Posts Tagged heaven

Matthew 25:31-46 “Are You A Goat?” RSUMC 20141116

sheepNgoats    31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, 33 and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. 34 Then the king will say to those at his right hand, “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35 for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? 38 And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? 39 And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ 40 And the king will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’ 41 Then he will say to those at his left hand, “You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; 42 for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44 Then they also will answer, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’ 45 Then he will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ 46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” [NRSV]

  • All Gathered at the Throne: No real doubt about judgement, all those who believe are not all those who are righteous.
  • The Judgement is based not on our belief, but on our response to the belief we profess.
  • Loving God is linked to loving our neighbor:
  • Punishment is leaving eternal life.
  • Sheep Leave a legacy of loving one’s neighbor. The Goats leave a legacy of rules,

Who are the Sheep among us? Who are the Goats? Get to work on our legacy while you can.

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Matthew 5:38-48 “Perfection” JUMC 20140223

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“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’  But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.  “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. [NRSV]

John Wesley explained how God works in our lives in what he called the ‘order of salvation.’ This order begins with God at work prior to our awareness.

For example Christ was born, lived, died and rose long before we had anything to do with this ultimate gift of God’s grace. Our belief or unbelief does not change its power or purpose.

Preventing Grace

Long before we come to a point of accepting Jesus Christ with our minds and understanding, we are surrounded by the community of faith in the church, specific individuals of faith, differing actions and witness of service worship and witness. All these together shape our understanding and our experience of belief and ‘accepting’ Christ our selves.

This period of preliminary work of God through our experience is called ‘prevenient grace’ or preventative grace. God working good through the holy spirit before we know what is going on around us.  This is the most compelling reason to come to church. This is the most compelling reason to be here for the witness and strengthening of others in the faith. Your being present, your singing, your prayers, your Christian fellowship, your studying, your serving and sharing is how we teach on multiple levels our faith and belief.

This is not just for the children. It is for us all, at all ages and stages of our lives. I would suggest that members like our Reba’s, Elizabeth’s, Roberts, Cottons and others of our older members are as hungry for the presence of the whole church as our children run eagerly up for children’s time.  We need the preventative work of God’s good working in all we do.

When we Get it? Justifying Grace

The second stage of salvation is when we ‘get it.’ When we have that first moment of the stories of faith connecting with our experience and we “see the light”, “we know Christ died and lives for us.” We might say the words for years, but when we recognize that Christ didn’t just live, die and return for everyone, but for us in particular.. then Wesley calls that moment: Justifying Grace.

There are times when our lives are so busy, weary, confusing and stressed that we know the right answers be we loose the connection that God is working in us.  For those who find themselves digitally connected on a daily basis, isn’t at the worst moments that the internet connection goes off line. You are right in the middle of something important, and zap. You are disconnected.  The information is out there but you are not connected.

The same thing happens in our way of salvation. We know that justifying work that God has done for us, but we loose the connection. So getting reconnected and trying to stay connected Wesley calls SANCTIFYING Grace.

Practicing Connection Sanctifying Grace

We don’t use the word SANCTIFY very often. But we do things that help keep or store the connection of faith.

The room we have gathering in to worship is the SANCTUARY. Even though it is large and may have different activities, it is set apart as a holy space. We will not be playing basketball today. We will not be eating dinner in this room. We have dedicated this as a safe and dependable place to find God with us.

 

We sing praises and hymns/songs. We praise and ask through our prayers. We are joyful and tearful in this place. We celebrate baptisms and communion. We celebrate marriage and funerals in this place. We gather as sinners and call ourselves saints in this room. Because this is the SANCTUARY; this is the place we connect with the Holy.

Sanctification: Connecting and Reconnecting with God

But this is not the only place or time to connect with God. Wherever two or more are gathered in God’s name, God is there. Where we clothe the cold, feed the hungry, reach out to the lost, remember the forgotten, and find ourselves persecuted for doing Godly good.. These actions are SANCTIFYING actions.

 

God’s is working through our study, praying, fasting, serving and witnessing to keep us connected to God. When we are working in these ways we experience SANCTIFYING grace.

But we are not always doing these things. We have other responsibilities. We have rest and recreation. We have times that we are sick and broken. Where is God in these times?

For many we spend a great deal of our lives in the PREVIENT grace mode.  When we want to take vacation from responsibility; God is willing to carry us. That is the promise of God’s love.  

I remember learning about Greater-Than and Less-than in the second grade. I didn’t get it. I was use to having a big smiley face on all my work but this paper had an “F”. My first failing grade. The teacher called me to her desk and asked me why I was crying. I handed her the paper. I had missed ever single problem. None of them were correct. Everyone was wrong. My “F” was a big fat zero.

The teacher had the same ah-ha moment I did. We both realized that I understood the concept of > and <. I just had the symbols backwards. We both said, “Why didn’t I realize that at the time?” She let me retake the test.  I got them all correct. Perfection!

 

There are times that we get things right. We do good and we find that warm spirit in our hearts. We feel connected and loved. We see and understand. These moments, John Wesley called, Perfecting Grace. We don’t stay in these moments. For a variety of reasons, but these are the cherished examples of what it is like we are close to God and God is close to us.

