Posts Tagged Gifts

John 1.1-16 The Word Moved In With Us RSUMC 20150104

movingin

Merry Christmas: Jesus Moved In With Us!

 

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him.  But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. (John testified to him and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, “He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’ “) From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. [NRSV]

Christmas: A Moving Story

Have you ever stopped to think about the Christmas storying has a great deal of movement.

The angel appears to Mary announcing the coming birth and she travels to visit her cousin Elizabeth.

Joseph hears about the baby and moves into action trying to fix the problem.

The government is more interested in numbers and taxes than the comfort a mother-to-be or the situation of  a new family and calls for Jesus to be born away from home in a place where people have parked their traveling animals.

The angels tell the Good News to shepherds in the field and calls them to go, leave work and job behind and visit the family.

God moves the heavens to reveal a sign for those looking for inspiration and moves the wisemen into action for a long, long journey.

As soon as Herod hears God’s Good News he is filled with fear and the family is on the run to Egypt.

The Christmas story is a moving story..

  • It is an Action film where God is moving through history, present and future to remodel the lamp that was broken and patched so many times from careless play and intentional deception.
  • You know the lamp or vase or treasure on a shelf that get’s knocked off, first by chance from playing where you knew you were not suppose to play in the first place and the consequences are the treasure gets broken.
  • You try and glue the pieces together but it’s not right, it’s not whole.
  • When the parents find the broken crack, now apparent with dried glue where there should be no glue at all. I don’t know who did it? It wasn’t my fault. It was her fault. She did it.
  • Punishment follows and yet on the next occasion to play the treasure is broken again and the fragments are more difficult to find and there ends up being more glue than parts and paint is added to cover the brokenness and..
  • over time the treasure pass through generations and the brokenness pass as well the treasure is mostly glue and paint. and in comes the Christmas story.
  • Jesus, the baby born comes to take the blame for what was broken then, what is broken now and what will be broken until the end of time.
  • Jesus moves in, to take on what has separated us from truth and wholeness and becomes the brokenness that we might be whole and true.

This is what makes the Christmas story moving.. Jesus moves in, and becomes the broken gap that makes us new.

Christmas is a moving story..

One of the reasons that United Methodist clergy move so frequently originated in a setting where the church was growing so fast that there were more congregations than preachers to preach, teach and administer churches. The circumstances has out grown that movement. [While I am grateful that system has lead me to RSUMC!!] The role in many churches is the clergy and lay leaders are overwhelmed with the task of maintaining and preserving the past as a way of appreciating donors and keeping dreams of the past alive. That is not very moving.. to live in memorial.

Christmas is Moving Story..

Because it celebrates that Jesus has moved in with us. His spirit remains with us. His body, the church, lives as a perpetual witness that the story continues. Moving through history continuing to tell that God’s love and grace are for us and not just shepherds and wisemen back then. If Christmas is only a memorial of what happened in Bethlehem it would have faded over time and some other tradition of some mythical gift-giving elf turned reindeer herder and resident of the North Pole might become more celebrated… {Oh, that’s confusing, is he talking about this is a good thing or a bad thing?} I’m just say, crazier things have happened.

Christmas is a Moving Story because it’s power travel through time

The celebration of Christmas has two more days to go in the 12 days of the season. Don’t pack up all the decoration just yet.

Jesus has come to our house and moved in with us.

I would make a case that it would be fun to have a live tree in the house all year long to help us keep Christmas all year long.

We pack up the treasures for a future occasion when we just might need to leave them out.

The day my parents dropped off my younger brother at college they went and bought the nicest stereo equipment, television and car they could afford. The next time I went the their house my response was, “What’s Up with this stuff, now? Why didn’t we have this when we lived here?” They answered, “Because you lived here then.”

As I was going through my parents house to sell it this year I found this equipment well used and worn out. It fetched only a tiny fraction of its original price tag at the yard sale. It was no longer the same treasure, but it’s lesson remains with me beyond the physical items will be long past.

