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Lk 19:28-40 Ps 118 “Prepare the Palms”

O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his steadfast love endures forever! Let Israel say, “His steadfast love endures forever.. [ Let the house of Aaron say, “His steadfast love endures forever.” Let those who fear the Lord say, “His steadfast love endures forever.” Out of my distress I called on the Lord; the Lord answered me and set me in a broad place. With the Lord on my side I do not fear. What can mortals do to me? The Lord is on my side to help me; I shall look in triumph on those who hate me. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to put confidence in mortals. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to put confidence in princes. All nations surrounded me; in the name of the Lord I cut them off! They surrounded me, surrounded me on every side; in the name of the Lord I cut them off! They surrounded me like bees; they blazed like a fire of thorns; in the name of the Lord I cut them off! I was pushed hard, so that I was falling, but the Lord helped me. The Lord is my strength and my might; he has become my salvation. There are glad songs of victory in the tents of the righteous: “The right hand of the Lord does valiantly; the right hand of the Lord is exalted; the right hand of the Lord does valiantly.” I shall not die, but I shall live, and recount the deeds of the Lord. The Lord has punished me severely, but he did not give me over to death.]

Open to me the gates of righteousness, that I may enter through them and give thanks to the Lord. This is the gate of the Lord; the righteous shall enter through it. I thank you that you have answered me and have become my salvation. The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. Save us, we beseech you, O Lord! O Lord, we beseech you, give us success! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord. We bless you from the house of the Lord. The Lord is God, and he has given us light. Bind the festal procession with branches, up to the horns of the altar. You are my God, and I will give thanks to you; you are my God, I will extol you. O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.

Luke 19:28-40

After [Jesus] had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. When he had come near Bethphage and Bethany, at the place called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of the disciples, saying, “Go into the village ahead of you, and as you enter it you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, “Why are you untying it?’ just say this, “The Lord needs it.’ ” So those who were sent departed and found it as he had told them. As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?” They said, “The Lord needs it.” Then they brought it to Jesus; and after throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. As he rode along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road. As he was now approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen, saying, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!” Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, order your disciples to stop.” He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.”

Outline:

• The Lord is God

• God has given us light

• Bind the path with branches all the way to the alter

• You are my God

• I will give you Thanks

• I will extoll you

Palm Sunday is the kickoff for welcoming Jesus into a harsh and hardened world

Have you ever wondered why people waves palm branches?

The Sunday school explanation has been that people grabbed the nearest thing as an impromptu banner of party decoration

I suggest that if you had a month to prepare for the return of Christ what would you do to be ready for his appearing in the heavens?

Come join us and let’s find out..

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Isaiah 43:16-21 Do the New Thing

Isaiah 43:16-21

This is what the LORD says— he who made a way through the sea, a path through the mighty waters, 17 who drew out the chariots and horses, the army and reinforcements together, and they lay there, never to rise again, extinguished, snuffed out like a wick: 18 “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. 19 See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. 20 The wild animals honor me, the jackals and the owls, because I provide water in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland, to give drink to my people, my chosen, 21 the people I formed for myself that they may proclaim my praise. [NRSV]

  1. Remember What God Has done
  2. Forget the Past
  3. Trust God to Provide
  4. Do the New Thing: Live a Witness of Praise to God for all the world.

REMEMBER

One of the themes repeated throughout both the old and new testaments is the call for God’s people to remember. There is a call to learn the workings of God, and to remember the works of God, not only for our benefit or for God’s praise, but remember so that others can know and experience God’s works of love, strength, protection, and grace. 

a. Remember so you will know in times of personal trouble, when you feel lost or alone, remember where and how God has been found for thousands of years and through trillions of people.

b. Remember so that God will remain on your mind, in your emotions, on your lips, in your ears and in your tasting of life. Remember to praise God with all that we are

c. Remember so that generation will know. How easily our faith could be lost with just one generation failing to share or one generation of twisting the memory. The lesson of the wondering in the wilderness was the life practice of ensuring that two generations from your own are assured of knowing God because you and I are intentional of doing so. Remember we are called to the heart of God so that other will find the way through us. [Which begs the question: Who are the people that you are certain that your witness has lead and continues to lead to God in Jesus Christ?]

FORGET

The balance of remembering is that some things are not helpful to us and our relationship with God and one another and we also need to develop the ability to forget.

Have you ever wrestled with forgetting the sins of someone or do you hold them over for protection, prevention or punitive just-in-case circumstances?

a. Don’t remember the former life of slavery to sin. Don’t hang on to the hurt that others done nor the good others have neglected to do. Don’t blame the previous generation? Don’t blame the institutions, the structures and system – ONCE WE HAVE LEARNED the lessons for our past, let the pain, the judgement, the division be forgotten. 

b. Have we not all had some parent, grand, or maybe aunt or uncle try to motivate us to see how easy the next generation has it because of the hardships of the past. On one hand we MUST remember to respect what previous generations have done, endured and struggled through, that we now no longer have to deal with today. It is why we hold our elders in honor. But we can forget their complaints about doing. This act of forgetting has a double edge: on the one we must always retell how God has been faithful in generations past, but forget the idea that we did these great thing alone, by our own strength, our own will, our own resources.. for without God we are nothing.

c. Forget the hurt and remember the healing. Forget the disease and remember the loving. Forget the separation and remember the renewed unity. Again our call to forget comes AFTER we have learned from the past. But we will never fully know forgiveness, grace, new life, until we are fully forgive, extend genuine loving -kingness and celebrate new life at God’s banquet table. {23 Psalm ..you make a place for me, even in the presence of my enemies, you anoint, you bless, you provide for us all the days of our living.}

TRUST

How do we ever remember. I once preached a sermon in my preaching class for Dr Fred Craddock, the prince of all Preaching teachers in the second half of the 20th century if not beyond.  My point was that the first phone number I memorized with my grandmother’s home phone number. I declared that I would NEVER forget that number. That number lead me to someone who always, unconditionally loved me and God. It connected me across states and various dates to someone who had stories, songs, gifts, treasures for ever occasion. It connected me to family, faith, creativity, thriftiness, appreciation of beauty and creation. All I had to do is remember:  and I began to recite it as, 404.475.3244. But half way in I pulled a Barney Fife (recall how he could not think of the next word until Andy coached him through the preamble of the Declaration of Independence.) In my sermon on remembering I forgot my means of connecting.  Dr Craddock, interrupted and to remind me. Trust your notes and not your nerves. I promptly looked down at the pages and read the numbers I had most certainly had forgotten. 

