten up from fear of taking what we have experienced and kept it in the past?
- Go tell someone what Jesus Christ has done for you.
- If you don’t then spend this Lenten season in prayer and study, because Easter is coming!
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?
- It’s not what God does
- It’s not what God has called us to do
- 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
- It goes first, overlooking sin, broken, past, etc, with the hope of restoring the relationship
- It waits, not condoning sin, but hoping that by being loved first, the door/conversation/way is opened.
- It is genuinely longing for good, peace, joy, reunion, and the like to follow.
- 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.
Advent: Series RECLAIMING CHRISTMAS
“ReClaiming Christmas: The Unexpected Gifts
A Look at the gift that is missing from Christmas, and why.
“But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. For as the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the coming of the Son of Man. Then two will be in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. Two women will be grinding meal together; one will be taken and one will be left. Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour. [Matthew 24:36-44]
ReClaiming Christmas: The Christmas Cards
A Season of Sharing the Story, “The John The Baptist Collection” of Cards: Repent, You Brood of Vipers,
In those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea, proclaiming, “”Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.“” This is the one of whom the prophet Isaiah spoke when he said, “”The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.’“” Now John wore clothing of camel’s hair with a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then the people of Jerusalem and all Judea were going out to him, and all the region along the Jordan, and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. But when he saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, “”You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit worthy of repentance. Do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our ancestor’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. “”I baptize you with water for repentance, but one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and will gather his wheat into the granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”” [Matthew 3:1-12]
ReClaiming Christmas: Why Celebrate Jesus
Why Care About the Reasons for the Season
“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”” [Luke 1:46b-55]
Reclaiming Christmas: Christmas Delivery
Will the gifts we share bring hope, life and joy?
Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “”Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.“” All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: “”Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,”” which means, “”God is with us.“” When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus. [Matthew 1:18-25]
When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, “Where I am going, you cannot come.’ I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples. [NRSV]
It has become rather trite to ask: “What Would Jesus Do?” But it is the obvious response to the new commandment given in John 13:34 (Just as I have loved your, you also should love one another.)
The new commandment is a “super commandment.” When we are faithful with this one commandment, we are faithful in all the others.
- Love welcomes the sinner, and sends them to go and sin no more.
- Multiple people forgiven and healed, and charged to change their living.
- Love welcomes the curious, and goes home with them,
- Love welcomes those who need healing
- And loves them even if they don’t say thank you or show appreciation. Loving for appreciation is the heart of co-dependency.
- The Ten lepers, only one returns.
- Love feeds, clothes and befriends
- As in the great commission text, MT
- Love welcomes those who seek forgiveness
- Forgive me Lord,
- Thief, today you will be with me in paradise
- Love cares enough to help the fool not rebuilt on the sand
- Parable of the house on the rock / sand
- Love cares enough to:
- Cry with the grieving
- Drink with those who marry
- Guide who work and fail trying
- Disciples fishing
- To be humble hear good news
- The wise bring gifts
- The Magi
- The proud seek mercy
- Sermon on the Mount
- The outcast are made clean
- Those possessed with evil
- The busy and distracted are made still
- The eager to listen and learn are taught and encouraged
- Those who love as Christ love are sent out to love the neighbor, stranger and enemy
- The Disciples and the 70
- Jesus loving listens to fools and childish children, and finds a Love story of God’s heart to reach us.
- Finally, Jesus shows us the highest gift of love by giving his life and demonstrates that in some occasions we do the same.
- The Cross
- And, Jesus shows us that loving God is trusting that our eternal living is God love us, eternally.
- The Resurrection
Our text: Commands: Therefore, for us to love, as Jesus loves.
I listened to two different clergy friends ask me the same heartfelt question:
“How could someone be a conservative and call themselves a Christian.”
The other asked:
“How could so someone be a progressive and call themselves a Christian?”
As I listen to the news of senseless shootings, political propagandas, and fears in the country and the church. I have been praying for God’s words to respond and lead!
Here is the ‘fruit’ I offer to both and to you. The singular answer is found in Christ’s command to love as we see and hear Jesus love.
Ask God to point to your core,
Your first thought and action,
Q: I’m I loving God, even if it means something different from the world understanding of love?
Q: Is my motivation love God, when I speak out or hide under the rock of in-action?
Q: Is my heart following what pleases the world or what pleases God’s heart?
Q: Am I praying and studying and challenging to know what God’s heart and love looks, sound, taste, feel and are all about?
A: When our love looks like Christ’s love, we will know when to speak out and when to keep quiet.
A: When our love is like Christ’s love we will see when the world or we, ourselves, twist love to be about our agenda instead of God’s.
A: The answer to the questions: Who’s love is most Christ like..
Answer: When Christ’s love leads, there can be different ways of showing love, but God is revealed as the purpose.
Is God Revealed? If God is not revealed
- then we are either closed to seeing God in only our way or
- the love of Christ is not present.
The Test: Ask of what you say, think and hear: Show me God’s love. The world is hungry and thirsty for God’s love. Show the world the love Jesus has shown the world, and we cannot go wrong.
If we only have ideologies, theologies and policies, and don’t have love of God at the heart, then they are noisy gongs of distraction.
