Archive for category Wisdom

1 Corinthians 1:18-24 Sharing Foolishness

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For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.  For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe.  For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.  [NRSV]

We live in a world with a growing distrust of the faith we share.

  • Feed the hungry school children is important because of fairness rather than as an act of love of God and neighbor.
  • Caring for the sick has been identified as a human right instead of as an act of love of God and neighbor.
  • People want to live a neighborhood where folks love their neighbors but don’t make it a religious thing.
  • Business rally to support the Red Cross but not UMCOR and the church
  • I don’t need God or the church because I have government and laws instead
  • I don’t need Jesus because I can live with a different reality of what pleases me.
  • I trust what is preached in the name of “news” but not the “Good News”
  • NOTE: We waste precious time assigning blame, so may we encourage one another to be faithful to the task.

Blame: Because a few have been foolish

We must take responsibility and ownership, confess our sin and remain faithful to God.Before we share our faith: Our task is to be clear about our faith, hold to it, through the storm.

Foolishness and Wisdom

The Problem: Culture says, “When I can get enough people to agree with me that  YOUR wisdom is foolish, we can call our approved-proofed foolish pure “Wisdom” and truth.

The Reality: Wisdom and Truth have not changed. But the pillars of our faith have been discredited by unfaithfulness, exploited by those who are threatened by the Christain Faith and our believing/wanting more than God as our hope.

Our response

The reason why it is foolish to use social media to persued beliefs is: Anyone with any purpose can log on, speak what they call truth, wisdom, and salvation, but that does not make it wise, true nor the hope of our salvation.

Our charge is not to be ignorant, stubborn or inflexible, rather relying on SCRIPTURE, understood through Tradition, Reason, and Experience to inform and encourage us and God will not fail or forsake us.

Perspective:

  1. Tradition tells us the successes and failures of the past: learn from mistakes and successes.
  2. Reason tells us that God has purpose, order, relationship and love hard-wired into us and the universe and expects us to use the mind and reasons that set us apart from everything else in creation.
  3. Experience is the direct effect of God, Jesus, The Spirit, and the church that reveals something that tradition and reason cannot.

Remember:

  1. Being faithful is not a political position. My ultimate allegiance is to God, not any government. (We are called to participate in our civic community, but it will never be our hope, purpose or salvation.)
  2. Love cannot be summed up by ideas, scientific study, research, and theories.
  3. Blame/Fault does not mend spirit, heart, minds: This is God’s work in us.
  4. Being faithful is not something someone else can do for me. Faith is our way of life. with every breath, our task is to grow closer to God and one another.

Examples

Wise Acts of Foolishness

  • To assume God and religion were created and thus we can create something we like better.
  • To believe that the majority of voices of self-focused blindness can see better than God.
  • To believe the Bible is only a history book rather than a living point of access.
  • To let the world define
    • you and
    • your mission
    • your identity and
    • your value.
  • It is foolish to write off God and the church because you have been hurt, judged or offended by someone in the name of God.
  • It is foolish to think we have told our story once and that is enough.

Foolish acts of Faithness

  • To forgive
  • To trust
  • To give our gifts, tithes, support
  • Devoting time to prayer and acts of service
  • The study, exploration, and celebration our faith milestones: Staying current with our examples as witness and testimony. Don’t just tell the big story, also tell today’s story of faith.

Home Work:

  1. Be diligent, committed, intentional to hold, grow and share your faith

2. Trust God will guide us through the most twisted and backward reversal of what is good and evil, right and wrong, true and false, wise and foolish.

3. Test it: Take something you hear our culture say and ask what does God say? What do God’s people say? What Scripture says? What is God trying to have us hear/know/experience now compared to times in the past?

4. I mean we are called to wrestle with the hard stuff in our lives, in our families, in our word and trust God will guide us through. When we do this for the world to see, we are sharing our faith in everyday ways.

 

 

 

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Micah 6:1-8 A New People, Yes or No?

