Posts Tagged Church
- Jesus Christ is real,
- Jesus is King, and
- Jesus is with us.
- When we know Jesus is real, this becomes the foundation of our life
- When we know Jesus is King, this becomease the guide for our living
- When we know Jesus is with us, nothing can stop us from praising.
- There story is about preparing for worship
- The story is about making way/room for Jesus in our public/fears
- The story is about remaing awake and aleart that it is Jesus that leads us and not anything or anyone esle.
- Peace does not come from armies and weapons
- Peace does not come from governments and policies
- Peace does not come from acts of kindness and justice
- Peace comes from God, through Jesus Christ, guided by the Spirit, through the church, through us for for the whole world.
- Peace comes when Jesus comes in.
- Peace comes when Jesus is praised
- Peaces is possible to see when we see God showing up on our streets.
- new life,
- a new way
- a new day, made possible thorugh Jesus Chirst, our King.
- Witness of kindness
- Forgiving first,
- Our hearts
- Our gifts
- Our time
- Our presence
- Our wintess
- nation and the world.
From there he set out and went away to the region of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know he was there. Yet he could not escape notice,but a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately heard about him, and she came and bowed down at his feet.Now the woman was a Gentile, of Syrophoenician origin. She begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter.He said to her, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.”But she answered him, “Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.”Then he said to her, “For saying that, you may go–the demon has left your daughter. So she went home, found the child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.Then he returned from the region of Tyre, and went by way of Sidon towards the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. They brought to him a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech; and they begged him to lay his hand on him.He took him aside in private, away from the crowd, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spat and touched his tongue.Then looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.”And immediately his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. Then Jesus ordered them to tell no one; but the more he ordered them, the more zealously they proclaimed it.They were astounded beyond measure, saying, “He has done everything well; he even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak. [NRSV]
The Politics of Racism:
It is in influx of racially motivated incidents AND the fires fueled by political factions that our United Methodist Council of Bishops has asked us to address the topic of Racism this Sunday. They ask us to 1) acknowledge that racism is a sin and to 2) affirm the church’s roll in eradicating Racism is to be a priority. I find this passage that is typically remembered for its emphasis by Jesus on miraculous healing, is an interesting perspective on dealing with assumptions and prejudice, regarding racial divisions.
The passage is about seeing and hearing Racism.
First, the passage is about Jesus healing people from different political and geographical regions.
Gentiles of Syrophoenician heritage, Folks from Tyre, Sidon and the Decapolis regions.
We generally focus on the healing miracles and skip over the very thing we need to hear and see in the passage:
Might Jesus be a racist?
He also said, “The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come.” He also said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.” With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; he did not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything in private to his disciples.[NRSV]
There was a time when the penny was made of copper and would buy small items in the store. Now it is simply the fraction of tax that helps us feel better about spending $39.99 instead of wasting 40 bucks. When I ran for the office of President of the United States in 2000 to celebrate my 35th birthday, one of my platform items was to only mint pennies for numismatists and casual coin collectors, so that we could conserve our copper supply, allow accountants to sleep at night and kids at fast food establishments could make change. What good is the penny?
The mighty penny might seem insignificant much like a tiny mustard seed in the text. There was a time where pennies were collected as the first apportionment in our Methodist tradition to build a church for worship. Together, the pennies added up to reach a common goal just as profit margins on gasoline and at grocery stores are volume types of business. But the adage that pennies add up to dollars is a good starting point for reading the parable from Jesus.
One year at Vacation Bible School we collected nickles to help the United Methodist Committee on Relief effort to respond to the victims of Katrina. Each day the children were invited to bring in nickles which were affixed to long strands of tape that wrapped around the sanctuary several time reflecting a couple hundred dollars of nickles. On the same week, the neighboring Baptist church held their VBS and agreed to pool our resources to the same effort. A great witness of cooperation, ecumenical effort and common sense. At the Baptist church they had asked the children to bring in one dollar bills each day that were taped together, end to end, and also wrapped around their sanctuary a few times. The differences was in the total. Nearly the same effort to give, the difference was their seed was larger.
