Posts Tagged intentional
Parable of the Talents: To whom much is given, much is expected.
You are I have been given the absolute best gift, a life in Christ. God’s expectation of us is to lead by living this as a community of faith, the body of Christ, the church.
Far too many years the church has been working to please and be congruent in the world, yet we are called to be in the world and not of the world.
For too many weeks I have come before you acknowledging the reality of division in our denomination and world and the world has convinced the church that it too is to be guided by politics. This is not our calling.
Our calling is to be the moral voice, and backbone that informs and shapes the world. It is this higher goal, the greater gift, the largest sum of talents that God is calling us to be FOR the world.
So when we see the terrible injustice of racism in the world around us we need to see it as God sees it and not just a single politic talking or fighting point.
Racism is the abuse of power over another person or group of people based on the color of pigment in the skin, and/or the perceived value of a different culture.
The reality is that there is one race, the human race. God sees us all as children of God’s creation.
The world divides us for purposing of power and control with the goal of control and self-interests.
So, what are we to do?
Protest and Signaling, raise awareness. With great solidarity we want those who have no voice to be heard and held up. The origin of the BLM was not to say that lives black persons are the only lives that matter but call for black persons to be valued as others are also valued.
The difficult part is that the message has become a political fund raising, power brokering, leveraging organization that uses racism as its power source, which is nearly the same as the racism they are supposed to be fighting.
Here is the test about ending racism. If one group of people are using another group of people to gain power over them in the name of race, it is racism.
It’s would thing to be a noisy gong and clashing cymbals making waves, protesting and gaining attention. The more vital is what we do after the light is turn on and everyone see what is dark and light.
Have you experienced racism? I have and I am a white southern male.
As a pastor working with a near by black pastor who was starting a new church in the community. (a community that had doubled in size in three years to have 95% black citizenry.)
My white church was less than 200 members, had ample facilities for the small black congregation to meet on Sunday evenings at our building. The other congregation offered to rent and pay the entire year’s utilities for the opportunity to meet at a time the white congregation no longer used the building. It appeared to be a win-win.
My administrative council met to discuss and vote on this proposal for shared ministry. It was the first agenda item. The other pastor and I laid out the plan and the chair of the SPRC said, (and I quote) “There is no way those (n*word)are going to have the building over my dead body. Put that in the minutes.” He followed that with this: “Not only do I reject this proposal, I propose that we reduce the pastor’s salary by a 1/3 effectively immediately for suggesting this, all in favor?” They had a secret ballot and voted 15-1 not to accept the proposal and to indeed reduce the salary immediately. My DS did not offer support and said I should have known better. I moved to a smaller church. All of ordination piers to this day make more and have more contributed into their retirement, but none of them have make the same choices I have made.
(I share this not to make you feel a particular way about me, but show that DOING the right thing effects our live-in ways the world does not support)
It’s one thing to talk about racism it is another go with the consequences of making the stand. The answer is not making a louder voice, it is taking intension steps toward being the community of faith God has created, saved, calls and empowers us to be if we are will.
The frustrations that run so high come from what we are shown in the media. The media does not show us the hundred of black persons being killed in cities like Chicago every year.
The choice to see only certain example of injustice will never solve the problems of racism.
As every sincere research person in every discipline of study will affirm that any problem is simply one variable, not just one symptom, not only one factor. Racism is not only about skin color. It is about evil, misuse of power, corruption, deception, as well as economics, education, opportunity, and ideologies.
While having better laws, politicians and law enforcement in place does not guarantee the absence of evil, corruption and deception. And while we can promote better education, opportunities and economics, there is no certainty that evil, corruption and mis-use of power will be held accountable.
We are a globe community of sinners. At times we are all guilty, evil, prideful, power-hungry, selfish.. right? There many parts: Laws, leaders, enforcement, education, opportunities:
But there is something that need to be the foundation of all these and it is not something governments and civil organizations can solve.
It is singularly God who is needed. The core, root of racism is a failure of humanity to trust and follow God.
The answer is for God’s people to recognize God’s higher calling is not only entrusted to use through Jesus Christ, it si
But for better understanding, say that all the right people and rules are in place. The world, our society, our communities are expected to live at this higher standard… and here is how we get to the ACTION phase of dealing with Racism:
1. Take MLKjr at his dream and stop seeing each other as a white person or a black person. See each other as people.
2. To continue to use these words is a simple way to keep racism alive. (Green boy story)
a. So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. Galatians 6:9
b. Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Philippians 4:6
c. And do everything with love. 1 Corinthians 16:14
d. For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11
e. Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you. 1 Peter 5:7
3. As a community we become KOINONIA – “drawn together by intimate participation in Christ.”
In the weeks ahead we will explore what it means to be KOINONIA as Rock Spring UMC.
I ask you to pray this prayer for yourself, the church and the world. “Holy Spirit, draw us together as we participate in fellowship and community in Jesus Christ.”
Where we meet and share Christ we will not find the racism has any power for we are one in Christ, one in fellowship, and one in life.
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
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
- Utterance of Knowledge,
- 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.
When they had come near Jerusalem and had reached Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, just say this, ‘The Lord needs them.’ And he will send them immediately.” This took place to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet, saying, “Tell the daughter of Zion, Look, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them; they brought the donkey and the colt, and put their cloaks on them, and he sat on them. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and that followed were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!” When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, “Who is this?” The crowds were saying, “This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.”