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Hear what the LORD says: Rise, plead your case before the mountains, and let the hills hear your voice. Hear, you mountains, the controversy of the LORD, and you enduring foundations of the earth; for the LORD has a controversy with his people, and he will contend with Israel. “O my people, what have I done to you? In what have I wearied you? Answer me! For I brought you up from the land of Egypt, and redeemed you from the house of slavery; and I sent before you Moses, Aaron, and Miriam. O my people, remember now what King Balak of Moab devised, what Balaam son of Beor answered him, and what happened from Shittim to Gilgal, that you may know the saving acts of the LORD.” “With what shall I come before the LORD, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt-offerings, with calves a year old? Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of [Dodge] rams, with ten thousands of [pipelines] rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? [NRSV]

Living in a World of Protests

The Presidential Election was a protest voice giving upheaval to our political system.

The various marches and movements are protest voices. Have any of us here and everywhere not heard the voice of those drawing attention to racism, class-ism, sexism, socialism, communism, ism-ism.  The Voices have been heard!!

It is time for active transformation, healing an Atonement

  • We are living in a time when people are talking and not thinking.
  • We are witnessing a period where people are acting and not grounded.
  • We are experiencing a rending of our national fabric stumbling over our righteousness in the name of God’s righteousness.
  • We have woven identities of like-minded factions using the threads of grace and gifts of our collective spiritual journey.

Atonement: At-One-Ment

When we deserve entombment God intervenes in human experience to save, claim and restart our lives.

  • We call this grace.
  • God created Atonement,
  • We think we need extra credit home work, God just starts us fresh.

God’s Good News has something to say about our collective sins AND God offers a solution for healing.

Two Roads Diverge in a Nations Path

  • God has doubled-down our on innocence.
  • The world is being driven by blame, guilt, shame, fear, and failures.

God is all-forgiving. He does not seek to judge and punish us, but to correct and heal us. He is not invested in our guilt but in our innocence. The spiritual principle by which He helps us return to love when we have strayed from its ways is the principle of Atonement. The Atonement was introduced into human consciousness by God Himself, as a response to our capacity for fear. It is our eternal opportunity to choose again. That is what makes the Atonement a miracle: it is something introduced into the laws of time and space, by a power beyond them both. Grace supersedes the law of karma. To atone is to admit our errors, praying that God free us from what would otherwise be their inevitable consequences. It is a humble return of our minds to God’s love. It is to recognize where we ourselves have taken a path away from God’s will, and ask to be corrected and forgiven and healed. The story of the Prodigal Son makes clear how delighted God is when the son who strayed returns. By willingly and consciously unburdening ourselves of the weight of our mistakes, we are given the chance to begin again, to go forward in life from a healed perspective. Could America not use a miracle? The command to atone is a universal spiritual theme. In the Jewish religion, Yom Kippur is the Day of Atonement, where Jews admit our errors of the past year, asking God’s forgiveness and for His willingness to inscribe us in the Book of Life for another year. (Healing the Soul of America, Marianne Williams p.92)

The Lord Requires a relationship

[1 Cor. 18-31] For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”  Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?  For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.  Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles,  but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.  For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.  Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth.  But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”

  • The First Action for Healing: Confession

  • The Second Step of Action is GOD’s work of Atonement. God Forgives and restores FIRST.

  • The Third is to model God’s Atonement and make whole to the extent that we can.  We Follow God’s lead.

  • Note: Law can give leverage to Atonement, but only God can make us new, whole, complete.

  • The Final Step is to continue walking with God, until such time that we wander again.

 

Frustrating Game of Jenga: by Hasbro. The fun of the game is tearing the tower apart, God’s game is about building a people together.

Something to try this week: If you hear/see/experience someone protesting, tell/email/notify them this:

  • “I hear your voice,
  • Your Voice is Heard.”
  • Now let’s ask God to heal us,
  • make us new (God is not about revenge or back-pay, God simply starts us over.)

Let us find God’s foolishness our new way together and walk together in grace, humility and seeing the justice God has shown us all.

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Luke 10:25-37 Show Me The Mercy 20160710 RSUMC

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Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?” He answered, “You shall 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 your neighbor as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.”  But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, “Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.’ Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.” [NRSV]