Jesus is using a gardening and farming illustration to look at the effectiveness of broadcasting compared to targeted conversations of witness. In summary of the text: We do not know how or where one little seed of faith, grace, compassion, feeding, healing, forgiving, love, trusting, blessing will inspire fruitful faith of someone else. But the mustard bush is more of a weed. The text has a double depth of meaning if we read it hearing how God can make weeds we might cut down and discard something useful and necessary.
A second, and very Methodist part of the text, is Jesus’s description of a process of spiritual growth. We start with someone sowing a seed, but that is followed by power in God’s creation that has nothing to do with us beginning to germinate what one person beings. First the stalk, then the head and then the full grain. The structure or core support system comes first, then the evidence of the maturity and THEN follows the fruit of the whole process.
The nano-second world we fly through is reluctant to hand on for the process. Imagine yourself watching a beautiful large screen television with 4K resolution and super surround sound in a custom contour recliner with refreshment access. Some team of producers, directors, investors, designers, musicians, technicians, actors, marketers, promoters and accountants have spend months and millions of dollars to create a movie experience to entertain you. You hold in your hand the powerful remote control with fresh batteries. How long does it take for you to decide if you want to watch the two hours of drama, action, comedy or information that awaits you? It takes just a about one second for the image to change per remote click, (new remote reducing to .5 seconds). Average view spends ten minutes reviewing 200 channels during an average 2-3 hours of time watching per day. (10 out of 120 minutes surfing), but 80% of the time they revert to ten favorite channels.
Whether we are are overwhelmed by choice, attention defects, devote that kind of time to our decisions, or like the control part facet of operating a remote, I invite you to step back from this common practice and think about the tiny bits of time and information that are involved in this daily exercise. (It is humorous to talk use the word exercise when talking about tv remotes.) Nonetheless, small visual clues based on past experiences, current stimulus signals, small movements of the thumb or finger indicate how we will be informed or entertained, How we spend 2-3 hours of each 24 hours. 10% of that time in devoted to searching and scanning.
Transfer this set of skills and behaviors. If we spend 2-3 hours studying scripture and books of faith and inspiration, how different would our 24 hours be? 2-3 hours of faith driving content, music, videos, ebooks, etc. Imagine how this would shape our own faith identity, our church and the world.
Think back about the process describe in Jesus’ parable teaching: First the seed, time to develop a structure, following the structure produces maturity, maturity produces fruitful witness, life and relationships.
Take a double look and hear the God is at work even in the relationships we might write off as unimportant can become the place others thrive. So take care to grow more than you cut out.
We have the ability to make small actions of shaping our faith and the future of the church. The task is to be intentional.
INTENTIONAL SPIRITUAL GROWTH
- First the seed
- Then the stalk
- Then the head
- Then the full fruit
I would make a case that we allow our spiritual seeds to become “genetically modified” by those who use the church, rather than nurtured by the church. We have allowed the power of Christs presence for the shell of a body of tradition or a competitive entertainment . We need to get to the good seeds and scatter them far and near, and often We need to get back to sharing and planting and teaching the seeds of our faith.
- God loves us, unconditionally
- God has purpose for us, without doubt
- God is with us, the presence of God’s spirit
- God has made a way, Jesus and the cross
- God is seen, through the intentional fruits of the church
- God is real
- God wants our heart, our trust, our love
- God connects us
These are the seeds that we need to know, encourage and rely on in every day.
The seed is neither mighty nor the end of the story.. it is the continuous flow of starting points, that are repeated in every season.
- Plant seeds of faith, small ones, every day, every where, every one.
- Develop the stalk, don’t tear someone down, build the structure and support
- Start with the heart work toward the head, rather than reverse.. roots grow with stalk, not the fruit first
- Fruit is for sharing and enjoying and replanting
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.[NRSV]
One summer when I was suppose to be cutting back the kudsu that was threatening to take over the driveway, I began marking how fast that vine grew in a week. It seems I would cut it back to the edge of the lawn and by next Saturday it would be time to trim the vine again. So I let it grow onto the drive where where I could mark it’s growth with marks of spray paint each day. In my experiment the vine grew five feet in one week. So I begin to micro-mearsure the vine by the day and hour. After a good rain and warm sunshine following I marked two inches of growth in one hour. AMAZING!