Trust the notes and not my own weak-mindedness. Proverbs 3.5-6 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight

NEW THING

Verse six in the fifth Proverb takes us back the beginning of today’s Isaiah verse: God making a way for us. It is a historical call to do the new thing: ACTUALLY Remember God, Forget the brokenness of ourselves and others and Trust God, ACTUALLY do the thing we read about, talk about, sing about, dream about: Live a live showing the world what it means to trust God.

Living as poster-child for God. 

February 19, 1855, Charles Sumner, the Massachusetts senator, wrote his supporters about an enslaved 7-year-old girl (Mary Mildred Williams) whose freedom he had helped to secure. She would be joining him onstage at an abolitionist lecture that spring. “I think her presence among us (in Boston) will be a great deal more effective than any speech I could make,” the noted orator wrote. He said her name was Mary, but he also referred to her, significantly, as “another Ida May.” Sumner enclosed a daguerreotype of Mary standing next to a small table with a notebook at her elbow. She is neatly outfitted in a plaid dress, with a solemn expression on her face, and looks for all the world like a white girl from a well-to-do family. When the Boston Telegraph published Sumner’s letter, it caused a sensation. Newspapers from Maine to Washington, D.C. picked up on the story of the “white slave from Virginia,” and paper copies of the daguerreotype were sold alongside a broadsheet promising the “History of Ida May.” [cite:https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/enslaved-girl-americas-first-poster-child-180971444/]

The call of the prophet Isaiah calls out through history to the people of God, to you and to me: Are you living a faithful witness of trust God? The New Thing is the original things, but we hear and living a new today!

The answer Isaiah was looking for from the people in his day was, “NO!” Tell us how! Hear now comes the Good News! Jesus Christ lived and died to save sinner like us. Jesus emptied himself taking on the form of a servant and served us. The lamb the was slain became a life – sacrifice – payment – solution – redemption for us who could find no other way. Jesus said, “I am the way” 

Remember Jesus is the way, the truth and the life.

Forget our failures, excuses and weariness

Trust the presence of God that wait with a place for us at the table, even in the presence of our enemies,

TO DO THE THING that we have been called, saved, equipped and loved to do.

Love the Lord your God will all you have and let the world see God through you.

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Psalm 27 “Faith Sleeping”

The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?

When evildoers assail me to devour my flesh– my adversaries and foes– they shall stumble and fall. Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war rise up against me, yet I will be confident. One thing I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: to live in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to inquire in his temple. For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble; he will conceal me under the cover of his tent; he will set me high on a rock.

Now my head is lifted up above my enemies all around me, and I will offer in his tent sacrifices with shouts of joy; I will sing and make melody to the LORD. Hear, O LORD, when I cry aloud, be gracious to me and answer me! “Come,” my heart says, “seek his face!” Your face, LORD, do I seek. Do not hide your face from me. Do not turn your servant away in anger, you who have been my help. Do not cast me off, do not forsake me, O God of my salvation! If my father and mother forsake me, the LORD will take me up. Teach me your way, O LORD, and lead me on a level path because of my enemies. Do not give me up to the will of my adversaries, for false witnesses have risen against me, and they are breathing out violence. I believe that I shall see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD! [NRSV]

Sleep is vitally important to our health and renewal of body and soul. Many folks have trouble sleeping or staying asleep for a variety of reasons, which makes it even more important to control the factor that we can influence.

Affirmation of God:

Many times we take the worries, stress, and fears into our sleep which can be seen in our racing minds, worried hearts and wrestles states. We begin our resting recognizing once again that God is at work in our situation.

Psalm 27 is a useful tool for maximizing our rest. Beginning with acknowledging God has our back and has our life, we can lay aside all things knowing God is with us.

  • The Lord is my Light
  • The Lord is my Salvation
  • I have NOTHING to Fear
  • The Lord is my Strength
  • The Lord is my Life
  • I have NOTHING to fear

This prayerful hymn begins with setting the stage with the focus on God. Rather than unloading the garbage of the day in a spiritual data dump, think of beginning sleep as an orienting prayer that places our attention and presence in God.

As a typical alternative, the TV or some screen is our light. Worries about money, debt and demands waiting for us at the break of day reveal our weakness. We hone-in our weariness, regrets and mind-reading of the day’s events and the projects of what tomorrow will bring.

Try the new model. Begin rest placing ourselves before God.

  • You are my light tonight
  • You are my meaning
  • You are my strength
  • You got me safe, I have nothing to fear, to worry, to distract, etc.

Naming the Struggle

After taking the time to place ourselves in the presence of God, then we ready to let go of what we have been holding. Some things we care are useful responsibilities, even though meaningful and good, can be stress for and tiring.

Some things are beyond our control. We live in the presence of evil. There are people, forces, organizations, ideologies, and the like that will sap up every bit of energy and attention, our health and our minds, even to the point of death.

There in the Psalm acknowledging of God’s place, our place and then the things and people who are encamped around us. So that even if we are in a good place with God there are things waiting to tempt, harm, challenged and confuse us.

A Reminder of Confidence

The model is to be confident in God in the face of evil. “I will be confident in ..asking God.” God let me live in your strength, light and love, all the days and nights of my life.

In our sleep it one of the most intimate times of being present with God. We might think it is the response to exhaustion or simple time for our bodies to rest and renew, but SLEEP can be a time to renew our trust and faith.

Some times we try doing things to distract or wear ourselves down to fall asleep. Most times we read a book or watch a show or screen we are overloading our minds to reach a point of auto-shutdown.

