Posts Tagged umc
And he was amazed at their lack of faith. Then Jesus went around teaching from village to village. Calling the Twelve to him, he sent them out two by two and gave them authority over evil spirits. These were his instructions: “Take nothing for the journey except a staff–no bread, no bag, no money in your belts. Wear sandals but not an extra tunic. Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you leave that town. And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, shake the dust off your feet when you leave, as a testimony against them.” They went out and preached that people should repent. They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them. [NRSV]
As you set off on a trip from your home base to go to camp, vacation, hike the AT, or journey around the world in a solar powered air plane, you cannot take everything with you. But you take what you need for the trip.
The members of our family appear to have different definition of what is “needed” for a trip. Yet, no matter how light I might back, my suitcase ends up being the heaviest. Either there is extra room in my back that someone else has claimed with their over-flow. Or, I am packing more than I think I need but just the right amount of what I’m suppose to need. The Boy Scout motto is “Be Prepared.” In reality the motto is “be prepared to McGiver-it.”
The text from Mark’s gospel in today’s reading is about faith. Mark’s question for us is: “Is the heat your packing, faith in Jesus Christ?”
Jesus’s Carry Permit
If you emptied the contents of your pockets, purse and/or wallet onto a table and examined what you carry, what would the contents say about you?
Jesus had disciples traveling from community to community watching Jesus, but they had not made the jump to a ‘sent’ ministry. They watch Jesus’s ministry unfold, but didn’t connect Jesus with their own personal ministry. So the first question is: What is Jesus calling, sending, empowering and equipping me to do?
Carry the Holy Spirit.
Carried by the Holy Spirit
There are times when the church’s ministry is very clear to both the world and members of the church. Many folks are unclear about what our ministry is these days. As we have all experienced in the couple of weeks the church and Jesus’ disciples have been under attack from all sides.
I talked with a man this week that summed up a conversation that I have had with many people in the past year: I don’t mind feeding the poor and helping the homeless get a job, but I don’t want to support a church. When this is the message the world and the church tells us, we have lost our identity, AND we have lost our faith.
When we loose our way and our power to change we get stuck keeping alive what has been alive and we create NO new life. This is not a time to maintain our weight, this is a time shift the focus from weight to the depth of heart. We are not called to keep the church alive, we are alive to keep the world connected with God.
Stay where you are welcomed
Take God’s work, with God’s power and stop where you are welcomed
The Use of Force
Leave When you are not welcomed
The instruction is not to find the lowest common denominator
The instruction is not to compromise so they will like you.
With boldness, anoint in the name of Jesus and if folks don’t want the free gifts of power, love and grace, then leave.
You can’t force faith, you can’t make someone love. You can’t force trust and it be genuine.
The 12 were not called to compromise the faith, but to share it boldly.
A Trail of Evidence
Leave some powder at the driveway, Make certain folks know God has been in their presence.
Leave evidence that might be listened to in the future, not quite the right time..
Jesus sends the 12 empowered by the charge of the holy spirit to reach the communities and where their are welcomed people were set free from the grip of evil, fear and the unknown. And, people were anointed and healed from their sickness.
Leave your baggage behind, allow God’s spirit to fill you, and be sent into the community to free those in the grip of fear and evil and heal the bodies and relationships where you are welcomed. Time is precious, do not linger to force when there are those who will welcome and receive.
- Ideas don’t get hungry
- theories don’t need to eat
- collections of stories and moral teaches don’t need physical nourishment.
- We are more than our physical needs
- We are more than our material posessions
- We are more than the health of these bodies
- We are more than the suffering of this present age
- We are Spiritual people, child of God, joint heirs, brother/sisters with Jesus, God’s people, God’s family.
- Jesus keeps showing up, directing us to OUR purpose.
- We need the signs just like everyone else.
- We need reminding and encouragement
- We need Jesus to show us the same old story because our doubts and fears are real.
- let go
- look away
- taste other fruit
- break the commandments
- are unfaithful individually AND collectively
- THESE are the FAITH STRUGGLES in the OT, NT, and today.
The base and foundation of our relationship is expressed in the Gracious give and take of
REPENTANCE: God loves us so much we know we can ask and God will forgive.
FORGIVENESS: God loves us so much, when we ask, God sees our change of heart and forgives.
We mess us… See list above… and offers of Forgiveness when we repent, turn around.
Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” They stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?” He asked them, “What things?” They replied, “The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.” Then he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures. As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. But they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” So he went in to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?”33 That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!” Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread. [NRSV]
The car I most often drive has over 271,000 miles registered on the odometer. I wish they were all business miles because Uncle Sam would allow me nearly $150,000. While many are work related, some include trips to the beach, Braves games and a 30 minute glimpse of the Grand canyon. A good many reflect trips to the grocery store, school events and gatherings with friends. But the bottom line is that every miles is part of many journeys with many people where the Love of God, the Grace of Jesus Christ and Power of the Holy Spirit have carried me. My hope and prayer is that I have used those opportunities to share these very gifts with folks along the way. Otherwise I have wasted more than gas and insurance.
As difficult and unsettling as it is to uproot and change churches our appointive system allow me to great opportunity to journey here to share God’s love, Christ’s grace and the power of the Spirit as we share our lives together. For half a century I have been moving and sharing a journey of faith. All those previous miles and experiences have lead me to this very moment.
But let me be clear: as happy and excited as we are to be here in ministry together, I am not here because of what I have done, rather I am here with you because what God has done for me and through me.
In our text today, Cleopas and his wife are walking on the road from Jerusalem toward to village of Emmaus. Three years ago I had the opportunity to walk along that path. I can’t say it was the very spot where Cleo and his wife were talking to Jesus but I was powerful to imaging sharing the same road. The text describes the seven mile walk as one filled with grief and disappointment.
The passage is one of my favorites. It is an Easter passage. The risen Jesus Christ is present but not recognized through the perspective of grief and disappointment. These are emotions and experiences that we all share at different times throughout our lives. Not may of us are shepherd or fisherman or tax collectors. but all of us experience broken hearts, lost dreams and unrealized hopes.
The passage is also about a two of the ordinary folks, not the chosen 12 or main characters of the temple court. Instead we have two family members who found themselves caught up and invested in politics and religion and they are heading home focus on what they lost.
How familiar? How many people within 2o miles of where we sit at this very moment can’t see the forest for the trees, this very morning.
Jesus meets them on the road, in the middle of their journey, sharing the witness and power of the scriptures, using the occasion of their loss and detachment as a time to reach into their hearts and bring them to the table.
At the table.
My grandmother always had a bring round oak table at her house. My maternal grandfather was ousting me from his familiar chair at the declaring he was king of the castle and as such he was at the head of the table and only he was to be seated in the throne. (Halmark never call him to play the part of grandfather of the year) My grandmother called me to the kitchen. She told me about her table, explaining that it was round. And many chairs could fit around the table and that everyone who had a seat at the table was seated at the head, because they had a place they were welcomed to break bread together.
So we could let grandman think he was whatever he wanted to be because the table was for us all. it is in the blessing and breaking of the bread that Cleo and his wife see what they had bee missing all along. The Risen Lord.
This is the work we share now and until Christ return. As long as our bodies hunger and thirst. We are called to share Jesus and the scriptures along the journey and through the meals and prayers. This is what we are saved and charged to do. And so it begins a new chapter of the journey for us together.
We will do many things together in this place for the glory of God and the strengthening of our faith and fellowship, but we do so for work outside these doors. Where our paths cross. Where our ideas and opinions differ and are strained. Where our experiences and perspective intersect and even conflict.
It is in these moments that we help one another and even strangers come to find Jesus lives and reigns for us. The story and scriptures are true and they are lifted up that we might have faith, hope, joy and new life together.
44 All who believed were together and had all things in common; 45 they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved. [NRSV]
The Community Shared of what they had to meet the needs of who they were.
They spent time in the temple sharing in worship and witness
Sharing Leads to Growth
It has struck me in this season of preparing for our Stewardship Campaign and our church’s Charge Conference reporting that while a great deal of emphasis and assumption is placed on numbers and statistics, very little is said of the life we are challenged to live.
I would say that greatest piece that is missing from the modern church of 2013 is the storehouse of faith experienced in the generations between Wesley’s and that of the church in 1968.
At the point of our uniting as the United Methodist Church, we merged different traditions, with many similarities, yet we cashed in many of our denominational credits to increase numbers. We spent our hearts to insure our diamonds to use a playing card metaphor.
As one born in 1964 I have been witness to much not thinking that I had much responsibility along the way. I suppose it is wisdom that comes from experience, that I see more clearly now. The flavor of church known as United Methodist is missing something important from the earliest expression of church that is at our core.