If only the church would grow at that same rate!
Jesus gives an object lesson of “vines and branches” to describe the relationship between himself and disciples like us.
- God is the root system.
- Jesus is a vine.
- We are the leaves and the fruit.
Without the roots, there would be no vine and without the vine there would be no branch nor fruit.
Our shared purpose is fruit.
What is fruit of being connected to Jesus. Society has lost sight of Jesus because they don’t see the fruit.
Tom Cruse and Cuba Gooding Jr: as Jerry Maquire and Rod Tidwell in the movie “Jerry Maquire”
[Rod has just told Jerry he will keep him as his agent]
- Jerry Maguire: That’s, that’s great. I’m very… happy.
- Rod Tidwell: Are you listenin’?
- Jerry Maguire: Yes!
- Rod Tidwell: That’s what I’m gonna do for you: God bless you, Jerry. But this is what you gonna do for me. You listenin’, Jerry?
- Jerry Maguire: Yeah, what, what, what can I do for you, Rod? You just tell me what can I do for you?
- Rod Tidwell: It’s a very personal, a very important thing. Hell, it’s a family motto. Are you ready, Jerry?
- Jerry Maguire: I’m ready.
- Rod Tidwell: I wanna make sure you’re ready, brother. Here it is: Show me the money. Oh-ho-ho! SHOW! ME! THE! MONEY! A-ha-ha! Jerry, doesn’t it make you feel good just to say that! Say it with me one time, Jerry.
- Jerry Maguire: Show you the money.
- Rod Tidwell: Oh, no, no. You can do better than that, Jerry! I want you to say it with you, with meaning, brother! Hey, I got Bob Sugar on the other line; I bet you he can say it!
- Jerry Maguire: Yeah, yeah, no, no, no. Show you the money.
- Rod Tidwell: No! Not show you! Show me the money!
- Jerry Maguire: Show me the money!
- Rod Tidwell: Yeah! Louder!
- Jerry Maguire: Show me the money!
- Rod Tidwell: Yes, but, brother, you got to yell that shit!
- Jerry Maguire: Show me the money!
- Rod Tidwell: I need to feel you, Jerry!
- Jerry Maguire: Show me the money!
- Rod Tidwell: Jerry, you got to yell!
- Jerry Maguire: [screaming] Show me the money! Show me the money!
The world is coming to our door step and asking us to show them Jesus. Show them God at work. Show them the fruit of being a believer and a disciples.
How do we show them the fruit?
- Connected Through the vine of faith
- Connected through Jesus
- Connected through the word
When we are connected the fruit of the work from the ROOTS, through the VINE, is visible in the BRANCHES.
- We have little yellow buds on our tomato plants
- We have little green balls on our blueberry bush
- We have wild and crazy long vine on our raspberry bush
- There are signs of things to come BUT THERE IS NO FRUIT.
Stay Connected and the God will supply what you need through JESUS for fruit to come through US.
What kind of fruit are you in the garden?
- Some of your are prickly on the outside, but when the joy comes out, we all see the sweetness of God at work through you.
- Some of you are running all around the place with great busyness but you
- Some of you stay right where you are, and bloom where you are planted
- Some of you are sweet and delicious, just kinda fruity.
- Some of you are prolific, others are corny.
- Some of you seedy but you trust Grace to make you wholesome
- Some of you use to be connected and God has done great things in the past, but somewhere along the way we let go, stopped reading/studying/living in the Word and we are feeling crusty.
- Sometime were are a combination, a tossed salad.
Here is the morning conversation in the mirror:
- What will the folks around me see of God’s love today?
- What will folks here that sounds like God’s grace this day?
- What will people know about Jesus’ gift means to me during the next 18 hours?
