Archive for category Scripture

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 17:1-9 Can You Keep a Secret?

Church of the Transfiguration

Mt Tabor, Church of the Transfiguration.

Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. Then Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three dwellings here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!” When the disciples heard this, they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Get up and do not be afraid.” And when they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus himself alone. As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus ordered them, “Tell no one about the vision until after the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”[NRSV]
  1. A Strange Order to Keep Quiet

    1. Could it be Jesus we testing reverse psychology?
    2. Could it be Jesus didn’t think they understood what they saw
    3. Could it be Jesus want these disciples to have something the others did or couldn’t know?
    4. Could it be Jesus had more than one purpose in taking the disciples along to see this event?
  2. Learning the timing when to tell

    1. If Jesus had multiple reasons for the trip, what were they?
      1. Jesus sharing with Moses and Elijah, Law and Prophets
      2. Jesus is confirmed for being foretold
      3. Jesus is confirmes preparing to complete the law
      4. Jesus places himself in the context for the disciples
    2. What did the disciples learn from the trip
      1. Peter, James and John were either more mature or needed remedial reinforcement
      2. Peter receives a lesson in
        1. asking before declaring,
        2. praying before acting,
        3. trusting before explaining.
  3. Can you keep Quiet about who Jesus is to you?

    1. Do you notice that the disciples 2:1 keep quiet on the mountain.
    2. Reasons for speaking
    3. Reasons for listening and observing
    4. Learning lessons for future opportunities
      1. Trusting the lessons of the law
      2. Trusting the lessons of the prophets
      3. Affirming the mission and minsitry of Jesus
      4. knowing they can Get up and do not be afraid
      5. Trusting God’s time for telling.
  4. Knowing your time to listen and your times to tell.

    1. Being in the right place and time for learning
    2. Taking time to wait and listen to God
    3. Asking for guidance instead of declaring (our agenda/thinking/etc.
    4. Jumping ahead: This story is appears in Matth 17, Mark 9, and Luke 9, it is retold for us.
  5. Someone needs to hear about Jesus

    1. Have you prepared for those moments?
    2. Have you mis-spoken in the past?
    3. Have you ever gotten up from fear of taking what we have experienced and kept it in the past?
    4. Homework:
      1. Go tell someone what Jesus Christ has done for you.
      2. If you don’t then spend this Lenten season in prayer and study, because Easter is coming!
Location: 3477 Peavine Road, Rock Spring, GA 30739  Rock Spring UMC  http://www.mysundaysermons.com

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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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2016 Advent: 4 weeks Prep 4 Christmas

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]

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John 13:31-35 Love Command. 20160424 RSUMC

loveoneanotherlikeJesus

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
      • Shepherds
    • 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
      • Martha
    • The eager to listen and learn are taught and encouraged
      • Mary
    • 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.

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John 20:19-31 NRS. “Be Believing” RSUMC 20160404

believeWhen 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.

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Luke 13.31-35 Casting Evil and Curing Relationships 20160221 RSUMC

JesusGang 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.

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Luke 4:14-21 “Full Today, Full.” 20160124 RSUMC

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Full Plate for a Hungry World: Today is the Lord’s Day, let’s fill it up!

Then Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country. He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone. When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” [NRSV]

  • Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.
    Good News to the Poor
    Release to Captive
    Sight to the Blind
    Freedom to the Oppressed
    To Proclaim, Now is the Lord’s Moment
  • The Rest of Isaiah
    Bind up the brokenhearted
    Comfort the mourning
    Provide for the grieving in Zion
    Beauty instead of ashes,
    oil of joy instead of mourning
    garments of praise instead of despair

These will be called mighty oaks of righteousness
The destroyed will be rebuilt
There will be a reversal where the world serves the holy in the holy places.

  • To Follow Jesus is to do these types of things for the glory of God.
  • To Follow Jesus is to begin doing these things today
  • To Follow Jesus is to transform the world

Why Do These?
Good News, freedom, vision, encourage, comfort, beauty, joy, praise.. all to reveal God’s claim on this day.

United Methodist 3 Rules Applied
Practicing our Piety, Doing Good and Silencing Evil.

