Posts Tagged belief

John 18.33-38 “The God’s Truth: Redundancy” 20151115 RSUMC

TruthPilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?” 34 “Is that your own idea,” Jesus asked, “or did others talk to you about me?” 35 “Am I a Jew?” Pilate replied. “It was your people and your chief priests who handed you over to me. What is it you have done?” 36 Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place.” 37 “You are a king, then!” said Pilate. Jesus answered, “You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” 38 “What is truth?” Pilate asked. With this he went out again to the Jews and said, “I find no basis for a charge against him. [NRSV]

This Word is not my home, Albert Brumley, 1937  (11am)

This world is not my home, I’m just a-passing through. My treasures are laid up, Somewhere beyond the blue.
The angels beckon me, From heaven’s open door, And I can’t feel at home In this world anymore.
Oh Lord, you know, I have no friend like you, If heaven’s not my home, Then Lord what will I do.
I have a loving mother, Just up in Glory land, And I don’t expect to stop, Until I shake her hand.
She’s waiting now for me, In heaven’s open door, And I can’t feel at home, In this world anymore.
Oh Lord, you know, I have no friend like you, If heaven’s not my home, Then Lord what will I do.
Just over in Glory land, We’ll live eternally, The saints on every hand, Are shouting victory.
Their songs of sweetest praise, Drift back from heaven’s shore, And I can’t feel at home, In this world anymore.

Citizenship 101
King of kings and Lord of Lords reigns a spiritual world that is not measurable by the laws of physics and science.
Dual Citizenship
We are a physically citizen of the USA

We are the spiritual citizen of the Kingdom of God

The Micro-nation   (9am)

Are you not tired of politics fighting. No matter the side of the fence you choose to stand, we are over-loaded with a constant fight to destroy one another. The heart ache is based in the passions that drive our beliefs.

— The PROBLEM: If everyone would value what “I” value then there would be peace and tranquility.

There are times I’d like to make my own little nation. Tiny House phenomenon, there is a Micro Nation phenomenon.

The problem with setting up your back yard as your own country is that becomes a legal threat against the United States. It might be all in our imagination but if everyone seceded one Saturday afternoon, stopped paying taxes, stopped voting, ignored the laws, rules and regulations we disagree, the imaginary idea of our own nations would corrupt the order of our real nation.

The result would be an increase of division and a decrease of safety and peace. Most certainly, there would be more politics, WHY? Because we cannot live without each other.
Politics in Church

Sanhedrin, temple authority board/council, were threatened by Jesus, because of his popularity with the crowds.
They use the Roman politics to keep their power and support of the populace.
–Rather than talk with your neighbor you get the home owners association to act
–Rather than question if you are right or wrong, find a legal technicality to call the police or better yet sue someone.
–Find the flaw in your opponent and exploit them with the system.
–Pass the dirty job to someone other than yourself AND you get what you want.

There are valid times for legal resolutions, but not the place to start.
School board, city Council, County commissioners, Senator and representatives, presidents, emperors as well as you and me.

To the Heart of the Solution is to Define and claim: Where is my primary citizenship?

The Conversation in the text
Governor Pilate has heard of Jesus. They have a political discussion about truth.
“Ok Jesus, they are charging you with challenging the authority of Caesar,

Are you a king?”
Are you guilty of the charges

Jesus sounds a bit vague, unclear, not straightforward. “You have answered correctly in saying, “You are a king.”

Pilate races through his memory, I asked the question. I didn’t make a statement. Grrr.

Ok, Jesus, what is the truth?

Truth
We live in an age of enlighten truth, shaped by the scientific method and defined by person accent/believe and/or popular opinion and personal offense.

Is it true that someone on some college campus call a student a derogatory name? Yes.

Therefore, the entire school has a fundamental problem with racism and the leaders have to be fired.

There is a double standard

Is it true that there are more unemployed and under-employed people today compared to eight years ago? Yes it is true.

Therefore, the entire economic system has fundamental problems with economics and the leaders have to be fired.

Oh, but that not the same at all.

Jesus is saying something that was just as unpopular to Governor Deal, as it was to Governor Pilate then.

Truth is not a variable

Truth is not an opinion

Truth is not our lump of metallic ore to shape and model into our own idol.

It’s one or the other: Truth in the eyes of the beholder VS. Truth is in God!’s will.

It might the atheists right to deny God, but their disbelief doesn’t negate God’s existence and patience with them.

Using the truth, and our understanding for person or corporate political gain is the issue

If I take a standard ruler and saw off 2 inches and say that new length s a foot. Is that the truth.

The valued the dollar changes daily.  Isn’t that crazy?

Pilate passes the buck on Truth, Yet Speaks the Truth.

“I find no fault, you deal with your difference.”

A good leader is not going to pass the buck.

A good leader helps lift of the truth and stands behind that standard.

Independent of offense, popularity or opinion.

