Posts Tagged #rsumc
Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers.” Jesus used this figure of speech with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them. So again, Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved and will come in and go out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” [NRSV]
Sheep Herding Risk
Very few if any of us will shepherd sheep. We are much more likely to have cows, dogs, or cats. We may not have a herd, but we know the risk of opening the door or the gate and allowing out pets to go out. All manner of dangers awaits out the gate or door. from the mechanical, mischievous, and manageable ones. The coyotes that boarder our properties lay in wait. Driver speeding though neighborhood and country roads are distracted. Air borne contagions blowing at our windows and doors.
We found ourselves on the verge of leaving our shelter-at-home and wonder about the risk of opening ourselves to the risk of being exposed to infections and re-infections of the virus, and all manors of evil, sin, brokenness, grief, hurt and suffering. If I were charged with herding sheep today, the herd would be at great risk. I lack the experience.
Have you ever reflected upon the great risk God has entrusted in us? God has no desire nor need for smart robots to do God’s work or give God praise as a programed creation. God has made us from love, hoping that we would choose to love and trust God in return, and to show that love and trust to one another. We certainly fail, and God is gracious. God offers himself as the gate and door through that love and trust.
God risks children in the garden of Edan to be trusting of God’s graciousness and single command. The Tree in the middle of the garden is the central figure of that divine-human trust. God provides without request everything that we would need, surrounded in love and relationship, and asks of us to trust God more than we trust ourselves.
The sin in the garden is upon hearing something different from God’s instruction, that we forfeit our life in the moment of curiosity, disobedience, or selfishness.
What if the story had Adam and Eve exploring the garden together, and when confronted by the diversion of the slick talking snake, that they asked each other before acting alone? Of if divided on what to do in a giving situation asked God directly, what to do or what are the consequence of our choices, thoughts and actions. If we have learned anything in this time of quarantine, may it be that we need each other more than we ever realized.
I am the Gate
As our eternal remedy to sin and misplaced trust and the forfeit of our lives, Jesus offers himself as the gate, the way, back to God.
We think back the garden of Eden passage and know that after the failing to trust and communion, God sends Adam and Eve out, and set an angel with a sword to close the entrance back into the garden.
While this is a fearful and passionate scene, their thoughts, actions, and choices bore fruit of rejecting God, trusting themselves above God’s heart and instruction. The consequence should have been death. But God continue to love them, and loves us even when we sin and reject by our thoughts, actions and choices.
All those who came before were not the way.
Jesus makes it plain to disciples. There are those who USE God’s trust and love are thieves and robbers. We like to blame the devil or find someone to blame for our irresponsibility with our lives. We want to blame our leaders, the wealth people and corporations. We find it easy to blame governments, but remember we are the one’s who selected to lead us.
Too many people are overwhelmed by the deep fighting in our political parties. One side blaming the other, day after day. Answer this question before we move on: If all the time, energy, and passion that we given to find the correct person or party to blame would be refocused on holding each other accountable to God’s love and trust. We would reopen to the doors of trust between each other, and with God.
The reality is we don’t. It is easy to point fingers, find flaws, and get rid of that which we in our own way. If you have a problem with me as a neighbor, as a friend, as a pastor, as a human being: is it better to gather our like-minded friends and supports and being to get me out their way or to sit down together, talk through our struggle and find the consensus of how to love and work together. I choose the latter and reject the former.
But how to do ever get to that place where we can restore trust, love, and relationship. Many times, we don’t but there is a way. Many times, we listen to others who offer what is easy in the moment, or less challenging of ourselves, and we steam ahead into campaigns of righteousness that robe our relationships of trust and love.
The church has placed on the second burning its goal of division in a time of pandemic. I pray that we have found in this time apart, a time of prayer, study and renewal, and return to impending threats of division with the confession that we have closed our hearts to those who think differently that we think and believe. In place of this division may we have a return to the heart of God and see that God has both an open-door policy of accepting sinners ALONG WITH an angel of accountability and consequence for misplaced trust. Our hope lies in the one who is the doorway, the gate.
The Gateway to Salvation
Those who enter by the gate of Christ find life, fulfillment, wholeness, belonging and salvation. If the great risk for God was for Adam and Eve to understand trust, love, and grace, then taking their lives for one action would end the whole expression of God. God is more interested in our relationship than our past. It is the great BOTH/AND.
God knows that we continue to make poor choices, we continue to surrender our lives for our own sake and not God’s. God knows that we seek ill toward some. God know we are hesitant to forgive those who have trespassed against us. God know we only look at the manna we need for the day or a few days ahead, and that we grow tired and bored without the Garden, the trust, the ongoing work of the relationship.
God entrusts Adam and Eve with the work of faith and trust. All the other tasks and responsibilities were taken by God. The shelter-at-home has been a change at our household. We have shared more tasks and been forced to learn better communication and interdependence. We have find an ever great need to pray and seek each other’s grace, forgiveness and contributions. God is hoping in our time, that the Garden where we trust God and We work to be faithful, loving and trust of God and one another is fully known. Knowing how hard that is we have a clear picture of why we need the risen Lord in our lives.
The Big Risk
The gate is open to all. God has been about boundaries and grace throughout history. The Ten Commandments are boundary markers that let us know when we have crossed the lines of God’s expectation for our relationship with God, family and the world. The consequences may appear to have differing degrees, but frankly each has a ripping and separating effect on our trust and love of God.
We need to reclaim the GRACE that God has both boundaries of our thoughts, behaviors, and choices, and the GRACE to come running to him to restore our broken trust, love and forfeits of our lives.
Robber and thieves are sneaking if they are good at their vocations. The work in darkness. They come when we are absent. The take when we are not looking or paying attention. They distract and are persistent without compassion or concern for the value of others and their belongings.
God is risking to love, trust, and restore us knowing that we are just as likely to work in darkness, to be absent from God’s presence, absent from supporting and encouraging one another. We are likely to tire with our attention, we are easily distracted, we give up on persistence and looking ourselves when pressed.
If that does not prove God’s love for us, there is the clearest gift, that God lays down his life in Christ, for us, as the bridge, the gate, the passage, the ability to restore our relationship. God is willing to give his life for ours. That is the supreme gift of trust.
The Instruction to Disciples
What do we take from this parable? We not only see what great love God has for us, we also see how we are to love and trust one another. We see how we become gateways to Christ for others. And it is a BOTH / AND relationship.