  • Ministry of Sharing Good News and praise
  • Ministry of addressing physical needs
  • Ministry of addressing emotional needs
  • Ministries of showing beauty and joy
  • Start with one and move to the next

God lays upon our hearts, opens doors in our lives, gives us opportunities to serve,

What Jesus did not say:

  • Take the weekends off, nope.
  • Show up when you feel like it, nope.
  • Retire when you are tired, nope.
  • Don’t start until you get your act together, nope.

Jesus is talking to family, friends, neighbors and hometown folks.

  • This is not a message in the wilderness
  • This is not a message in the market place
  • This is not a message in meadow by the sea
  • This is sitting at the kitchen table conversation…

This is a message for homefolks, us!

  • If we are tired, let these words charge us up
  • If we are afraid, let these examples give us courage
  • If we are weak, let these gifts become our strength
  • If we are lost, let these paths be our way back to God
  • If we are too busy, let these instructions interrupt us.

Affirming our mission to make Disciples of Jesus Christ.

The Year of the LORD’s Favor, Isaiah 61 [NRSV]
1 The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, 2 to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, 3 and provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORDfor the display of his splendor. 4 They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated; they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations. 5 Strangers will shepherd your flocks; foreigners will work your fields and vineyards. 6 And you will be called priests of the LORD, you will be named ministers of our God. You will feed on the wealth of nations, and in their riches you will boast. 7 Instead of your shame you will receive a double portion, and instead of disgrace you will rejoice in your inheritance. And so you will inherit a double portion in your land, and everlasting joy will be yours. 8 “For I, the LORD, love justice; I hate robbery and wrongdoing. In my faithfulness I will reward my people and make an everlasting covenant with them. 9 Their descendants will be known among the nations and their offspring among the peoples. All who see them will acknowledge that they are a people the LORD has blessed.” 10 I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. 11 For as the soil makes the sprout come up and a garden causes seeds to grow, so the Sovereign LORD will make righteousness and praise spring up before all nations.

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Luke 1.39-55 “Fruit of the Womb” 20151210 RSUMC

FruitofWomb
In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.” And Mary said, “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.” [NRSV]

Thirty years ago a preacher was called into the District Supervisors office to be reprimanded for saying that a woman was “pregnant” when in fact, she was actually “expecting with child.” It is amazing how the power of words touch our sensitivities and expressions about the world and time in which we live.

If only folks would focus on the Good News and get as excited and motivated to action and response when they heard the Christmas story. This encounter with Mary and her Aunt Elizabeth helps us recapture some the power and presence of God’s word.

Our first look at the text, as an overview, Mary, who is now “with child” as an unwed mother goes for an extended visit to her aunt’s house.

The CDC National Vital Statisti#285869B report that the number of unwed mothers was at 29% in 1980 and up to 44% in 2013, the a high water make of 51% in 2008 prior to the economic turn. Millennial women, those ages 26-31, have a current rate of 57% of children being born out of marriage, and 74% of those without a college degree had children outside of marriage, according to research from Johns Hopkins University. Read-Online.pdf.webloc. The 2014 report from childtrends.com Read-Online.pdf.webloc, report that of all the births to mothers who are 15-19, 88% were not married, and 65% of women who had babies last year where 20-25 were not married. The church has already lost the corner on the marriage market long before the Supreme Court expanded its definition of marriage.

All these statistics help us think about Mary and Joseph and the community’s response to marriage and childbirth. In a current time when our youngest mothers might even take their children to school or have the child’s grandparent raise the baby. Mary is more old school and goes to visit her Aunt for a while.

Our second look at the text, we see Elizabeth providing a safe-haven for Mary and her baby. She does not great her with judgment nor shame. Elizabeth’s focus is on the children, both her own and Mary’s.

Look back at the statistics of all the years and all the age groups and periods of time. How many unwed-expectant mothers have been told by God that their child is to be the Messiah and the child ends up being born and becoming the messiah? There is but one.