What will keep me from bearing fruit?
- What will disconnect me?
- What will I do if I fall off the wagon? What will God do if I jump?
- What will cloud things for me, and others?
- What does God want?
I will be your vine, you be my branches, we will bear fruit together.
Bottom line: Prayers, Study, Fellowship, Real life sharing stuff with God’s fruity people…
- This is what we need
- This is what the world is hungry for fruit.
- Feed the world… the love, grace, power and word of Jesus
- And they will be grafted into the garden.
Now who will harm you if you are eager to do what is good? But even if you do suffer for doing what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear, and do not be intimidated, but in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord. Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and reverence. Keep your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who abuse you for your good conduct in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if suffering should be God’s will, than to suffer for doing evil. For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God. He was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit, in which also he went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison, who in former times did not obey, when God waited patiently in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water. And baptism, which this prefigured, now saves you—not as a removal of dirt from the body, but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers made subject to him. [NRSV]
Suffering: Physical Suffering for a Spiritual Purpose: The Lenten Season
Jesus’ prime example is suffering death on the cross, exchanging his life for our life.
Peter’s instructions DON’T LIST
- Don’t give up, even when tempted, tested and tired
- Don’t be afraid, even though there are things, powers and people to fear
DO BE DO BE DO…
- Do have patience in suffering for Christ
- Be ready to explain your hope
- Do so with kindness
- Keep your conscience clear
- Don’t give in to what broken world dishes out
- Remember Jesus has already suffered for you.
- Return the example, as a RESPONSE to LOVE not a duty.
- SUMMARY OF THE GOSPEL 1PT 3:18 For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God. He was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit,
CITIZENSHIP: THEREFORE: Live like you are a baptized person..
- live like your saved
- live like God’s Spirit is in you…
- live like Jesus and all power, authority, angels and powers are at your disposal through Christ.
We begin a holy Lenten season of practicing..
We are Baptized, (Claimed, Saved, Empowered and Loved Children of God) Who we are,
We are encouraged by (Suffering in Faithfulness) what God has done through Jesus
The Lenten Test
- If you were a extravagantly generous wealthy person: How would you treat other people
- If you were a passionate lover of God: How would you express your devotion?
- If you were a radical host and friend: How would you welcome a stranger?
- If you were risk-taking servant: How far would you go to help someone who is hurting?
- If you were purposeful and intentional about growing your Spiritual self, What exercises would you do?
If you let yourself off the hook and say none of these are for me, this is the season to pick just one and practice.
Practice trusting Jesus.
Practice telling about our hope in the life Jesus promises.
Practice singing about the Good News that God continues to love us
Practice giving like God’s heart is your heart.
Practice looking at strangers as new best friends
Practice looking at suffering in the world is a place for you to personally plug in and be involved making one-on-one change
Practice your faith OUT LOUD, not just in your mind and not just with your friends and family.
PRACTICE giving power and grace to those who don’t deserve another chance.
is forty days plus Sundays between this past Wednesday and Easter for us to begin practicing what it means to be Easter people, BECAUSE the truth is we are not there yet.
We begin this journey acknowledging this is a journey
- it is not easy
- it is not quick
- it is not over
- it is not fair
- it is vitialy important and
- it is worth the time and faith to try…
The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.” Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, he said of him, “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!” Nathanael asked him, “Where did you get to know me?” Jesus answered, “I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.” Nathanael replied, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” Jesus answered, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.” And he said to him, “Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.” [NRSV]
1. Jesus told Philip who told Nathanael who told Philip about Jesus.
Discipleship is process of networking.
The invitation is “Follow Me”. Go where I am going.
We are not called to tell people where to go nor what to do. We don’t have to have the answers, we just take them where we are going and growing.
Philip didn’t know it all, but he knew enough.
In knowing Jesus Christ, we know enough to lead us to a community faith, into small groups of study and prayer and Christian fellowship
Our mission is to invite others to follow. Come WITH me and we will find the Lord together.
