Posts Tagged sin

1 John 2:1-2 Children Need to Love Rules

ruleskidslove

My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and he is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. [NRSV]

Three perspectives about sin:

  1. I determine my reality and morality, you are responsible for your own.
  2. I occasionally sin, but not the “big ones” and if I do Jesus will get me out of hot water.
  3. I am a sinner, but Jesus covers me with Grace, so its ok to continue to do as I please and let Jesus step in when I need him. (Oh, that’s basically the same as number 2)
  4. I am a sinner and no matter how hard I try I will continue to be a broken vessel, in a broken world, and totally rely on God’s grace in Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit to renew and guide me, every hour of every day.

Most of the world lives with the confidence of option number one. I am the master of my own life and sin is either the infraction of a moral code or the ignorance or carelessness of someone else.

First John is a letter appealing to us in our weary state of sin to remember that sin is more than breaking rules, disobeying the law, or having anything to do with our definition of appropriate behavior.

Sin is..

[ http://www.umc.org/what-we-believe/we-confess-our-sin ]

We Confess Our Sin

Genesis 1:27 asserts that we’ve been made in the image of the Creator. Like God, we have the capacity to love and care, to communicate, and to create. Like God we’re free, and we’re responsible. We’ve been made, says Psalm 8, “a little lower than God” and crowned “with glory and honor.” We believe that the entire created order has been designed for the well-being of all its creatures and as a place where all people can dwell in covenant with God.

But we do not live as God intends. Again and again, we break the covenant relationship between God and us. We turn our backs on God and on God’s expectations for us. We deny our birthright, the life of wholeness and holiness for which we were created. We call this alienation from God, sin.

A distinction should be made between sin and sins. We use the word sins to denote transgressions or immoral acts. We speak of “sins of omission and commission.” These are real enough and serious, but they’re not the essential issue.

The issue is sin in the singular. Sin is our alienation from God, our willful act of turning from God as the center of life and making our own selves and our own wills the center. From this fundamental sin, our various sins spring. Sin is estrangement of at least four kinds:

Separation from God

Sin is breaking the covenant, separating ourselves from the One who is our origin and destiny. It’s trying to go it alone, to be out of touch with the God who is the center of life. Based on the story in Genesis 3, the church has described this break in dramatic terms: the Fall.

Separation from other people

In our sin, we distance ourselves from others. We put ourselves at the center of many relationships, exploiting others for our own advantage. Instead of loving people and using things, we love things and use people. When confronted with the human need, we may respond with token acts of kindness or with lip service or perhaps not at all.

For some people and some groups, we’re totally indifferent or actively hostile. Sin is a denial of our common humanity and our common destiny on this one small planet.

Separation from the created order

In our sin, we separate ourselves from the natural environment. Greedily we turn upon it, consuming it, destroying it, befouling it. As natural resources dwindle, as possibilities increase for long-term damage to the atmosphere and seas, we pause to wonder. But our chief concern is for our own survival, not for the beauty and unity of all God’s creation.

Separation from ourselves

We turn even from our own center, from the goodness, happiness, and holiness that is our divinely created potential. Sometimes it seems that there are two wills warring within us. As Paul put it, “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate” (Romans 7:15).

Paul continues: “Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24). Like Paul, we discover that we are powerless to extricate ourselves from sin. Though we work ever so earnestly at various means of saving ourselves—being good, going to church, reading the Bible—these in themselves cannot save us. Sin is not a problem to be solved. It’s our radical estrangement from God, a separation that only God can heal by a radical act of love. We yearn for this reunion, this reconciliation, this redemption, this salvation.

From United Methodist Member’s Handbook, Revised by George Koehler (Discipleship Resources, 2006), pp. 74-75

Sin is the reality of three important pillars/foundations:

  1. Sin is I think and act in ways that separate me from God and God’s people.
  2. Sin is the evidence that I am choosing and behaving in ways that distance myself from God and others.
  3. Sin is the evidence that I am not trying, working, trusting God to ‘save’ me in my daily life.

These correspond to the three rules of what it means to be a United Methodist:

  1. Do no harm
  2. Do all the good you are able to do
  3. Practice being in love a loving and trusting relationship with God and the people of God.

We live in a broken and sinful world.