So it is with Christmas, it moves in and the decorations go out, but the power of Jesus grows beyond the physical person, beyond the sheep and manger, shepherd and frankincense. (More on that next Sunday when we start the season of discovery in Epiphany)

Today, while the season of Christmas draws close the power of Christmas moves into “THE REST OF THE STORY..

Allow Christmas to move you..

Not just to remember, but to shape your present.

Not just to keep traditional alive, but to prepare to find Jesus all year, each day.

Jesus moves into our living, not just our story books, because this is where we find the struggle with power of sin.

God has moved in with us because most of the days are not holidays, folks are not kind hearts and generous, sin is a real as ever and lamps and treasures and Christmas morning toys are already broken… Thankfully God is Good, all the time.

 

Ref Note: I give thanks to the title reference to the Cotton Patch Gospel of John talking about the incarnational gift of Christmas: Jesus Christ

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Matthew 2:1-12 Wise Men Bring Gifts to Christ 20140105 JUMC

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

Christmas Gifts

If you think about how much time we spend thinking about the perfect gifts to give, looking for the best deal, waiting in lines or for the deliveries to arrive, wrapping and transporting our gifts. There is a great deal of investment in every gift, no matter the monitory value of the gift itself.

Do you ever read about Mary and Joseph giving each other gifts? Did the shepherds draw names and play games to see who gets which gift? Do the Maji just find the best deal along the way or at the last moment?

Gift giving can hold many different meanings.

The obligatory gift is an oxymoron. Gifts ought be given of free will and love and not obligation. But if you don’t give someone a gift there is hell to pay in the not giving. Can you imaging only giving gifts to some of your family and not to all of them. What would be the message if you didn’t explain why.

  • Did you run out of money or just didn’t want to spend your resources.
  • “Its not the gift its the love or thought that counts”  But how do you express your thoughts and love? Is it clear to the recipient?
  • Did you run out of time, ideas, opportunity? Could you not make a home-made card from a used piece of paper that expressed your heart?
  • “We can’t buy everyone something” My great-grandmother in her late nineties still bought a bar of soap for every member of her nearly 100 member extended family. “It is something I know you can use, so use it and think of me.”
  • Did you get everyone something, or many somethings, but you gave them what you wanted them to have or to become?
  • Gifts are a tradition: I bought my father Old-Spice Soap-on-a-rope for years just because he seemed to like them on Christmas morning. I was helping him carry some boxes to donate and found three soaps-on-a-rope from the past three years and I got the message.

Gift Giving Is a Tricky Business

What do we learn for the Wise men? Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh 

Wealth, Extravagant Royal spa treatment and Glade Tomb-fresher

Gold has been a standard of exchange and value, beauty and tender for thousands of years. Frankincense comes for the roots of a small shrub that contains trace amounts of fragrant oil and was burning in the palaces of the king Herod daily and made as offerings to their gods without end. Myrrh, smells like dried prunes and was used in preparing a tomb.

  • Gold is completely practical: A gift card.
  • Frankincense: Extravagant Generosity, acknowledging Jesus as true King.
  • Myrrh: A Preparing for Jesus’ death, even at his birth. Telling the whole story
  • The Star-watching Travelers Journey: You have to leave home, journey in faith and uncertainty, and follow the signs you have.

Reframing our Gift Giving Practice

If you take a painting or photo and removed it from the frame and mat and exchange the boundaries, you will see the image in a new way with new meaning.

So go with the same gifts we have given: What if we connected why we give the gift with the hope we have for the gift.

“I gave you this tie, because I want you to look your best, feel confident and want you to think of our love when you wear it.”

Is that what you meant the gift to be? or did you just need something to go with a shirt.

“I gave you this game, because I want you to know joy and to share time at home playing with me. I want to spend more time being with you.”