The Affirmation of Jesus
The new translations make a subtle change on this emphasis of one verse. Modern translations emphasis that Jesus was sitting on people’s coats that were thrown on the back of a donkey on which Jesus road into the city of Jerusalem. The older translations simply say that Jesus sat on his ass. Modern readers are often offended or at least thrown off by hear a phrase in scripture that contains the word ass, and particularly one directly speaking of Jesus.
I suggest that modern readers/hearers need to be thrown off their own donkey so as not to miss the significance of Jesus’ entrance into the city and the hearts of the people.
1) Wisdom from the high school chemistry class: “Proper prior planning prevents poor performance.”
It is with specific intentionality that Jesus chooses a donkey, the foal of an ass to be his means of transportation.
As a matter of transparency in government spending, President Obama had new presidential limousine ordered by the secret service beginning at his inauguration. These cars must have had pentagon toilet seats because each cost $300k and they need fleet of ten or twelve. This no green hybrid fuel econo-commuter coup. But it is the type of vehicle we might expect the leader of the free world to have especially during the era of terrorist attacks. Jesus chooses a different approach, with intent.
The picture of Jesus entering the city of Jerusalem is not behind bulletproof windows and thick armor. He is not on a large bright steed adorned with emblems of gold and encrusted with gem deserving of a king. He is riding in on four wheel drive, untested first year model pickup. No HEMI engine, just basic work horse ride, clade not in steel rather in people’s coats.
2) Moab Mentality
SIDE NOTE: Have you wondered if they followed along to get their coats back at the end?
Bottom line: Jesus was coming into THE city of faith as a king, on purpose, planning to make a statement.
ANOTHER SIDE NOTE: Have you ever wondered about the crowd of followers stopping to cut down the branches off the trees in the city? Who did the tree belong to? If a parade walked down your road/street and the people started taking limbs off your trees would you mind? What would you say?
Bottom line: Jesus was coming into the city and the people give the respect and recognition of Jesus as prophet and king,
STILL ANOTHER SIDE NOTE: but why not trumpets, soldiers and colorful banners?
Bottom line: Jesus was welcomed with respect be the have-nots and masses rather than the few who have.
3) Imagine a Parade with no decorations.
No permits, no approved traffic routes, no advance warning for the merchants, school buses, or out of town travelers.
The whole city was in turmoil over Jesus being present.
This may indeed be the very heart of the Palm Sunday message.
What gets our town all stirred up into a state of turmoil?
• Storm damage.
• High School Playoffs.
• Mileage Rate increases.
• Tragic Deaths.
• Atlanta Traffic in Jackson.
But turmoil is a state or condition of extreme confusion or agitation.
What could Jesus have to do with EXTREEM confusion or
It is fascinating to me that one third of the space inside a clothes washing machine is taken up with a hard and ridged piece of plastic called that agitator. It moves around stirring things up and breaking the dirt and oils loose with the detergent.
We usually work hard to keep the peace.
We don’t want our community to be confused.
We would usually rather have things stay just the way they are, broken or not, than to have MASS CONFUSION.
BUT HERE IS THE HEAT OF PALM SUNDAY>>
Jesus shows up and his very presence turns things upside down and God side up.
Matthew’s Gospel continues by telling the Jesus cleansed the temple. He turned the religious folks upside down and threw them out.
This is not a children’s Sermon Sunday… unless we are teaching our children to take on the establishment when it is complacent, controlling or self-interested.
WHAT DOES THAT HAVE TO DO WITH US? Today?
Look at your hands, your palms.
What is within your influence, control or responsibility?
It is there you have the greatest chance of PRAISING KING JESUS.
DO IT! DO IT NOW. DO IT ANY WAY.
Eph 4.21-25 NRSV
21 For surely you have heard about him and were taught in him, as truth is in Jesus. 22 You were taught to put away your former way of life, your old self, corrupt and deluded by its lusts, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to clothe yourselves with the new self, created according to the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. 25 So then, putting away falsehood, let all of us speak the truth to our neighbors, for we are members of one another.
What have we learned?
Learned Truth is in Jesus…
Learned to put away your old self and former ways…
Learned to be renewed in the Spirit
Learned to clothe ourselves we the new self
Learned we are 2speak the truth, for we are members of one another.
Learned Truth is in Jesus…
- Looking for the truth, what is right and wrong, good /bad
- Truth is foundation, bedrock
- Truth is Power and Freedom
- Truth is integrity and Peace
- Truth is ours in Jesus Christ..
- LOOK NO FURTHER
Learned to put away your old self and former ways…
- Put away ignorance, NOT knowing, playing dumb
- Put away prior habits and behaviors
- Put away old witness, others are looking
- We are new persons in Jesus Christ
- LOOK WHO WE ARE BECOMING
Learned to be renewed in the Spirit
- Acknowledge that we need to feed/eat for spiritual growth
- Affirm that our spirit is not intended to stay a baby
- Keep being renewed in the Spirit 4whole life
- God is not finished maturing us
- GROWING OR DYING
Learned to clothe ourselves we the new self
- Wear what is appropriate for the day.. rain, a coat, sun, shorts
- Choose to be dressed for service and witness
- Consider the witness of what you wear
- Clothe the NEW self
- GOD CLOTHES THE LILLIES
Learned we are all to speak the truth, for we are members of one another.
- We are truth in Christ, it is not just us, it is all of us in Christ
- Trust is we are not our old self, we are NEW
- What of a tomato plant that bears ONE
- CHOOSE 2B DRESSED 2 LEARN
SO WHAT: What have we learned?
- We stand for Christ, who makes us new, daily in the spirit
- Choose to let the presence of Christ be our clothes and grow together
- Dressed for Successful God living….