While we were yet sinners Christ died for us.. While we are deserving of the world’s criticism that just a bunch of sinners, God is still working to transform our hearts, our faith, our trust, our relationships.
The church is the body of Christ, BOTH crucified and risen. We have a marks of sin and we also have the life, the hope, the joy, the trust, and love of God that gives us life, and life that is abundant.
Join me in naming someone who need to hear this BOTH / AND message and tell them this week.
12Stone Church Kevin Myers Series: Home Run Life
Home Run Life – Week 1 Genesis 37-50; Romans 12 Original Sermon link Edited to be used by Rock Spring UMC Study Series
Welcome to Home Run Life – Week 1. I am so excited to share in this series with you. Let’s just dive in. Let’s play ball.
On the back of your bulletin, you will find teaching notes and four questions that can transform your life. The first question is…
1. What makes for a home run life? In other words, everybody wants a home run life.
Everybody wants that kind of experience in the whole of their life. The question is what are the elements that make up for a great life? I’m glad you asked. Here’s what I think is the first one, obvious to all of us. I think the first element is a success. See, when we’re young and we dream about our lives, we dream about a job, financial, business, sports, career success. That’s why I love the Super Bowl XXXIII commercial by monster.com. It captures the essence of this. You’ll enjoy it. It’s one of my favorites. Check it out.
- Boy: When I grow up, I want to file all day.
- Boy: I want to claw my way up to middle management.
- Girl: …be replaced on a whim.
- Boy: I want to be a yes-man.
- Girl: …yes-woman.
- Girl: “Yes, sir.” “Coming, sir.”
- Boy: “Anything for a raise, sir.”
- Girl: When I grow up…
- Boy: When I grow up…
- Boy: I want to be underappreciated.
- Girl: …be paid less for doing the same job.
- Boy: I want to be forced into early retirement. [End of video]
That’s just funny. That is backhanded sarcasm, isn’t it? I mean, nobody really aspires when they’re young, “Oh, I hope I grow up and accomplish small things. I hope I grow up and a strikeout.” No! No, when you imagine the life you long for, you imagine success. But hear me.
Success is too small to make up the whole of a life dream.
In fact, you may start with success, but that’s not the end. Whether you’ve ever thought about it or not, when you dreamed of the life you had longed for, you imagined it would have someone. You imagined it would have…what? Someone. It’s “someones.” Someone was involved in that dream, that hope for a dream life.
Whether it was coworkers or teammates, close friends… Maybe it was that soulmate. You longed someday to get married, hoped for kids, the beauty of family. See, there was always this someone because success without someone is hollow.
Let me illustrate with a golf joke. Are there any golfers here across the campuses? Are there any golfers? Let yourself be known. All right. Then you’ll appreciate this. There was this pastor who
loved to golf. It was driving him nuts because every Sunday was sunny and gorgeous and every day off was rainy. See, he had been brought up in that tradition where you can’t golf on Sunday. That would be wrong. That would be a sin. He could never golf on Sunday, and it was ticking him off. I mean, this was happening every week. Finally, he just said, “God, I can’t take it anymore! I want to do the wrong thing.” He made the phone call, and he said, “I’m not going to be in this weekend.” He told the assistant pastor to preach for him. He left on that Sunday morning and drove two or three counties away so nobody would know him. He got on the golf course. Just like every other Sunday, it was sunny. It was gorgeous. It was beautiful. He got on the first tee and said, “I know this is going to be miserable, God. I know you’re not going to help me, but I’m doing it anyway. I’m playing golf.” He hit the first drive: 275-300 yards (it blew his mind) down the center. I mean, he parred the first hole. He was out of his mind. He had the best game of his life. He got to the last hole. He hit the ball, and it was a hole-in-one…every golfer’s dream! He was out of his mind. He was dancing on the green. He was like, “God, I thought you would make this miserable for me.” God said, “I did!” “What do you mean?” “Who are you going to tell?”
Success all alone is empty. Success without the “someones” is diminished joy. See, when you dreamed of your life, you not only imagined you would have success; you dreamed there would be the people you love and the people who love you. That’s not all you ever dreamed. If you’ve never thought about it, you also dreamed of self-respect. See, you imagined you would be able to look into the mirror and respect the person you see in the mirror without dropping your eyes in disgrace. You imagined a person who could rise up with self-leadership who would not be owned by pleasures and passions and addictions, a person with integrity. See, wherever you go, there you are. If you can’t respect the person you are, it’s a pretty miserable life. Maybe you never thought about it before, but you not only imagined life of success and someone and self-respect. It’s not over. You imagined significance. What did you imagine? You dreamed your life dream would lead to significance, that your life would make a difference.
You imagined it would count for what matters, not just that you would have empty success, not just to make a dollar but to make a difference. Now that’s a great life. That’s a great dream. That’s a success in someone, self-respect, and significance. That’s a home run life. Everybody longs for that. Those are the elements in it, but very few people actually get that life. In fact, most of us get one or two of those things and crash on the rest.
That was the experience for Luis Ramos who, over a decade ago, was sitting in a place just like you here and I was delivering the first kind of testing seasons of Home Run Life. Here’s a slice of his story. [Video]
Luis Ramos: My name is Luis Ramos, and I’m 44 years old. I’ve been married to my high-school sweetheart for almost 25 years. You know, I find myself in one place in business and family and relationships that, thank God, today is really great and very fulfilling. It wasn’t always that way, however.
I had made my life about having more, getting more, making more, and achieving more. Everything else was falling apart around me. My marriage was falling apart. I barely knew my children. I told myself it was for everybody else, so I said, “I’m doing this for my family. I’m going to make sure I set us up for a great life.” That’s nonsense. It’s not true. I really loved the feeling I got from success. It was addictive. I just needed a clean break and to start all over.
I told my wife I had made a mistake, and we were really not meant to be together. On a Sunday in early October, my wife was going to church with the kids. I decided to join them really to keep up appearances. It just so happened it was the first day of a multi-week series on the Home Run Life. I sat there, and I was intrigued by the production, but what really caught me was Kevin starting to tell the Home Run Life story, the parable. [End of video]
Like Luis, most of us get one or two elements in our life dream, and then we crash in the rest. Maybe that’s because nobody has ever taught us how God grows us up. In fact, that brings us to
the second question of four questions that can transform your life.