It is interesting that Mary’s hurried trip to the hills to see her aunt is first a response to that she could not explain in a way that the community and family could accept or understand. Even with Joseph’s willingness to take responsibility and Mary’s skipping town reveal that we live in a time when marriage less of a covenant of love, trust, and faith and an event, a tax deduction and a perceived hindrance to self fulfillment.

The Loop hole: They were engaged, betrothed, technically committed, covered? Surely it is more than this.

The Messiah and Savior of us all is born in a relation of broken-ness and twisting of the laws to suit our world view and personal experience. The balance of how we make sense of the world is our of order.

John Wesley taught us to ready and study scripture as a part of experiencing Jesus as the Word: spoken, alive and forever present for our benefit. We study, read and sing scripture as one of the ways we practice our faith.

But how we understand the Word is gathered through (3) three lenses/filters.

  1. We read and interpret the Word from our own experience in the world, our personal context as a spiritual being in a physical world.
  2. We read and hear how other faithful followers have experienced the Word in the past and learn from their trial and errors as well as their faithfulness.
  3. We also measure the world through the context of the world around us using our God given gifts of reason and part of us that reflects God’s image in our lives.

Therefore we lean about marriage by

  1. Asking and listening to those in the faith have been married successfully for generations.
  2. We ask God to reveal directly through our own experience of relationship and marriage.
  3. We learn from the minds and psyche God has given to each of us.

If we only value one or value one more than another, we skew God’s perspective in exchange for our own.

Time OUT! What does all this have to do with Christmas and Baby Jesus?

The greatest news that God loves the world that he wants to:

  • Move in with us
  • Show and teach us how to live and disciples others
  • Come to give himself for our selfishness, pride, greed, and all matters of sin.

Can we hear this message in the conversation and visit to Aunt Elizabeth’s House?

Despite the perceptions that Joseph and Mary were out of bounds with marriage.

Not married, Difference of Ages, spiritual maturity, Expectations from family and society

(1) Elizabeth is filled with Joy, when the sound of Mary’s voice enters her house.

..When the angels show up to tell the shepherds, Be not afraid, be filled with, JOY.

Mary comes, for a time to move in with Elizabeth.

(2)Elizabeth hears the news and affirms, ‘my Lord has come to me.

..Jesus says to disciples, Come to me all you who labor and heavy laden.

Mary is welcomed into the heart and home, because of joy AND for fulfillment of the WORD/ promise, salvation.

(3) Elizabeth, as a person of the Word/Scriptures acknowledges our Savior is here/now.

..Jesus explains to those on the road to Emmaus all the scriptures how the prophesies and teaches have all paved the way.

She teaches and encourages the fearful that God’s plans are unfolded, dependable and available.

 

In less than two minutes, Elizabeth speaks and models the work of Christ in the world.

 

JOY, I share:

Her own child rejoices within her, and she communicated the JOY by telling it.

MY HOME, Go is present in our real lives, NOW.

The Joy has come into our house, into our hearts, into our crazy brokenness

The Promises are worthy of Trust

All the Words and promises are fulfilling in Jesus.

 

So Elizabeth teaches some radical hospitality in welcoming Mary:

She Passionately shares her worship

She Intentionally shares her faith with encouragement

She Takes the Risk of welcoming the expectant Mary

She celebrates the Extravagant Generosity of God’s preparing us for this moment.

 

So Elizabeth gives us the homework assignment for Christmas prep and it takes two minutes.

 

STEP 1. Listen for Joy in the midst of Bad News

STEP 2. Claim that moment as time for God to be real in your life/experience

STEP 3. Place the current moment of Faith Sharing in the context of scripture.

 

This becomes a blessing for Elizabeth, Mary and God

Christmas is not about the gifts; it is about the giving.

It is not about preparing for the future, its about living in God presently.

It is about opening our hearts and homes to disciples others in their weakness and fear.

 

This is when Christ shows us as CHRIST-MASS.. Start today!