Goal of fifty new members. Will you join me in finding one person who will follow you to church. Out of the 100-150 of us here, make it your personal mission to bring ONE person this year.
Philip Brings Nathanel, doubting and questioning and complaining, Nathaniel follows and is found by Jesus. Philip on askes Nat to follow, to come with me.
2. How could anything Good come out of the little town of Nazareth?
Nazareth: population 100-150, not included in the Talmud/OT as a city.
Rock Spring: population 4,500 in 2012. Villanow at 1900. Plainville 375. The smallest incorporated village in Georgia is my home town, Garfield with a population of 202 souls.
- Steve Wozniack was an electronics hacker, and he and his long time friend Steve Jobs had this idea to create a personal computer. In 1976, the two approached a local electronics store to see if they would be interested in buying a personal computer that Wozniack had built. Their first order was for 50 “Apple” computers.
- In 1971, three academics each invested $1350 of their own money into the first Starbucks located in downtown Seattle. English teacher Jerry Baldwin, history teacher Zev Siegel, and writer Gordon Bowker opened the store called Starbucks Coffee, Tea, and Spice
- In 1978, twenty-five year old college dropout John Mackey and twenty-one year old Rene Lawson Hardy, saved and borrowed money from family and friends to open the doors of a small natural foods store in Austin, Texas. Within a year of opening the store, the couple was evicted from their home for using their apartment storage for the store. Homeless and with no place to go they decided to save costs by moving and living at their store full time. Since their store “Saferway” was zoned for commercial use only, there was no shower stall. According to the company’s website, the two instead bathed in the Hobart dishwasher, which had an attached water hose.
- In the spring of 1891, the 29-year-old William Wrigley Jr. moved from Philadelphia to Chicago with only $32 to his name. Soon after arriving in Chicago, Wrigley began selling soap. As an incentive to the customers, if they purchased his soap, he would give them a free can of baking powder. Soon baking powder proved to be more popular than the soap he was selling, so he switched his business. A year later, in 1892, Wrigley used chewing gum as an incentive for buying his baking powder. Again, chewing gum proved to be more popular than baking powder, and so he switched business again. The first brand of chewing gum Wrigley produced was Juicy Fruit in 1893.
What good can come from RSUMC? Look at the (bulletin). Years ago folks would have said nothing but look we have living witnesses.
What good can come from sharing Christ with folks with whom we work, school, live, play, shop and travel? Nothing in we don’t invite them to follow.
The greatness is not in the size of the person nor the size of the church. Greatness is found in the responding to the invitation to find Christ
Examples of greatness coming out of small beginning
3. Trust the witness of Philip as if Jesus told you first hand.
Trust that you might not be able to reach everyone, but there is someone who will follow you, someone who will journey with you.
We might want it to be someone we know, a family member or someone we conveniently see each week or day.
I keep asking and inviting until i find one who will follow with me.
When the chapel was first built on this location, did the members see the need for an education building, or two, or a preschool, of the spring… who can imagine what ministries will call for what facilities 50 to 100 years from now. But the congregation we will be is shaped by the faithful willingness of those who have paved and reached, taught and sung, praised and raised in times past, stand as a witness for us to continue to extend the invitation. Come, follow me.
The was once the slogan of the United Methodist Church, we moved to Open Door, Open Minds, Open Hearts, to Rethink Church to now the watch word is.. don’t ask, don’t tell.
Seriously, we are not limited by a slogan, our mission is follow Christ and to invite others to join our faith journey.
So why are you sitting here, when there are those still out there.
As [Jesus] came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings!” Then Jesus asked him, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.” When he was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked him privately, “Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign that all these things are about to be accomplished?” Then Jesus began to say to them, “Beware that no one leads you astray. Many will come in my name and say, “I am he!’ and they will lead many astray. When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed; this must take place, but the end is still to come. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. This is but the beginning of the birth pangs. [NRSV]
Building Blocks of the Temple
One of the most well known attractions in Jerusalem is the Western wall of the temple known as the Wailing Wall. It is not first named this for the prayers shared by the millions of visitors, rather because of a rare and miraculous occurrence of water weeping from the rocks. The last time this happen was over seventy years ago.