JOB #1. Show Me the Mercy

  • Somewhere the passion for justice and mercy has become a political topic.
  • In the News this week we have seen heightened tensions and enraged emotions from people who have a heritage of being marginalized by race, gender and creed have been blamed for the evils of our society.
    • One answer for being oppressed is to fight back and reverse the oppression
    • One answer is to learn from oppression and say, no more oppression
    • One answer is to keep quiet, removed and mind our own business.
  • These are the options in Jesus’s parable
    • Those who turn to the law to help, ignoring the hurting
    • Those who want to keep out of the fray
    • Those who get personal in the process of healing.
  • Putting the verse in a current context might be:
    • Some would look at violence and unjust scene and jump to legal answers. For example USING the situation. Can’t you hear the leader who gets back to the temple and begins talking about Crime and Violence Laws they need to impose to keep people safe? They are more concerned about the LAW than the person.
      • Talking Gun Control instead of Mercy for the Oppressed
      • Pontificating on Social Media about Mercy, but showing no mercy.
      • Work toward healing and wholeness
    • Some might see the violence and unjust scene and talk to themselves or their peers but keep from being informed or involved. The talk and debate but leave the neighbor dying in the street.
    • Someone stops, ignoring the laws, traditions, expenses and inconvenience and shows personal-to-person mercy.
  • QUESTION: Which neighbor would you hope walks by you in your time of crisis?
    • The one who using the situation to address the law
    • The one who only talks about doing good when its easy or simple.
    • The one willing to get you through?
The Model of Mercy
  • Have a heart for God that looks for the good in the midst of evil and brokenness.
  • Seeing the heart of God, even in the lives of our enemies (the victim)
  • Seeing the place for healing instead of winning
  • Healing Wounds
  • Sharing Wine
  • Sharing the expense and opportunities for service.
The Model of Empty Mercy
  • Let’s focus on the laws, rules, getting even and determining what is fair.
  • Let’s identify who are what to blame, but not help
  • Let’s talk about it and keep our distance
  • Let’s just keep attacking people and taking advantage of the opportunity
  • Bad stuff happens, live with it.
Showing Mercy Means: Getting involved, committed & connected
  • Mercy begins by Looking for Goodness, Godliness, Humanity:
  • Seeing yourself in your enemy.
  • Who do you want as neighbors?

What do we do with this passage?

Be the ones who teach

  • mercy over correctness,
  • mercy over distance,
  • mercy over self.. then we become to Good Neighbor with God’s help and grace.

 

Footnote; the parable is not about befriending the robber or the thieves, nor what the Good Samaritan would/might have done if the thieves and robbers were in progress of about to attack the victim. Mercy remains the same: how we interpret how to show the mercy will always.

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1 Corinthians 13:1-13 Reset: The Power of Love 20160131 RSUMC

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If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love. [NRSV]

Do I love that dress?

In a world, where we love mashed potatoes, love our sports teams and love or hate the weather, it is important to spend a moment being clear about love.

This past Christmas Eve, I ran a few errands and saw three stores putting out Valentine season products on the shelf. At first, I was frustrated that we had not officially started Christmas and retailers had moved to the next money grab. But if we stop and think what Christmas is about, God loving us so much that our heavenly father sends his only child to bridge the gap of love that we cannot build nor complete. Maybe a giant heart-shaped box of delicious treasures is better Christmas gift.

Love:  Nothing Gained

ELOQUENT SPEECH: Genuine Love needs no response. That’s hard.

  • If I speak in the tongues of mortals and angels,
    • but do not have love,
      • I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.

CHARISMATIC VISION: Genuine Love sees through a show.

  • If I have prophetic powers,
    • but do not have love,
      • I am nothing.

INSIGHTFUL COMPREHENSION: Genuine Love is not calculated.

  • If I understand all mysteries
    • but do not have love,
      • I am nothing.

MULTIPLE DEGREES IN MULTIPLE DISCIPLINES: Genuine Love has nothing to prove.

  • If I had all knowledge,
    • but do not have love,
      • I am nothing.

UNWAVERING TRUST and BELIEF: Genuine Love is the core of faith.

  • If I have all faith, so as to remove mountains,
    • but do not have love,
      • I am nothing.

EXTRAVAGANT SELFLESSNESS: Genuine Love is Forgetful of the score.

  • If I give away all my possessions,
    • but do not have love,
      • I gain nothing.

SACRIFICIAL OFFERING: Genuine Love cannot be faked.

  • If I hand over my body so that I may boast,
    • but do not have love,
      • I gain nothing.

IF, THEN STATEMENTS

  1. Conditional statements about unconditional, foundational core of relationships.
  2. SuperMan/SuperWoman are meaningless without love. Right Action, Wrong Purpose
  3. Love is God’s meaning, purpose, and energy, what we have to gain. Love is God’s power plant
  4. BOTTOM LINE: Without Love all in life is meaningless. Scientific Method can never love. Science is accurate in measuring how, but not why. Love is why. The universe is not so big to make us feel special; it is to show how incredible God is.