Is that what you meant the gift to say? of did you just know they were hinting like crazy for that game.

“I gave you this vacuum cleaner because I am unimaginative but I do like a clean house and I want it to be easier on me to keep the floor and our home clean for you.”

Is that what you meant to gift to do? of did you just know the old one blew out and you needed a new one anyway.

Keep the Magi Model in mind:

Not just with Christmas gift, but all gives, seasonal, birthday and church gifts..

Practical AND Extravagant AND with a Purpose, Explained.

So Now You Tell Me..

So John, why didn’t you tell us this before Christmas. I don’t have a great answer but I will say: It is never to late to explain our gifts.

Don’t assume the message is conveyed that you hoped for the person. Tell them.

Finally. . be known as doing all three parts in your giving

Practical AND Extravagent AND with a Purpose, Explained.

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Isaiah 35:1-10 Christ’s Way is Coming JUMC 20131215

The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad, the desert shall rejoice and blossom; like the crocus it shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice with joy and singing. The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it, the majesty of Carmel and Sharon. They shall see the glory of the Lord, the majesty of our God. Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees. Say to those who are of a fearful heart, ‘Be strong, do not fear! Here is your God. He will come with vengeance, with terrible recompense. He will come and save you.’ Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy. For waters shall break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert; the burning sand shall become a pool, and the thirsty ground springs of water; the haunt of jackals shall become a swamp, the grass shall become reeds and rushes. A highway shall be there, and it shall be called the Holy Way; the unclean shall not travel on it, but it shall be for God’s people; no traveller, not even fools, shall go astray. No lion shall be there, nor shall any ravenous beast come up on it; they shall not be found there, but the redeemed shall walk there. And the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away. NRSV

Upside down Onside out.

Our world perspective is out of order and backwards, when children don’t feel safe at school, when politics is more important than people, when trillions of dollars of debt are ignored, when a kindergarder’s kiss is sexual harassment. Just a few, but you get the picture.

Gods highway. The Holy Way

The prophet Isaiah, describes a highway. Not a traffic jam in Henry County, but a way paved with the folks who are trying to live right, putting their steps in sync with God.

Singing of Joy and Gladness

Isaiah foretells, the crowd will be recognized through singing songs of joy and gladness. Eternal and unstoppable joy. What are you singing about today?

So What: Christmas has become a season of compromise: (Santa and a savior: The Fight carton that stated South Park.)

The birth of Jesus paves Gods way of transforming grace and salvation. Do we worship a sacred santa and lust for gifts or trust the one who has given us THE gift before we even made our list? Are our Christmas prepping making us ready for traditions or salvation? ready for Warm fuzzies and mounds of wrapping papers or warmed hearts and a parade marching toward God?

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Genesis 32:22-31 “Welcome to Strugglesville” JUMC

Jim Ross
32:22 The same night he got up and took his two wives, his two maids, and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. 32:23 He took them and sent them across the stream, and likewise everything that he had. 32:24 Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. 32:25 When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he struck him on the hip socket; and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. 32:26 Then he said, “Let me go, for the day is breaking.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go, unless you bless me.” 32:27 So he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” 32:28 Then the man said, “You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with humans, and have prevailed.” 32:29 Then Jacob asked him, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And there he blessed him. 32:30 So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life is preserved.” 32:31 The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his hip. [NRSV]

Today I welcome you to the Peniel Arena..
Welcome to the Friday Night Fights
Are you ready to Rumble?

And in this corner, weighing in at 156 lbs 5’4” is the hometown favorite wrestler, let’s hear hear it for
Ja-a-a-a-a-a-a-cob-b!

And in the opponents corner, clearly 240 lbs 6’8”, is the mysterious masked Mar-r-r-r-r-r-val-val

This is Howard Cosell, are ring side, I’ve got to go with the home town boy, Jacob, he has just give up to his family, children, household and animals to be here tonight. God has called and God will bless him..