 

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Luke 3:7-18 “So What Do We Do?” 20151213 RSUMC

treeaxe
John said to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruits worthy of repentance. Do not begin 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.” And the crowds asked him, “What then should we do?”  In reply he said to them, “Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.” Even tax collectors came to be baptized, and they asked him, “Teacher, what should we do?”  He said to them, “Collect no more than the amount prescribed for you.” Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what should we do?” He said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusation, and be satisfied with your wages.”  As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah,  John answered all of them by saying, “I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.  His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”So, with many other exhortations, he proclaimed the good news to the people. [NRSV]
On this 3rd Sunday in the liturgical season of Advent we are drawn to the message of hope and love that awaits us in Christ’s birth and moving in with us at Christmas. 
The text comes as words from the prophet John the Baptizer. The text does not sound very loving and hopeful for those who claim to know God’s work and will. Listen through the toughness to see the love.
John’s word to the religious crowd is: “Who told you to come to be baptized, to find Love, Grace, Salvation? ASK You NEIGHBOR..
John is frustrated with the crowd who have been so focused on political correctness, that they have missed God’s presence for all the ‘good’ they have done by appeasing everyone. (Sanhedrin had power-brokered their relationship with the Roman empire at the expense of finding God at work in their presence.)
Remember these are the words of a prophet, not Jesus.
The lesson is about how to prepare for Jesus instead of preparing for ourselves. John instruction on how respond to ‘preventive grace’ to the next step.
It’s not about politically correctness to the law, it is about trusting our hope in God’s relationship in daily lives.
SO HOW DO WE PREPARE to see/experience/welcome God?
If you have a coat to share, then share it.
If you have more food than you can eat today, share it.
John is not establishing a code of organization for church nor community nor society. He is talking about an act of piety, a practice of being the faith community.
We live in a time that is mixed up. Folks who want us to be so pluralistic in our faith and at the same time not claim the faith that calls us to care for the poor. Why is feeding the clothing the poor the “Good Fruit” that God is looking for us to express?
These are signs that we are not working solo in this world. We are interconnected and interdependent on one another.
It is neither a statement that wealth is evil nor that it is acceptable to live off of the wealth of others.
If there are those you can “care for”, then care for them.
If there are those who need grace, then show grace.
You bunch of snakes
John is talking to folks who are snakes, venomous, lethal snakes.
In these days of terrorism and political demonism, who are the snakes?
  • Those who know they are right and willing to kill those who disagree?
  • Those who know they are correct and willing to label and dismiss those who are wrong?
  • Those who know they are right and God cannot do I new thing that is beyond our control?
John’s warning is dramatic and sensational: “The Axe is at the root of the tree.” The time is short and some trees are going to be cut down to make room for the new growth.  (Star Wars, light saber)
— Luke I am your father story at the pool.
I’m I being pruned or am I the clippings that will burned in the fire?
“WHAT AM I TO DO?”
The big “So What?”
If this is the time of preparing for Christ in our hearts and lives,
how do I make certain, that my heart, mind and spirit are open to God’s good news and presence amoung us?
Tax collectors, public servants: Do you job, but don’t take advantage of your authority and responsibilities.
Soilders: Be ready to defend and protect, but don’t mis-use your power and trust.
What ever the work/job: Contribute to the good of the community, work hard, do some type of work. [The unemployed can volunteer until work comes.]
The task for all is to act on our faith in the community
If you see a mess, clean it up.
If you see someone who is voiceless, give them voice
If you find someone who is forgotten, remember them
If you see sin, call it out, name evil for what it is.
If you see the speck in the eyes of others, can you see the log in your own eye. (FB? am I wrong in thinking? open the conversation rather than close the door on relationship)
If you are so certain you don’t want to see the world’s troubled, then we become the snakes.
If you think you are in the God Squad, ask God if you actually are?
If you are ready to kick someone out, make sure you know your are ‘in.’
HOW DO WE HEAR THE GOOD NEWS in the warning of bad news?
1. Ignore the warnings as foolish, fearful, mis-informed or narrow minded folk.
2. Have cake and eat it: Pick and choose what we want to listen to and respond?
3. Here words of prophet and say: What does God want me to hear, and do?
Ding, ding, ding!
The paths becomes straight and our hearts are open when we yeild to God and follow God’s word, in scripture, prophets and spirit.

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