Posts Tagged Worship

Luke 19:28-44

PalmCross  As [Jesus] was going up to Jerusalem. When he had come near Bethphage and Bethany, at the place called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of the disciples, saying, “Go into the village ahead of you, and as you enter it you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, “Why are you untying it?’ just say this, “The Lord needs it.’ “ So those who were sent departed and found it as he had told them. As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?” They said, “The Lord needs it.” Then they brought it to Jesus; and after throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it.
  As he rode along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road. As he was now approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen, saying, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!” Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, order your disciples to stop. He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.”
  As he came near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, “If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. Indeed, the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up ramparts around you and surround you, and hem you in on every side. They will crush you to the ground, you and your children within you, and they will not leave within you one stone upon another; because you did not recognize the time of your visitation from God.” [NRSV]
The entrance into the holy city Jerusalem is akin to the presidential motorcade after the inauguration swearing in service. People lined the way, shoulder to shoulder, waving and cheering the confirmation of their new leader. But Jesus did not arrive in the usual way. Neither had he been endorsed by the Sadducees nor Pharisees. He entered riding on the back of a humble work animal instead of a proud steed of power and status. He was praised by the disciples, those who had been healed, fed, blessed and taught along the way of Jesus’s ministry. I make NO contemporary political correlation to candidates running today, only to the stress and strife of a non-establishment figure being ushered into the city by the voice of the people.
We may have more insight into the context of this event that other generations. The Pharisees saying, “If this Jesus becomes our leader, I’m leaving Jerusalem” The Sadducees saying, “If they don’t get a handle on this outsider, we will take steps to bring our own man in.” Do you get the scene and the tensions?
The establishment says, stop your people from this circus. Teacher, we hold you responsible for the chaos. It’s your fault. We will stop you if you don’t stop the unruly crowd. [Again, I am not suggestion that any of our political figures are messianic leaders, but I am listening to the similarities of the crowds and the commentators and voices of the establishments then and now.]
All this sets the stage for Palm Sunday. We would much rather look at the scenes of the children lining the streets waving along the Jesus parade as a sweet image of Palm Sunday and not see the emerging political unrest that blows up in less than a week. I believe it is vitally important to look at the politics that is very much part of the Palm Sunday story.
The sweetest fruit in this passage from Luke’s Gospel is about seeing and not seeing. It is about believing and refusing to believe. It is about choosing to accep or closing our eyes, “sticking our heads in the sand in times of fear”,
instead of proclaiming
  • Jesus Christ is real,
  • Jesus is King, and
  • Jesus is with us.
The secondary witness is about praise that cannot be held back.
  • When we know Jesus is real, this becomes the foundation of our life
  • When we know Jesus is King, this becomease the guide for our living
  • When we know Jesus is with us, nothing can stop us from praising.
So What is “Palm Sunday About?”
  • There story is about preparing for worship
  • The story is about making way/room for Jesus in our public/fears
  • The story is about remaing awake and aleart that it is Jesus that leads us and not anything or anyone esle.
Where does Peace come from? The Prince of Peace:
  • Peace does not come from armies and weapons
  • Peace does not come from governments and policies
  • Peace does not come from acts of kindness and justice
  • Peace comes from God, through Jesus Christ, guided by the Spirit, through the church, through us for for the whole world.
Palm Sunday is about seeking peace from God with us.
If we cant’ see God with us, we will never find Peace.
Peace in Syria?, in Instanbull?, in the media? in the streets of our nation? in our homes? in our hearts?
  • Peace comes when Jesus comes in.
  • Peace comes when Jesus is praised
  • Peaces is possible to see when we see God showing up on our streets.
We life our palm brances as signs of a
  • new life,
  • a new way
  • a new day, made possible thorugh Jesus Chirst, our King.
The Practice response..
Start with what we have: cloaks and branches and pave the way.
Start with our
  • Praise
  • Words
  • Witness of kindness
  • Forgiving first,
Loving even though others have not loved us first
  • Our hearts
  • Our gifts
  • Our time
  • Our presence
  • Our wintess
Use these to pave the way for Christ to enter our
  • hearts,
  • conversations,
  • homes,
  • streets,
  • communities,
  • nation and the world.
That means raise the praise in church but don’t stop there, don’t stop now,
LIft Christ… and let a hurting, hateful, fearful, broken world know Jesus is here.

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John 12.1-8. “The Price of Worship” 20160313

 

imageSix days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him. Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said, “Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?” (He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.) Jesus said, “Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. 8 You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.” [NRSV]

I recall visiting sanctuaries through out Europe, some hundreds of years and wonder on one hand did Jesus imagine the ornate gilded cathedrals would become witnesses of his body and presence in the world. On the other hand, having walk through those ornate and gilded cathedrals and having join in the presence of worship that was older than my prayers and praises the allow us to experience the glories of a presence that is beyond our imagination and beyond our wealth and beyond our interpretation.