So where is our Truth?

If political majority is your guiding principles, Who made the majority of the people?

If political principle is your guiding passion, Who made of the network of the mind that things of better ways for folks to work together?

If you want everyone to be completely free to choose for themselves their own destiny? Who created freedom?

If you want to be led by the heart and compassion, Who are we called to forgive first? Those who think like we do, or our enemies?

If you want science and physics as your truth, who made the heavens and the earth?, who started the bang and ordered the science?

If you and I want to find the common ground, The Truth is God.

Even for those who deny God’s reality. God is big, tough and grace-filled enough to be TRUTH with Patience for us to trust that truth.

 

Jesus is the truth.

This is who were are. The people who believe above all else that God has always wanted to be in love and in relationship with us

Jesus is the, in the flesh example of God’s example and the means by which bridges us to God.

God’s Spirit continues to be reached out to us, drawing, inviting and welcoming the conversation.

 

Remember this if nothing else. You can talk about politics with God, but your can’t talk about God without getting to the truth of politics. We are living in God’s garden and playground.

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John 20:19-31/2. Who or What Is Missing? 20150412 RSUMC

missingsock_milk

Jesus Appears to His Disciples

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” Jesus Appears to Thomas. Now Thomas (called Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.” A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. [NRSV]

Who is missing?

After his resurrection from the dead, Jesus went to Jerusalem, just as he said, to meet the disciples.

Judas was missing. Overwhelmed with regret and confusion takes his life and is missing from the circle. Given the events in the garden the disciples would have at least known why Judas might not show up.

Thomas was also missing. Where was Thomas? There is no mention of his absence at the first appearance of Jesus. Neither by Jesus nor the others, Thomas was absent.

What he afraid? Was he hiding? Had he given up? Did he not check his email or Facebook page or maybe his cell phone battery was not charged after a busy weekend. His absence goes un-noted for the moment.

This is one of the occurrences in the church that is just as true today as it was then. If we take a moment and look around at who is missing.

Some folks have recently died and we continue to grieve for the emptiness of their home going.

Others are ill and not physically able to be her or it is hazardous to their health or ours if the came to worship. Other have other limitations that keep them from being in this place.

Some are on vacation. Some are sleeping. Some are working. Some are accounted for, while others are missing, absence and not connected.

Which category did Thomas fit into?

Because we are so focused on our own worship, our own needs, and our own stuff, that we are looking to Jesus for all the help we can get. We make no note of who is missing.

So look around and see who is missing:

Not that we will take away a gold star, no demerits, no red ‘X’ by their name, but think back to last Sunday, where nearly 250 people gathered in this place and this morning, some of those are missing.

Still others were missing last week and like Thomas have come today. Thanks be to God that you are all hear.

Be know it is important that we have our shepherding ministry of paying attention to who is not hear, so that a week, or month , or a season does not go by and we not notice who is not in the fellowship, not in the circle.

Did you ever think Thomas was out evangelizing and telling the world about the resurrection? It is doubtful as he questions the resurrections when he has the opportunity to see Jesus in the flesh.

Thomas want to see the evidence, the proof, the touch and hold the hands and side confirmation, that what Jesus said was true and real.

Here is Good News, Thomas shows up. And, when he shows up he wants to believe. He wants to see Jesus. Jesus wants him to have peace. Jesus wants him to believe. Jesus wants him to know the power and gift of the resurrection is for Thomas too.

Think about what Thomas is asking Jesus

  • Jesus who died for Thomas
  • Jesus who conquered death for Thomas
  • Jesus who rose from the dead for Thomas
  • Jesus who came looking for Thomas and Thomas was missing
  • Jesus who came looking for Thomas a second time is met by Thomas’s question and challenge.

..I will not believe unless I touch his hand / feel his side.

Despite any arrogance or ignorance: Jesus wants Thomas to believe.

Jesus is going the extra-mile of the extra-mile for the extra-stubborn folks like me… Praise the Lord!

SO Jump ahead to 2015

Jesus has been reveal to us in worship, Word, works of grace and service in his name. He STILL lives..

Why are their folks missing out?

Is there something missing the witness?

Here is a test question: Will your grandchildren (or that generation) know what your grandparents believed? That’s a five-generation spread of 100 years, @20 years.

We all know “WE” believe, but what about those who are missing what we cherish and treasure?

What if folks are looking at our hands and stand at our sides, do they see and touch Jesus when they are around us?

Is something missing?

  • Jesus Gives the disciples PEACE
  • Jesus Gives the disciples SPIRIT
  • Jesus Gives the disciples WORD
  • Jesus Gives the disciples Repeat Visits
  • Jesus Gives the disciples hands-on
  • Jesus Gives the disciples the Church
  • Jesus Give the Church the peace, spirit, word, presence, contact and life to share with the world that is missing from the table.