Over 60 feet is visible and above ground, but the larger portion of the wall is under ground and accessible by tunnels. The largest stone found in the wall is between 500-600 tons based on different measurements and estimations. It is considered the fourth largest carved stone in the world. If you cut it into pieces it could take almost 156 RAM Max Chassis Cab trucks at maximum capacity to carry the mass to the work place.
The super cranes of today lift 2000-3000 tons. But keep in mind 13 of the top super cranes around the world have been designed in the last six years. And even at their current designs require a minimum 400 foot boom and are situated 200 feet away from the object. Large amounts of animal fat (pigs particularly) burns hot and fast and could be tunneled under the foundation and cause the swift destruction from the massive weight collapsing on itself.
The disciples are as amazed of the scope and size of the temple as every visitor to the temple mount is today. As long lasting as buildings appear to be, in one monsoon season, the pyramids would crumble. As a United Methodist Clergy person I have always struggled with forms that ask for my permanent address. I have since given up wondering and now know it is Ringgold, Georgia. Nothing is as solid and eternal I we act like things are.
Jesus gives a basic geology and architecture lesson: look around, all of this will crumble in time, even God’s physical temple. This is why we have a board of Trustee’s to make improvements and repairs to keep this a viable place to worship, fellowship, learn and share Jesus Christ. But as powerful and meaningful as this place it, this is not who we are.
Building Blocks of the Kingdom
Many will come to tear down your spirit.
Many will come to water down your passion.
Many things, people and circumstances will lead folks away from find this house as God’s house.
If you are going to choose what to build up, maintain and nurture: build the kingdom, no matter the temple.
One of the most powerful reports of mission teams that travel to foreign countries or rural parts of our own country is the powerful presence of the Spirit where there appears to be so little, where to physical needs are so great. It seems the Spiritual presence is seen more clearly and with more power and reality.
Destruction of the Temple
Think of the things that tear down our places of worship. There are those in churches around the world that have their building torn down because it is simply present in the community of our enemies.
Jesus was clear that war would come in the life time of the church. Just as the Romans came and destroyed the temple in 70 AD, during the lift time of early disciples. Wars surround and threaten us now. Is this the end? Are these the battles of the end of days? The easy thing to say is, “Yes.” I say yes, because it is a clear and present danger that motivates us to action. As compelling case that we might make that this is it, I suppose that folks said the same in on these grounds in the Battle of Chickamauga, World Wars, on the ground in Vietnam, and for forty years or more in Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, etc. There may be 100 years more of wars.
We look back and give thanks for those who have served us through times of war and in the face of war so that we can build back what is hopefully a better world and a better life.
Jesus does not belittle the reality of war, rather saying wars are not the most important sign, instead they are signs that what we treasure will most certainly be threatened and some will crumble. BUT don’t give up on building the relationship that will be eternal.
There will be lean times in the world, but not in the heart of God.
There will be earthquakes and times that very foundations of the earth will shift, crack and fall, but God will never fail.
If our church building were attacked at the hands of terrorist, we sit quietly by and keep the situation to ourselves. (a sarcastic, and foolish thought) We would be up in arms and have every person doing something about it. We can keep the threat at bay, when it’s over the pond.
Eatonton UMC had the treasured story that their sanctuary was spared because it was used as hospital and barn for Union troops. But a hundred years later one arsonist set fire to that building. But the church was not destroyed. IN FACT, it was the transforming act that forced the congregation out of a rut of safety and protection into growth and a renewal of the mission to make disciples.
Endurance of the Kingdom
Jesus’ promise is the kingdom will endure.
If this is the end time, who has your heart and your back?
If this is only the beginning of years to come, who has your heart and your back?
Don’t worry about the end, Focus on the presence of God right now, right here.
Turn to your neighbor and remind them. This is God’s house, not my house, not your house. This is Jesus’ house. The Spirit is in this house.
Turn to another neighbor and remind them. God has your back just like mine. Jesus has my heart, does he have yours?
