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Posts Tagged perfection

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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Hebrews 11:29-12:2 Pioneer and Perfecter

pioneerwithChrist By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as if it were dry land, but when the Egyptians attempted to do so they were drowned. By faith the walls of Jericho fell after they had been encircled for seven days. By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had received the spies in peace. And what more should I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets– who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched raging fire, escaped the edge of the sword, won strength out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight.

Women received their dead by resurrection. Others were tortured, refusing to accept release, in order to obtain a better resurrection. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned to death, they were sawn in two, they were killed by the sword; they went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, persecuted, tormented– of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground.

Yet all these, though they were commended for their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better so that they would not, apart from us, be made perfect. Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God. [NRSV]

Ree Drummond, Pioneer Woman
She makes Paul’s coking look line a weigh watcher commercial.

Her journey of coping with the transition from city life to life on a ranch in the middle of nowhere is a testimony of living by faith.

Not to mention she gives tips on how to beat the Baptist to the grocery store after church On Sundays.

The text today gives example from the legacy of the Old Testament of how the people of God act and life , by faith

It also gives example of how the eerily church lived by faith to cover new territory.

I’ve been praying about the half of our neighbors who on any given Sunday don’t find church a place they plan to be.

How can we life by faith and reach these folks.

11:40 since God had provided something better so that they would not, apart from us, be made perfect...

God has provided something wonderful that we all know, trust and believe. But else have nearly 10,000 neighbors who can see it, don’t believe it and don’t live by yr enjoy we have.

The church is u set persecution. Look at those in Egypt this week that we dragged from their home and violently killed in the streets because of what the believed by faith.

In our own country our faith is being watered down and policed by political correctness while we watch.

How many if our neighbors is it alright for us to
1 hope they will find Christ intent own?
2 hope our witness is good on the day they are willing to look and listen?
3 go about their business without our concern or involvement?

We celebrate later today the life and faith of Charlie Sims who has loved his family church and country we til each the end and rust that God says, well done good and faithful servant.

But what of those who on the sofa, still in bed, on the mower and on the the lake. Not on cation or re popping from illness but those who do Not know the faith we cherish l that is our hope and security.

So what ?

Great faith is our response and not out job.

As we start another year of school the Pre-k students do they begin a journey of completion or start a journey of discovery that equips them to be good decision markers,

those who devalue learning or just turn in assignment and bubble in correct scores?

The text us about being perfected. Not by our work rather trusting the one who has pioneers the way and run the race flew us

We are the great our of witness called to follow into the parted sea, to march around the city walls, to welcome with hospitality and to
Stand firm with Jesus in the face of all persecution

We don’t know the perfection until we are whole.
As long as there are those who don’t know what we trust in Christ Jesus. We are all just dosing kind deeds, it’s tome to stand with Jesus until they come home to him.

Pray for the way we will become a more perfect union, in Christ
Study how we will pioneer through hearts and minds that are closed
Get ready for the new day Christ promises when we stand firm with him.

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