2. What can we learn from Joseph’s journey?
For our limited time, let me highlight from Genesis 37-50 in the Old Testament the story of Joseph. I’ll pick highlights. I’ll pick out kind of breakthrough moments in his life to put this together. Joseph was 17 years old when he had a dream. It was a dream about his future. It was literally a vision from God.
Now Joseph was the son of Jacob, the grandson of Isaac, the great-grandson of Abraham. He was in the line of God’s great promises. His father, Jacob, was highly influential, very affluent. Joseph was a favored son. He had many older brothers. In fact, by the end of the story, you discover his older brothers and he together made up eventually what’s called the 12 tribes of the nation of Israel. The name of his father Jacob was changed to Israel. That’s where Israel gets the name.
Back at this time, he is 17 years old. He is a favored son, and he has what Scripture calls a “coat of many colors,” which means he is important. Dad gave it to him. He is kind of bragging. See,
this is ticking his brothers off. They’re full of jealousy, and Joseph is walking around in his coat, strutting like he is somebody.
Then he not only acts like he is important to his earthly father, but also he is like, “I don’t know what to say, guys. I’m obviously important to Dad, and I’m obviously more important to God
because I had a vision. Did anybody get a vision? No? Nobody else? I had one. Guess what? In the vision, I’m standing, and you’re bowing. Isn’t that an awesome vision, guys?” Nobody was excited. By the way, nobody gets excited when your vision is you’re standing and they’re bowing. Joseph had every reason to believe this was going to come about, this would happen. Why? Because God was in it. In fact, we often quote promises of God. We’ll jump into the New Testament like John 10:10 where Jesus said, “I have come that you might have life and have it to the full.”
Then we expect the very next thing when we come to a relationship with God through Jesus is life is now going to be easy and awesome. Joseph was probably expecting the next thing to be a success. The next thing was a pit. He got thrown into a pit. His brothers got tired of this, so they literally threw him down into a pit. They took his coat of many colors. They cut it up so it looked like an animal tore it up. They put ram’s blood on it, took it back to Dad, and said, “Dad, it looks like Joseph went bye-bye.”
Of course, those were pre-DNA days. You could figure that out today, but not back in the day. Now they take him from the pit, and they sell him into slavery. Off he goes to Egypt. His father assumes he is dead, and nobody comes to rescue him. Joseph has to be asking himself, “God, what on earth are you doing?”
Have you ever asked that of God? Have you ever just said, “God, I’m trying to follow you. What on earth are you allowing in my life?”
[Kevin Myers] was 30 years old, 9 years into [his] marriage. It was one of the most undoing years in [his] life when [he] had to sit down with [his] wife and ask her to go back to work. Now understand [they had] married for nine years. For the first five years, there was some good ministry stuff. For the last four years, [they] were planting 12Stone. [They] said, “Once we have a couple of kids, you get to be a full-time mom.” We had a couple of kids, but [he] had to ask her to go back to work because [he] was failing in [his] work. [They] had lost [their] house money. Some of you have heard these stories. [They] had lost cars and savings and a little IRA stuff and everything [they] had. [They] were going bankrupt. [They were] doing odd jobs and everything [they] knew to do. It was like, “Honey, if you don’t go back to work, we’re done.” I’m in this pit, and I’m like, “Hello, God! What are you doing when you let this happen?” [He] didn’t know then, but [now he] can tell you now what [he] thinks God was doing. God was helping [them] win dependence.
In fact, many of you may find yourself in pits you didn’t create, and God has allowed them to come your way. You’re like, “God, what are you doing? [We] expect it to be easy and awesome.”
Maybe God is doing the same thing. That’s God was doing with Joseph. Watch this. He was helping Joseph win dependence.
God was stripping Joseph of everything he would have used to make this dream possible so he could move Joseph from self-reliance to God-reliance. Oh, that’s a major move! See, many of us never grow up spiritually because nobody ever told us how you grow up spiritually. We know how you grow up humanly. We don’t know how you grow up spiritually. Let me just give you a quick understanding of it.
Here’s how you grow up humanly. You move from dependence to independence. Let me talk for a moment. How many of you here have children under 5 years of age? Hands up. You have children under 5 years of age. There you go. You see the hands. They’re adorable, right? You’re just drawn to them. You’re endeared. Through their elementary years, you cannot imagine them ever leaving. Then God makes them teenagers. Now you cannot imagine them staying. See, that’s a process.
You start out. They’re wholly dependent on you. Then they’re progressively moving from dependence to…what? Independence. Spiritual growth is the opposite. This is how you grow up spiritually.
You are born in sin, separated from God, distant from God. You think you’re your own god. You’re independent and independent from God you begin to grow and be drawn to God.
You discover God loves you and, through Jesus, he made a way for you to be restored to him.
You come to faith through Jesus, and your entire journey is to move you from independence to what, church? Dependence. Oh, this is a deep and wide reality. Jesus said in John 15, “I am the vine. You are the branch. If a man or woman remains in me, you will bear much fruit. But apart from me, you can do nothing.” Learn to depend. It takes a lifetime.
The second breakthrough in Joseph’s life was to win within. See, his second major breakthrough, the next one, was to win within.
He had a major temptation. See, now he was bought by Potiphar. At the age of 17, he was taken to Egypt and bought by Potiphar who was highly influential in the military arena of Egypt. He had been there, for now, five to seven years. He was probably 22 to 25 years old. He had risen up as a slave (how exciting is that?), overseeing the household affairs of his master, Potiphar, and his wife.
Potiphar’s wife made an indecent proposal, a sexual advance, engaged an affair. At that moment, he had to decide, “What kind of person am I going to be?” We all have to make that decision.
“What’s the moral code? Do I follow God or create my own?” See, Joseph couldn’t help that he was a slave on the outside, but he didn’t have to be a slave on the inside to his passions, his appetites, or his desires. He could be a man of integrity, and he made the right decision.
Oh, by the way, for making the right decision, do you know what happened? He got thrown in prison. Isn’t that awesome? “Yay, God! I did the right thing, and I lost.” See, Potiphar’s wife said he actually did initiate and rape her, and Potiphar threw him into prison. Have you ever done the right thing and took a loss instead of a win? Oh, but God is not done.