  1. When people, groups, governments, cultures, businesses, families, parties, agenda organizations, classes, families couples, and individuals declare and decide they know a better way to order and understand our self, our world, God and all in the universe that is OTHER than God’s design and purpose, we distance ourselves, we move away from God and this separation is sin.

Not all sin has the same immediate consequence, but all sin is a movement away from God.

In God’s grace, we have the ability to repent,

1. to acknowledge that we are wrong, incomplete, not the designer but the created, and we choose or ‘re-choose’ to follow, trust and seek God’s way. Turning away from our own strength, heart, soul, and mind and affirming our reliance on God and the people of God who are also following God.

Repentance is our way of returning to God, move from separation from God, moving back, thinking back toward God.

While we might need to repent every day. The hope in 1st John is that we might not continue to sin the first place

The Three Rules of Methodist Theology are intended to help us keep from sinning.

  1. Do no harm
  2. Do all the Good you can
  3. Participate in worship, studying, and serving and practicing the things of God so that we continually grow, moving and living in God.

The great divide in our culture is who is on the ‘correct’ side of what God is doing and believing and revealing.

We look at scripture as our first and primary resource. Jesus is our best example and our means of repentance and grace we discussed above.

Jesus preached to groups and to individuals without regard to sin, rather because all are sinful. God is revealed and shows up in Jesus because we are separated from God.

With every person, who comes to Jesus, or Jesus reaches out to be with, he accepts in sin, forgives, and calls them to sin no more.

God loves us no matter what, and is ready and willing to forgive us, but expects us to not living in the safety-net of grace.

Get back on the high-wire and live life fully, trusting God to be the source of balance, force, and function.

The three rules are simple enough to learn and remember, but built into them is the affirmation that we know without God, we are lost in sin/ we are separated from God, our purpose, our meaning, and our fulfillment.

  • If someone says that don’t need God, they likely don’t know God and cross the boundary into resisting God’s grace.
  • If someone says that DO need God, they try to trust God at times, but generally, wing-it their own way until that breaks down or becomes overwhelming.  [ The need to practice the three rules is key ]
  • If someone says that need God but are not reflecting God’s heart, they may be saying or thinking they need God but are further over the boundary from God than they suppose.

1 John is affirming that Jesus is working on you, and me and all of us and the whole world.

Keep in mind that Jesus offended many people, ‘followers and ignore-rs.’  [Our culture is lost in the murky waters of what is offensive to the destruction of us all.]

1 John reminds us that Christ is interested in loving, saving and extending grace to us all. —All who will refrain from moving away.

The test:

  • Is my way of living, thinking, acting revealing my trust of God’s word and God’s love?
  • Is my way of living, thinking and acting revealing my self-awareness that without God I am alone and lost.
  • Is my way of living, thinking and active revealing God’s desire to rescue and prevent, but not without choosing God’s saving help.

Examples: Am I loving rules more than a relationship with God?

  • Am I loving my comfort over your discomfort?
  • Am I loving my interpretation compared with what God is about to reveal to me through your faithfulness?
  • Am I loving my understanding of love more than God’s word call me to go and sin no more?
  • Sin is walking in the dark with saying “I can see fine.”

God is the light that exposes the darkness in all of us, calling us to trust Christ actions AND words.

Our culture is in a relentless attack on the body of the church, the scriptures, and the understanding of what God’s will and purpose for us truthfully is.

There is a collective and corporate sin, darkness leading into darkness for fear of the light. For the light of Christ may reveal that those who love without the Word and those who trust with Word without love are both wrong.

Back to the three rules:

The first two are directed toward our personal actions, how we love and avoid hurting.

The third is the affirmation that the Bible, the church and the traditions of the faith filter and keep us away from sin.

The key is not to keep one or two of the rules to faithfully balance all three.

  • Am I faithful in following Christ?
  • Am I a sinner?
  • Am I a United Methodist?

Practice all three rules and you will find the grace of Christ drawing you toward God and your enemies in love. This is the measure. God is not only interest in you, God longs for us all.