Somewhere in the combination of faithful stewardship and extravagant generosity we find the sincerity and and passion of worship.

There are times for simple and there are time for excess
The Garden of Eden reflects a sips relationship, one love and one rule, one trust and the consequences one transgression/choice.

Think of worship in the home of Mary and Martha. Recall Martha is the practical, hard working, thrifty with time and extravagant with comfort and dependable order. Mary is willing to throw caution aside! She is willing to leaving the house messy for a time, eat brunch for dinner, and invite too many guests to the party.

Mary take an extraordinary gift worth a years wage and gives the entire jar to cover Jesus. One pure of nard retailed for $700. Not a dab with the lid behind the ear r on ones wrist. She covers Jesus’s feet. Nard is viscous, acidic and concentrated scent similar to gardenia. It would have filled the house

Today we come to a historical day in the life of the church that is a mar rage of extravagant generosity AND a practical challenge. The big news is about t be revealed and it is a unique and exciting opportunity that draws on both our Mary and Martha sides.

The waste is not in using our gifts, the waste would be not to give.

Give extravagantly.

Love passionately.

Life in the Joy of Chrost with us.

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Sermon Roulette (Pick 1 of 4) Four Sermon Outlines: Pick Which One You Like RSUMC 20150426

Sermon_Roulette Four Sermon Outlines: Pick Which One You Like

We Told You So Acts 4:5-12

The next day their rulers, elders, and scribes assembled in Jerusalem, with Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, John, and Alexander, and all who were of the high-priestly family. When they had made the prisoners stand in their midst, they inquired, “By what power or by what name did you do this?” Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders, if we are questioned today because of a good deed done to someone who was sick and are asked how this man has been healed, let it be known to all of you, and to all the people of Israel, that this man is standing before you in good health by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead. This Jesus is ‘the stone that was rejected by you, the builders; it has become the cornerstone.’ There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved.” [NRSV]

ChurchCornerstone

Cornerstone, Jesus is the

  • Power from the Cornerstone
  • Truth from the Cornerstone
  • Salvation through the Cornerstone

Our Shepherd Knows Our Needs Psalm 23

The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters; he restores my soul. He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff– they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD my whole life long. [NRSV]

DailyLIfe

The shepherd leads the sheep to what they need

  • Daily Bread
  • Daily Walk
  • Daily Struggle with Evil
  • Daily Worship

1 John 3:16-24 God Jumped In First

We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us–and we ought to lay down our lives for one another. How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help? Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action. And by this we will know that we are from the truth and will reassure our hearts before him whenever our hearts condemn us; for God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have boldness before God; and we receive from him whatever we ask, because we obey his commandments and do what pleases him. And this is his commandment, that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. All who obey his commandments abide in him, and he abides in them. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit that he has given us. [NRSV]

JumpFirst

Love is an active verb not just a cognitive affirmation

  • Christ Acts Before We Do
  • God Loves Frist
  • Our Response to Grace and Love is Commitment
  • We Obey because God Has Already Moved in to Help/Save

John 10:11-18 Listening and Hearing

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away–and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father.” [NRSV]

ListenHear

Listening and Hearing

  • The shepherd and sheep listen for one another
  • Listening because we can
  • Listening because we have to
  • Listening to see what we choose to hear
  • Listening to be found by God
  • Jesus has hardwired our connection

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Be Strong in Praising God 20150208 Isaiah 40:21-31 RSUMC

bladeofgrass
Have you not known? Have you not heard? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth? It is he who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers; who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them like a tent to live in; who brings princes to naught, and makes the rulers of the earth as nothing. Scarcely are they planted, scarcely sown, scarcely has their stem taken root in the earth, when he blows upon them, and they wither, and the tempest carries them off like stubble. To whom then will you compare me, or who is my equal? says the Holy One. Lift up your eyes on high and see: Who created these? He who brings out their host and numbers them, calling them all by name; because he is great in strength, mighty in power, not one is missing. Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel, “My way is hidden from the Lord, and my right is disregarded by my God”? 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. He gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless. Even youths will faint and be weary, and the young will fall exhausted; but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint. [NRSV]

WARNING: Don’t forget God in the PROCESS of Leading the People

The prophet Isaiah is warning King Hezekiah to be clear as the leader who is God and for the king to put himself and the people in perspective of God.

The prophet Isaiah is warning King Hezekiah to be certain there will soon be a day when all the wealth and possession will be taken away. Where will the king turn when there is no peace?

The prophet Isaiah is warning King Hezekiah to be aware that they people and his kingdom will be turned over to Babylon and he speaks for God saying: Who is mighty, Who is in control, who is THE king when the kingdom is overthrown due to arrogance, misplaces alliance and a loss of faith?