Do you know anyone who has seen the signs, but is missing the:

Peace, Spirit, Welcome, Presence and/or Christ in their daily living? Then you know what’s on your disciple’s to-do list this week.

Show the signs,

breathe the presence and spirit,

share the word,

ask and invite again,

Jesus lives for us and those who are missing.

Jesus is sending us to show the cross and it’s Good News

Jesus is resending us to live the life for the missing.

Who is missing? So get to work.

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Hebrews 5:5-10 “Obey?” RSUMC 20150322

why_obey

So also Christ did not glorify himself in becoming a high priest, but was appointed by the one who said to him, “You are my Son, today I have begotten you”; as he says also in another place, “You are a priest forever, according to the order of Melchizedek.” In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; and having been made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him, having been designated by God a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek. [NRSV]

In reading this passage we find no parable or stories, no historical travel plans to orient or date the occasion. This is part of a larger lesson or even sermon about Jesus Christ.

The book is called Hebrews and was most likely written by someone who had excellent writing skills in Greek, who knew the Greek version of the Old Testament but was not so concerned about Jesus being the messiah as much as Jesus being the Christ, the Son of the Most High.

The audience seems to be those who might have a mental understanding of Jesus as the Christ, but lack a motivation to have relationship with the Christ. The heart of the book seems to be 4:14 “Since, then, we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession.”

  • Jesus who has been made perfect, [whole] for our brokenness.
  • Jesus becomes our source for salvation.
  • We connect to this source through obedience.
  • With obedience, we can expect suffering.
  • Through suffering we can expect to find Christ.
  • Therefore, Trust the Jesus with all things.
  • In suffering, joy and eternity

So let’s get to the trouble spot: Obey?!

To obey is to respond in direct relation to command, instructions, or restrictions.

WHY? Would we give up our will to choose God’s?

The resume’ of resume’s

  • Christ was appointed by God for you and me
  • Christ’s kingdom is eternal one, high priest of the order of Melchizedek.
  • Christ who suffered for you and me, died and lives for our benefit
  • Christ modeled the power of obedience as child of God
  • Christ connects us to God as children of God, joint heirs

Bottom line: in a world that is tearing countries, families and lives apart. We need to know our Savior is near!

Melchizedek is this mystical priest that shows up with Abram in the midst of a 4 nations against 5 nations battle, when the larger forces raid one of the nations in the night, Abram takes his trained special force folks at night and brings back the people/families, animals and other possessions and returns them to the king who was defeated. For Abram’s since of justice and restoration, King “Mel” shows up, offers up bread and wine and blesses Abram for his graciousness. (Sound familiar?)

Abram is lead by the creed of grace and is blessed.

It is through the same priesthood that Jesus the Christ is sent by God to give us grace and to bless us in a world that is dividing families and nations and resources.

Why do we obey Jesus?

    • Because he has come to us as a Son
    • He has suffered for our benefit

He has come to bless us who are fighting and divided

Contemporary Question:

Who needs to hear about Obeying Jesus

  1. Those who would run from such a request.
  2. Those who have not hear or have lost faith that Jesus coming to suffer has anything to do with us now
  3. Those who might have heard but don’t see the personal benefit Jesus affords us.
  4. Those who are closed to seeing and experiencing the blessing of following, trusting and obeying THE highest of priest. The one who came to seek and save the lowest and the greatest. Me and you.

The Greatest Threat: is to Obey ourselves in the name of God or in the place of God. (don’t fool yourself, God or anyone else)

This week: Break bread and bless someone this week. Remind them that Jesus died and lives for them and the suffering that threatens their life and joy.

This week: Break bread and bless someone this week. Remind them that Jesus died and lives for them and the suffering that threatens their life and joy.

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Be Strong in Praising God 20150208 Isaiah 40:21-31 RSUMC

bladeofgrass
Have you not known? Have you not heard? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth? It is he who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers; who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them like a tent to live in; who brings princes to naught, and makes the rulers of the earth as nothing. Scarcely are they planted, scarcely sown, scarcely has their stem taken root in the earth, when he blows upon them, and they wither, and the tempest carries them off like stubble. To whom then will you compare me, or who is my equal? says the Holy One. Lift up your eyes on high and see: Who created these? He who brings out their host and numbers them, calling them all by name; because he is great in strength, mighty in power, not one is missing. Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel, “My way is hidden from the Lord, and my right is disregarded by my God”? Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless. Even youths will faint and be weary, and the young will fall exhausted; but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint. [NRSV]

WARNING: Don’t forget God in the PROCESS of Leading the People

The prophet Isaiah is warning King Hezekiah to be clear as the leader who is God and for the king to put himself and the people in perspective of God.

The prophet Isaiah is warning King Hezekiah to be certain there will soon be a day when all the wealth and possession will be taken away. Where will the king turn when there is no peace?