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Luke 4.1-13 An Opportune Time 20160214 RSUMC

training

Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing at all during those days, and when they were over, he was famished. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.” Jesus answered him, “It is written, “One does not live by bread alone.’ ” Then the devil led him up and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And the devil said to him, “To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” Jesus answered him, “It is written, “Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’ ” Then the devil took him to Jerusalem, and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written, “He will command his angels concerning you, to protect you,’  and “On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’ ” Jesus answered him, “It is said, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’ ” When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time. [NRSV]

Spiritual Retreat

  • Not a business trip,
  • Not a vacation,
  • Not a luxury,
  • Not even a mission trip,
  • Before Doing No Harm and Doing all the Good, it is the maturing of the Spirit of God within us.
  • Studying, prayer, fasting, listening and waiting for God.
  • But a necessary beginning point for ministry and faith.

Work of Nurturing Spirit within Us.

If you ever ask, “why am I so weary, worried or stressed?” think about the last time you devoted serious time to spiritual retreat.

  1. The first lesson Jesus models is to be a strong spiritual person we need serious time for spiritual preparation.

But there is more.

Not only do we more often say to ourselves: “I don’t have time and energy for spiritual training, I did that years ago, or I will do that later.”

But when we invest the time, is not going to keep evil from confronting us.

We are preparing ourselves when evil, temptation, hopelessness comes our way.

 2. The second lesson Jesus models is that Spiritual Training doesn’t help us avoid evil, it helps us confront evil and temptation.

Spiritual Training makes us ready for

  • On the last day of a month and a half spiritual journey, Jesus is hungry. Jesus is wrestling with acceptance. Jesus is contemplating his use of power.
  • The scope of the temptations takes him from Judea to Jerusalem to the ends of the earth, thus matching the three journey of Jesus’s ministry that Luke will recount in this gospel.
  • The weight of the three temptations ranges from small to medium to larger.
  • The reality of the three temptations was personal to Jesus’s condition, opportunity and position.
  • The thing about dealing with temptation for us is that it is equally personal, timely and as dangerous for us as it was for Jesus.

The SCENE: Evil shows us in our life and says: You are not getting what you deserve. You are not loved, attractive,

Fairness, Belonging, and Responsibility.

3. Jesus models listening to the voice of evil. We can’t live to hide and avoiding temptation. Jesus could not and neither can we.

On three particular fronts, Jesus is tempted.

  1. How far can I lie to myself (Jesus was physically hungry, but his training was to trust God to provide.)
  2. How can I fool my family and friends (Jesus knew God would provide, His training was to test himself, trust God and not test God.)
  3. How can do what I want, use my family and friends and have the world at my feet. (If you and I have the power of God, how would alter physical and how far to test.)

Jesus doesn’t believe the twisted truth, lies, fears and threats, but he listens to know what the issue behind the words.

The devil asks him to use his authority to serve himself.

  1. He was hungry, justifiable.
  2. He was at the end of the journey, cut some slack, not going to be legalistic. and
  3. No one will find out, only you and I will know.

The devil was asking:

  1. serve yourself first
  2. you can bend the lines
  3. It’s all about you.

If we listen to the lies, twisted words, fears and threats of temptation, NOT BELEIVEING THEM but hearing what is at stake we can make better choices about faithfulness.

After listening Jesus speaks/acts:

4. The response Jesus models for us is to trust scripture to speak to us and tell our actions.

With every temptation, Jesus draws on scripture to tell and frame

  • One does not live by bread alone
  • Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him
  • Do not put the Lord your God, to the test.

40 days of Bible study, prayer and spiritual training, gives the opportunity to get familiar with scripture to allow God to speak through us, to face evil face-on, with the authority of God.

DANGER: It’s not using scripture as sarcasm to cut down our enemies, it is allowing God to speak to our enemies and let God deal with them.

God speaks the Love, the Truth, the Power, the Life, the Hope. Let temptation deal with God.

How does Jesus deal with evil

  • Spiritual Training
  • Preparing to Face and not Avoid Evil/Temptation
  • Listening for the truth about the voice of Temptation
  • Speaking God’s word instead of My words
  1. Take these next forty days to read the Bible, as much as you can study
  2. Take the next forty days to pray for the church, your faith, all the politics of the world, all the economies, all the fears
  3. Take the next forty days to as the framework as a training program. Service, fasting, forgiving, singing, etc.
  4. Take the next forty days to name, name, write down the things that temp and test our faith personally. seek out verses that speak to them.
  5. Take the next forty days to prepare for Christ to live, speak and love through you.
  6. Isaiah 40:28 Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable.

