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Psalm 107:42 “Well, Shut My Mouth” 20150620

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1 O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever. 2 Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, those he redeemed from trouble 3 and gathered in from the lands, from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south.

4 Some wandered in desert wastes, finding no way to an inhabited town; 5 hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted within them. 6 Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress; 7 he led them by a straight way, until they reached an inhabited town. 8 Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wonderful works to humankind. 9 For he satisfies the thirsty, and the hungry he fills with good things.

10 Some sat in darkness and in gloom, prisoners in misery and in irons, 11 for they had rebelled against the words of God, and spurned the counsel of the Most High. 12 Their hearts were bowed down with hard labor; they fell down, with no one to help. 13 Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress; 14 he brought them out of darkness and gloom, and broke their bonds asunder. 15 Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wonderful works to humankind. 16 For he shatters the doors of bronze, and cuts in two the bars of iron.

17 Some were sick through their sinful ways, and because of their iniquities endured affliction; 18 they loathed any kind of food, and they drew near to the gates of death. 19 Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress; 20 he sent out his word and healed them, and delivered them from destruction. 21 Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wonderful works to humankind. 22 And let them offer thanksgiving sacrifices, and tell of his deeds with songs of joy. 

23 Some went down to the sea in ships, doing business on the mighty waters; 24 they saw the deeds of the Lord, his wondrous works in the deep. 25 For he commanded and raised the stormy wind, which lifted up the waves of the sea. 26 They mounted up to heaven, they went down to the depths; their courage melted away in their calamity; 27 they reeled and staggered like drunkards, and were at their wits’ end. 28 Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he brought them out from their distress; 29 he made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed. 30 Then they were glad because they had quiet, and he brought them to their desired haven. 31 Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wonderful works to humankind. 32 Let them extol him in the congregation of the people, and praise him in the assembly of the elders.

33 He turns rivers into a desert, springs of water into thirsty ground,

34 a fruitful land into a salty waste, because of the wickedness of its inhabitants.

35 He turns a desert into pools of water, a parched land into springs of water. 36 And there he lets the hungry live, and they establish a town to live in;

37 they sow fields, and plant vineyards, and get a fruitful yield. 38 By his blessing they multiply greatly, and he does not let their cattle decrease.

39 When they are diminished and brought low through oppression, trouble, and sorrow, 40 he pours contempt on princes and makes them wander in trackless wastes; 41 but he raises up the needy out of distress, and makes their families like flocks.

42 The upright see it and are glad; and all wickedness stops its mouth. 43 Let those who are wise give heed to these things, and consider the steadfast love of the Lord [NRSV]

One thing that strikes me about this psalm is that describes so many thing we recognize in the life and witness of Jesus. So it is important that we keep in context the words of this hymn for worship as images that Jesus later embodies that those who were familiar with the psalm in the Jewish community could see as fulfillment of God’s presence in Jesus.

If on Father’s Day, a dad wanted to see the good works of his son, the psalmist gives a good list that Jesus reveals in his teaching and witness.

  • Water for the woman at the well
  • The tearing of the curtain at the temple at the crucifixion
  • The woman who avoided death because none could cast the first stone
  • The calming of the sea
  • The healing of the sick at the gate
  • Jesus’ parables of sowing
  • Jesus’ parable of loosing saltiness
  • Jesus multiplying food for the hungry
  • The invitation for the prince to sell  and follow

This somewhat obscure psalm tells so many of Jesus’s teachings and stories in one and was written a millennium-plus before hand. It is remarkable inclusive of many ways God’s presence and message is revealed across the testaments.

Verse 42 is the response to the stories of God’s work.

When we see the ways God is reveled in the world, we can response in one of two ways:

a. We see God at work and we are glad, energized and joyful to see God at work.

b. We see God at work and shut our mouths.

The admonition (advice) is to

  • be wise,
  • give heed and
  • consider God’s love at work among us.

2015 Shut our Mouths or Proclaim God’s love?

Conference statistician Darris Baker reported the following 2014 statistics compared to 2013: And are we yet alive?