The next major breakthrough is a win with others. Get in the story with me for a moment. Just everybody here, campuses, go with me on this. Now Joseph is the servant. He is a slave. He is the guy on his hands and knees. He is cleaning the floor. While he is doing that in Egypt, very important people are walking by, and they don’t even notice him. They just dismiss him.
Maybe that’s when Joseph discovered, “You know, I used to be important. I used to walk around my Dad’s place in my coat of many colors. I was somebody. Equally, there used to be people doing just what I’m doing…servants I never noticed.” Maybe God had him in that place to teach him how to value others. Because hear me. There are few things more redefining than when God puts you in the place of people you once dismissed. Maybe then Joseph realized, “I kind of helped put myself in this place. I dismissed my brothers and their issues, their needs.”
Between the ages of 21 and 25, [in his] first ministry experience was [Kevin Myers] was the associate pastor of a church that had tremendous growth. It was the fastest-growing in our little denomination and in that territory. [He] began to feel self-important. During that time, [he] subtly began to think differently toward pastors who led smaller churches. [he] started to think, “Do you know what? If those guys would just put a little effort in, it would work.” [he] subtly dismissed.
When [he] planted [his church new church,] “12Stone,” [they] had 104 people on the opening weekend. Four years later, [they] had
82 ([He was] just that good…yeah, yeah) during which season God whispers in [his] ear, “Now, Kevin, let’s talk again about pastors who lead smaller churches.” See, that’s how we learned that if you don’t value others, you use others.
Maybe God has you in some places just like this where you’re down on your knees, and you don’t want to be. You’re in some places in work or in life and relationship, and you’re begging for God to lift you up when God is trying to teach you how to win with others and value others.
By the way, we know Joseph broke through. Do you know how we know? Because fast-forward. When he was 39 years old, which is 22 years after they sold him into slavery… His brothers sold him into slavery at 17. Quick story. At 39 years old, he was already second in command in all of Egypt. There was a famine going on, and during the famine, guess what? A group of guys who were starving came there. They were his brothers. Guess who they had to kneel before in order to get food? This is such a good story!
They had to kneel in front of Joseph. The dream! Here his brothers are kneeling. He is standing. How well did that moment have to be for him? All he had to do was just wave his hand, and they would be executed. Instead, he executed mercy and forgiveness. That’s a changed, transformed man.
The next major breakthrough was to win results. Oh, this is huge! God helped him win results. Fast-forward. He was from 17 to 30… At 30 years of age, he had been in pits and prisons for 13 years. Pharaoh has a dream. The dream is from God. It’s a vision. He can’t interpret it himself, and neither can anybody else. Then they say, “Oh, there’s this guy Joseph who can interpret dreams.” They bring Joseph up. He faces Pharaoh. I mean, this is the most powerful guy in all the earth in his time and day. Pharaoh says, “I’ve had a dream. Can you interpret it?” Joseph says, “No.”
If I were coaching him, I would say, “Joseph, the answer is yes. Yes, Joseph. If you get a shot at a new job, the answer is, ‘Yes, I can do this.’ What are you going to lose? I mean, if you lose, if you fail, you just go back to prison. Come on. That’s where you are! If you lose your head, it’s better. You die. You just don’t have to go to prison. This is a shot for a promotion. Take it!”
Joseph was a changed man. I want you to see this. Do you know what he said? “No, I cannot, but if God wants to give it to me, he can.” This is somebody who figured out even in business God is a part of the process, and he was dependent on God. That’s good.
God did give him the interpretation, and he explained it to Pharaoh. There would be seven years of feast and seven years of famine. Then more than giving the problem, he delivered the solution. “Pharaoh, you should have someone manage the seven years of feast and put food away so, during the seven years of famine, Egypt survives.” Pharaoh looks around and says, “I don’t see anybody smarter than you, Joseph.
You get the job.” He elevated him to second in command in all of Egypt, second only to Pharaoh. In one day, he went from prison to the palace. That’s a very good promotion day, wouldn’t you say? I mean, that’s the kind of day everybody is looking for in business.
It’s like, “Whew! How did you…? Tremendous.” You would think, “Oh, my gracious. That’s such success. That’s the pinnacle of his life.” It was not.
Pinnacle is when he moved from success to significance. He figured out with the coming of his brothers that his family was starving, and he said, “What you meant for bad, God meant for good, for the saving of many lives.” He brought the whole family (his father Jacob, all the families) and saved them. This is the nation of Israel through whom eventually comes the Messiah, our Lord and Savior, Jesus.
How significant is that? It begs the next question, number three of the four questions that can transform your life.
3. What is the pattern? With all of that, how does God really grow us up?
What is God’s game plan for life and leadership? When Joshua, [Kevin’s] eldest son, was 11 years old, [dad] had an awakening. Honestly, a confession. [He gives it to us.] [He] realized, “Even though he is a pastor, He didn’t know how to disciple his son.”
[Kevin] came to Christ at age 9. [He had] been in church ever since. [He went] to Bible school. [He had] a ministry degree at a university. [He’d] been to seminary. [He’d] been pastoring full-time. He realized, “I don’t even know how to disciple my son.”
Now it’s not that he doesn’t have the information. All the information in his head is all complex, but he didn’t know how to get it out and get it into something.
How would he transfer it so his 11-year-old son can know how God is going to grow him up. How to do it in an easy, transferrable, significant, meaningful way that will connect when you’re young and travel with you into your adult life. [he] was stumped. See, this whole Home Run Life thing was actually birthed from the heart of a father who wanted to help his son win.
That’s where the whole baseball thing came from, something that was accessible to a kid but could travel into adult life and even challenge pro athletes in a multi-billion dollar industry..
..There was this pattern. That word pattern became hugely important. Take your Bibles here. We’re in the book of Romans, chapter 12. This is the core Scripture God was soaking into [his] soul in this season. We don’t have time to detail everything, but I can tell you this. When it says, “Therefore…” what he is talking about is after all the theology, after all the teaching, after all, God has done to restore you to him through Jesus, now here’s the point, practically speaking.
Chapter 12, verse 1: “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.”
Verse 2: “Do not conform…” Do not…what? Conform. Don’t do this. You can’t do this. “Do not conform to the…” There’s the word.
Say it with me, church. “…pattern…”
“Do not conform to the pattern of this world…” So there’s a pattern to the world. He goes on. “…but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” You have to see things differently. “Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Oh my! There is a pattern God uses. This pattern God uses grows us up, but there’s a pattern of the world.