Isaiah reminds the king of God’s place in the order of politics:

TO THE PEOPLE

1. FIRST, God’s words are to the people: “Comfort, O comfort my people” The king may be leading you to destruction but that does NOT mean I have forgotten you.

Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that she has served her term, that her penalty is paid, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.

2. (There are consequences for following a king that leads people away from God)  Nevertheless: God is still with us.

3. FOLLOW GOD FIRST, above all:

A voice cries out: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain.

Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

FOLKS WILL SAY

People will say… Folks will shout out… Leaders will talk but let’s look at the basics:

GRASS: Flowers, grass.. When the winds blow, where will you run?

MOUNTAINS: High places don’t make you closer to God.

GOD is a GOOD SHEPHERD: Feed on God’s grace… grazing

OCEANS and SEAS and LAND: God’s handiwork, and it operates by God’s design, not king’s command and laws.

POWER, WISDOM, KNOWLEDGE, JUSTICE, UNDERSTANDING:

God’s heart/spirit is God’s to will.

God is God’s own counselor.

You might explain how a tomato is formed, but who designed and produced the first one.

Who taught your kings what they know and who taught them..

A DROP in the bucket

Add up all the wealth, knowledge, wisdom and talents in the world and no one can make a blade of grass from scratch.

The DEFINITION OF DEPRAVITY

Here is an equation: Take all the fuel in the world, efforts of humanity focused on one task, use all your resources, all the gross national products of all nations combined and who can make a blade of grass.

WE ARE ALL EMPTY and NOTHING without God.

COMPARISON: piss’n contest (forgive the crudeness)

To whom then will you liken God, or what likeness compare with him?

IS an IDOL greater than God?

A thing, shaped by a workman, guilded by another, and displayed by another with (no rot wood)

Designer’s CHALLENGE

CAN ANYTHING WE MIGHT FORM, DESIGN OR DREAM UP out do what God has already done. Start with a mustard seed, a carrot, a flea, on tick on an fly….

WHAT ABOUT THE ORDER of things?

WHO WAS AT THE BEGINNING? Who created the matter? Who defined gravity, mass and energy? Who started the big bang? Who determined relativity, string theory and quantum mechanics would be the guiding factors?

WHO ARE YOU KIDDING: Who are you king? Who are you president? Who are you Hezikiah? compare yourself to God. God says through ISAIAH: I think, at best, you are a grasshopper.

You didn’t form the earth and all that is in it.

You didn’t form a chicken or an egg.

You didn’t make a blade of grass much less the seasons that both kill the grass and renew it in the spring.

SO WHAT ?

LIFT UP YOUR EYES AND SEE. (KNOW and SPEAK the truth)

WHY DARE do you ask: Where is God? What does it matter? Life is not fair!

HAVE YOU NOT HEARD

  1. God is everlasting.
  2. God is always creating and recreating
  3. God gives power to the fainting and powerless
  4. God does not get tired.
  5. God renew those who are tired.

Therefore, Fly, Run and Walk

The Soar like eagles makes for a good song or placard.. but more significant is the series of perspective.

Can you fly, can you run, can you even walk without using what God has already made for you?

A CASE for reminding the king, the people and the nations of the world:

God, who made heaven and earth, shows grace through his Son, and power, knowledge and wisdom through his Spirit and Counselor is to be trusted with all that we are.

BOTTOM LINE: (Yeah, Preacher, we know all that stuff, so what?)

Isaiah is making a case for us to tell the king, tell each other and tell the world, God is all around. Don’t doubt it. Don’t forget it. Don’t confuse it. Don’t deny it. Don’t take it for granted. PRAISE the LORD.

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1 Corinthians 8.1-13 “Food Glorious Food” RSUMC 20150201

bread
Bread of Life: Feed the Hunger, Fill Your Spirit First.

Now concerning food sacrificed to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. Anyone who claims to know something does not yet have the necessary knowledge; but anyone who loves God is known by him. Hence, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that “no idol in the world really exists,” and that “there is no God but one.” Indeed, even though there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as in fact there are many gods and many lords— yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist. It is not everyone, however, who has this knowledge. Since some have become so accustomed to idols until now, they still think of the food they eat as food offered to an idol; and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. “Food will not bring us close to God.” We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do. But take care that this liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. For if others see you, who possess knowledge, eating in the temple of an idol, might they not, since their conscience is weak, be encouraged to the point of eating food sacrificed to idols? So by your knowledge those weak believers for whom Christ died are destroyed. But when you thus sin against members of your family, and wound their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food is a cause of their falling, I will never eat meat, so that I may not cause one of them to fall. [NRSV]

Covered Dish… “A dish with the lid glued on to it with the words: “Covered Dish” as an act of hospitality.