When I face temptation: I need to hear God speak through

Romans 8: 31-39 If God is for us, who can be against us?  He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?  Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”  No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,  neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

God is with us, in Jesus, in 30 AD in 2016 AD, in politics and poverty, in school and prisons, in church and walmart, GOD IS WITH US, ALWAYS.

Isaiah 40:28 Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. 

I’m as fickle, afraid and as vulnerable as grass blowing in the wind, and so are the opinions, polls, and agendas, but GOD IS EVERLASTING, GOD, is not tired, weary or uninterested. GOD WAS, IS AND WILL BE.

Philippians 4:13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

I can’t do anything on my own, but if my strength and endurance are in God’s, I can do all things.

 

 

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Romans 3.21-24 The Persistence of Leaven Clouds Our Heaven RSUMC 20150920

IMG_2862.JPGBut now, apart from law, the righteousness of God has been disclosed, and is attested by the law and the prophets, the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction, since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. [NRSV]

Sin is a friend to us all.

  • Even if we don’t invite sin to dinner, it shows up at the table.
  • Even if we don’t plan for brokenness to break in, it will.
  • Even if we begin to build up defense against the darkness of evil, it persists.
  • Even if we had just said “no” a thousand times before, sin creeps into our hearts, minds and actions.
  • It claims friendship that we might never want: So that even our inaction can give witness of sin’s power.

What are we to do?

Our holy meal, of bread and wine, instituted by Jesus for the disciples and for “all who have sinned and fallen short,” is our remedy.

Think back to the dinner that first communion night. Jesus had gathered with friends to celebrate the Passover remembrance. The would have followed generations of Hebrews ritual and instruction since Moses at the tenth plague against Pharaoh in Egypt.

The blood of a sacrificial lamb was placed on the on the lentil, brushing it with the top of the doorway as a sign that those within that house were safe, protected, to be passed over. Thus the name, “Passover” itself remains a promise that God 1) knows the power of sin and death and 2) God is ready to provide a way of salvation for those willing to claim it.

Today I invite you to think about the stickiness of sin. It might start small or we might jump in over our heads, either way, we continue to see it’s power and presence among us.

The starting place to deal with sin, is with ourselves.

Long before we talk about the evils in the world, we look at where we water down goodness/righteousness, God word and presence to make it easier or more convenient for us individually.

Sin creeps in more than diving in  :Shade of Grey

Love your neighbor… as long as I’m around them I will act neighborly and polite.

Feed the poor, clothe the naked, visit the prisoner,….. as long as they deserve it, or not too much trouble.

Forgive your enemy… What good would that do?

Sell all of your possessions…. after I take care of everything else first.

Turn the other cheek….When the other guy goes first.

Don’t worry about the future…. Are we supposed to sell all and go sit on the street corner?

The Happy Meal: Why is Communion the powerful Remedy

The cup connects us to the sacrifice that Jesus made as an exchange on our behalf. Jesus paid our debt.

The Bread, is about dealing with the sticky, glutinous, power of leaven: Meet you in the broken crumbs of sin. Jesus is there for you. (Communion served in our brokenness)

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Mark 7.24-37 Racism: “How about them Dawgs” 20150905, Facetimed from COS to RSUMC

From there he set out and went away to the region of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know he was there. Yet he could not escape notice,but a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately heard about him, and she came and bowed down at his feet.Now the woman was a Gentile, of Syrophoenician origin. She begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter.He said to her, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.”But she answered him, “Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.”Then he said to her, “For saying that, you may go–the demon has left your daughter. So she went home, found the child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.Then he returned from the region of Tyre, and went by way of Sidon towards the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. They brought to him a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech; and they begged him to lay his hand on him.He took him aside in private, away from the crowd, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spat and touched his tongue.Then looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.”And immediately his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. Then Jesus ordered them to tell no one; but the more he ordered them, the more zealously they proclaimed it.They were astounded beyond measure, saying, “He has done everything well; he even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak. [NRSV]

The Politics of Racism:

It is in influx of racially motivated incidents AND the fires fueled by political factions that our United Methodist Council of Bishops has asked us to address the topic of Racism this Sunday. They ask us to 1) acknowledge that racism is a sin and to 2) affirm the church’s roll in eradicating Racism is to be a priority. I find this passage that is typically remembered for its emphasis by Jesus on miraculous healing, is an interesting perspective on dealing with assumptions and prejudice, regarding racial divisions.