[Kevin] started to think, “Well, baseball has a pattern. What if what is true in life dreams is true in God’s design?” There are four bases everybody has to cover. It’s true in baseball when you’re young, and it’s true when you’re in the major league. It’s not like there are seven bases in the major league.
There are four bases. The only way you can score is when you cross… Humor me. What’s the answer? You always have to cross…what? Home plate.
In fact, when you leave home plate, you have to cover…what? First, second, and third base. This is what we know about baseball.
It’s really simple. If you miss a base, you’re called…what? Out.
Baseball is full of fresh starts. Many strikeouts but fresh starts. What do they call it when you run to the wrong base? Little league.
That’s the only time it’s funny. When a 4-year-old hits the ball and runs to third base, everybody is like laughing. “That’s awesome!” It’s not so funny when a major league player does it, because then he is called out.
By the way, that’s true in life. There is a pattern, and it’s as simple as baseball in how God grows you up. If you look at your teaching notes, here’s your fill-in-the-blank. Home plate. Home plate is where you connect. That is to say you connect to your Creator. I mean, we’re not just talking anybody.
We’re talking about the Creator of the universe, where you connect to God’s purpose for putting you here and God’s power to pull it off. Oh my goodness, this is huge! See, everything begins and ends at home plate. Everything begins and ends with God. It doesn’t start with you. It starts with God.
Just like when you come to the plate, you have to know your purpose, what you’re there to accomplish, and you need power at the plate, so it’s true in life. By the way, many of you listening are spiritually unresolved. You’re not even sure you believe in God.
You’re not sure you’re buying any of this. It’s okay. This is still your issue. Listen. It’s still your issue. You have to settle in life, “Where did I come from? Why am I here? Where am I going?” You’re living out that answer, whether you answered it or not…if not by design, by default.
The God who created you, who loves you deeply, who created a way for you to be restored to him through Jesus, is inviting you to connect. When you become the god of your life and make it start and end with you, of course it doesn’t work. You are not. When God comes into your life and you connect with him, the very first thing the power of God wants to do is take you to first base and change you.
It is called character. Home plate is ‘connect,’ and first base is ‘character.’ That’s the personal base. It’s how you win within. What often happens is when we come to faith in God through Jesus
Christ and we become followers of Christ… Do you know what happens in our souls? Oh, we get so excited. We know we can pray and God answers our prayer. Oh, this is so cool.
Do you know what we start praying? “Oh God, change everything else.” Right? “Now I got God. Change everything around me. Oh God, change my relationship with my job. Change my income, it is yours. It needs to go up for you. I need less. Change my boss’s heart. Change my spouse’s heart. I had no idea how much baggage we both had when we married. Oh God, change my kids. They have so much of my spouse in them. [haha] Who knew? God, change my house and change my stuff.”
Do you know what? We think the moment you get in a relationship with God, the whole point is to get God to change everything around you when the first thing God wants to do is change everything…where? Within you.
See, God wants to help you rise up with the character that keeps you from crashing and costing you his best in the rest of your life. Most of us get thrown out on the way to first.
Home plate is connect. First base is ‘character.’ Second base is ‘community.’ It is the people base where you win with others. Watch how simply powerful and profound this really is.
What is the first and greatest command Jesus taught us? To love God (home plate). Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind. The second commandment is like unto the first. To love your neighbor (second base) as yourself (first base). Get it? Love God. Love yourself. Love others.
Third base is the competence base. Competence. So you go from ‘connect’ to ‘character’ to ‘community’ to ‘competence.’ This is the performance base. This is where you win results. By the way, when a baseball player gets to third base, is it a score? No! No, if you get left stranded on third base, it comes to nothing. Success is not an end in itself, not until you surrender that success to your significance, to the significance of why God put you here…
In other words, you have to live larger than yourself, and you live for God’s glory. This is how God grows us up, and the order of the bases actually matters. If that’s how God grows us up, if that’s the pattern that renews our minds so we can be transformed, then my question is…How does the world run the bases? We live in a world that runs the bases backward. You know this is true.
We live in a performance-driven society where what you do and success is how you’re measured. We are under such huge pressure in performing in life that we end up cheating the other bases.
We end up cheating what it takes to really build a marriage and a family. We end up cheating our integrity in order to get ahead over here. We end up cheating time with God. “Oh, we don’t have time to honor God one every seven days. I don’t have time for that. I have a busy life. Bible? Prayer? Are you kidding me? For what? That’s for weak people. I don’t do that. I don’t need that.” We end up cheating the very things that would give us the quality of life to
make sense of success and surrender it to significance. What if in a backwards base-running world we are losing a home run life God had imagined for us? That’s what Luis Ramos discovered. Here’s the rest of his story. [Video]
Luis Ramos: So I started talking about the tradeoffs we make, the fact that in a performance-driven culture, we are driven to run to third base. Very often what that results in is sacrificing relationships on second base and integrity on first base. It just hit me. It hit me like a ton of bricks. I thought to myself, “This is my life. I’m destroying my relationships with my wife and my children, and it’s costing me, and it’s costing my kids. This is going to have repercussions on the rest of our lives.” I thought, “You know, I’ve been looking for this reboot. I’ve been looking for this fresh start. The reality is God is offering me a fresh start to do something with the life he gave me with the family he gave me and with the wife he gave me from my youth. I’m a fool if I think starting over with somebody else is going to turn into anything better, because the person breaking this is me.” I rededicated my life to the Lord, and I talked to my wife. I let her know. She was very skeptical, to say the least. By God’s mercy, she prayed hard about it. What she heard from the Lord was, “You don’t have permission to get out.” So she took me back. Pastor Kevin remarried us in the spring of 2001 with all of our children and our closest friends.
That running of the bases in a different pattern started a domino effect that didn’t just transformmy marriage and my children and our family, it transformed everything. It transformed my career. It transformed my business. You know, it transformed everything about me. [End of video]
See, that’s powerful. Oh yeah. When you let God renew your mind and how you run the bases of life, it will transform your life! Think about the whole of life in our society. We do our whole life backward. We spend our twenties to thirties (maybe into our forties and fifties) chasing success. Because of that, we will often burn one, two, or three marriages and estrange our kids. In our forties and fifties (or sixties) when we have enough success to realize it’s not as fulfilling… It’s a bit empty.