This Psalm consists of a hymn of faith, as all Psalms are, and it calls us to worship.

  • Naming the Joy in the world and in our experiences,
  • Singing songs of praise
  • Calling for Grace to surround and cover us
  • Seek to find God face to face, heart to heart.
    • Even if my family and friends can’t or won’t help, you are with me.
    • You are with, You have not given up on me.
  • Remind God and Ourselves how God might handle or show up in the responsibilities, threats, challenges, and work that awaits us. Anticipating the ways our faith will the renewed when God indeed helps us.

Hope:

Believing God’s Goodness will restore, heal, help, bless, lead, strengthen and give power in what awaits us.

Wait in the Lord (Hope in Practice)

Finally, trust that preparing for sleep to be more about God than ourselves, helps us to lay aside, even if for a few hours, to remember what we pick back up and what we face tomorrow will be good, because God is good, strong, and true.

Use Psalm : Some times we begin by reading and listening to word, When we take the pattern of Affirmation Who God is, Naming our struggles and anticipation how God will help us, Worshiping God for all God has done, and Rest in Hope.

Short List:

  • a. Make your sleep about God and not yourself
  • b. Name your worries and name of God might do with them
  • c. Name your struggles and anticipate what God will reveal
  • d. Name your fears and picture how God will use you.
  • e. Worship, remembering joy, singing songs and praise God
  • f. and wait on God to renew and revive us.

b.

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Deuteronomy 26:1-11 Our Response

When you have come into the land that the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance to possess, and you possess it, and settle in it, you shall take some of the first of all the fruit of the ground, which you harvest from the land that the Lord your God is giving you, and you shall put it in a basket and go to the place that the Lord your God will choose as a dwelling for his name. You shall go to the priest who is in office at that time, and say to him, “Today I declare to the Lord your God that I have come into the land that the Lord swore to our ancestors to give us.” When the priest takes the basket from your hand and sets it down before the altar of the Lord your God, you shall make this response before the Lord your God: “A wandering Aramean was my ancestor; he went down into Egypt and lived there as an alien, few in number, and there he became a great nation, mighty and populous. When the Egyptians treated us harshly and afflicted us, by imposing hard labor on us, we cried to the Lord, the God of our ancestors; the Lord heard our voice and saw our affliction, our toil, and our oppression. The Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with a terrifying display of power, and with signs and wonders; and he brought us into this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey. So now I bring the first of the fruit of the ground that you, O Lord, have given me.” You shall set it down before the Lord your God and bow down before the Lord your God. Then you, together with the Levites and the aliens who reside among you, shall celebrate with all the bounty that the Lord your God has given to you and to your house.[NRV]

The People of God Response to the delivery of the Promised Land

The people were instructed to recite the story of the journey and struggle of who they were and who they had become.

This is a story of multiple generations and the summation of many stories. It is the before and after the Chip and Joann Gains ritual near the end of the show, right before the big reveal they tell where they started with a base, a dream and a plan. Looking the picture of the starting point come the… commercial.

So after the commercial is the reveal and response. Are you ready to see your dream home? your forever home? The most typical response is “Oh my God.” What in the world does this have to do with Deuteronomy and the Promised Land.

This passage calls for the people’s response to their new home in Canan, the prize over the Jordon, the Promised Land. When you arrive say these words or sing this song:

When you have come into the land that the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance to possess, and you possess it, and settle in it, you shall

  1. take some of the first of all the fruit of the ground, which you harvest from the land that the Lord your God is giving you, and you shall put it in a basket and go to the place that the Lord your God will choose as a dwelling for his name.

2. You shall go to the priest who is in office at that time, and say to him, “Today I declare to the Lord your God that I have come into the land that the Lord swore to our ancestors to give us.”

When the priest takes the basket from your hand and sets it down before the altar of the Lord your God, you shall make this response before the Lord your God:

3. “A wandering Aramean was my ancestor;

4. he went down into Egypt and lived there as an alien,

5. few in number, and there he became a great nation, mighty and populous.

6. When the Egyptians treated us harshly and afflicted us, by imposing hard labor on us, we cried to the Lord, the God of our ancestors;

7. the Lord heard our voice and saw our affliction, our toil, and our oppression.

8. The Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with a terrifying display of power, and with signs and wonders; and he brought us into this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey.

8. b. “Where are the forty years wandering in the wilderness?”

9. So now I bring the first of the fruit of the ground that you, O Lord, have given me.”

10: ACTION: You shall set it down before the Lord your God and bow down before the Lord your God.

11: IN WOSHIP TOGETHER: Then you, together with the Levites and the aliens who reside among you, shall celebrate with all the bounty that the Lord your God has given to you and to your house.[NRV]

So What is this to us? We weren’t there?

This passage not only teaches us about the Hebrews entering the promised land it is a model of our PRAISE, Worship, and Celebration to God’s leading us:
Q: What had God brought us through to where we are today…think of the struggles, loses, failures, illnesses, divisions and look where we have come to this day..
God has loved us through the lean times

God has guided us thought our foolishness

God has blessed us when we didn’t have what we thought we needed or deserved,

Where are we now?

We have one another.We had breath of this day, this moment?

Think of the division of the nation, and the church these are signs that we all have forgotten the God is leading us. We have placed our trust in our own ideals instead of the heart and mind of God.

We are not in the Promised Land at the moment: We are lost and the world with us. BUT we need to remember where we are headed.

This is where we begin to remember were God has shown up before

and commit ourselves to looking for God to save us in this time.

We are called to gather in worship, praise and celebration of God’s work and not our own.

Let us share where God is showing up in our families and church family and retell the stories and introduce for those who have never heard or were unwilling to hear.