The prophet Isaiah is warning King Hezekiah to be aware that they people and his kingdom will be turned over to Babylon and he speaks for God saying: Who is mighty, Who is in control, who is THE king when the kingdom is overthrown due to arrogance, misplaces alliance and a loss of faith?

Isaiah reminds the king of God’s place in the order of politics:

TO THE PEOPLE

1. FIRST, God’s words are to the people: “Comfort, O comfort my people” The king may be leading you to destruction but that does NOT mean I have forgotten you.

Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that she has served her term, that her penalty is paid, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.

2. (There are consequences for following a king that leads people away from God)  Nevertheless: God is still with us.

3. FOLLOW GOD FIRST, above all:

A voice cries out: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain.

Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

FOLKS WILL SAY

People will say… Folks will shout out… Leaders will talk but let’s look at the basics:

GRASS: Flowers, grass.. When the winds blow, where will you run?

MOUNTAINS: High places don’t make you closer to God.

GOD is a GOOD SHEPHERD: Feed on God’s grace… grazing

OCEANS and SEAS and LAND: God’s handiwork, and it operates by God’s design, not king’s command and laws.

POWER, WISDOM, KNOWLEDGE, JUSTICE, UNDERSTANDING:

God’s heart/spirit is God’s to will.

God is God’s own counselor.

You might explain how a tomato is formed, but who designed and produced the first one.

Who taught your kings what they know and who taught them..

A DROP in the bucket

Add up all the wealth, knowledge, wisdom and talents in the world and no one can make a blade of grass from scratch.

The DEFINITION OF DEPRAVITY

Here is an equation: Take all the fuel in the world, efforts of humanity focused on one task, use all your resources, all the gross national products of all nations combined and who can make a blade of grass.

WE ARE ALL EMPTY and NOTHING without God.

COMPARISON: piss’n contest (forgive the crudeness)

To whom then will you liken God, or what likeness compare with him?

IS an IDOL greater than God?

A thing, shaped by a workman, guilded by another, and displayed by another with (no rot wood)

Designer’s CHALLENGE

CAN ANYTHING WE MIGHT FORM, DESIGN OR DREAM UP out do what God has already done. Start with a mustard seed, a carrot, a flea, on tick on an fly….

WHAT ABOUT THE ORDER of things?

WHO WAS AT THE BEGINNING? Who created the matter? Who defined gravity, mass and energy? Who started the big bang? Who determined relativity, string theory and quantum mechanics would be the guiding factors?

WHO ARE YOU KIDDING: Who are you king? Who are you president? Who are you Hezikiah? compare yourself to God. God says through ISAIAH: I think, at best, you are a grasshopper.

You didn’t form the earth and all that is in it.

You didn’t form a chicken or an egg.

You didn’t make a blade of grass much less the seasons that both kill the grass and renew it in the spring.

SO WHAT ?

LIFT UP YOUR EYES AND SEE. (KNOW and SPEAK the truth)

WHY DARE do you ask: Where is God? What does it matter? Life is not fair!

HAVE YOU NOT HEARD

  1. God is everlasting.
  2. God is always creating and recreating
  3. God gives power to the fainting and powerless
  4. God does not get tired.
  5. God renew those who are tired.

Therefore, Fly, Run and Walk

The Soar like eagles makes for a good song or placard.. but more significant is the series of perspective.

Can you fly, can you run, can you even walk without using what God has already made for you?

A CASE for reminding the king, the people and the nations of the world:

God, who made heaven and earth, shows grace through his Son, and power, knowledge and wisdom through his Spirit and Counselor is to be trusted with all that we are.

BOTTOM LINE: (Yeah, Preacher, we know all that stuff, so what?)

Isaiah is making a case for us to tell the king, tell each other and tell the world, God is all around. Don’t doubt it. Don’t forget it. Don’t confuse it. Don’t deny it. Don’t take it for granted. PRAISE the LORD.

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Luke 3:1-6 “The King Is Coming Soon” RSUMC ADV: 2 20141206

 ElvisBWIn the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was ruler of Galilee, and his brother Philip ruler of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias ruler of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah, “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.'” [NRSV]

Prepare the way of the King: There is some confusion about who the real king is at Christmas? Is it Jesus or Santa. South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker pit Jesus and Santa clause in a boxing match and the victor is Brian Boitano who instructs everyone Christmas is a time to be good to one another. Smoothies all around the cult classic born.

But we all know better? We just want our manger and our presents. I have tried to share some Advent and pre-Christmas photo posts on Facebook each day. So far the one the has drawn the greatest comment has been the most misunderstood:

startrekstarwarsbatmanaNativityMost folks have thought i was promoting this as a creative, post modern spin on the traditional nativity. (When actually I’m totally offended by the collection.) But this passage is not so much about Elvis as King or Super Hero Movie action figures holding court in a fake moss-crusted manger set. Let’s get to the juicy part. Politics and Christmas.

Politics at Christmas? Jesus comes into the world to transform all powers.