The Object of Love NOT loves itself.

LOVE is sacrificial, selfless, extravagant, unwavering, trusting, knowing, insightful, visionary, and charismatic, but the reverse does not necessarily describe love.

The test if Love is love or something else: Does my love stop if Love is not returned?

  • You can take one for the team and not love the team at all.
  • You can act selflessly, seeking approval for your random act of kindness.
  • Your extravagance can become enabling. 
  • You can be “committed” and support something evil
  • You can trust wealth, fame, opinion polls or deeply held principles, but these are based on us, and we inconsistent, fragile and often wrong.
  • You can know many facts but not know how to use information
  • You can misguide judgement selfishly
  • Your visionary work can be selfishly motivated
  • Your charisma or charm can fool people
  • The Object of God’s Love is you. Hear the Good News.. 
    • God’s love is not if, then. God’s love is. God may not like our behavior,
    • God forever loves us.

IS / IS NOT

  • Love is patient; tolerant of us and intolerant of our manipulations
  • Love is kind;      when is the last time we were snippy, rude or down right mean
  • love is not envious;     I want vs. God wants
  • love is not boastful     I’m right, you are wrong
  • love is not arrogant    I know better than you
  • Love is not rude.           Thoughtless or intentionally vindictive
  • Love is not insistent     My way or no way.
  • Love is not irritable      How can I get attention
  • love is not resentful     How come I’m not getting attention
  • love cannot rejoice in wrongdoing,     I told you so
  • love rejoices in the truth.  Admit I am wrong, especially when they are wrong too.
  • (sometimes being truthful is not popular or pleasing)
  • Love endure and hold up through all things,   vs. I will give you one more chance, or no more chances
  • Love believes through all things;     You crossed my line, your out.
  • Love remains hopeful through all things,    We can’t do it, That’s impossible.
  • Love lasts longer than anything else.           I give up

If we are honest, our conversations and actions reveal, while we know what loving is, we are not always loving when it get self-less.

Timeless

  • Love never ends.
  • Prophecies end
  • language ends
  • knowledge ends
  • wealth ends
  • Love never ends.

The Best is Yet to Come

For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end.

We learn to love as children, and it is to mature and grow.

  1. Speaking.. saying I love you.
  2. Thinking— Thinking about
  3. Reasoning   Justifying Love

When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways.

  • Adult love, mature love, doesn’t have, to say it. We are not there yet..
  • Adult love, doesn’t have to plan it and think it through, it is automatic. We calculate..
  • Adult love, doesn’t have to have everything neat. We try to fix, cover up or manage love.
  • When we move toward God’s love, we loose ourselves and more fully enter the heart of God.

For now, we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. 13 And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.

Love is a work in progress.. try letting your guard down and God through.

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2 Peter 1:16-21 and Matthew 17:1-9 What I Want JUMC. 20140303

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2P: For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we had been eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received honor and glory from God the Father when that voice was conveyed to him by the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is my Son, my Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” We ourselves heard this voice come from heaven, while we were with him on the holy mountain. So we have the prophetic message more fully confirmed. You will do well to be attentive to this as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. First of all you must understand this, that no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, because no prophecy ever came by human will, but men and women moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God. [NRSV]

MT: 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]

Context of coupling of text
Firsthand Gospel Application

This is a very interesting couple of passages because we have the gospel account of historical, miraculous events and a second text in 2Peter where there is a teaching tot he church that directly based on that first hand experience.

The context of the Transfiguration mountain passage is part mystery and miracle of incarnation. My question of the text is: are Peter James and john those who can most appreciate and understand the reevaluation or are they those who most need it.

Transference
Transfer of authority and story, Avoid transferring the authority

The story clarifies Gods method do revelation through people and relationships as the central mode of communicating Gods word and presence. This is replicated in Peters rebelling to those in his letter and input hearing.

A secondary teaching mode is the Journey

The disciples are taught different parts of the story along the way, not all at once. Peter shares the journey with others affirming their journey in belief and understanding.

We leave the story here and it would be clean, neat and safe doe us all. But the heart lesson is the transformation of Peter between the two accounts.