People enter into a marriage they start caring about and investing in and curiously want to go back and restore with their estranged kids. In their fifties and sixties, you start hearing them say to their grandchildren, “By the way, character counts. Who you are on the inside matters.” Why?
Because it’s borne out to be true. In their sixties and seventies, up to eighties, they start facing their mortality. They think, “Do you know what? Maybe there is a God. Maybe all along I got this wrong.”
It’s interesting. This November, Ted Turner, our local Atlanta CNN-Braves-Rancher-Philanthropist-mogul-Billionaire, is turning 81. In an article a few years ago were these thoughts. “Ted…the outspoken agnostic who had formerly described Christianity as ‘a religion for losers’ recently reaffirmed his openness to the religion. […] He no longer considers himself an atheist and prays for sick friends.” He closes, “Well, I sure don’t want to go to hell.” You see, we live in a world that runs the bases backward and ends up forfeiting the best God has for us. We could have a renewed mind and change the way we run.
4. How do you run the bases? More importantly, how will you run the bases of life?
Bow your heads with me. I want to take a moment to lead us in prayer. Our gracious God, many of us would have to confess like Luis that we get caught up in the ways of our world. Maybe it’s never occurred to us that we conform to the world’s pattern. Maybe it never occurred to us that under pressure, we’re costing ourselves the very things we long for. Would you grant us awakening as you did Luis? Would you do in us and for us and through us what you did for Luis? That will mean some of us right now… Even those of us who, maybe like a Ted Turner, are not even sure what we believe, but we’re starting to enter prayer because we know we’re not in control. Even us, Lord. We would ask you to renew our minds, transform our thinking to transform our lives. Maybe even some of us like Luis would have to say, “Lord, I rededicate my
life to you. Lord, I’ve gone adrift. I’ve gotten sloppy. I’ve joined the world. I wasn’t even aware of it. I’m not running the path that allows you to grow me up.” Lord, whatever would be our prayer unique to each individual, I ask you would give us the courage to confess and own what is ours, humility to ask for your help, and surrender to you that allows you to teach us not only this day but in this series. As a result, God, you would so bless our lives and our families, our character and our careers, that we would experience life to the full. Grant this blessing I pray, in Christ’s name. Everyone agreeing, say, “Amen.”
You have searched me, LORD, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, LORD, know it completely. You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you. For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand— when I awake, I am still with you. [NRSA]
- The Peace of God’s Presence
- The Protection of God’s Presence
- The Power of God’s Presence
How to find God when we are lost?
“Be Still and Know I am God.” Psalm 46:10
1. Begin the day with praise and prayer.
Then pour out your heart and tell God about all the things going on in your life and lay them at the feet of Jesus. Picture yourself physically taking one burden after another, placing them into God’s hands, and letting them lay there. The act of giving ourselves to God is a life long practice of :
- a. knowing God is able, willing and desires our burdens and fears
- b. yielding our power to God’s loving grace
- c. practicing humility with our most personal struggles.
2. Meditate on a passage.
When I have a hard time quieting my mind, I like to meditate on Psalm 46:10:
“He says, ‘Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.’”
Focus on one word at a time, letting your mind rest on that one word for a few seconds before moving on to the next word. Here are a few other passages to start:
- Psalm 23, The Lord is my shepherd I shall not want.
- Romans 5:8, While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
- 2 Corinthians 5:21, God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
- Psalm 103:13-14. Praise the LORD, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name…
3. Mental Pictures and Visions.
Imagine God seated on His throne, using passages like Revelation 4-6 to shape our minds-eye, our imagination.
“At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it. And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and ruby. A rainbow that shone like an emerald encircled the throne,”Revelation 4:2-3.
Can you picture that? Continue reading. Imagine God high and lifted up, I kneel down and bow my face to the ground, picturing myself in the heavenly throne room, joining the angels and the elders in singing “Holy, Holy, Holy” and then being still in His presence.
Imagine your self crawling into Abba Father’s lap and laying your head on God’s shoulder, much like a two-year-old does when she/he just needs a hug.
4. Write out distracting thoughts.
Sometimes, when I’m trying to quiet down my mind, I start to remember all sorts of things like birthday gift ideas, spring cleaning tasks, and meal plans. If that happens to you, grab a pen, write it down, and then return your attention to the Lord. Release those distracting thoughts, knowing you can come back to them later.
5. Recite a prayer of stillness.
Ask God to help calm your mind like Jesus calmed the storming sea. This can even be an imaginative prayer: Your thoughts are the waves that Jesus commands to be calm. Acknowledge your racing thoughts and ask the Holy Spirit to rule over them and help your mind rest in His presence.
6. Be physically still. Start small. Breathe Deeply
Begin with 30 seconds or a minute of stillness. And while 30 seconds may not seem like much, as you begin to incorporate this practice of stillness into your spiritual life, you’ll find it gets easier as the years go by. Then build up to 5 or 10 minutes. It’s in this place of communion with God that we quiet ourselves enough to hear what the Spirit wants to say to us.
7. Stillness isn’t always quiet, clean, nor neat.
Sharing Our Weeping and Wailing.
Do you know that, oftentimes, our stillness comes after the emotional dam finally breaks? I have no idea why, but it’s usually necessary to lose it before the process of healing begins. You can trust God with your deepest pain. Through it, He will lead you deeper into stillness.”
Encouraging and Allow Others the Time and Space for Peace in God.
We cannot force peace, it must be found in God.
Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, “Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” The woman said to him, “Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?” Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” [NRSV]
Give me a drink:
Give us this day our daily bread. Our bodies need water each day. The proper amount to remain hydrated is varried, but if the general consensus is that our bodies are 50%-70% based on many factors.
Water serves multiple purposes:
- Water is the primary building block of cells.
- It acts as an insulator, regulating internal body temperature. This is partly because water has a high specific heat, plus the body uses perspiration and respiration to regulate temperature.
- Water is needed to metabolize proteins and carbohydrates used as food. It is the primary component of saliva, used to digest carbohydrates and aid in swallowing food.
- The compound lubricates joints.
- Water insulates the brain, spinal cord, organs, and fetus. It acts as a shock absorber.
- Water is used to flush waste and toxins from the body via urine. ref
I have no bucket
Jesus knows that this woman has no bucket, because of the time of day and the lack of others at the well.
Well of Jacob – promised land: Spiritual water – a promise of eternal home.