For most folks, these times are too far in between. The reality is that most folks operate on a daily basis between PREVIENT Grace and JUSTIFYING Grace. This is some where between letting God work for us and our mental affirmation of God at work. And we wonder where is God?

Finding the perfect relationship takes practice. Faith is not a one-time contract. Perfection is a relationship of wholeness. We have to practice putting the pieces together until the stay together for longer than a few minutes.
perfection or wholeness

The Christmas puzzle: We put out a holiday puzzle that family members stop now and then to find the edges, work on recognizable patterns. Little by little the progress is seen over time. And then, with about fifty of the five hundred piece left there is a collective dash to complete the prize. And it is done. There is generally a comment that we should get some ‘modge podge’ glue the work together. And it sits entact for a little while for everyone to admire, but in a matter of seconds the hours of work is undone and the pieces are divided and back in the box for another season.

 

The trick is finding how to become so familiar with the many pieces and the practice of putting them together that the complete work does not take as long. And so it is with the spiritual puzzle of our life in Christ.  Perfection comes, but it is fleeting. Unless we stick to the practice of making wholeness our goal, our juggling of pieces of life are a diversion instead of a salvation.

Perfection: Not getting it right, but getting is together with God for long haul, eternity.

Our journey is fluid. We move back and forth with God. But the more we move beyond the idea of God into the relationship with God AND God’s people, the closer we walk with God most completely.

Have you seen the YouTube clip of the little boy sitting at a bus stop waiting to meet his teacher and class on a field trip. The weather is cold and certain a day for a heavy coat. This boy has not coat. The number of folks who sit with and interact with the boy and do not offer their coat is unbelievable. But those who do become connected beyond the mental affirmation of loving your neighbor and become actual neighbors to the boy.

The reason we gather for worship with regularity, come to Sunday school, eat a fellowship dinner, pray with our ceasing, study each day, feed and clothe those who have made poor choices or have had poor choice made for them… is because to share our lives each day is to share God each day.

The question implied in the text today is: If you have not showed God’s love today to someone who does not expect nor deserve it, then we ought not expect God to be found in our own lives. We have been loved. We know the way of salvation. We are on the journey.. are we closer, at a stand-still or lost ourselves?

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Luke 16:19-31 While You Still Can JUMC 20130929

Glass-of-Water-1
“There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man’s table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores. The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side. He called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these flames.’ But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony. Besides all this, between you and us a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who might want to pass from here to you cannot do so, and no one can cross from there to us.’ He said, ‘Then, father, I beg you to send him to my father’s house– for I have five brothers–that he may warn them, so that they will not also come into this place of torment.’ Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.’ He said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.'” [NRSV]

Reversal of Status:

There was a rich man, his name is not stated.
And, there was a poor man, named Lazarus.

The Lives to Two Dead Men
The rich man had find clothes, food a plenty
Lazarus was clothed with sores, and his only friends were stray dogs.

Despite their differences in wealth and status
Despite whether they had access to affordable healthcare or not
The both died.

They were both born, they both died.
But now, the rich man, He sat in Hell.
And, Lazarus, the poor man, was seated with Father Abraham, sipping cool beverages in heaven.

You can take it with you.

Folks use this phrase to encourage others to use and enjoy their assets. But I suggest to you that they both took something with them of great value.
Both carried the weight of trust in the system, faith and relationship they had know.

Lazarus took his ability to trust and wait upon the grace of God with him.
We see him aligned with the Father of ‘the’ covenant of the old testament.
We see him continuing in the care of God’s protect, patience and providence.

The rich man took his fear and separation with him beyond the grave.
He see he is still looking at Lazarus as a servant and person who was to do his work and bidding.
We see him looking to tell others what to do, fixing the situation by his own plan and his own will and design.

That Chasm is Wide

Lazarus, carried by angels to heaven
The rich fellow, tormented by flames in hell.
Is there no bridge?
Is there no way across?
Is there no work around or way to reach to share a comforting cup of cool water?
Nope.

There is a fundamental difference in the different ways we reach the same goal.
Two roads diverge in a yellow wood..

TWO roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

The Road Not Taken
Robert Frost (1874–1963). Mountain Interval. 1920.

The difference is made in the choice of which path we travel.
I Choose the Lazarus Path
Does that mean we must become poor and sick and live as an outcast?
I would say that is one possibility, but not the only reality.

There are plenty of those who have wealth enough and still find themselves in heaven, right? I would say yes, for some that is indeed true.

What is the different path?

The rich man has the idea but would anyone listen to his idea?

Idea: Why don’t you send someone from the dead to tell the living?
Great idea, but who will listen and so change their life and daily walk…

Validation of the Old Testament: the rich man is told, Lazarus found his way through Abraham, let them listen to what they claim to already know.

Bottom Line: We know, we need to act like we know.
Live for God while you have the spark of hope and life to live.
Live for Christ while you have ideas and strength to serve.
Live in the Spirit while you have breathe to breath.

Don’t wait for someone to hand out your food, your work, your healthcare, or your
Take God’s gift of salvation in Christ and unwrap it today.
Take the gift of the Holy Spirit and follow it today.
Take the gift of this fellowship to encourage your walking in faith.
Take the call to share this faith with those who will listen, who will believe and trust.. because they see God at work in you.

I need a drink of cool water, how about you?

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