Turn to someone in front or behind you and remind them. What is leading you astray? What is crumbing in your spirit? For what do you weep and wail?
This is the conversation Jesus is having with disciples, just like us, just as then, Jesus is now..
1 If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, 2 make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. 5 Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, 7 but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, 8 he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death— even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. [NRSV]
The first halloween costume recall know about was odd. I was given a cat mask, a number one crew cut and a ankle length wool over coat and a cloth sack for the loot. It might have been appropriate for Oak Park, Chicago weather at the end of October, but the photos reflect a back-robber-in-the-making-look. At ten or eleven I meticulously planned a vampire costume with a grandmother-custom-made cape, plastic teeth and fake blood and white face paint. The only reason I didn’t win the best costume in the class contest was Jennifer’s aunt was our teacher. Shenanigans, I called shenanigans! The last time I dress up I wore a rubber mask of a former political figure, where small children ran away from the house before grabbing any candy.
Halloween is one time that we wear costumes. Homecoming dances, weddings and school plays might come to mind. I suggested to you that we all wear masks and costumes in everyday living.
Scholar of Early New Testament community convey Paul uses words from a familiar hymn of the church to make is clear God is to be lifted up, believed and trusted because of the self revelation through Jesus Christ. This early hymn describes how Jesus had the mind and spirit of God but came incognito, hidden in the costume of a person. We have the unique opportunity to see the all seeing, invisible, God, always wise in human form through Jesus.
Typically we think wearing a costume is an activity of where we pretend something we are not. Just as in the movie, Let’s Be Cops, two roommates misunderstand the dress altair for a masquerade party and come in full police uniforms instead. They pretend in light of real world situations. Instead picture the young child who tries on their parents shirt or blouse is a shadow of the desire of who they will become.
One of the critiques of the church, by those outside the church, is that we are hypocritical. We talk about being good and right and righteous, but we are just as sinful and broken as the rest of the lot. There is truth in this assumption, but its a twisted glimpse. Even though we are sinful and fall short, we are becoming who God hopes and dreams we will become. This is a practice of living the life know reflect’s God we see in Jesus.
Paul wants to church, now and at Galatia to know, God is fully God, masked in Jesus, reveals the humility of taking the consequences of our sins and brokenness, Jesus takes the fault and blame for our mistake and failures. Jesus takes responsibility for our poor choices, exchanging all that is flawed as a life-gift, given through the cross. And this powerful gift is revealed and uncovered through the cross.
Jesus is not trying to hid the gift, not should we. There are Christians being persecuted, threatened and killed in Egypt, Northern Iraq, Palestine, Houston, Atlanta, and even in Gainesville, GA. When the cross comes near we’d rather find another way. We’d like to remember simpler and safer times.
Homework. Is to get our costume in order. Is the witness, image and presence I share with my family, community and world one that reflect Jesus or protects Jesus. Jesus needs no protection. We have God’s promise to be in and with us in all things, knowing that God desires for nothing to separate us from the love, power, grace and spirit of God. This is our confidence and witness. This is our praise and passion.
Homework applied: Plan to allow your self, your image, your dress, your personal, your influence, your countenance, your witness to reflect the present of the Spirit, the power of God and the grace of Jesus Christ. Or, just hid all that good God stuff and save it for next Sunday where we can let out little glimpse here where it is safe at church.
Bottom Line: You are going to reveal something to the world, will it be the Spirit? God? Jesus? the Body of Christ? or something, someone else?
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.
- 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?
When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” [NRSV]
Disciples Gathered in grief and fear. Jesus brings peace
Disciples Separate themselves away from the world and are filled with doubt. Jesus reveals his crucifixion.
Disciples Recognize Jesus as Lord and Rejoice. Jesus fortifies their peace.
Disciples Hear the mission to be a “sent” people. Jesus fills them with the Spirit.
The mission is transferred. The Church is born.
Our task is to mature the church, continue the work. be filled with peace and Spirit and give grace and hope to the world of grief and fear.