Our Response is to Remember, Retell and Celebrate God’s work in our generations and in our present

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2Cor 3:12-4:2 Engaged in a Ministry of Reflecting God

Since, then, we have such a hope, we act with great boldness, not like Moses, who put a veil over his face to keep the people of Israel from gazing at the end of the glory that was being set aside. But their minds were hardened. Indeed, to this very day, when they hear the reading of the old covenant, that same veil is still there, since only in Christ is it set aside. Indeed, to this very day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their minds; but when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit. Therefore, since it is by God’s mercy that we are engaged in this ministry, we do not lose heart. We have renounced the shameful things that one hides; we refuse to practice cunning or to falsify God’s word; but by the open statement of the truth we commend ourselves to the conscience of everyone in the sight of God. [NRSV]

There are a variety of places and moments where I have come to know God most clearly:

Scripture and Songs

Birth and death

Mission travels

Glisson and Churches

Fellowship and Art

It is vital to cultivate the number of people places and moments that we more clearly see and experience God.

When we are in times and periods of drought it is helpful to have places to see reconnecting and renewal.

How to I find God revealed? Go looking where others have found God

Scripture

Mission

Spiritual disciples and practice

Worship and study

When we place ourselves as vulnerable and willing to know God we more clearly experience God

Unfortunately we hold on until we are in a mess, end of resources, spiritual or physically bankrupt that we are forced to be open to God.

So help by taking off the veil, removing the layers and be present before God:

Unveiled. Seeing truth > knowing the presence, reality of God

  • Hope,
  • power and
  • freedom in God

What we find in God is

  • the hunger of our spirit
  • The strength to move foreword
  • The freedom to trust and share

Being the nerdy trek fan I love to hear the captain say to the crew, “engage!”

  • Or make it so
  • The words in each day of creation were So be it,
  • These words declare authority and commitment as a call to action

God called Moses, spoke through Jesus and calls us to action and faith as well

Our ministry of reflecting God’s light, love and grace

  • Engaged I this ministry : do not loose heart
  • Renounce Shameful things:
  • Not falsify God’s word :

Rather

Open statement of truth : speak and seek the truth

Commended ourselves : invest in connecting

to the conscience of everyone in God : awareness that God desires us all.

We draw to close the season of Epiphany with the call to use the gifts entrusted to us to be used to show the world

  • God work,
  • claim and
  • calling

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Luke 6:27-36 Enemies of Love

But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. Do to others as you would have them do to you. “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. “Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.” [NRSV]

Have you read this as the way God loves us?

This is where we learn how awesome God’s Love is all about

  • God listens to us
  • Give loves when we don’t,
  • God loves when hate
  • God blesses when we are not deserving
  • God speaks to us when we ignore God
  • God expects to be attacked
  • God expects to loose more to reach us
  • God expects to be asked for help
  • God is willing to sacrificed for us
  • God treat us the way God Hopes we will treat others
  • God expects loving to be difficult
  • God expect to help and not be helped,
  • God judges and loves us anyway
  • God forgives first

This love becomes the example for us

Those who love:

  • Listen to Christ
  • Love enemies,
  • Do good for those who hate
  • Bless those who judge you
  • Pray for your abuser
  • Expect to be attacked
  • Expect to loose your coat and shirt
  • Expect to be asked to help
  • Expect to loose your stuff
  • Treat others who you’d like to be treated in their situation
  • Expect love to be difficult
  • Expect to help and not be helped

The most impossible list.

We fail miserably!

What do we do when we have not loved as God loves?

This is where we learn how awesome God’s Love is all about

“God have mercy on me a sinner” is our best defense and starting place.

Start the day praying this prayer at the beginning, end and middle of everyday.

Love through me because on my own I cannot love. “I” can’t do it

But God can through us.

Jesus, Love me

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Luke 6:17-26 Woe! The world is upside down

He went down with them and stood on a level place. A large crowd of his disciples was there and a great number of people from all over Judea, from Jerusalem, and from the coastal region around Tyre and Sidon, who had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases. Those troubled by impure spirits were cured, and the people all tried to touch him, because power was coming from him and healing them all. Looking at his disciples, he said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. “Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets. “But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort. Woe to you who are well fed now, for you will go hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep. Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you, for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets. [NRSV]

Woe to you who are Blessed, Blessed are those who are without.

Contrasting Matthew’s account of the Be-attitudes and Luke’s account as blessings and woes we have the differences of spiritual deprivation and material want.

So here Luke recounts a message of warning about faith. Rather heading this as a prescription list of do’s and don’ts, we have almost the punchline of a parable.

This seesaw of woe and bless is a lesson and warning to be people of faith and trust in Christ.

Quite simply, those who are hungry and thirsty have a different perspective on where to turn for wholeness or fullness. If you have nothing it is easier to see that what you need most is not something you can satisfy or supply yourself.

HUNGRY?

Those who are hungry are at a place of not being able to satisfy them selves and they know their own emptiness.

Remove your assumptions about political agenda about poverty as this is not spiritual word for governments it is directed toward disciples.

Disciples need to be asked where do you find your hunger a d thirst for want satisfied? In food? Drink? Wealth? Social position? Social identity?

THIRSTY?

If we who are spiritually empty going to attempt to fill our body’s will we find blessing? Is it temporary or eternal?

There is more:

In addition to physical needs Jesus places our emotions in the cross hairs

Woe to those who remain an emotional mess when Jesus is offering hope, peace and community.

If we are weeping from grief, jealousy or envy where will we find peace?

Are we look around and listen there is no shortage of weeping, hatred and exclusion. The remedy is not simply to toughen up, ignore those who persecute us and make our own group of like-minded films t comfort us. These are the world solutions.

Disciple First

Jesus is offering himself to the disciples first so that we may offer Christ to the world.

The core operation of the church is not to get people to confess Jesus. While that can be a measure of a starting point, Jesus is blessing the trust that follows belief.

  • Do you trust Jesus or your money
  • Do you depend on the worlds approval or being included in the kingdom
  • Do you think you can have your cake and the kingdom too

These woes are are not to the casual one who overheard the Gospel or those who received healing or feeding in the crowds.

Jesus is asking us as disciples:

  • how is God feeding you?
  • What do you thirst for, is it spiritual or physical
  • Are your emotions guiding your mind or is the Holy Spirit
  • Which s you value more belonging to the crowd or the party or the popularity the world attempts to offer or is Jesus enough

Woe to us if we are fooling ourselves.