Gushing up to eternal lifestyle not still water waiting in a well, but living water moving toward us.
What does it mean to spiritually thirst?
Spiritual thirst is the underlying motive that people have to seek after God, to start and continue their search for God.
It could be guilt over sin, it could be a longing for honest community, it could be guidance and direction, among some ideas.
It could be a stark realization that the person has made a giant mess of their life. Driven hard, past empty and now stuck.
Quenching our Spiritual Thirst
- Living Water is the Building Block of our spiritual self
- Living Water protects and insulates us in times of temptation and testing.
- Living Water helps us digest, understand and apply scripture.
- Living Water lubricates when we get stuck, dry, worn out, afraid.
- Living Water flushes sin out of our systems and spirits.
- Living Water is bottled, distributed and provided by God as a living presence in our lives.
- Drink Up! Don’t be spiritually dehydrated
- Look To Jesus and the church for the Bucket!
- God desires to reach out to our spirit and make us whole.
- If you find someone needing access to the well, lead them to Living Water.
Book to the Hebrews – A Summary
There for Chapter 13 — The How-To’s of a Life of Grace
Since Jesus is with us,
When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, “Where I am going, you cannot come.’ I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples. [NRSV]
It has become rather trite to ask: “What Would Jesus Do?” But it is the obvious response to the new commandment given in John 13:34 (Just as I have loved your, you also should love one another.)
The new commandment is a “super commandment.” When we are faithful with this one commandment, we are faithful in all the others.
- Love welcomes the sinner, and sends them to go and sin no more.
- Multiple people forgiven and healed, and charged to change their living.
- Love welcomes the curious, and goes home with them,
- Love welcomes those who need healing
- And loves them even if they don’t say thank you or show appreciation. Loving for appreciation is the heart of co-dependency.
- The Ten lepers, only one returns.
- Love feeds, clothes and befriends
- As in the great commission text, MT
- Love welcomes those who seek forgiveness
- Forgive me Lord,
- Thief, today you will be with me in paradise
- Love cares enough to help the fool not rebuilt on the sand
- Parable of the house on the rock / sand
- Love cares enough to:
- Cry with the grieving
- Drink with those who marry
- Guide who work and fail trying
- Disciples fishing
- To be humble hear good news
- The wise bring gifts
- The Magi
- The proud seek mercy
- Sermon on the Mount
- The outcast are made clean
- Those possessed with evil
- The busy and distracted are made still
- The eager to listen and learn are taught and encouraged
- Those who love as Christ love are sent out to love the neighbor, stranger and enemy
- The Disciples and the 70
- Jesus loving listens to fools and childish children, and finds a Love story of God’s heart to reach us.
- Finally, Jesus shows us the highest gift of love by giving his life and demonstrates that in some occasions we do the same.
- The Cross
- And, Jesus shows us that loving God is trusting that our eternal living is God love us, eternally.
- The Resurrection
Our text: Commands: Therefore, for us to love, as Jesus loves.
I listened to two different clergy friends ask me the same heartfelt question:
“How could someone be a conservative and call themselves a Christian.”
The other asked:
“How could so someone be a progressive and call themselves a Christian?”
As I listen to the news of senseless shootings, political propagandas, and fears in the country and the church. I have been praying for God’s words to respond and lead!
Here is the ‘fruit’ I offer to both and to you. The singular answer is found in Christ’s command to love as we see and hear Jesus love.
Ask God to point to your core,
Your first thought and action,
Q: I’m I loving God, even if it means something different from the world understanding of love?
Q: Is my motivation love God, when I speak out or hide under the rock of in-action?
Q: Is my heart following what pleases the world or what pleases God’s heart?
Q: Am I praying and studying and challenging to know what God’s heart and love looks, sound, taste, feel and are all about?
A: When our love looks like Christ’s love, we will know when to speak out and when to keep quiet.
A: When our love is like Christ’s love we will see when the world or we, ourselves, twist love to be about our agenda instead of God’s.
A: The answer to the questions: Who’s love is most Christ like..
Answer: When Christ’s love leads, there can be different ways of showing love, but God is revealed as the purpose.
Is God Revealed? If God is not revealed
- then we are either closed to seeing God in only our way or
- the love of Christ is not present.
The Test: Ask of what you say, think and hear: Show me God’s love. The world is hungry and thirsty for God’s love. Show the world the love Jesus has shown the world, and we cannot go wrong.
If we only have ideologies, theologies and policies, and don’t have love of God at the heart, then they are noisy gongs of distraction.
Wherever you hear noise, is a time to share the love of Jesus Christ. Try it and see the Kingdom of God wherever you go.
Example: Politicians, Wars, Taxes, Shooting, Immigration, Budgets, etc. If you don’t explain how God is working through these to reveal God’s love, the love of Christ, then start our conversations over.
Love is the lens, if the lens is not clear, clean it and start over in love.
If you are not talking about these topics to avoid the drama and noise, then you are withholding vital opportunities to help yourself and others find God’s love where we are hurting most.
Love is the lens, if the lens is not clear, clean it and start over in love.
If you only seem to get angry and polarized in these conversations, then you are lost in the noise and need to turn to Christ and start over.
Love is the lens, if the lens is not clear, clean it and start over in love.
If others are seeing and hearing and experiencing the Love of Jesus Christ through you, then, BAM! you living in the life of Love! Love on in Jesus Christ.
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.” But Thomas (who was called the Twin ), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.” A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name. [RSV]
Seeing is Believing
- Show Me, What Proof is convincing for one is not convincing for all
- Evidence might be physical, emotional or spiritual
- Understanding is the starting point
Not Seeing, yet Believing is Faith
- Faith is based in what we do not control
- Faith is Trusting what is untrustworthy
- Faith is Affirming what God provides
Faith is the Core
- Faith is generally a process
- Faith is tested as a muscle is strengthen
- Faith is hardened as steel is heated and cooled.
The Purpose of Faith is for our Relationship of Salvation
- Jesus’s Death pays for our sin
- Jesus’s Resurrection restores our life
- Jesus’s presence in the Holy Spirit is to build the relationship
Commitment to the Relationship
- Starting with the Scriptures, Feed your Faith and Belief
- Building on the faith you have seen, heard, read, experienced Test
- Take the Jesus relationship to life: Family, Work, School, Community, etc.