Conference Membership: 361,329 (Down 2054)
Professions of Faith: 5,398 (Down 204)
Average Worship Attendance: 119,976 (Down 3,121)
Average Sunday School Attendance: 48,888 (Down 296)

The mighty North Georgia conference is no longer the leader and we pray it is not on the same track that Mr Wesley’s beloved Church of England was on. But it begs the question: When we see God’s love present in the world do we give God the praise and witness to God’s presence? Are we considering and looking for God’s revelation in the world? Are we following in the witness of Christ in our actions and bolding in our words or have shut our mouths too long?

Homework: Outline this psalm and see at least 10 ways to practice our piety, to grow our spirit and witness God’s love through Christ in our lives, and then act accordingly. For we live in a world and season when people

  1. long for God and are thirsty. Give them living water.
  2. feed hungry,
  3. encourage the prisoners,
  4. offer thanksgiving and sacrifice,
  5. sing songs of joy,
  6. give peace to those at their wits end,
  7. go to church to support and be supported.
  8. be salty and bold in the face of evil.
  9. water a garden to feed the famished.
  10. open your mouth and share the joy rather than stay quiet and in your own mind.

Now Get to Work!

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Isaiah 40:1-8 Advent: “Preppers Unite!” RSUMC 20141130

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Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God. 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. 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.” A voice says, “Cry out!” And I said, “What shall I cry?” All people are grass, their constancy is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades, when the breath of the Lord blows upon it; surely the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades; but the word of our God will stand forever. [NRSV]

The Prophet Isaiah gives those who seek God’s presence words of encouragement as well as a reality-check about where to placed our faith.

This first Sunday of Advent we begin lighting candles. This is our sign, this is our symbol and logo for the season. There is a great presence of darkness all around us: Economic, Political, Geo-political, Racial and Cultural protests and looting, A woman killed three people in Denver to buying the last discounted TV at Walmart. The valuable has become trivial and the trivial takes on the value of greatest worth.

This prophet work is a call to make a way that prepares for God’s coming

Prepping: The ultimate Boy Scout exercise of being prepared. I will admit there are some items that I have more of than I used to keep around. I’m not a zombie apocalypse follower. But there seems to be some common sense in looking at the signs and seeing the need to prepare for things I can manage and control.

There is a fine line sometimes between having a few extra supplies, jugs of water and basic necessities and those who have bunkers, stock-piles and provisions for decades. Somewhere in between folks will say we are crazy, foolish or even delusional, while others will say we are foolish, crazy and delusional for not getting ready for a return to the 19th century way of life.

Here is a point of learning for each of us: At what sign, moment or circumstance would we change the focus of our regular way of leaving and prepare for Christ’s return. What would I need to experience in order to act most seriously and sincerely about preparing, not only my self, but others for the coming God Christ, God with us here and now?

In other words: how bad do things need to get before we see that we cannot fix world hunger?
How many acts of terror before we confront that the power of Evil is real and irrational.
How tough do our finances drop before we see we can’t buy nor save our way out of trillions of debt?
AND
How long do we allow people to build waves of doom and gloom before we look to God of strength, hope.
How long will we convince ourselves that we can manage any situation without God’s help
How long will we allow those around us to live, plan, lead and struggle managing the world around us without God’s help and allow them the political correctness, fairness and to-each-his-own theology?

The promise in Isaiah warning is that God will certainly put us into perspective, just like we through out old flowers that were once beautiful but are now dried and lifeless.

Jericho: Mt Temptation

Mount-of-Temptation-Jericho jericho-hills 2 twip jericho

Isaiah call to action is to CRY OUT!
But what are we to call out? Who are we to Call out? What is it we are supposed to say? Answers: We will all fade, fail and died… so we best prepare for God’s stepping in our place.

Advent is this call to action: Remember God is God and we are the created. We are very smart, strong, and

This Advent is a time to speak up, speak out, Cry Out. Not so much to remind each other here, but for the rest of the world to know now is the time to make way for God.

“Swords ready? “On Guard! On Watch! Be Alert. Pay Attention. Look for God, for God is coming.

This get’s back to the prepping: If we live like the apocalypse is coming in 2015 then the majority of folks will think we are crazy, foolish and tune us out.

If we are talking about Christ’s return and final victory coming this December 25 instead of Santa then folks will think we are crazy, foolish and tune us out.