We might convince ourselves but the world see through us

Are we expecting someone to spoon feed us or are we working to be fed through word, service, witness, worship, etc.

We are likely to prefer Matthews. Be-Attitudes to Luke’s woes because the warning is to us as believers more than it is to the world.

Jesus’s wors are to disciples AND the crowds, and the world

A Word and Witness to the World

The reason Jesus starts with disciples getting right side up is that we are sent to witness and encourage the rest of the world

What does the church have to offer a world that is divided, hurting and addicted to social media?

We are called to be a community of sinners seeking Christ as our strength and promise.

The blessing comes AS we share the journey.

It’s not that we perfect the life and then go out. That’s impossible.

But if we only eat and never feed we are not blessed, we are poor

If we satisfy ourselves and our neighbors thirst, weeps, is hated, or ignored then neither of us are blessed

The world says that money and politics and ideology are our blessing

Jesus says woe to those who hunger and thirst when those change, fail and go against the kingdom.

There is a challenge to take the discoveries of the 21st century and learn to relate the powerful blessing of Christ that are timeless. Much of the modern world’s theology is post-modern. A crazy term. I think the shorts definition is that so many believe they have outgrown religious life and are satisfied looking for fulfillment elsewhere.

If we are not strong in faith ourselves we have nothing to share with a world that has move past what it never found, trusted or resolved.

The debate splitting the denomination is evidence that the faithful lack a handle on being grounded in Christ, if we were we would not have been dragging our feet for forty four years on the same debate. It is our calling to place our trust in Christ and proclaim what we hold true by faith.

Share the blessing by sharing the journey, Christ in your heart and you heart given to those who hunger, thirst, weep and search for the heart of Christ through you.

Otherwise Jesus would have never needed disciples, that just how Christ works.

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1 Corinthians 13:1-13 The Greatest is the Hardest

blancobello image: https://flic.kr/p/rxAQ2u

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]

These verses are the definitive description of the extremes and expressions of love. Love is indeed the greater power. Love is the great gift. It is freely give, but requires all things to be fully experienced and shared. To be loved takes no effort on our part as the recipient. Yet, it means the most to make good on its reality.

What or Who do you love?

To love a thing, or an idea, or a goal, or a dream, is an impossible investment of love. To say I love donuts, mashed potatoes or country-fried steak may reveal a passion for carbohydrates, but these items will never return love to me.

I can more appropriately say I extremely enjoy the taste, experience of flavor of these items but to love them is to invest in something that can never return love, which will ultimately lead to an emptiness when the temporary fullness passes.

To say that I love my job, my house, my car or my hobbies is also a misinformed valuation. These treasures surely provide, means, space, access and interest in my life, but they will never have the capacity to complete the circuit of love I might try to bestow.

More than semantics, Love should be reserved and invested in persons and relationships that have the potential to love.

God loves us.

What does it say about US and about God, that God loves us enough to trade God’s-self for us on the cross?

God does no see us a objects in creation. We are more than bird, tree, day, night, snow days, or sunshine.

You are my Sunshine.. as important as sunshine is for light, warmth and vitamin D. The sun does not love us knows nothing of us although we depend on it continually. It is not the source of our being loved, but it is a gift from the one who does love us.

The Son, for love

God loves us enough to exchange our inability to return love, so we can love. Our society has doubled-down on being able to so definitely define and determine and self-declare every detail, label and category except for the most stubborn of them all: for example..

“Sinner”

Every human that has ever lived has failed to be loving, kind and worthy of the existence we have been born into. Even those in the most deplorable of conditions has value, chromosomes, living and multiplying cells of possibility that are not self-willed into being.

We are born into a world filled with every example of those who precede us with some level of brokenness, self-focused not compassionate moments, some more than others, and some we assume are continually so bent.

I have yet to have business card printed that state my name and underneath that name says sinner.

John Thomas Brantley: Sinner

I profess to this be true and claim it in my daily prayers, but I don’t introduce myself this way. Before I met Wendy, a host of friends, family and church members set me up with people to date. (Worst were those who had dreamed of being a pastor’s wife, yikes!) I finally printed up a card that came closest to the plain “Sinner” card.

On the front it listed in 30 words the reason I would be a good, safe and decent person to spend time with. One the back of the card we 30 word of confessions what to expect when I was not presenting my front side. I presented this card two four women at the end of the first date. Two of them never called back. One called back to ask for a copy because they lost it and wanted to show their friend, but was not interested in a second date. Wendy met for the lunch two days later.

The old tourism catch-phrase from the Virginia board of Tourism stated: VA is for <heart/emoji>. Imagine the bumper sticker from God that reads: “Life with God is for “Sinners” with an emoji of our own face.” We don’t like to see ourselves as such. And if we do we spiral in depression and self-hate which is not the purpose of acknowledging our trouble with loving God.

I have trouble love God and Loving my neighbors.

If I love my neighbors it is typically because they are easy to love and we share things in common. If my neighbor is very different I tend to be cautious and hesitant until we find some common ground. Our common ground with all humanity is that we all have moments where we love ourselves more than we love God or our neighbors and some of us have more times we don’t love even ourselves.

Most of this we probably know in our heads.

The church, the governed, our neighbors and even our families are begging to be loved, valued, included, shown compassion, taught what is meaningful, corrected when we are lost, listened to, trusted, and the like.

The admonition from Paul to the church to model loving one another in the ways we find God loving us:

  • Don’t talk about love and not actually love.
  • Don’t talk about your expertise becase your not always perfect.
  • You may know I love, but do you know those who need love around you?
  • You are a person of faith but others are watching when we don’t model faithful speaking and acting.
  • Don’t let our stuff and wanting stuff get in the way of actually loving others.