Once I visited a Hindu commune as a seminary assignment. We invited in to observe, but they insisted we participate in order to observe. After 16 verses of singing the Hari Krishna mantra, we had to sing and dances in a circle singing it 16 more times. After which a large curtain was pulled back at one end of the room we were gathered, which revealed two dozen colorful life-sized figures of different idols. There in front of them was our dinner. After were we sprinkled with coconut milk and flower petals were listened to the guru speak for hours and then we had to eat.

What are the limits of southern hospitality? We ate, found our shoes and ran to the car. We stopped at the Varsity on the way home got our Chilli dogs, rings and Frost Orange.

Paul has found himself in a community of folks who are worshiping in a different way. He is confronted with being faithful in the context of those who are not like him.

Paul: Troubling statement, that is easy to leave on the buffet of bible verses: Eating Food nor Avoiding Food will neither save nor condemn up.

Remind your neighbor: “The Spirit is not fed with physical food.”

Girl Scout Cookies come when people typically give up on their new years diet resolutions

Faith Restaurant: I have always wanted to start a spiritual restaurant, coffee house. That not only creates jobs for those who would otherwise find is most difficult to get a job and build some work-equity to help transform their. With profit sharing for those who provide the work.

Using food from a community garden and fair-trade partners and local farmers giving strength to the local community.

Preparing food from purchasing, prepping, serving and cleaning through prayer and Christian fellowship.

Not simply closing on Sunday’s and assuming people know why we do so, but being bold in explaining why we might do so.

In addition to the waiters and waitresses there would be people who provided pastoral care from table to table. Praying, listening, encouraging and modeling Christian fellowship with a busy culture that would rather eat bad over priced food in an attempt to satisfy the hunger of their spirit.

Paul takes the stance that he will abstain from eating meat so his witness might include his eating and so there would be confusion if his food was offered to idols or not, he would eat other things. Some folks are vegetarians for diet choices, others do so for support of animals. Paul is not focusing on health of his body neither animals bodies, he is focusing on his spiritual self: letting his faith take priority to his taste buds. Wow! Now, he is NOT fasting, he is witnesses his Spiritual self in a physical body.

Tell you neighbor: “I am a Spiritual person in a physical body.” Repeat..

I don’t like this passage. You know I like my Krispy Kreme; I like meat. Let’s skip this verse and find one about Jesus and the children or Something that assures our salvation, The Christmas story… leave my food alone.

Food Glorious Food Oliver, the musical, song later used in Ice Age, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, and Charlottes Web, are variant of the words from the forgotten boys home who are given gruel everyday and they dream of having what rich gentlemen get: indigestion.

Food is a marvelous thing. It is the fuel for our physical bodies. There are so many foods that look good, taste good, smell good, have appealing textures, and satisfy the cravings of our chemistry.

Keep in mind, Paul is not fasting. He is not giving up caring for his physical body. He is not making a political statement. He is not controlling his weight. He is not starving himself.

There are times and places to stretch our spiritual grow and maturity that fasting is appropriate and even necessary, but today Paul is talking about eating.

Scout Can Drive

We are surrounded by people in our communities who do not have enough to eat to nourish their bodies. I remember doing a can drive for our scout troop one year. We placed empty bags with a note attached that stated: “We will be coming to your door tomorrow asking for donations of canned foods. Please fill this bag and leave it on your front door and BSA Troup 314 scouts will deliver your gift to the community pantry where it will help feed our neighbors. It was a very successful method of having people informed with a convenient way to collect a great about of food in a short period of time.

At one house the bag was filled with empty cans and a note. “Where is the community pantry? We are in need of food.

We had enough to share in our homes and guessed that some kids wanting us to take our trash. Our Scoutmaster took us back to this house and invited us in because he said we needed to see this. If it was just a kids joke, we’d invite the fellow to our troop and if they needed food we could see for ourselves. It was a nice home. The yard was plain but kept. We were invited in and the modest size house had almost no furniture. One box of toys and games for three children, and most of the blinds were pulled so the house was rather dark. We went into the kitchen and the scoutmaster asked to see the cupboard and refrigerator: I remember there were pickles, a bottle of formula-milk, olives and an opened quart of milk. The cabinets were empty except for salt, pepper, Texas Pete’s hot sauce and tooth picks.

We went to the truck and skipped the community food bank. We left every can they would eat. We didn’t follow the rules and procedures; we followed our hearts in love of Christ and compassion on those who were hungry.

Missing the Point

We can feed people and think we have this food thing seal up and covered, while all this good, it skirts around this verse: Paul is affirming that it is more important to satisfy our spirit than our body.

Tell your neighbor, “It is more important to satisfy our spirit than our body.”

Tell your neighbor, “I don’t always like that” “I don’t know if that is true.” “What’s for lunch?”