God is appearing every day. This is the real, reality.
Advent is not just a season prepping us for Christmas; it is the call to faith for each day and every season.

So I offer a balance: On one hand remember we are a fragile and delicate as a flower, think if power of a bacteria or virus, the sudden impact of a crash, the in hailing or injecting or ingesting of substances that end out live quickly as well as those that quietly tear us down.

On the other hand: God’s word is eternal. Ever strong and to be trusted.
Cry out for folks around us to ready, study, share, learn, open and press through God’s word.

How do we prep for God. Trust what is spoken of God. Have faith in God’s promise of grace and salvation.
Be on Guard to speak and share the word with everyone..

The road to heaven is paved with God’s intention. That we believe, trust and follow.
Not our intentions, God’s.

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Matthew 5:1-12 “Are You Blessed?” JUMC 20140202

sermononmountWhen Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.  “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. [NRSV]

Blessed.

Are you blessed? Look at the blessing side of these equations:

  • Citizenship in Heaven
  • Comforted here and now.
  • Inheritors of the earth
  • Filled with Satisfaction
  • Swimming in Mercy
  • Able to see God’s presence
  • Known to be God’s child
  • Have a place in heaven
  • Heavenly Reward Waiting

Character Traits of the faithful

  • Poor in spirit, Mourning, Meek
  • Righteousness Seekers, Mercy, Seekers of God’s heart
  • Makers of peace; Teased, Taunted, Tested and Tormented for doing what is Godly.

Jesus begins his teaching ministry to the crowds with instructions that define the measurable, witness-able, tangible descriptors of those who ‘get it’, those who would be followers, disciples, Christians.

Look Around you today

Are you surrounding by the blessed or cursed? Honestly we are some of both, some of the time.  This is why we continually repent, pray for forgiveness, and seek to live a new the new life we celebrate in Holy Communion.

We come to the table because we have turned the other way.

Jesus begins be giving us a measuring stick of identify and path toward citizenship.

Forgive me, for I have sinned.

  • Forgive me, for I have acted like I knew better than God and other Godly saints.
  • Forgive me, for I have forgotten that you gave your son for my life. I forgot what that feels like.
  • Forgive me, for I have stopped growing my spiritual relationship.
  • Forgive me, for I have taken your grace, but not shown it to others.
  • Forgive me, for I have not had pure thoughts, motives, actions and words.
  • Forgive me, for I have not tried to make peace and even stirred up trouble myself.
  • Forgive me, for I have persecuted others because they were different.
  • Forgive me, for I have said and done all kinds of evil that does not reflect your presence in my heart and life.
  • Forgive me, for I have forgotten your Joy and misplaced your Gladness and Love.

Jesus words start as descriptors for Disciples and become daggers of conviction when we have not stayed on the path of Blessing.

An Opposing View

  • Cursed are those who are full-of-themselves
  • Cursed are those who stoic, selfish, and prideful,
  • Cursed are those who know better than the rest of us
  • Cursed are those who know better than God
  • Cursed are those who judge with a log in their own eye
  • Cursed are those who see only their wants and vision
  • Cursed are those who to quiet to stop injustice or too loud in self-preservation
  • Cursed are those who to sacred to be bold for God

Bottom Line:

The attitudes of Matthew 5.1-12 are the called such as they begin in our hearts and minds and then affect our actions and environment.

If our task is to make disciples of others for the transformation of the world, it begins by ‘checking’ our attitude to see if our heart and minds are God before we move to words and deeds.

Have someone ask you these questions this week and answer them honestly:

  • Am I always right?
  • Where does pride blind me and hinder others?
  • Who knows best how to live in relationship with others?
  • Am I willing to change what is broken in my life?
  • Am I willing to see and feel how others feel and see life? And me?
  • Will I speak bolding for God today? Each day?
  • What scares me? Why would I be afraid if God is captain of our team?

What’s at Stake?  EVERYTHING

  • Being Blessed or Curse.
  • Being included or outside.
  • Saved or Damned.
  • Loved or hated
  • Remembered or forgotten
  • God’s or my Own.

What is God doing about it?