Bob Castas here, Howard I don’t think you’ve seen the size of his opponents tree trunk arms and his goliath size. Jacob has heart but does he have what it takes. He’s going to need all the bless God can give.

Ding, ding, ding… The wrestling begins.

When I was about 9 years old, I was touring my new school and meeting new teachers. This stock fellow asked me I liked wrestling. Having only seen the TV version of wrestling at that time, I replied, “No sir, it’s all fake and for show.” He said, “Sorry to hear that.” And he walked away.

A few minutes later we stopped by the gym to meet the PE teacher and the same stocky man was seating on the edge of his desk, with wrestling trophies and ribbons behind him. He was the PE coach and he said we’d be learning about wrestling that semester. We will see how fake it is by Christmas.” O dear.

Back to the wrestling match..

I don’t think it was common for folks to meet strangers on the road and they break into wrestling all night long. It was a strange meeting. It was an completely unexpected series of events and it lasts until the breaking of the new day.

Its like one of the dramatic scenes in a Twilight movie where the shadowing figure chases all through the night and only injures the lead character because the sun comes up.

This is some mystery about meeting and working with God. We meet God in our darkest hours. Just ask Millard Daniels or Elaine Power this week. The prayer is that wake up the next day and find God’s blessing out of the struggle.

While none of us may have wrestled with stranger in the wilderness all through the night, we have stayed up with loved ones through many nights. We have stayed awake in a mental match of math and myth over finances and economies. We have found it impossible to sleep the night though because of few words and the power they had on someone else’s heart.

The backstory to Jacob is with his brother, Esau. Esau was the oldest of the two and it was the custom for the older of the two fraternal twins to receive the father’s inheritance and Jacob and his mother trick his father who was blind into giving Jacob the blessing.

Many years pass but Jacob lives in fear of his secrets, lies and deceptions. God wants them to meet and reconcile. [the same mission we see in the life, teaching, death and resurrection of Jesus] This fear is evidence he had been wrestling a lot longer than this one night. He sends a gift to Esau to soften him up before they meet. The gift is a collection of animals, estimating to be a tenth of his wealth. Accounting for inflation and conversion we can estimate his ‘gift’ to be about $116,000.

When is the last time someone gave you that kind of gift? Not to mention having sent the rest of his family and livestock on head. Jacob is absorbed in fear, worried, anxiety and collapse. Any he has nothing but the shirt on his back.

It is in the place of vulnerability that he meets God who wrestles with him in his darkest hour.

One of the great lessons that is seldom advertised in a stewardship campaign, but in this political climate and chaos over spending and budgets and debt ceilings, when you begin to give to God in the way Jacob models, it might continue to be a wrestle and struggle, but you will surely find God’s blessing on you.

The part of the story that is hard to swallow is at day break. Jacob is just about to get the upper hand and end this wrestling match with God and he cries out… bless me!

And God reaches out and knocks his hip out of joint and the blessing of Jacob follows: that he and his brother are stored, his family is restored, he continues to covenant of Abraham and Isaac and his generations are as numerous as the grains of sand. And one other blessing

Jacob, gets a new name. He is no longer the man he was. He no longer lived for himself, he now lived by God grace for the people of God, and his name become Israel.

And in the news, every week of every year, you hear the Jacob’s new name, Israel claiming the promises of God to this very moment.

So what do get if we all donated $116,000. You get a new name? You get to name a new building? I don’t know but I would love to see what happened…

What I do know is that when we give out of fear, requirement, guilt, or shame.. we never know the joy of the gift. But in our fear, guilt, shame and duty we have the scars of our struggles with God. The different is in the gift. In the hope of healing the relationships between us and God and with each other…

God does not take away the struggle when we give, but he meets us in that struggle and will leave us reminders when we learn the lessons that God is in charge, God is with us always, and God desires to do whatever it takes to heal the relationship. Even if it leaves evidence of the struggle along the way.