Wherever you hear noise, is a time to share the love of Jesus Christ. Try it and see the Kingdom of God wherever you go.
Example: Politicians, Wars, Taxes, Shooting, Immigration, Budgets, etc. If you don’t explain how God is working through these to reveal God’s love, the love of Christ, then start our conversations over.
Love is the lens, if the lens is not clear, clean it and start over in love.
If you are not talking about these topics to avoid the drama and noise, then you are withholding vital opportunities to help yourself and others find God’s love where we are hurting most.
Love is the lens, if the lens is not clear, clean it and start over in love.
If you only seem to get angry and polarized in these conversations, then you are lost in the noise and need to turn to Christ and start over.
Love is the lens, if the lens is not clear, clean it and start over in love.
If others are seeing and hearing and experiencing the Love of Jesus Christ through you, then, BAM! you living in the life of Love! Love on in Jesus Christ.
When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” But Thomas (who was called the Twin ), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.” A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name. [RSV]
Seeing is Believing
- Show Me, What Proof is convincing for one is not convincing for all
- Evidence might be physical, emotional or spiritual
- Understanding is the starting point
Not Seeing, yet Believing is Faith
- Faith is based in what we do not control
- Faith is Trusting what is untrustworthy
- Faith is Affirming what God provides
Faith is the Core
- Faith is generally a process
- Faith is tested as a muscle is strengthen
- Faith is hardened as steel is heated and cooled.
The Purpose of Faith is for our Relationship of Salvation
- Jesus’s Death pays for our sin
- Jesus’s Resurrection restores our life
- Jesus’s presence in the Holy Spirit is to build the relationship
Commitment to the Relationship
- Starting with the Scriptures, Feed your Faith and Belief
- Building on the faith you have seen, heard, read, experienced Test
- Take the Jesus relationship to life: Family, Work, School, Community, etc.
- Jesus makesFoundation for our Relationship with God Through Christ Jesus
- COMMIT to Intentional Spiritual Growth. Bible Study, Sunday school, Daily Devotion, Small Group.
- Disciples were Gathered, even in fear and doubt, Jesus SHOWS up.
- Disciples share their faith stories, Jesus Shows up to Confirm
- Disciples offer questions and challenges, Jesus Shows up for Faith
- Disciples meet Jesus in the process and their life is filled with Faith and Salvation, through Jesus Christ, living with them.
At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.” He said to them, “Go and tell that fox for me, “Listen, I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my work. Yet today, tomorrow, and the next day I must be on my way, because it is impossible for a prophet to be killed outside of Jerusalem.’ Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! See, your house is left to you. And I tell you, you will not see me until the time comes when you say, “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.’ ” [NRSV]
Jesus Agenda: Casting out evil, Curing the broken, and finishing his work on the third day.
- A fore telling of Jesus’ arrest, conviction and crucifixion are addressed by the disciples and Jesus.Jesus is talking back. Calling Herod by his action, a fox, cunning, callus and calculated. Skills of self preservation for the fox. Jesus’ mission, in Luke’s Gospel, requires him to be back in Jerusalem, positioned for the crucifixion.The Agenda cannot be stopped by Herod or any evil. But that will not stop evil things from happening.KEY:
God’s presence cannot be taking away, but neither are we to expect evil to disappear in the world.Prophet’s Job is Seldom Appreciated.
- Jesus points to the difficult task of being a prophet.The Prophet says nothing new. The prophet reminds us of the rails that our collective train should be running.The Prophet reminds us that God desires up to be with God.Jesus is more than any prophet. Jesus is God showing up first hand, the real deal, the actual.Jesus’s lament is how the necessary role of the prophet has never been without attack and often takes one’s life.We have at least two prophetic voices for our capital city:
I would suggest that our two leading political candidates (S&T) have tapped into the telling the people what the want to be reminded of, but their trains are running in opposing directions. Neither of them claim to be God’s prophets, but folks are desperate for a prophet and will follow until the find the prophet’s flaws or the prophet’s message becomes too personal. Mud-Slinging Campaign: (Interesting to hear from Jesus and John the Baptizer) Herod, was the secular leaders and he was a ‘fox’. The Sanhedrin were the religious leaders and they were a brood of vipers. God desires us to be together.There is a VERY powerful moment of self-disclosure and God’s heart being revealed in these words of Jesus outside of Jerusalem:The Mother Hen and her brood: How I wish my chicks would trust me. (Not just after they are in trouble, not after they are lost to evil, not just when faced with their own mortality, BUT when there was time to “walk together in the garden”) Remember the relationship with Adam and Eve, where God would walk and talk with them face-to-face, and explore the garden along side with them (Gen 3.8)The Prophets role is to remind God’s people of the relationship of Good and Evil. Helping folks remember what side of the fence they are too live.
- Are we people who put God first?Are we a people who put God 2nd or third or last?Are we people who honor our parents and their generation?Are we a people who lie, cheat, steal and murder?Are we people who choose our own agenda or God’s?Are we people who hunger and thirst to be correct or forgivenAre we people who satisfied with God or we want more?Are we people who listen to snakes and foxes?Are we people who will call out what it is evil, broken and diseased?Are we people who will turn to God or Government to define us?
These are the prophet’s questions: What are our answers?The Declaration:Blessed are those who come in the name of the Lord.