I good friend of mine shared a personal commentary this week. She observed that there were two conversations going on this week. Christmas bargains and responses to the turmoil in Ferguson. It was interested to here to two radically different conversation interwoven without clashing until she brought them together.

Who wants to talk about politics at Christmas time?

But this is the very thing that John the Baptist, John the son of Zacharia, called attention to in the introduction of Jesus’ ministry.

Luke retells of John’s ministry of Advent, preparing for Christ’s arrival, in the context of the politics of the day.

The Emperor was Tiberius, [ a soldier become leader, opposed by others, wanted to Senate to make all the decisions, married for politics and was concerned a very unhappy person and leader. ]

Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, [ primary functions were military, but as representatives of the empire they were responsible for the collection of imperial taxes,[25] and also had limited judicial functions ]

Herod was ruler of Galilee, [ Born Arab, Became Jewish in Marriage, Gave himself the name, Herod the Great, massive building and taxes for his glory in the name of Rome. Killed many, fears everyone, 2000 body guards, pool in is house on the Med Sea. ]

herodpoolHerod’s brother Philip was ruler of the region of I-tur-aea and Tra-cho-nit-is, [ Self titled, Phillip the Tetriarch, married his niece to secure the family conquest of ‘dynasty’ ]

Ly-sani-as ruled Abilene, [ Arab city of Damascus, in Syria, little is know, but Luke uses the regional context as inclusive of powers ]

And the high priests in Jerusalem were An-nas and Cai-aphas,
[ The Annas family ruled the temple from 3 AD to 63 AD and Caiaphas married into the family, think of the church dynasties today ]

For us, in 2014

It would be like telling the Jesus story today in the context. When Obama was president, and Deal was Governor of Georgia, Haslam was Governon or Tennessee, Paul Johnson was coach at GTech, Mark Richt was a UGA, and Mike Watson was Bishop and Herzen Andone was DS in the Northwest District.

Why would set the Spiritual story in the context of political leaders?

Because the spiritual story is unfolding now.

Because the spiritual story in a context of current realitiy

Because the spiritual story is a contrasting story to the culture in which it is revealed.

Because to NOT know the reality of the context is to ignore the role and power of the message.

A call that Challenges Authority

Think of John the Baptizers Call to the Nations: Prepare the Way of the King, the Lord, the Authority

Q: What preparations would be made if we knew the president, governor, coach, bishop or DS were coming?

A: It kind of depends on what you think of their leadership or how you respect the office.

John is calling for God’s Children to prepare for a greater Authority..

Who is our Authority?

There are many levels in many different contexts. But who is responsible for shaping our view, motives and responses to the world in which we live?

Take the injustice of racism: In my doctoral studies I attended Gammon Seminary. It is a historically Black United Methodist seminary on the Atlanta University campus. At the time I started my degree, one third of my congregation persons who were Black, African-American, culturally different from my experience. My going to school was to try to learn and better understand so I could better connect, serve and lead as their pastor. When I choose the topic of addressing racism through the repetition of worship as a white pastor, I was quickly set straight by both students and faculty that that was not possible for a “little white boy” to do. I was told that fighting racism was the job of “the black man” and the “black church.” It took me several years to find an adviser who would work with me.

The political reality of racism is a real as ever. But the current charges in the news are not based on solving the problem, instead it continues to be a struggle for power and authority. It fall right in with John the Baptist’s call for making away for a NEW AUTHORITY. One that is more than black or white or yellow or red or brown or tan. BUT TO PAVE A NEW ROAD, old ways have to be torn away. The answers to the conversation of Ferguson, MO. are not impossible, but they call for our society to look at people as people and crime as crime. Folks on both sides of the conversation are not necessarily ready to do both simultaneously.

Have yourself a politically correct happy holiday.

Again I say, we can applaud the efforts of those individual and merchants who continue to state, Merry Christmas instead of Happy Holidays, but that is only an attempt at resurfacing a road that many have given up traveling in the first place.

John Preaches Prepare the LORD’s path, the KING’s road, Christ’s Way.

The Way

From the beginning the church was known as the “Way”:

  • The way to God,
  • the Way to live,
  • the way to follow Jesus,
  • the way to heaven,
  • the Way to salvation,
  • the Way to life eternal

The Lord’s Way… The way God is working in the world, through the Spirit and through those who follow.

  • I would make a case that it is not the government’s responsibility to feed the hungry: it is the church’s
  • It is not the government’s responsibility to clothe and house the homeless, it is the church’s,
  • It is not the government’s responsibility to comfort and help the widow, orphan and imprisoned, it is the church’s
  • It is not the government’s responsibility to provide health care, it is the church’s
  • It is not the government’s responsibility to provide moral instruction to broken families and expectant mothers, it is the church’s

This is a radical road, a difficult road, a path that has been long forgotten and forsaken…

The preparing for Christ coming is not getting our decorations, it is paving a new road, by a new authority, for a new world relationship with God.