We are expecting to make withdrawals from a bank of giving to which we have not not invested.
It is a great thing to check your bank balance and find it positive. Maybe you have seen interest grow, investments pay off, incomes increase and the balance has grown. For most folks to see a balance that is even and above the read line is a comfort. The reality is that many folks are living in a deficit with number of credit and denial keeping afloat hope and economy.
We know too well the news of budgets, economy, expenses and liabilities on a national level is debilitating and we detach ourselves from the news and tune out the notion that they are talking about our money because it is the government’s money.
Something our nations could also learn from the early church is the example of sharing based on a relationship with have with the community.
I have learned in these nearly 50 years that it would be great to give everyone everything they needed at the expense of those who have, but once those who have either give it all to the collective or withdraw from the community, the problem is worse than at the beginning.
The thing to learn from the church in Acts is that they community of faith shared each others lives together.
They prayed, worshipped, and shared themselves.
There is a value in being a faith community. The is a desire in the heart of God to be in fellowship with us and us with each other.
The General Church asks of us to report out Vital Statistics of worship and members and giving with an basically unspoken hope that in seeing our numbers we would be driving to increase our numbers. But they are not offering the method how and even greater they are not inspiring us to ask why.
Why comes to church? Why serve the poor? Why give to the needs of the community? Why share our faith with others? Why?
The easy, Children’s sermon answer, that is correct and direct is, Jesus told us to.
But that is not a complete answer: Why does Jesus want us to do these things?
For some will read this passage of Acts and see the early church growing and jump ahead. If we don’t share and meet needs of the poor, we won’t grow and we can manage to be the church with out them..
The chapel model of church, where things are neat, orderly, defined and sterile with no expectation of more, instead maintain. It’s not too often you hear of a church or hospital tearing down their chapel to build a bigger chapel. It would not meet the definition of chapel if it grew.
Take some time to review any story or example in scripture where people manage the situation within their own ability and resources to keep the status quo and maintain the tradition that God speaks up and says, well done good and faithful servant. You won’t find one. That is not how God works.
God speaks and things come into being. God creates and calls for multiplication. God reaches out the unlikely individuals to transform the community and nations. If we jump ahead of God, we will not find God calling for maintenance. God is all about sharing and growth.
It is helpful to step back into the Acts 2 church to focus on what is being shared. Real life is shared and read needs are placed on the table. Acceptance of people despite they needs and problems builds the community. An interested fact that is that people have problems, failures, fears and needs if they are rich or poor.
It is assumed that wealth is what are shared, but from our economic lessons, the thing that drew people to the church was the people’s needs were shared, and addressed. Real people’s lives were placed at the alter and the community shared these needs in worship and relationship with God.
That is very different from what we do on most Sundays.
For the past fifty years we have looked at numbers more closely than we have looked at the needs people have and are willing to share.
Sunday school lessons are prepared so that even a person of no faith could read them and ask a few questions and we would call it Christian Educaiton
Orders of worship of dutifully filled with liturgy and familiar songs and we hope people will connect the dots of tradition with the holes in their hearts and find Christ on their own.
Buildings are maintained, debt notes are served, and programs are funded, but are people sharing their need for Jesus Christ and the church responding with a relationship that confirms salvation, live, community and belonging in the heart of God?
What are you supporting with your prayers, presence, gifts, service and witness?
I am proud of the faithfulness that my church has taking on a growing budget this year and with great generosity have met the challenge in this economy and we will continue to increase what we give and share… but there is a danger to avoid.
We are are not buying salvation. We are not paying for someone else to be the church for us. We are not hiring someone to do our service. We are not perpetrating a system that is focused on serving ourselves first.
We answer the ‘Why’ question today with our pledges saying… why do support our church?
Because Christ is found here and this is where we want to share Christ.
This is where God is bless and stretching us and we want to grow
This is where the Spirit embodies and empowers us and we want to go where the Spirit sends us.
This is why we give. because we belong, and we are connected and committed where we belong.
The TV sitcom Cheers was a community of flawed people who share ritual, sorrow, joy, celebration and everyday life, because that is where they knew and were known.
That is fertile grown that will grow disciples for the transformation of the world.
$2.99 digital version exclusively on Kindle and paper back versions available for $9.99 at the Pastime Grill in Barnesville, GA or from the district office of the UMC in Griffin, GA.