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1 Corinthians 12:1-11 “Gifts for Good” JUMC 20130120

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12:1 Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed. 2 You know that when you were pagans, you were enticed and led astray to idols that could not speak. 3 Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking by the Spirit of God ever says “Let Jesus be cursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except by the Holy Spirit.
  4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. 7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8 To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues.
11 All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses. [NRSV]

Our Congregation is teaming with talented people.

We have a surplus of gifts… Do you know the some of the favorites?

  • To some we hear the gift of Complaint
  • Some have the gift of Blaming
  • Others have the gifts of Worry
  • And to some the gift of Apathy
  • Still others have the gift of Fair-weather Participation.

Each is given according to the spirit of false faith..

These are not gift of the Holy Spirit! This are not what we are called to be known and witness!

Seriously, we need to look at listen to ourselves and the tools we turn to first when solving a problem or even listening to one another.

The gifts give in the 12th chapter of first Corinthians is not an inclusive list of the ONLY gifts of the spirit. These are samples of how we experience God’s spirit at work through one another.

Various Gifts, Services, and Activities

  • Wisdom,
  • Utterance of Knowledge,
  • Faith,
  • Healing,
  • Miracles,
  • Prophecy,
  • Discernment,
  • Tongues of praise and Tongues of interpretation.

Each is given for the common good

..and may not be enjoyable by the bearer.

This is the test of the purpose of Spiritual Gifts. They are not for us. They are for the community. The community of faith, the extended community or even for the world.

But they are not for our personal benefit alone. This is a very good measure and guide for understanding our spiritual growth and maturity.

All are activated by the Holy Spirit.

The key difference between our talents, skills and experiences and Gifts of the Spirit, is the the power source.

If we have trained and done our best we might become more ready to serve, but the gift is the work of God’s action through us.

Where have all the Spiritual Gifts Gone?

As we look around, we don’t see many healers, we don’t have too many who teach, we don’t hear too many different languages spoken, and we are running short on current miracle stories most Sundays.

It is our tendency to think that Spiritual Gifts are for the Disciples, the Early Church or for some other denomination. United Methodist have been rich in gifts of the spirit but where are they now?

This is the So What part of the passage. Is this text relevant to us now? Are we gifted people?

I would say, We Can Be, We Might Be, and We Most likely Are.

But we would be scared to admit it or let them show if we were.

  • The Gift of Hospitality
  • The Gift of Insight.. seeing what others see
  • The Gift of Grace.. forgiving before we are asked to
  • The Gift of Get-it-done.. Starting and finishing a task without permission
  • The Gift of Trust and Confidence.. Keeping a confidential information confidential
  • The Gift of Giving.. Over a half million dollars in a down economy speaks loudly
  • The Gift of Letting Go and Not Holding a Grudge.. because it makes you too tired to keep up the fight
  • The Gift of Letting Go of Money, Food, Clothes, Time to enable someone else to live, eat, work, or grow
  • The Gift of Cooking.. When others would rather eat.
  • The Gift of Dish washing.. When others are leaving for home.
  • The Gift of Teaching.. When others have their done-that TShirt
  • The Gift of Driving.. To give a ride to someone who is stuck at home
  • The Gift of Leading.. When others would sit back and wait
  • The Gift of Singing.. When some would keep silent
  • The Gift of Trying a New Thing.. When the old, familiar things suit you just fine.
  • The Gift of Bring a friend.. When others stay at home with their friends
  • The Gift of Grace.. When you are able to see with God’s heart and eyes, the world is not winning, not hopeless. The Spirit is Real and with us, still.

These are the gifts, and services and activities that I see and hear and experience…

They are activated by the Holy Spirit, because we are too lazy, selfish and tired to do them on our own.

These are the signs of God at work..

And the Good News is: There are other gifts, through other folks just like you and me. None of them have to be the same, but all together they are the Holy Spirit With us.

Praise the Lord.

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