- Jesus makesFoundation for our Relationship with God Through Christ Jesus
- COMMIT to Intentional Spiritual Growth. Bible Study, Sunday school, Daily Devotion, Small Group.
- Disciples were Gathered, even in fear and doubt, Jesus SHOWS up.
- Disciples share their faith stories, Jesus Shows up to Confirm
- Disciples offer questions and challenges, Jesus Shows up for Faith
- Disciples meet Jesus in the process and their life is filled with Faith and Salvation, through Jesus Christ, living with them.
Preaching on Easter Sunday has a seesaw of expectation. It’s Great news to celebrate the Resurrection and a challenge to tell even more.
Jerusalem. A Joy?
If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died. For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead has also come through a human being; for as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father, after he has destroyed every ruler and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. [NRSV]
- Joy that we have hope even though Terror fills the earth
- Joy that we have faith even though correctness challenges beliefs
- Joy that we have grace even though we want it immediately
- Joy that we have life even though we need it eternally
- Joy that we have love even though our hearts still know how to hate
- Joy that we have each other because the body of Christ is entrusted to the church
- Joy that we have forgiveness
- Joy that we have songs for praise
- Joy that we prayers for conversation
- Joy that we have time for repentance
- Joy that we have history to learn from past mistakes
- Joy that we have a future that is prepared and paid for by Christ
- Joy that Jesus was not just a teacher with good life lessons
- Joy that Jesus was not just a historical figure
- Joy that the Holy Spirit is our power
- to Celebrate Easter is to feed not eat
- to Celebrate Easter is to forgive not hold over
- to Celebrate Easter is to love the difficult to love
- to Celebrate Easter is to live for Christ and not ourselves
- to Celebrate Easter is to bring hope to the sad
- to Celebrate Easter is to open hardened hearts
- to Celebrate Easter is to offer life to the dying
- to Celebrate Easter is to free those who hoard
- to Celebrate Easter is to be the body of Christ living in the world for the transformation of the world toward Christ how lives forever.
Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb. The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. Then the disciples returned to their homes. But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'” Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her. [NRSV, John 20:1-18]
But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in, they did not find the body. While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.” Then they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest. Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles. But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened.[NRSV, Luke 24:1-12]
Why Do We Look for Life Among the Dead?
Think of the things that take away our life: We risk our lives and our eternity.
- We risk our lives and our eternity.
- We risk our relationships and our legacy
- We risk our faith for opinions
- We risk forgiveness in the name of being ‘right’
- We risk our salvation holding to our possessions
We search for meaning, influence and belonging in many things, relationships, substances, beliefs and ideas.. when our heart’s home is ever in our face: Jesus.
We come to a Sunrise Service
Expecting to hear a familiar passage of scripture
Marking a tradition when we could be sleeping
Not everyone went looking for the Risen Lord: Those who seek will find.
That is story of Easter Sunrise: Mary is looking, even in her blindness of grief and fear she is in the place where Jesus is ready to be revealed to her.
- Being in the right place, at the right time has some common sense, and is one of the key reasons we gather to worship.
- Being where Jesus told disciples to be, worshiping and waiting together, is an action of faithfulness and trust.
- Being awake and alert as we can be, is room enough for grace to take root.
You and I are the Easter People. We have come to see Jesus. Look at the shivering faces of Joy that come to this holy time and place. Jesus is with us. He lives in us. Go and be the body of Christ, transforming those who seek in darkness, hopelessness, fear and those who are asleep. It’s time to wake, Jesus is here!
At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.” He said to them, “Go and tell that fox for me, “Listen, I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my work. Yet today, tomorrow, and the next day I must be on my way, because it is impossible for a prophet to be killed outside of Jerusalem.’ Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! See, your house is left to you. And I tell you, you will not see me until the time comes when you say, “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.’ ” [NRSV]
Jesus Agenda: Casting out evil, Curing the broken, and finishing his work on the third day.
- A fore telling of Jesus’ arrest, conviction and crucifixion are addressed by the disciples and Jesus.Jesus is talking back. Calling Herod by his action, a fox, cunning, callus and calculated. Skills of self preservation for the fox. Jesus’ mission, in Luke’s Gospel, requires him to be back in Jerusalem, positioned for the crucifixion.The Agenda cannot be stopped by Herod or any evil. But that will not stop evil things from happening.KEY:
God’s presence cannot be taking away, but neither are we to expect evil to disappear in the world.Prophet’s Job is Seldom Appreciated.
- Jesus points to the difficult task of being a prophet.The Prophet says nothing new. The prophet reminds us of the rails that our collective train should be running.The Prophet reminds us that God desires up to be with God.Jesus is more than any prophet. Jesus is God showing up first hand, the real deal, the actual.Jesus’s lament is how the necessary role of the prophet has never been without attack and often takes one’s life.We have at least two prophetic voices for our capital city:
I would suggest that our two leading political candidates (S&T) have tapped into the telling the people what the want to be reminded of, but their trains are running in opposing directions. Neither of them claim to be God’s prophets, but folks are desperate for a prophet and will follow until the find the prophet’s flaws or the prophet’s message becomes too personal. Mud-Slinging Campaign: (Interesting to hear from Jesus and John the Baptizer) Herod, was the secular leaders and he was a ‘fox’. The Sanhedrin were the religious leaders and they were a brood of vipers. God desires us to be together.There is a VERY powerful moment of self-disclosure and God’s heart being revealed in these words of Jesus outside of Jerusalem:The Mother Hen and her brood: How I wish my chicks would trust me. (Not just after they are in trouble, not after they are lost to evil, not just when faced with their own mortality, BUT when there was time to “walk together in the garden”) Remember the relationship with Adam and Eve, where God would walk and talk with them face-to-face, and explore the garden along side with them (Gen 3.8)The Prophets role is to remind God’s people of the relationship of Good and Evil. Helping folks remember what side of the fence they are too live.
- Are we people who put God first?Are we a people who put God 2nd or third or last?Are we people who honor our parents and their generation?Are we a people who lie, cheat, steal and murder?Are we people who choose our own agenda or God’s?Are we people who hunger and thirst to be correct or forgivenAre we people who satisfied with God or we want more?Are we people who listen to snakes and foxes?Are we people who will call out what it is evil, broken and diseased?Are we people who will turn to God or Government to define us?
These are the prophet’s questions: What are our answers?The Declaration:Blessed are those who come in the name of the Lord.