Tell me I’m wrong and show me my miss reading and I will repent..

So you say: “Im overwhelmed.” If this is true, I don’t know where to start.

This advent we have started with the conversation of Prayer, the Study of the Word, and today we add Breaking Ground.

Ground Breaking

Isn’t it fun to break ground: to see the shovel of reality break through the dreams of hope and change.

That act is the physical and tangible involvement of putting ideas into motion.

Prayer

Study

Actively Break New Ground for Christ:

and Dig into reality.. get involved. get your hands dirty, get the sweat equity in what you believe..

If Christmas is a time for giving gifts, don’t just get a good deal, use the gift to be witness of JESUS’s love and grace.

If Christmas is a time for traditions of family and friends, use the occasions to make certain Make God known through them

If Christmas is a time for lights and songs, then make sure they clearly point to why we do and sing and remember.

The Season of Assumption is past…

We living in a time of paving, new break through of God’s authority… and we hold the shovels!

And God is coming Soon…

Advent is an annual experience of asking ourselves: If Jesus were coming in a month, what would be different about my life and faith and living… and act accordingly.

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Genesis 50:15-21 “Grudge Match” RSUMC 20140921

GrudgeHand 15 Realizing that their father was dead, Joseph’s brothers said, “What if Joseph still bears a grudge against us and pays us back in full for all the wrong that we did to him?” 16 So they approached Joseph, saying, “Your father gave this instruction before he died, 17 “Say to Joseph: I beg you, forgive the crime of your brothers and the wrong they did in harming you.’ Now therefore please forgive the crime of the servants of the God of your father.” Joseph wept when they spoke to him. 18 Then his brothers also wept, fell down before him, and said, “We are here as your slaves.” 19 But Joseph said to them, “Do not be afraid! Am I in the place of God? 20 Even though you intended to do harm to me, God intended it for good, in order to preserve a numerous people, as he is doing today. 21 So have no fear; I myself will provide for you and your little ones.” In this way he reassured them, speaking kindly to them. [NRS]

The Leverage of the Grudge:
This passages is the point of reversal in the Joseph story. Joe, in an act of restitution, at best and getting even, at worst asks his brothers to bring his father to see him.

There is a fine line between teaching a lesson and passive aggressive attempt of getting even. On one hand the hiding of treasures in the food supply bags and asking for the journey of his youngest brother and then father, together are delicate examples of learning from punitive responsibilities. Joseph was captive, rejected, sold into slavery. The brothers are afraid but never in actual danger.

Fear and Avoidance
The power of fear is a great force. Think of those things, people, relationships, and feelings we fear: Name three: (Not: Fear of sharing, fear of talking in church, fear of being to close to someone else)

  • We are afraid of embarrassment, failure, weakness that we avoid the truth, avoid conversations, avoid confrontation.
  • We are afraid of what might happen, and make little allowance for what has actually happen. There is a healthy level of fear that keeps us respecting fire, electricity and causing harm to others.
  • But when fear keeps us from relationship, then we give in to the power of fear and allow it greater strength than God, grace and mercy (forgiveness)

Shared Love, Shared Grief
When the brothers confront Joseph and confess their father’s death, the are joined in their grief. Fear melts in their common loss and common love.

Some funerals remind us of our own frailty, But our grief is shared because we share love for the person who died or we love those who are dealing with the loss.

Do Not Be Afraid
The common words of assurance are “Be Not Afraid.” It is the same encouragement that angels announce to Mary and to shepherd and to Disciples after the resurrection.

When we find the core love that binds our relationship, we have the foundation for what it means to be a Christian.

This is the homework: Last week it was easy to eat, this week we step things back up. Be attentive and alert for someone who is afraid: Starting with the love that unites us in Christ then speak the truth in that love. Because being in that relationship is better than being right.

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1 Cor 1:18-24 “Share Christ with Them” RSUMC 20140914

ShareJesus.jpg 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]

One of the foundational keys of being United Methodist is faith in God’s Word, spoken and revealed through ordinary people. The people, lessons, foundations witness those who are willing to listen and share God’s Word.

We listen to scripture as God’s word through lenses and filters.

  • Scripture is heard and experienced through the context of all those who have read, studied and listened in years past. We call this the voice of tradition or theology.
  • Scripture is heard and reflected through the grey matter of reason. God has created each of us with a mind, powers of rational and logical thought. We call this voice of reason.
  • Scripture is heard and conveyed through the presence of the God’s Spirit in our own spirit understanding as a spiritual being. We call this voice of experience.

The heart of Methodist living in the scriptures includes all three of these filters.

Scripture_is_to_glasses_lenses_are_tradition_reason_experience

Scripture is to glasses and lenses are tradition reason and experience. Each are important but only together is the whole story revealed.