  • Has given us Christ to follow
  • Has given us Christ for our sin
  • Has given us Christ for living
  • Has given us The Spirit for power and guidance
  • Has given us the Church for fellowship and encouragement
  • Has given us Word to study, learn, grow and share
  • Has given us Music to tell and share
  • Has given us ministry to share and reach
  • Has given us resources to build and invest

The question, Our Question:

“What am I doing about my attitude and my actions as child of God?”

Come to the Table and start fresh in the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ. Come to the table and be filled, anew.

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Acts 4.5-12. “Member Since 1974” Jumc 20120429

The next day their rulers, elders, and scribes assembled in Jerusalem, with Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, John, and Alexander, and all who were of the high-priestly family. When they had made the prisoners stand in their midst, they inquired, “By what power or by what name did you do this?” Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders, if we are questioned today because of a good deed done to someone who was sick and are asked how this man has been healed, let it be known to all of you, and to all the people of Israel, that this man is standing before you in good health by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead. This Jesus is ‘the stone that was rejected by you, the builders; it has become the cornerstone.’ There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved.” NRSV

Peter is found here making a public faith witness, some would say preaching or might say giving a testimony. I suggest that he is seizing the floor and turning the tables on his audience to share his faith in Jesus Christ.

In the 23rd psalm we are familiar of the two images of Gods grace, first is the good shepherd and second is the banquet of excess in the presence of ones enemies. This is the setting in which Peter is speaking.

Recall, it is the same high priest that called for Jesus to be turned over and crucified… Peter who had be hesitant and denying is now bold in the Holy Spirit.

We have young girls and boys that have come to make a public and bold statement that it is Jesus Christ that lives in them and this day forward they are living boldly for Jesus Christ.

For some it is a curious ritual, confirmation, but it is a witness of God’s love at work.
It is the beginning of a journey of faith. Our accepting the life and help Christ offers.

It does not mean we are ready to move mountains.

Think about Peter:
Gets to see transfiguration but misses the point of being in the moment and spiritual confirmation.

Peter walks on the water but sinks when we looks at the storm I stead of Jesus.

Peter go who tells Jesus what he should be doing and Jesus call Peter Satan himself

And Peter who denies Jesus three times Ana is hiding after the resurrection…

And now, Peter, in the face of bodily harm or even death proclaims with boldness. There is a vast period of trial and maturity for him.
Those who profess ‘Jesus is Lord!” for the first time here today have not been tested in the ways that are coming.

They will face fears, disappoints, jealousy, temptations, and endure spiritual failures.

Yet Peter’s boldness in the Holy Spirit is a witness of the maturity that will come.

In 1974 I confirmed the baptism that my parents started in 1964. And a rather uneventful Sunday I too stood at the alter rail with my class hoping I would hear the voice of God would speak to my heart, if not to the whole lot of us. But other than hymns and rituals it was a silent worship time.

Just last year at the Jordan river I prayed that God might have a word or two speak with boldness.. Near the ancient source. But it too was a silent experience, until I was about to get back on the bus, and with the clarity that I now speak to you, I heard these words, “I have not forgotten you, I am yours and you are mine,”

Within moments of this divine moment the bus pulled away on a schedule that did not allow me to linger and cherish the moment. It would be words of assurance that empower other days that have followed and will follow..

Not in my time but in the time I need Gods boldness.

Here is a faith statement from one of our confirmands:

To me, being a Christian means to love Jesus Christ with all of your heart and be as Christian like as possible at all times, and never be afraid to spread his word. I also think that you should take time during the day and have an alone time with God. Most of my alone times with are God are in the mornings and evenings, before I eat, and sometimes when I just feel I need to pray. Being a Christian also means participating in church activities like mission trips, fundraisers, church services, etc. Lastly, I think being a Christian means that you should accept Jesus Christ as your personal savior and that he died for you and everybody else, and that what I think it means to be a Christian.

They share this anonymously today but the days are coming when boldness will shine.
The question that Peter models for us, is will we be bold when we need to be?

Twitter has been the bold voice at General Conference from my overhearing.

When will you stand up for Christ… Is it when you are comfortable and ready or when God is asking to speak through you? Be bold. Be bold. Don’t be right, be bold! Be in the spirit and be bold, today!

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