Bottom line: Feed the Spirit First, Feed the stomach second.

How often to do you spend on feeding your body?

Time Working to buy or grow our food

Time and energy gathering and preparing our food

Time and energy eating food

Time and cost of cleaning up from eating?

Money and energy from eating too much or things that don’t build up our bodies?

How much is all that time….

How much time do we devote to being with God and God’s people, on an average day?

Time praying? Studying the bible? Singing, worshiping?

Fellow-shipping, Serving and encouraging others in the faith?

Who is starving their Spirit?

Let’s make a commitment to God and one another to encourage one another.

Let’s use technology to remind us to prayer, serve and love

Let’s make an intentional effort to feed one another as well as ourselves.

Let’s eat, I don’t know about you, I’m hungry.

Feed my spirit, Fill my heart. Satisfy my cravings. Make me whole. Amen.

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Advent 1 20141129 “Luke 21:25-36” Q: Is It Beginning to Look Like Advent? What is CHRISTmas suppose to look like?

OnGuard

“There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in a cloud’ with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” Then he told them a parable: “Look at the fig tree and all the trees; as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. “Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day catch you unexpectedly, like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth. Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.” [NRSV]

I am ready to give up on the word “Christmas” as a title for celebrating the birthday of Jesus. But more on that in moment:

First: I am thankful for the businesses that try to keep the “true meaning” and urge theirs employees to say “Merry Christmas” instead of the generic “Happy Holidays.” Goodness knows I’m not persuaded to celebrate Kwanza, Hanukah nor Ramadan (no matter what time of the year it falls) to make adherents of other cultures comfortable. If someone’s religious practice includes a holiday, they can name it anyway they choose, but not to change it’s name based on my feelings. That would be intolerant.

If we lived in one of the Middle Eastern countries would we expect folks to start saying “Happy Holidays” instead of naming their respective holidays by name. So out the window with correctness!

Let’s get correct what needs correction. Jesus’ caution in LK 21 is that we have our heads in the sand when its time to look up toward heaven. When you see Jesus, point him out! Be on guard not to be weighed down by distractions and division that are earthly and miss the heavenly focus.

Second: When I wish someone Merry Christmas with the hope they find joy in knowing Christ is with us. But that is a very big assumption on my part.

What we name the celebration of Christ’s birth and presence and witness in the world is not actually the issue.

Christmas, Easter, Advent, Epiphany, Lent, Labor Day, Memorial Day, Earth Day, Thanksgiving, New Years and Festivus: For the Rest of us are all creations of people for people. The meaning, ritual and purposes are a mixture of tradition, symbols and signs to mark time and celebrate memories and hopes.

The key is to remember why we mark these as significant markers and to keep the ones that guide our individual and collective journey toward God.

Third: The tradition of Advent has been replaced with the worship of Christmas. The text today cautions us to be on watch, to keep our guard up, to be alert and conscious of our actions… Advent is the season of alertness and we let Christmas slip in every year.

We have the lights out, the tree up, the parties and gifts prepared so that when the day of Christmas comes, it pretty much all over about noon. Just listen to the radio station flip the six week Christmas programing back to ‘normal’ just twelve hours into the first day of Christmas.

You might think I don’t like Christmas. You would be mistaken. I enjoy both the secular and faith celebration of Christmas. But we place ourselves in a slippery slope of trying to blend the two so we are save in both camps.

Did you realize that the religious “Christmas,” celebrating Jesus birth was not so popular until about 1000 years after Jesus was born. And its only in the past 300 years that the traditions we enjoy looked like the Christmas we know now.

But its just as much a political conflict as it is commercial. In the mid 300’s the Roman emperor, Constantine reframed and aligned Christianity with culture celebrations to help connect the influence of believers with the existing holidays. It’s not just a 20th and 21st century issue.

So my answer is to give up the word “Christmas” to shoppers and markets and commercial folks who have already claimed it as their own. I’m find not trying to hang on to “Merry Christmas” which actually not any clearer than “Happy Holidays” in reality.

These four weeks that begin today are a season of living out Luke 21 in anticipation of “Sharing the Joy of Christ with Us.”

Think of it this way: if your say “Merry Christmas” to someone they might think of Jesus or they might think of Santa. It’s no longer clear. Rather than fighting for what is unclear. State it bold and place.

May Christ live in me!

May the Joy of Jesus live in you!

In these next four weeks look at the signs and celebrations. Don’t skip any of the fun, but think about what we do and say, with words and actions.

Think of this way:

  1. If we knew your birthday was coming in four weeks, would we have all the parties before then and stay at home when the day arrived?
  2. If we were getting ready to celebrate your life and presence in the world, would we go buy each other and ourselves gifts and not get you any?
  3. If we put up signs and symbols on our homes, clothes and yards to tell the world about you would we use your name or something that make everyone else comfortable and appreciated?
  4. If we spent ourselves into debt to celebrate you how would that make you feel about our judgment and responsibility?