Ask some to be totally honest and ask all these each day:A

  • Am I patient with you others around me?
  • Do you experience kindness from me?
  • Am I jealous?
  • Do I look out for what’s good for me before others?
  • Am I as wonderful as I think I am?
  • Have you seen me be arrogant?
  • When was the last time you saw me treating someone rudely?
  • Is it my way or the highway?
  • What do I sound like when I’m irritable?
  • Do I cheer when my enemies get what’s coming to them?
  • Do I celebrate when God shows up?
  • Does my faith show in all things?
  • Am I always hopeful?
  • Am I committed to see our relationship through the hardest things and times?

That is a heck of a check-list.. This makes it easier to simply claim the business card and acknowledge, Yes, Lord! Have mercy on me a sinner!

Here the Good News: God loves us while we are still sinning.

God doesn’t want us to keep living in these broken ways, but that does not stop God from loving us. God does not give up!

Application Time

Who in your life needs to hear these words? Who in your areas of influence needs to see God showing love through you to them?

The best marker in journey of learning to love are the moments we love like an adult loves. A child loves because she or he needs. And adult loves not only from the point of need, but also because we know that self-love is never enough. We need God’s help. We need the power of God’s Spirit surging through us, because our Sinner List of when we are not loving shows we have the capacity to try, but not the frequency to make it through.

Loving in the Mirror

If we look in the mirror and see only our own reflection we will fail. The task it to seek God through us.. and we will love for ever.

The Greatest thing is the hardest.

You can do it, in Christ!

Come to the table, and start allowing God’s love to shine through you afresh and anew.

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Luke 4:14-21 Year of the Lord

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]

Do you think that 2019 will be reviewed as a “Year of the Lord”?

In a season of division unlike we have seen in the country and the church since 1840s it does not look as if this is a prime candidate. But what made that year that Jesus stood in the synagogue and declare Isaiah’s prophecy fulfilled in their hearing?

The defining factor was Jesus.

The Year of the Lord is time that Isaiah described as a time of reversal of justice and injustice, I time of economic restoration, AND a time of return to God’s righteousness and praise.

If we measure any given year from our markers and standards we will certainly fall short. Yet, if God is making the measure and transformation then true Greatness will prevail. 

Might we learn from history or are we self-fated to repeat what we are unwilling to learn?

ref For nearly 100 years, the Methodist Episcopal Church was divided into northern and southern wings.  Sixteen years before the southern states seceded, the southern Annual Conferences withdrew from the denomination and formed the Methodist Episcopal Church, South.  What could have caused such a split?

From its earliest days, Methodists debated the issue of slavery.  More precisely, they tried to decide what relationship the church should have to the peculiar institution in a country where slavery was legal, and in some parts of the country, widely supported.  Methodist conferences even before the first General Conference spoke out against slavery, suggesting that clergy who held slaves should promise to set them free.  Several General Conferences struggled with the issue, first pressing traveling elders to emancipate their slaves, then suspending those rules in states where the laws did not permit manumission.  By 1808, General Conference threw up its hands, finding the subject unmanageable, and gave each Annual Conference the right to enact its own rules relative to slaveholding.

The denomination remained divided on the subject of slavery, with some northern Methodists becoming more convinced of slavery’s evil and some southern Methodists more convinced that it was a positive good.  Other southerners felt that any denunciation of slaveholding by Methodists would damage the church in the South.  They were caught, in effect, between church rules and state laws.

The spark that caused the division came when Bishop James O. Andrew, a native and resident of Georgia and a former member of the South Carolina Annual Conference, married a woman who had inherited slaves from her late husband.  Many northern Methodists were appalled that someone with the responsibilities of a general superintendent of the church could also own slaves.  This was the main topic of debate when the General Conference convened in New York City on May 1, 1844.  The six week session would be the longest General Conference in Methodist history.

Bishop Andrew learned of the impending conflict as he traveled to New York, and he resolved to resign from the episcopacy.  However, the southern delegates persuaded Andrew that his resignation would “inflict an incurable wound on the whole South and inevitably lead to division in the church.”  When the conference convened, Bishop Andrew was asked for information on his connection with slavery.

Bishop Andrew explained that first, he had inherited a slave from a woman in Augusta, Georgia, who had asked him to care for her until she turned nineteen, and then emancipate her and send her to Liberia, and if she declined to go, then he should make her “as free as the laws of Georgia would permit.”  The young woman refused to go, so she lived in her own home on his lot and was free to go to the North if she wished, but until then she was legally his slave.  He also inherited a slave through his first wife who would also be free to leave whenever he was able to provide for himself.  Finally, his second wife brought slaves to the marriage, but he disclaimed ownership of them.  “I have neither bought nor sold a slave,” he told the General Conference, “and in the state where I am legally a slaveholder, emancipation is impracticable.”

A group of northern delegates proposed a resolution that the bishop was “hereby affectionately asked to resign.”  Some took the position that the bishops were officers elected by the General Conference and could be asked to resign or deposed by majority vote.  Others took the view that it was a constitutional office and bishops could be removed only by judicial process.  A substitute resolution by one of the bishop’s friends, an Ohioan, asked the bishop to desist from exercising his office as long as he was a slaveholder.  After a 12-day debate, other efforts at compromise, including one that would have allowed Andrew to serve wherever he would be welcomed, failed when it became apparent that the New England conferences would secede if it passed.  One of the prominent speakers in the debate was William Capers, who was the leader of South Carolina’s delegation and a future bishop.

The motion asking Andrew to desist from serving as a bishop ultimately passed, 111-69.  General Conference then worked through the beginnings of a plan of separation.  Annual Conferences throughout the South sent delegates to a convention in Louisville in May 1845, where they formed the Methodist Episcopal Church, South.  For the next 94 years, the two strands of the Methodist Episcopal Church operated separately.  Their separation was one of the turning points on the road to the Civil War, for the Methodist Church was one of several national churches and institutions that broke apart because it could not withstand the growing tensions surrounding the divisive issue of slavery.

http://blogs.wofford.edu/from_the_archives/2013/01/30/how-the-methodist-church-split-in-the-1840s/

The Prayer for our Delegates is that we all seek for God to Show Up, Speak the Witness of God, and cause us to listen to God rather than seek our own solutions, answers and salvation.