  • For those who state that they read scripture literally, they are making assumptions that are based on using only a filter of tradition OR experience.
  • For those who state that scripture is read only in contrast to science and mental reflection, they are only using one filter of reason.
  • For those who state the interpretation is weighted by the church’s historical voice or even the church’s majority voice, they use only one filter of tradition.
  • For those who state they reading as non-denominational, non-traditional, rather personally inspired alone, they ONLY draw on the voice of experience.

Each of these independent ways are good, but incomplete without all of them together. This complete view of scripture is at the heart of being Methodist. Keep this in heart, mind and spirit as we look, listen and share this mornings reading:

The message of the cross is foolish to those who:

  • remember the cross only as a history lesson
  • try to explain away the extreme of sacrifice or
  • or are turned off by the gruesomeness of crucifixion

Remember it is through all these that the cross becomes a sign of power, love and victory.

Paul is talking to the folks at the churches in Corinth, but as part of the church now, Paul continues the power of tradition for us.

As a practical matter: Sharing our faith is something that we are called, commanded and empowered to do.

But not every attempt to do so is fruitful.

  • We could talk about Jesus everywhere we go and most folks will just call us that crazy person that talks about Jesus all the time.
  • We could think about Jesus and work out a great thoughts for our own understanding and no one would ever hear a thing, for all the work we have done.
  • And We could wait for the moment that it felt right and connect only in an emotional way that is empty of spiritual power.

Consider doing all three, together.

For to only follow one method is foolish..

Take for example our financial stewardship and giving..

  • If you talk to some people about tithing as a duty and a faithfulness of following scripture, some will listen and following the challenge.
  • For others, you show them a few pictures of children that are hurting and lack and show how a few cents each day will transform their suffering.
  • Some are moved by guilt, shame or fear to give because you can’t out give God.
  • Still others need to see the balance sheets and of the organization, the estimates of the market place and find ways of saving through giving.

But the whole power of stewardship is some of each of these, but it is rooted in a radical and extravagant love that is willing to do whatever it takes to build a loving relationship with us.. and once we find that kind of relationship, stewardship is our automatic response and expression of love.

John Hayes, my OT professor loved his multiple choice questions. Most ever test had 100-150 multiple choice questions and all of the had a 5th choice: E) all of the above or none of the above. What if:

  • Signs are important.
  • debate is important
  • wisdom is important
  • discernment is important
  • politics are important
  • geography and culture differences are important
  • Understanding and sharing the cross of Jesus Christ call for E) All of the above.

The Cross of Christ is God’s eternal gift.

  • some folks are not ready to see its power
  • some have forgotten the power it held
  • some have decided it’s not theirs to carry.

Paul is saying, most simply: it is foolish to live with vanilla when Hershey’s dark chocolate fudge brownie and pistachio-mango-strawberry-swirl give you a better  balance of what ice cream can be. Knowing, Living and Sharing the Christ of the Cross takes our whole life.. not just Sunday..

Homework: It sounds foolish, but eat three radically different flavors of ice cream (unless you’re diet or health are endangered, then try three different flavors of what is in your eating plan) Three scoops or three spoonfuls. Or three different fruits, two of which you don’t usually eat. As you taste three different bites ask: What if fruits only tasked like raspberries and never like water melon? What if I only at Brussels sprouts and never tried fried green tomatoes?

What if I were foolish enough to try all three? What if we are foolish enough to think there is on our time, our understanding and our perspective?

 

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Matthew 14:22-33 “Keep Me Out of Trouble?” RSUMC 20140810

The calm sea of galilee

The calm Sea of Galilee 2011

Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. And early in the morning he came walking toward them on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.” Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” [NRSV]

• Jesus dismisses the disciples before dismissing the crowd. Leaders need retreat and renewal in order to be fit for leadership.

• Just when rest is needed, the A boat battered by the waves, far from the shore, with the wind against them. Strike three.

• Stepping out of perfectly find boat, into the awesome power of storm is the antithesis of safety?? [Jumping from the frying pan into the fire.]

• Jesus invites us to Come to him, IN the midst of a terrible storm.

o Jesus is in the storm, WITH us.
o Peter walks on the water..

• We are amazed that Jesus walked on the water, but Peter did the same. Ordinary, fallible, doubting, over-thinking, over planning, over talking, over protecting Peter..

• Finds Jesus’ strength to do all things, more powerful than storms and nature, greater than the rules of science and engineering. Peter can do all things in Christ who gives him strength..

BUT, This is what gets us in to real trouble. BUT. Our buts get us into trouble.
We think that following Jesus keeps the storms away. Nope.
Those outside the church look at our lives and see we have illnesses, hardship and struggles. They ask, “Where is God” or think “God is gone or made up.”

Or our trouble is that WE think WE have conquered the waves and storms.
We step out in the waters of faith, God blesses and guides us and we look away.
There is a cinematic focal point where the camera pans from the storm and connects Jesus’ eyes with Peter’s eyes. They are connected.