We could continue with this all day: But I hope you get my point.

If we spent the next four weeks preparing for Christ to be with us in personal and tangible ways: How would we do that?

If we spent the next four weeks getting our mind, heart, eyes focused on the things of God: How would we do this?

If we spent the next four weeks preparing signs that were clear to others that God was about to be revealed, What would we do?

If we spent the next four weeks reading ourselves to stand before our Lord: What would we change about our lives, thoughts, behaviors, etc.?

Advent.. this is the season we are called to begin

Christmas: Christ With Us, God with us. Emanuel, that’s where we are heading. Honestly, I’m not ready. Are you?

Here are a few greetings:

“Get to work, It’s Advent”

“Get your head out of yourself, God is coming soon.”

“You’re the fatted goose and Christmas is coming.”

“Put the light of Christ on the lampstand.”

“On Guard!”

Luke records the preparation for these four weeks:

  1. Be Alert
  2. Pray for Strength
  3. Avoid the temptation to confuse the world’s promise and God’s promise.

Merry Christmas and Be Careful

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1 Cor 1:18-24 “Share Christ with Them” RSUMC 20140914

ShareJesus.jpg 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. For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. [NRSV]

One of the foundational keys of being United Methodist is faith in God’s Word, spoken and revealed through ordinary people. The people, lessons, foundations witness those who are willing to listen and share God’s Word.

We listen to scripture as God’s word through lenses and filters.

  • Scripture is heard and experienced through the context of all those who have read, studied and listened in years past. We call this the voice of tradition or theology.
  • Scripture is heard and reflected through the grey matter of reason. God has created each of us with a mind, powers of rational and logical thought. We call this voice of reason.
  • Scripture is heard and conveyed through the presence of the God’s Spirit in our own spirit understanding as a spiritual being. We call this voice of experience.

The heart of Methodist living in the scriptures includes all three of these filters.

Scripture_is_to_glasses_lenses_are_tradition_reason_experience

Scripture is to glasses and lenses are tradition reason and experience. Each are important but only together is the whole story revealed.

  • For those who state that they read scripture literally, they are making assumptions that are based on using only a filter of tradition OR experience.
  • For those who state that scripture is read only in contrast to science and mental reflection, they are only using one filter of reason.
  • For those who state the interpretation is weighted by the church’s historical voice or even the church’s majority voice, they use only one filter of tradition.
  • For those who state they reading as non-denominational, non-traditional, rather personally inspired alone, they ONLY draw on the voice of experience.

Each of these independent ways are good, but incomplete without all of them together. This complete view of scripture is at the heart of being Methodist. Keep this in heart, mind and spirit as we look, listen and share this mornings reading:

The message of the cross is foolish to those who:

  • remember the cross only as a history lesson
  • try to explain away the extreme of sacrifice or
  • or are turned off by the gruesomeness of crucifixion

Remember it is through all these that the cross becomes a sign of power, love and victory.

Paul is talking to the folks at the churches in Corinth, but as part of the church now, Paul continues the power of tradition for us.

As a practical matter: Sharing our faith is something that we are called, commanded and empowered to do.

But not every attempt to do so is fruitful.

  • We could talk about Jesus everywhere we go and most folks will just call us that crazy person that talks about Jesus all the time.
  • We could think about Jesus and work out a great thoughts for our own understanding and no one would ever hear a thing, for all the work we have done.
  • And We could wait for the moment that it felt right and connect only in an emotional way that is empty of spiritual power.

Consider doing all three, together.

For to only follow one method is foolish..

Take for example our financial stewardship and giving..

  • If you talk to some people about tithing as a duty and a faithfulness of following scripture, some will listen and following the challenge.
  • For others, you show them a few pictures of children that are hurting and lack and show how a few cents each day will transform their suffering.
  • Some are moved by guilt, shame or fear to give because you can’t out give God.
  • Still others need to see the balance sheets and of the organization, the estimates of the market place and find ways of saving through giving.

But the whole power of stewardship is some of each of these, but it is rooted in a radical and extravagant love that is willing to do whatever it takes to build a loving relationship with us.. and once we find that kind of relationship, stewardship is our automatic response and expression of love.

John Hayes, my OT professor loved his multiple choice questions. Most ever test had 100-150 multiple choice questions and all of the had a 5th choice: E) all of the above or none of the above. What if:

  • Signs are important.
  • debate is important
  • wisdom is important
  • discernment is important
  • politics are important
  • geography and culture differences are important
  • Understanding and sharing the cross of Jesus Christ call for E) All of the above.

The Cross of Christ is God’s eternal gift.

  • some folks are not ready to see its power
  • some have forgotten the power it held
  • some have decided it’s not theirs to carry.