The passage is about seeing and hearing Racism.

First, the passage is about Jesus healing people from different political and geographical regions.

Gentiles of Syrophoenician heritage, Folks from Tyre, Sidon and the Decapolis regions.

We generally focus on the healing miracles and skip over the very thing we need to hear and see in the passage:

Might Jesus be a racist?

What?  This might be an uncomfortable question for Christians to ask given this text.
Our immediate response likely is, “Of course not! Jesus couldn’t possibly have been racist!”
 What are you talking about?
But Jesus’ conversation with the Syrophoenician woman seems to raise the question. In it, Jesus calls the woman, who was desperate for a miracle for her child, “a dog”, a dehumanizing ethnic slur common at the time. No matter what theological tap dance we might create to avoid this uncomfortable truth, eventually, we have to face this stark truth.
Jesus uttered a racial slur. “Dog’s are not worthy.” Blessing is not for you, you are a female dog.” We have a word for that term.
If we only knew Jesus was talking with a women, we might Just call his statement Sexist.
But since she is first identified by her race and as a women. Its a double whammy.
What in the world is going on here?
 (Have you ever read or studied this passage? It is troubling but crucial to address.
Part of the difficulty of this passage is that as Christians,
we want Jesus to be the simple,
clean-cut,
white or black with absolutely no shades of grey
Jesus must have easy answer to all our problems and to all of society’s problems.
When in fact: 100% x 2 is not 200%
The passages show us that Jesus is 100% God who can heal beyond any medicine and all limits.
This passage shows us that Jesus is 100% human. A man who was raised in a culture, filled with real people who struggle to choose good from bad and right from wrong.
This passage reveals the complexities of personal and institutional racism, it is much easier to think of Jesus as being above them all and loving all people regardless of skin color or culture of origin.
But that is not what we want to see and hear from Jesus, but, “Whoop, there it is.
And yet, he says: You are a dog: You are not legitimate, you are not worthy, you are less than human, as a woman and as a Canaanite.
 This does not fit our picture of Jesus at all:
After all, that’s what our children’s song teaches us. Jesus loves the little children. All the children of the world. Red and yellow, black and white. They are precious in his sight.
But how about them Dawgs?
Does Jesus love them too? Is every team unworthy of support?
Here we are in the start of SEC Football season kicking off and you are bring racism in religion and sports into
The difficulty of this passage particularly for white Christians is that we want Jesus to be colorblind.
We want Jesus to be colorblind because that’s what we want to be or think we should be. But, in truth, at least in the Gospel of Mark, Jesus is anything but colorblind.
In fact, and not being part of the solution to racism or ethnic prejudice, Jesus seems to be very much part of the problem, according to this story.
So What?
So what does it mean, exactly, that the Son of God, the Incarnation, the Christ, the Second Person of the Trinity, utters a racial slur?
Because that is exactly what Jesus does in his dealing with the Syrophoenician, Canaanite heritage woman.
When confronted with the gentile pagan in this story, he explains that his message and ministry are for Israelites only, a comment of ethnic exclusion and prejudice that calls to mind a similar refrain – “whites only” – that is part of our history not too long ago.
It wouldn’t be fair, Jesus explains, to take the banquet ready for his people – the children, the humans – and give it to gentiles – the dogs, the less than human.
He is “Just a Joking” trying to get someone’s attention?
A some scholars whistle past this ghastly put-down by explaining that perhaps Jesus called the woman a dog with a twinkle in his eye, as if he winked at her knowingly to say he didn’t really believe her to be a dog. Like she was in on the joke when he uttered this well-known racial slur.
Others emphasize that the word for dog that Jesus uses isn’t the typical strong language usually associated with this racial slur. They explain that the word Jesus uses takes the diminutive form, implying perhaps a beloved pet or a lap dog, and therefore takes the sting out of the slur.
Of course, white Americans have had their own diminutive versions of racial slurs to imply endearment. Still unconvinced?
Look at the picture
Perhaps we can put this story in better context, our current context. Imagine the Syrophoenician woman as an African-American woman who comes to Jesus, a white male, seeking to be healed.
In response, Jesus dehumanized her, calls her an animal, a female dog. She is coming to Jesus for healthcare for her daughter and calls her a welfare abusing mother of a litter that has not paid taxes to cover the care.
If those slurs are too harsh, choose a different one. Does a more kind-sounding name make the sting go away?
I will always remember my Grandmother’s conversation with my Grandfather. He called the people he hired to help around the farm: Negros. My Grandmother corrected him repeatedly, Now Charlie they preferred to be called Coloreds. The terminology did not change the foundational relationship. And similarly, I don’t think Jesus’ diminutive case of “dog” in this text softens the bite of his own racism either.
So what are we to make of this conversation?
Clearly, racism is a sin, an evil, systemic sin which Christians everywhere should stand against. But how are we to do stand against racism when our own Lord and Savior has so clearly uttered such a heinous racial slur?
Does it make Jesus a racist? Does it make him a sinner? What flag would Jesus have raised to this woman?
Q: Does this passage change the way you  think of Jesus?
This, I think, is the great lesson of the Syrophoenician woman:
It teaches us about Jesus and it teaches us the dynamics of racism, of how even the best of humanity — Jesus himself — can get caught up in systems of oppression, in a culture of supremacy.
I Slice of Real Life
As a good Jew, Jesus would have been reared to give thanks daily that he was born a Jew, not a Gentile, a man and not a woman. Jesus could not help but become entangled by such a sexist and racist snare.
His statement reflected his heritage, his culture, his up bringing, his community understanding of men and women.
Jesus, given his embedded culture, could not be colorblind. And neither can we.
But being caught in such evil, however, does not make one an overt racist. It is what happens in the moments afterwards that makes that determination. How we respond, when confronted with the narratives of the oppressed, reveal who we truly are.
Do we continue to ignore or deny these realities of oppression? Mock them?
Continue to brush them aside as dogs? less than human?
Or do we, like Jesus, do the miraculous and listen to them, be changed by the power of the truth of they are speaking?
When this woman, in boldness, confronts Jesus and his racist, sexist slur, Jesus listens, and hears. It is the only time recorded in the gospels where Jesus changes his mind.
“But even the dogs get table scraps,” she replies, a complex response often required of the member of the “lesser race” who stands up to dismissive racism even while accepting its instituted, ugly, dehumanizing order.
I heard, for the first time.
Jesus is astounded, the holy wind knocked out of him. A moment before, she was but a dog to him.
 In the next, he listens to her and sees her for what she truly is, a woman of great faith, a moral exemplar, his teacher.
Jesus does the most difficult thing for those of us born into the unfortunate privilege of dominance or prejudice.
He listens. And allows himself to be fundamentally changed.
The very next healing miracle Jesus conducts is to open a man’s ears to here.
 