Jesus goes on in Luke’s account to tell the folks: I’m guessing you want me do another miracle like the water turned to wine, but know the Lord shows up in the lean times as well:

24 And he said, “Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s hometown. 25 But the truth is, there were many widows in Israel in the time of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was a severe famine over all the land; 26 yet Elijah was sent to none of them except to a widow at Zarephath in Sidon. 27 There were also many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.” 28 When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage. 29 They got up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff. 30 But he passed through the midst of them and went on his way. 31 He went down to Capernaum, a city in Galilee, and was teaching them on the sabbath. 32 They were astounded at his teaching, because he spoke with authority. [LK 4:24-32,NRSV]

In these days of leveraged famine over government shut downs, remember there were times of greater injustice and greater lean and God was working through them as well.

What agitates might be what leads us to find Salvation

The neighbors who wanting the Lord’s Day to be great for them, missed the point that its about seeing God’s revealed. 

Jesus confirms that he is declaring the year the Lord Shows Up. He reads the prophetic words of Isaiah and announces that he, himself, would be the fulfillment of the prophecy. Jesus declares that He is the Word: [I] am the hope of the oppressed, the healer of the sick, and the key to set free those forgotten in darkness. Bold words from the hometown hero.

Imagine hearing this sermon from one of our youth who grew up at Rock Spring, went away from some time but returned to the region and they stop one Sabbath to share a Bible text and sermon. Their message was an announcement that they had arrived ready to reveal the Year of the Lord.

For some the message is that “we” are the ones who bring the work of “our” kingdom, but this passage reminds us that it is Jesus who does the revealing, and Revealing God’s domain, and we are called to response to God’s righteousness and reign. (we get it twisted and backwards.)

The year of the Lord speaks of God’s timing to show up.

Jesus declares God is in their presence, Isaiah describes what it looks like when the faithful allow God rule their trust and lives.

  • Does Jesus describe the year of the Lord as the year the Stock Market has it’s the highest performance? 
  • Does the year of the Lord look like the time that everyone in the community agrees with our words and witness? 
  • Does the year of the Lord known when we get our difference worked out?

The Year of the Lord, is every year since Christ has come, the sermon is about our receiving the Lord’s goodness and will as our own or making our own way and calling it God’s on our terms and in our own time.

Isaiah 61:1-11  The Year of the LORD’s Favor 

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, 2to 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.

Time to Make it the Lord’s Year and not Ours.

From Isaiah word, the year of the Lord is not only a reversal of the world’s sense of justice and equity, there is also a time of reward for the end of robbery and covenant breaking, with the reward being double the loss. The prophet speaks of the Lord being clothed with Salvation and righteousness, as a bride and groom are adorn with crowns and jewels. 

The image of a planted seeds becoming a garden, so will the Lord spring up righteousness and praise for all the nations of the world to see and hear.

My Resolutions to loose weight, keep to a budget, organize our stuff and responsiblities

vs. 

Being resolved to Christ, and him crucified

Living as one saved rather than saving for to live when we think we can manage.

Jesus Declares: Let God order our lives and Right will follow AND God is to be praised for it.

Do you think that 2019 will be reviewed as a “Year of the Lord”?

In a season of division unlike we have seen

Jesus confirms that he is declaring the year the Lord Shows Up. He reads the prophetic words of Isaiah and announces that he, himself, would be the fulfillment of the prophecy. Jesus declares that He is the Word: [I] am the hope of the oppressed, the healer of the sick, and the key to set free those forgotten in darkness. Bold words from the hometown hero.

Imagine hearing this sermon from one of our youth who grew up at Rock Spring, went away from some time but returned to the region and they stop one Sabbath to share a Bible text and sermon. Their message was an announcement that they had arrived ready to reveal the Year of the Lord.

WOW! The good and the terrible. Good that evil and injustice would come to a reversal (Isaiah 61:1-4) and that the those who loved the Lord with all their heart and mind and strength and soul would lead the world in praise. (Isaiah 61:5-11).

Remember this passage is about Jesus, but we imagine our response to God showing up as one who hears these words from our hometown perspective.

The portion of Isaiah’s prophetic word that is quoted in the Luke passage is the first half of message. Luke wants us to see the transformation of the oppressed, but the other half, speaks of the response and responsibility of the faithful to Jesus work and witness.

Jesus is boldly announces justice for those who have been oppressed. The rest of the story talks about when the world looks like when God’s People live in a world where God is trusted and followed.

For some the message is that “we” are the ones who bring the kingdom, but this passage reminds us that it is Jesus who does the revealing, we are called to response.

The year of the Lord speaks of God’s timing to show up.

Jesus declares God is in their presence, Isaiah describes what it looks like when the faithful allow God rule their trust and lives.

  • Does Jesus describe the year of the Lord as the year the Stock Market has it’s the highest performance?
  • Does the year of the Lord look like the time that everyone in the community agrees with our words and witness?
  • Does the year of the Lord known when

Isaiah 61:1-11  The Year of the LORD’s Favor 

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, 2to 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.

The New Year is now, 1/12th in the books. Is this the year of the Lord?

From Isaiah word, the year of the Lord is not only a reversal of the world’s sense of justice and equity, there is also a time of reward for the end of robbery and covenant breaking, with the reward being double the loss. The prophet speaks of the Lord being clothed with Salvation and righteousness, as a bride and groom are adorn with crowns and jewels.

The image of a planted seeds becoming a garden, so will the Lord spring up righteousness and praise for all the nations of the world to see and hear.

Isaiah word speaks of a time when the People of God becoming that full community where not only are the oppressed made whole, but the whole community becomes “a praise of God’s righteousness.

The news of Jesus’s miracle of turning water into wine had made it home before Jesus arrived.

Will this be a Year of the Lord?

ref For nearly 100 years, the Methodist Episcopal Church was divided into northern and southern wings.  Sixteen years before the southern states seceded, the southern Annual Conferences withdrew from the denomination and formed the Methodist Episcopal Church, South.  What could have caused such a split?