Paul is saying, most simply: it is foolish to live with vanilla when Hershey’s dark chocolate fudge brownie and pistachio-mango-strawberry-swirl give you a better  balance of what ice cream can be. Knowing, Living and Sharing the Christ of the Cross takes our whole life.. not just Sunday..

Homework: It sounds foolish, but eat three radically different flavors of ice cream (unless you’re diet or health are endangered, then try three different flavors of what is in your eating plan) Three scoops or three spoonfuls. Or three different fruits, two of which you don’t usually eat. As you taste three different bites ask: What if fruits only tasked like raspberries and never like water melon? What if I only at Brussels sprouts and never tried fried green tomatoes?

What if I were foolish enough to try all three? What if we are foolish enough to think there is on our time, our understanding and our perspective?

 

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Matthew 14:13-21 Its What’s For Dinner RSUMC 20140803

breadedfirshNow when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a deserted place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick. When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is now late; send the crowds away so that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” Jesus said to them, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” They replied, “We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.” And he said, “Bring them here to me.” Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And all ate and were filled; and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full. And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children. [NRSV]

How much can 5000 men eat, besides women and children.

I’ve seen some women and children who could eat.

Five Loaves and Two Fish

More like Five rolls and two tenders.

• Not fried, no tarter or seafood sauce. Grilled or salted.
• The number and menu are not the significant part of the story. It is the simplicity of the lunch that is the contrasting point.
• The feast where all were filled was neither a covered-dish nor a trip to Golden Correl. The example of extravagance of abundance is the contrast.

The Heart of the Meal

The focal point is the contrast of what appears to be what we don’t have to having more than we need when God is at the heart of our worship, meal, studies and fellowship.

The world that preaches new and more.

As we come to the table, the meal prepared by disciples and offered to us, through Christ.. points us to what is left us..

Left overs

The meal does not change, the people are transformed.

Homework

Offer more of what we don’t have to God and see how much we have to share…

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Psalm 113 “Passionate Worship” RSUMC 20140713

GiveGodYourHeart.jpg1 Praise the Lord! Praise, O servants of the Lord; praise the name of the Lord. 2 Blessed be the name of the Lord from this time on and forevermore. 3 From the rising of the sun to its setting the name of the Lord is to be praised. 4 The Lord is high above all nations, and his glory above the heavens. 5 Who is like the Lord our God, who is seated on high, 6 who looks far down on the heavens and the earth? 7 He raises the poor from the dust, and lifts the needy from the ash heap, 8 to make them sit with princes, with the princes of his people. 9 He gives the barren woman a home, making her the joyous mother of children. Praise the Lord! [NRSV]

Praise the Lord!

Call to the crowd, now is the time to praise.

Bless the Name, now and always

Start at sun up until you sleep

God is AUTHOR and all authority,

In Heaven and on earth

 

Cheer: Who is like our God, who is at the highest high?

Response: God who is way up there raises the poor from the dust,

Lifts the needy from the ash heap

Makes them sit with princes and kings

He gives life and make our hearts and homes fruitful and meaningful

 

I introduce to you a topic we will study and practice for years to come:

Passionate Worship

Worship too often is twisted around 180 degrees.

If you every hear someone say, “I just didn’t get anything out of worship.”

If you every hear someone say, “ I didn’t care for the music or the sermon.”

If you every hear someone say, “I need to find worship that makes me feel good or even my toes stepped upon.”

 

These are examples that worship has been flipped upside down and backwards.

Worship is not about the preacher, its not about the musicians, it is not about the congregation.

Worship is about God.

 

It is both a time and a place to direct ourselves toward God

It is a time to gather for God’s benefit and not our own.

Worship is putting the REALITY of our hearts into the hands and heart of God.

Sometimes we bring to God our poverty, brokenness and weakness.

Sometimes we bring to God our celebration, love and devotion.

Always it is God’s people coming to connect and give ourselves, our gifts and our futures to God.

 

Passionate Worship

Is placing our hearts, empty or full on the alter of God and becoming a living sacrifice through Jesus Christ.

Passionate Worship

Is coming together as unique individuals with differing depths of relationship to God and sitting together as fellow heirs in the court, together as son and daughters of the God.

Passionate Worship

Is putting our life on the line each time we gather in this place to be both strong and vulnerable. Bringing our faithfulness and our failures. Offering out sweat-equity and in-equities to be used through God’s Spirit in this world.

Now if you come to Sunday school or Bible study or small group and you don’t connect you can say, “I didn’t get anything out of it,” but that is different than worship.

Worship the primary way we show our praise of God 

Passionate Worship

Is putting our hearts on the line, that God and God’s people in trust and with integrity.

Passionate Worship is doing the Spiritual HokyPoky and putting our whole self in God’s hand…

Passionate Worship is not counting the minutes until we are done, rather counting the minutes until we are here again.