When it happens, when we finally have ears to hear, we will never be the same, will never be able to listen to the lies of the dominant oppressors the same way again.
For me, this happened as a student at Gammon Seminary at the ITC at Atlanta University. Having grown up in the racist culture of the Deep South, I was serving a congregation that had about a quarter of its members we in bi-racial families and my reference to serve and lead as pastor was lacking
I found myself disarmed in my doctoral  class, by the students sharing stories of what it meant to be black in the church in the south and a Christian. We listened to one another’s faith journey stories, by the reflections of my classmates, (by being the a minority as a white person) they heard what it was to be white from a real person seeking God and I heard what it was to be black from real people seeking God.. It happened listening to the stories of Atlanta-area ministers explain the realities of being Black in urban America. It happened as I learned to be quiet, to listen and to allow myself to be changed. I also shared my journey that did not necessarily fit their assumptions about the power of the “whites.”
I also had a well-respected faculty member in the area of Christian worship dismiss my dissertation agenda of addressing Racism in Worship, resigning from being my committee chair because she said she wanted to know, and I quote, “Why do you think a little white boy has any business teaching the black community anything about racism? I believe you have it backwards.”
I knew I was not little.
I was not a boy, and
I was not fitting her definition of racism and its potential for resolution.
I knew God has a better way.
First: Processing, honestly what we hear:
Second: Be willing to change our hearts and minds when we experience oppression.
You see, when Jesus listened to the Syrophoenician woman, he heard not only the truth of her reality. He also heard the brokenness of his own reality.
Both must happen to tackle racism. We must be able to hear the realities of the oppressed and disenfranchised as true. This, in and of itself, can be difficult for those of us who are members of a majority race or gender, to accept a foreign reality without qualifications, to listen without interrupting, to hear without reworking their experiences into the dominant cultural narratives embedded within us.
But we must also be able to hear the brokenness of our own realities and of our own stories.
Things to note:
Racism is about power and can be abused both ways.
The Goal is not colorblind, but to find ways to appreciate one another, even if we offend each other.
The church, by Jesus example, is the agent of transformation of racism.
I would offer this passage needs to be read, studied, shared and brought into life before political correct politics claims another task of the church.
 