What I want vs what God wants for me

God wants Peter James and John to see and share a moment with Jesus Moses and Elijah.
In this moment they have the true reality of Jesus’s identity and role, the confirmation of OT laws and prophet AND the ultimate confirmation from God divine pronouncement. It does not get any clearer.

Only Peters response is vocalized among the disciples. Just because the others are silent doesn’t mean their response was different.

God is about revealing the connection and Peter presents a disconnection.

< Story of connection >

Peter hears the voice of God, sees the pieces of old and new fit together before his eyes, and his response is to build, make, do, control the situation.

Let’s make some monuments

The movie, Monument Men, a WWII drama about protecting the accomplishments of artists and sculptors work from destruction by the failed Hitlers orders at the end of the war. It is a moving witness of bravery and boldness to save the evidence of our culture and accomplishments. It is worth the ticket price for sure.

Peters response is not so different. We need to capture this moment and memorialize it so that others can come to those holy place.

Recount my trip. Worth going to the holy ground but what stands today are the very thing that Peter wanted. Including fragments of crusader walls defending the structure, a monastery, double decker church and a gift shop and roaming peacocks revealing their splendor and hidden glory. The very monuments that Peter hoped for are present.

But these are not the things God declared as important or necessary on that spot. The instruction was to listen and understand, to hear and believe.

In the moment Peter changing a from confident planner and designer in charge to one falling to the ground in fear and trembling.

The gift of Perspective in Time

It is in the 2P passage that Peter has learned and is teaching from his weakness.

You would do well to listen to use who know what we are talking about.
It’s not about you
Your plans
Your rules
Your traditions
Your good deeds
Your Intensions.

It is about the Holy Spirit, No you.

We come to the table of holy communion and it is about connecting with God
It’s not about our sin, or worth, or fault, no blame
It is a table of love and grace.

So come and be filled, be connected, be loved and claimed by the God who sends us Gods only child that we might believe, trust and live I return. Come, let go, and allow God to fill you today.

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Luke 4.14-22 “Unroll the Scrolls” JUMC 20130127

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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]

Did you know that the phrase, idiom, “Preaching to the Choir” was first references in 1973 in the Lima Ohio News in the month of January. Forty years, why that’s nearly my whole life time.  The older phrase is ‘preaching to the converted’, first cited in the works of John Stuart Mill in his, An Examination of Sir W. Hamilton’s Philosophy, 1867. The phrases might change from time to time, but why do preachers preach to those who are already believers?
It is more interesting that you might think.. let’s look at this text from Luke. Jesus has been out in surrounding areas: (Forsyth, Monticello, Griffin and McDonough distances away from Jackson, GA) and his new ministry has great reviews, great works, and a growing following. But when he comes home to Nazareth, he returns to the people who knew him, not as the Messiah, but as Joseph and Mary’s child. Jo-Jr., did not stay at home and keep the family trade. He has gone off and become a big-shot and he is trying to tell the home folks how they ought to live. At least this was likely the assumption of the men and boys sitting in the synagogue and the mothers, widows and girls listening from just outside. After Jesus reads the scriptures for his family and friends, we hear another couple of phrases: The crowd was “blown-away” and just sat there “like a deer in the headlights.”

Jesus, teaching and addition to the text was that the Prophet Isaiah was correct and his prophetic words had come try “right-before-their-eyes.” Wow!

Think about my question: Why do preachers preach to the home-team? Why rally the fan base of those who already have their support? Jesus’ preaching was not filled with stories on this day. There are no parables, no miracles, no food, no signs and wonders, just plain talk.

We are so accustom to looking for bits and pieces of scripture by chapter and verse. Today with digital search engines the use of chapters and verses are nearly obsolete. Did you know that the scripture has only had numbered chapters and version for less than five hundred years. Did you know that for about a 1000 years the scriptures were written only on the hearts of the faithful. Think of the years when there was only one copy, at the temple. We probably have access to a dozen bibles and considering the internet, dozens of translations are just a few clicks away.  (I like to use www.biblestudytools.com – It is by means not the only collection, but its free and has lots of versions and resources for bible study all in one place.)

One of our Church History professors, Manfred Hoffman, was a from a German tradition. He told that story that his professor believed that the scriptures had to be studied in Hebrew, Greek and Latin and only in German when absolutely necessary, and he considered it vulgar to have to read them in English. Dr Hoffman said his professor would “turn over in his grace” he knew about digital bibles, no ink, no paper, and pages to turn. It is interesting that over half of the ministers in my study group have given up our paper bibles for multiple translations on tablets and ipads.