 

Is our Worship Passionate?

This is our home work.. Tell one person this week, Name one thing you bring to worship that pleases God, and explain why.

 

 

 

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Matthew 21.1-11 Celebration Time JUMC 20140413

RidingonanDonkey When they had come near Jerusalem and had reached Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, just say this, ‘The Lord needs them.’ And he will send them immediately.” This took place to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet, saying, “Tell the daughter of Zion, Look, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them; they brought the donkey and the colt, and put their cloaks on them, and he sat on them. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and that followed were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!” When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, “Who is this?” The crowds were saying, “This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.” [NRSV]

People like to celebrate. We like something to get excited about.

Look at any sporting venue of your choice. There are more acres and structures devoted to accommodating those who celebrate than those who play the games. Sometime the celebrations get out of hand and crowds rush the playing field, goal posts get torn down, the crowd takes the celebration into the streets and what was apparent joy turns into rage and violence.

Think of Jesus’ entry into the capital city: What would make you take off your coat and cut down the neighbors tree limbs to celebrate.

I lived in Grant Park when the the Freak-Nick celebration began in Atlanta. It was not as crazy in our neighborhood as some but there were a day that we were snowed in with abandoned cars filling the streets around the church. At the time it was very frustrating and unsettling. Looking back it was evidence of what a crowd of people who get lost in the celebration can do.

On one hand they can celebrate their leader because they hear what they want to hear and cheer on one another. In the next moment they choose the murderer Barabbas instead of Jesus.

I received an email a couple of weeks ago from a political action group asking me to join other clergy in the presidents invitation to use our pulpit time to encourage people to sign up of the “Affordable” healthcare plans. The president was crossing the line of church and state to ask us to pray for the poor; he was not asking us to help victims of storms; he was not asking us to care for the sick. He was asking us to promote his political agenda. Is that what we have come to celebrate?

Maybe we are to be quiet and reverent only. Should not Jesus have been shown more respect and people just sat and watch quietly as he entered Jerusalem? Jesus didn’t want to show all the pomp and circumstance. He choose a donkey instead of the emperor’s steed. Maybe celebration has no place in our worship. It would be proper to keep quiet and manorly. Right? Look and around and listen this morning: Where are the palm branches? the coats and crowds… We can be assured that we are behaving as we ought and there will be no need for threat or crucifix going on anywhere around here today. “Am I right?”

This text begs the question: What is the appropriate way to welcome Jesus into our town? Quietly as if it were against the law? Not against the law of the land, but the law of opinion and perception.

Rather the harden, stone-like hearts has been set free, bodies healed, lives transformed and eyes opened and the people were shouting, Hallelujah! Praise the Lord, Hosanna! Glory to God in the Highest!  Blessed is he that comes in the Lord’s name. Hosanna! Glory Hallelujah!

Let’s try whispering that together. <in a whisper> Hallelujah! Praise the Lord, Hosanna! Glory to God in the Highest!  Blessed is he that comes in the Lord’s name. Hosanna! Glory Hallelujah!

Even when we all whisper it together our collective voice of praise is louder than one person sitting quietly minding their manors of respectability.

It’s not that God wants to hear certain words coming out of our mouths, but rather than try so hard to be quiet, let us try to respond the what God has done for us.

It might be the case Jesus has not come to our house; he might not have visited our streets; he might not have spoken to our hearts in such a long time that we have forgotten the joy. Is this the case?

Did Jesus want attention?

If you are going to start a parade riding into town. You must expect some attention. If you came riding in a shiny, red convertible Austin Martin, throwing candy and beaded necklaces to the crowd, you would expect some attention.

But if you came into town announcing you were a king, riding on a Murray Lawn mower and had your disciples throwing palm branches like a humble king David, you might not get the same attention from the crowd, but you would incite the eye of your critics. Jesus enters the city with intentional, radical risk and reveals the extravagance of God’s presence.

The text of Palm Sunday is one that asks each of us to identify where we are in the story? Are we paving the way with the coat off our backs? Are we waving whatever is within arms reach to celebrate? Are you shouting praise to God for all to hear?

Or, Are we wishing the parade was over and worried about who is going to clean up the mess? Are we feuding and steaming because of the irreverence of others? Are we resisting challenge and change? Are our dreams and expectation called to expand beyond our control and measure? Are we simply feeling left out?

Every Sunday is a celebration day. This Sunday is the beginning of a holy week of celebration leading us through the cross to the resurrection. Is it a journey you already know too well and will save the trip this year or will you make the pilgrimage again, if not for yourself for those who see your actions and hear your words.

There’s a party in the house… the prodigal has come home will we going in and join the father’s family and friends or will we stay outside?

As for me and my house, we will praise the Lord.

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