From its earliest days, Methodists debated the issue of slavery.  More precisely, they tried to decide what relationship the church should have to the peculiar institution in a country where slavery was legal, and in some parts of the country, widely supported.  Methodist conferences even before the first General Conference spoke out against slavery, suggesting that clergy who held slaves should promise to set them free.  Several General Conferences struggled with the issue, first pressing traveling elders to emancipate their slaves, then suspending those rules in states where the laws did not permit manumission.  By 1808, General Conference threw up its hands, finding the subject unmanageable, and gave each Annual Conference the right to enact its own rules relative to slaveholding.

The denomination remained divided on the subject of slavery, with some northern Methodists becoming more convinced of slavery’s evil and some southern Methodists more convinced that it was a positive good.  Other southerners felt that any denunciation of slaveholding by Methodists would damage the church in the South.  They were caught, in effect, between church rules and state laws.

The spark that caused the division came when Bishop James O. Andrew, a native and resident of Georgia and a former member of the South Carolina Annual Conference, married a woman who had inherited slaves from her late husband.  Many northern Methodists were appalled that someone with the responsibilities of a general superintendent of the church could also own slaves.  This was the main topic of debate when the General Conference convened in New York City on May 1, 1844.  The six week session would be the longest General Conference in Methodist history.

Bishop Andrew learned of the impending conflict as he traveled to New York, and he resolved to resign from the episcopacy.  However, the southern delegates persuaded Andrew that his resignation would “inflict an incurable wound on the whole South and inevitably lead to division in the church.”  When the conference convened, Bishop Andrew was asked for information on his connection with slavery.

Bishop Andrew explained that first, he had inherited a slave from a woman in Augusta, Georgia, who had asked him to care for her until she turned nineteen, and then emancipate her and send her to Liberia, and if she declined to go, then he should make her “as free as the laws of Georgia would permit.”  The young woman refused to go, so she lived in her own home on his lot and was free to go to the North if she wished, but until then she was legally his slave.  He also inherited a slave through his first wife who would also be free to leave whenever he was able to provide for himself.  Finally, his second wife brought slaves to the marriage, but he disclaimed ownership of them.  “I have neither bought nor sold a slave,” he told the General Conference, “and in the state where I am legally a slaveholder, emancipation is impracticable.”

A group of northern delegates proposed a resolution that the bishop was “hereby affectionately asked to resign.”  Some took the position that the bishops were officers elected by the General Conference and could be asked to resign or deposed by majority vote.  Others took the view that it was a constitutional office and bishops could be removed only by judicial process.  A substitute resolution by one of the bishop’s friends, an Ohioan, asked the bishop to desist from exercising his office as long as he was a slaveholder.  After a 12-day debate, other efforts at compromise, including one that would have allowed Andrew to serve wherever he would be welcomed, failed when it became apparent that the New England conferences would secede if it passed.  One of the prominent speakers in the debate was William Capers, who was the leader of South Carolina’s delegation and a future bishop.

The motion asking Andrew to desist from serving as a bishop ultimately passed, 111-69.  General Conference then worked through the beginnings of a plan of separation.  Annual Conferences throughout the South sent delegates to a convention in Louisville in May 1845, where they formed the Methodist Episcopal Church, South.  For the next 94 years, the two strands of the Methodist Episcopal Church operated separately.  Their separation was one of the turning points on the road to the Civil War, for the Methodist Church was one of several national churches and institutions that broke apart because it could not withstand the growing tensions surrounding the divisive issue of slavery.

http://blogs.wofford.edu/from_the_archives/2013/01/30/how-the-methodist-church-split-in-the-1840s/

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Luke 3:15-17, 21-22 Baptism of Our Lord Sunday

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.” Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” [NRSV]

As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts..

It is my prayer that we see Jesus showing up in St Louis next month to make clear the direction of our Methodist future.

With the same uncertainly AND hope the people were anticipating the fulfillment of God’s promise to show up and lead the people.

Our text is about John the Baptist’s ministry of repentance for preparation. I offer that the United Methodist Church has been kicking-the-can on human sexuality for over forty years without repenting for not being better prepared for the struggle, division and need for spiritual leadership in this year. In these generations have we been looking for the gifts of discernment? Have we been open to God’s way of communicating grace and boundaries? How have we prepared to express the eternal love of God in an ever changing world?

The people in Israel were waiting for a Messiah, a king, who would right the wrongs of their current reality and restore Israel. Many were gathering to be baptized by John in expectation that something would soon happen — the Messiah was coming.

Is in John’s message, we are acknowledging that we have been quick to point fingers of blame and drawn out lines in the sand, WITHOUT, learning how to show the power of loving all sinners.

Epiphany is a season of claiming our “Greater Gifts”, and today we will be exploring how baptism, as a “first gift” from God, leads us in life toward paths of discovering and rediscovering God-given gifts, activating those gifts through the Holy Spirit, understanding how our gifts are interrelated to the gifts of other disciples in the body of Christ, and how important it is to stay true to the heart of our God-given gifts — the love of God in Christ.

So what about this gift of baptism?

Some of you may have never been baptized. Later in the service, we want to give you an opportunity to sign up to be baptized next week if you feel God calling. Some of you were baptized more recently; some recently confirmed the baptism of your childhood; and for some, perhaps it has been many years since your baptism.

What do you remember leading up to that moment? Or, what did your parents or guardians tell you about that moment? Who was present? What did it mean to them?

I told him I wanted to follow Jesus my whole life and I thought it should start with being baptized. In those moments, the sanctuary became a thin space. The heavens did not open, but I felt God’s presence all around. As Wesley said, “my heart was strangely warmed.” On January 9, 1983, I received the gift of baptism and was forever changed. As a matter of fact, I remember telling my good friend Kevin about the experience right away. He was also a Christian, and he told about his experience of baptism, showing me a silver cross around his neck. In our young friendship, our faith was not something we talked about. In that moment, we shared God’s gift to us, and our joy was complete.

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