In the passage from Luke, Jesus is handling the scrolls. He used the resources of his day to find the place in the prophetic voice, to hear God speaking in the present. This is the task for us in our hearing. When it the last time you touched a bible, paper or digital? It is God’s message and word, it is God’s teaching and voice, and it is God’s conversation for those who will encounter it.

We don’t grow from scripture by being near it. We don’t grow in faith by having lots of copies? We don’t ever need to let someone get away with saying, “Well it’s somewhere in the bible, I know it says…” Call them on it to show you, “prove it!”  The Lord helps those who help themselves? Nope, not in the bible. Some close variations, but “Blessed are the poor for they will inherit the earth” is a good bit more clearly spelled out.

So what does Jesus read from the prophet Isaiah?

Jesus reads the passage putting it into the first person and proclaims to his family and friends:

  1. He is anointed
  2. He will give Good News to the poor.
  3. He will call for those imprisoned and bound to be released.
  4. He will give sight to those who cannot see.
  5. He will give liberty to enslaved and trapped.
  6. And, He will proclaim this is the Lord’s time, “right-here, right-now”, this-year, right here!

No wonder they were “shell-shocked”

What if these words of the prophet Isaiah, claimed and proclaimed by Jesus, speak about what the church is about.

For the church is the body of Christ, the church is the presence of Christ. We have seen great signs and wonders though Jesus, he promised that his disciples, like us, would do even greater signs and wonders. Let’s start with his list from Isaiah:

What if we got in touch with the scriptures.

What if we read God’s word as frequently as we eat?

There are thousands of devotion books with scripture, every bookstore sells copes, we have copies to share, check them out of the library, pick one up at the motel in the draw of the nightstand by the bed, smartphones, laptops, computers. Tapes, CDs, MP3s, and downloads galore.. The Holy Scriptures are more available to use than at any other time in human history and I would guess that the majority of our gathering here might have to think for awhile the last time we opened God’s word, got our hands on the text and stopped to hear Jesus speak these ancient words a-fresh to use today.

Jesus was preaching to the choir because the choir was singing something other than the words of Isaiah, something other than words that declared, This is God’s year.

This year is not the Falcon’s year. It was amazing to see tens of thousand of fans, rise up, with a city of hopeful fans to cheer on the home team. It was a bit disturbing that the Falcons paid Samuel L Jackson, an undisclosed sum, to dress up like a preachers, surrounded by a robed choir and call for fan’s to raise the dead, out of the ashes, that the city might come to it’s feet and… buy enough tickets to pay for the players, the television rights and the World Congress Center and Georgia Dome loans and repair costs could be covered while grown men run around hitting each other in tight pants, ON Sundays! Maybe next year will be the Falcons. I don’t know..

But I do know this: If we are bold enough to rise up, take up the scroll of the scriptures and place them in our hands and in our hearts and heads, AND listen to the call they have upon our lives, we will see the Kingdom of God in our home town.

And if we don’t, we will not. It is just that simple. Its just that clear.

The Question is: Is this the year that God’s word will transform our community, or will we continue to make a mess of things, mess’en around.

The Question is: Is this the year we study, getting our hands-on God’s word in our witness and service for each other right here, or will we pass that to someone to do for us?

The Question is: Do the words God speaks to Isaiah, Jesus, Luke, and to us today… continue to hold the power or have we given up on them?

What say you?

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Mt 2:1-12. Why were the wise men wise? 20130106

Christian Christmas Nativity Scene

In the  time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, 2 asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.” 3 When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; 4 and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. 5 They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet: 6 “And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel.’ ” 7 Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. 8 Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.” 9 When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. 11 On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.  [NRSV]

 

Some would say:

  • • Keep momma happy
  • • Pithy sayings about pennies and stitches
  • • not just the fruit of age and experience
  • • King Solomon recognized wisdom is Gods gift of perspective to see the world

1 Seeing what others miss

2 Willing to go when other stayed

3 Knowing when to be humble – paying homage

4 Appropriate fits for e appropriate occasion

5 Allow for changing plans

We too are wise when we See, go, stop, give and follow the spirit.

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