So, in the end, Jesus’ conversation offers us perhaps the most powerful story for those of us in majority classes as we stand against racism. It compels us to listen to the narratives of the oppressed we devalue implicitly. It requires us to listen to our own prejudice.
It asks us to do the unthinkable: to own our racism and to be changed by society’s most marginalized.
Having followed Jesus this far, perhaps we can do no better than he did, and that is to learn to listen to those with such different realities than mine and to let that new reality change my reality from– who I am and who I will become through living out our relationships with God together.

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1 Peter 3:13-22 “For Our Sins” 20150222 RSUMC

 ForOurSin_Ashes

Now who will harm you if you are eager to do what is good? But even if you do suffer for doing what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear, and do not be intimidated, but in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord. Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and reverence. Keep your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who abuse you for your good conduct in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if suffering should be God’s will, than to suffer for doing evil. For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God. He was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit, in which also he went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison, who in former times did not obey, when God waited patiently in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water. And baptism, which this prefigured, now saves you—not as a removal of dirt from the body, but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers made subject to him. [NRSV]

Suffering: Physical Suffering for a Spiritual Purpose: The Lenten Season

Jesus’ prime example is suffering death on the cross, exchanging his life for our life.

Peter’s instructions DON’T LIST

  • Don’t give up, even when tempted, tested and tired
  • Don’t be afraid, even though there are things, powers and people to fear

DO BE DO BE DO…

  • Do have patience in suffering for Christ
  • Be ready to explain your hope
  • Do so with kindness
  • Keep your conscience clear
  • Don’t give in to what broken world dishes out

ENCOURAGEMENT:

  • Remember Jesus has already suffered for you.
  • Return the example, as a RESPONSE to LOVE not a duty.
  • SUMMARY OF THE GOSPEL 1PT 3:18 For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God. He was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit,

CITIZENSHIP: THEREFORE: Live like you are a baptized person..

  • live like your saved
  • live like God’s Spirit is in you…
  • live like Jesus and all power, authority, angels and powers are at your disposal through Christ.

We begin a holy Lenten season of practicing..

We are Baptized, (Claimed, Saved, Empowered and Loved Children of God)  Who we are,

We are encouraged by (Suffering in Faithfulness) what God has done through Jesus

The Lenten Test

  • If you were a extravagantly generous wealthy person: How would you treat other people
  • If you were a passionate lover of God: How would you express your devotion?
  • If you were a radical host and friend: How would you welcome a stranger?
  • If you were risk-taking servant: How far would you go to help someone who is hurting?
  • If you were purposeful and intentional about growing your Spiritual self, What exercises would you do?

If you let yourself off the hook and say none of these are for me, this is the season to pick just one and practice.

Practice trusting Jesus.

Practice telling about our hope in the life Jesus promises.

Practice singing about the Good News that God continues to love us

Practice giving like God’s heart is your heart.

Practice looking at strangers as new best friends

Practice looking at suffering in the world is a place for you to personally plug in and be involved making one-on-one change

Practice your faith OUT LOUD, not just in your mind and not just with your friends and family.

PRACTICE giving power and grace to those who don’t deserve another chance.

LENT

is forty days plus Sundays between this past Wednesday and Easter for us to begin practicing what it means to be Easter people, BECAUSE the truth is we are not there yet.