But when Peter looks away, the connection is broken, the connection is lost, the power is cut off. Because it is not Peter’s power. Peter looks at the storm, at the impossible, at the fear, at anything except Jesus and down he goes into the storm.

Home Work is to get out of the boat and keep our eyes on Jesus.
It is easy to sit here in the fellowship, with great music and friends and good neighbors, but thing of storms of jobs, bills, cancers and broken hearts, fighting fears and families. Step into a storm and bring all eyes to Jesus.

Help someone see Jesus in the storm.
Break up a fight. Make a call, send an email, write a letter, start the conversation, break the silence. Be the messenger that reminds and introduces: “Jesus is here with us now.”

You may say, I don’t get mixed up in others folks troubles. Then get out and look around, live a little and see and hear our neighbors who feel that they are about to drown and we have words of power, hope and life to share.

Practice: Look in the eyes of someone this morning. Do you see Jesus or just evidence of a wrestles night lacking sleep? Tell that person,

“Keep Your eyes on Jesus and he will see you through every part of your life.”
Nothing is impossible in Christ who gives us strength.

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June 22, 2014   Luke 24:13-35 “On the Road” Sharing Christ and the Journey

JohnB_BusinessCard

Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him.  And he said to them, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” They stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?” He asked them, “What things?” They replied, “The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people,  and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him.  But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place.  Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning,  and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.”  Then he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared!  Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?”  Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.  As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on.  But they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” So he went in to stay with them.  When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them.  Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight.  They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?”33 That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!”  Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread. [NRSV]

The car I most often drive has over 271,000 miles registered on the odometer. I wish they were all business miles because Uncle Sam would allow me nearly $150,000. While many are work related, some include trips to the beach, Braves games and a 30 minute glimpse of the Grand canyon. A good many reflect trips to the grocery store, school events and gatherings with friends. But the bottom line is that every miles is part of many journeys with many people where the Love of God, the Grace of Jesus Christ and Power of the Holy Spirit have carried me. My hope and prayer is that I have used those opportunities to share these very gifts with folks along the way. Otherwise I have wasted more than gas and insurance.

As difficult and unsettling as it is to uproot and change churches our appointive system allow me to great opportunity to journey here to share God’s love, Christ’s grace and the power of the Spirit as we share our lives together. For half a century I have been moving and sharing a journey of faith. All those previous miles and experiences have lead me to this very moment.

But let me be clear: as happy and excited as we are to be here in ministry together, I am not here because of what I have done, rather I am here with you because what God has done for me and through me.

In our text today, Cleopas and his wife are walking on the road from Jerusalem toward to village of Emmaus. Three years ago I had the opportunity to walk along that path. I can’t say it was the very spot where Cleo and his wife were talking to Jesus but I was powerful to imaging sharing the same road. The text describes the seven mile walk as one filled with grief and disappointment.

The passage is one of my favorites. It is an Easter passage. The risen Jesus Christ is present but not recognized through the perspective of grief and disappointment. These are emotions and experiences that we all share at different times throughout our lives. Not may of us are shepherd or fisherman or tax collectors. but all of us experience broken hearts, lost dreams and unrealized hopes.

The passage is also about a two of the ordinary folks, not the chosen 12 or main characters of the temple court. Instead we have two family members who found themselves caught up and invested in politics and religion and they are heading home focus on what they lost.

How familiar? How many people within 2o miles of where we sit at this very moment can’t see the forest for the trees, this very morning.

Jesus meets them on the road, in the middle of their journey, sharing the witness and power of the scriptures, using the occasion of their loss and detachment as a time to reach into their hearts and bring them to the table.

At the table.

My grandmother always had a bring round oak table at her house. My maternal grandfather was ousting me from his familiar chair at the declaring he was king of the castle and as such he was at the head of the table and only he was to be seated in the throne. (Halmark never call him to play the part of grandfather of the year) My grandmother called me to the kitchen. She told me about her table, explaining that it was round. And many chairs could fit around the table and that everyone who had a seat at the table was seated at the head, because they had a place they were welcomed to break bread together.

So we could let grandman think he was whatever he wanted to be because the table was for us all.  it is in the blessing and breaking of the bread that Cleo and his wife see what they had bee missing all along. The Risen Lord.

This is the work we share now and until Christ return. As long as our bodies hunger and thirst. We are called to share Jesus and the scriptures along the journey and through the meals and prayers. This is what we are saved and charged to do. And so it begins a new chapter of the journey for us together.

On the Road..

We will do many things together in this place for the glory of God and the strengthening of our faith and fellowship, but we do so for work outside these doors. Where our paths cross. Where our ideas and opinions differ and are strained. Where our experiences and perspective intersect and even conflict.

It is in these moments that we help one another and even strangers come to find Jesus lives and reigns for us. The story and scriptures are true and they are lifted up that we might have faith, hope, joy and new life together.

 

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