We begin this journey acknowledging this is a journey

  • it is not easy
  • it is not quick
  • it is not over
  • it is not fair
  • it is vitialy important and
  • it is worth the time and faith to try…

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1Corinthians 1:10-18 “The Message is Power” JUMC 2014012

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Now I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you be in agreement and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same purpose. For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there are quarrels among you, my brothers and sisters. What I mean is that each of you says, “I belong to Paul,” or “I belong to Apollos,” or “I belong to Cephas,” or “I belong to Christ.” Has Christ been divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, so that no one can say that you were baptized in my name. (I did baptize also the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.) For Christ did not send me to baptize but to proclaim the gospel, and not with eloquent wisdom, so that the cross of Christ might not be emptied of its power. For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. [NRSV]

Small Groups
The Luminers, a folk-rock group based in Denver, were nominated at for a Grammy as both the “Best New Artist” and “the Best Americana Album”. Their songs are simple and very sing-able. I would guess that is one of the reasons they have become so popular. One of their best know is a song called “Ho Hey.” The title comes from the ‘Ho’ and ‘Hey’ grunted between the lines of the verses. But the main lyrics of this love song speak of a search for love and belonging. These are two very important parts of our human experience that the world hears in a folk song.

Here is a group of folks who moved from different parts of the world, through New York, and find their way to Denver as a home. Theirs is a new family found through music that sings about the journey to belong and find love.

This is what our hymns/songs do for us that we sing today. They are five people, in two years sang to sold-out crowds, sold double platinum number of records and held the honor of having the most shared song on “Spotify” music app. They are not a church; nor are they neither call themselves religious, nor Christian and yet they are sing about the power we offer. What’s up with that?

Myhopewithbrillygraham.org
Bill Graham is the iconic cheer leader for sinners everywhere in our lifetime.
Come the Cross is the invitation of every sermon: Come to face to face with God’s love, God’s proof revealed in the cross.

Paul writes to the churches at Corinth: Don’t fuss, don’t be divided, don’t be fooled yourself or others. It is Christ who is for us all. We are all to be for Christ. Think of all the people:

• we have steered away from faith because our own will, our plan, our traditions.
• we have closed the door of hope because we didn’t speak, invite, or respond.
• Think of all simple ways we empty the cross of its power.

What, you think we have never done that?
On one hand there is nothing we can do that changes God’s love for us.
On the other hand we can make it so difficult for folks and ourselves from experiencing that love now.

Paul’s passion and warning is not to empty the cross of it’s power. How does that happen?
When we don’t reach out to those who are hurting, hiding and those who are full-of-themselves.

Is it the mission of a folk-rock band to tell the world about belonging to God’s love? No.
Is it just for the TV Evangelists to spread the word? Is it just the hired help at the church? No.
“You are My Witnesses.”
Why would you not want to be a witness?
Are the details too cloudy, do you not remember? Then open the book, open your heart and mind.
Are you too afraid,
Are you too busy,
Pick your reasons and excuses…

Paul points to the boiling point: “the foolishness of the perishing.”
Those who are following their own way, and not God’s way, are dying, separating and burning out.
The foolish part is they think they are strong, deserving, and right by their own judgment.

God has show use how much God loves us, in hope….that we would choose to trust and follow God’s way.

Here is our homework:
Pray for God to open the opportunity for us to share the ‘Cross’ with someone this week.
Reach out to someone this week and actually share the message of the cross with someone THIS week.
When you do this, be prepared for it to not be accepted, welcomed, or received. But just do it.

If we are not the ones sharing the Cross, we too are unplugged from its power in ourlives.
There are times we show God’s love in acts of service
There are times we show God’s love in deeds of mercy
There are times we show God’s love in theory and ideas
This week let us show it in words of faith that are alive on our hearts and lips.

Tell someone about the cross
Don’t let the power of the cross be missed
Don’t take credit, don’t look for blame, just look for God to show up, in you, in them, or all around.

Tell them God loves them, Tell them God cares. Tell them God knows us.
Tell them God gave his life for ours in Jesus Christ.
We deserved the death, the hell, rejection and the brokenness for all our sins and foolishness..
Through the Cross Jesus took for us, took on himself the blame, the cause, the reasons
And in exchange,
God gives us power, life and hope.

Is this what our community, our country and world needs to hear? Yes it does.
Who is going to speak it? Sing it? Tell it?

If five people can find their way to Denver and have millions of Lumineer fans listen in a year.
What can five people form Jackson do in year if they are as relentless in telling about Cross of Jesus Christ.
Let’s find out.

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