Growing Pains

6 04 2010

 


  1. The Church…
We are the “church,” it is not a building or any object in the building, no matter how splendid.  The community perceives us through our behavior, the choices we make, and the ministries we pursue, these are our outward graces.

First impressions matter very much how people perceive us.

Many “churches” make the claim that they are friendly, suggesting of course that they are friendly to visitors when in fact they may be set up mainly to indulge insiders.

Contemporary people may have a different view of friendly. Contemporary people tend to follow the WYSIWYG test. Used in computer terminology, this suggests that what is displayed is exactly the result: it is represented precisely. A screen preview of a page to be printed is expected to look precisely like the finished product. If it looks like a frog, then it must certainly be a frog. Our behavior is observed and not the splendor and magnificence of our theological beliefs. If there is a discrepancy then we are seen to be posing and posturing.

Jesus suggests the direction of our focus, and it is certainly not to coddle insiders but to invite outsiders, he doesn’t want our religion to get in the way of his mission for us. All are welcome… even those who need a little help too.

“Who needs a doctor: the healthy or the sick? Go figure out what this Scripture means: ‘I’m after mercy, not religion.’ I’m here to invite outsiders, not coddle insiders.” Matthew 9:12 (MSG)

As the church, we, the followers, the disciples of Jesus are to be obedient to his commandments, and here he suggests that we spend time in prayer to figure out what he means by “invite outsiders and not coddle insiders.”

“Following Jesus is not easy: Can u …Side w/hurt people, & not get hurt? Love in a world that hates, & not get hated? Sacrifice in a world that takes, & not get taken?” (http://twitter.com/lensweet, 4/1/2010, web)

Following Jesus is an adventure. You know that you are following Jesus particularly when the powers, principalities, and forces of this world oppose you; we build community when we stand by those who stand by Jesus. 

The Gospels are stories of a man who was subversive towards current ideas about God; who undermined the social, political and religious status quo; who… named systematic and systemic injustice wherever he saw it and raged in the streets against government and religious hypocrisy. He took sides with the outcasts and the dismissed the untouchables and the social scapegoat. (Will The Real Jesus Please Stand Up…Sea of Faith Magazine publication)

  1. JDD…

Characterized by popular Christian authors Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola, Jesus Deficit Disorder, “is the major malady of the church today…The person of Jesus is increasingly politically incorrect, and is being replaced by the language of “justice,” “the kingdom of God,” “values,” and “leadership principles.”” (A Jesus Manifesto for the 21st Century Church, 2009)

I would add, God language and the problem of evil: theodicy. There is God-talk aplenty about how we should define, understand, demarcate and domesticate God. We weigh countless intercessions and demands upon God our cosmic bellhop- what he should do for us, why does he not do our bidding when we ask, why does he allow bad things to happen to good people…and on and on and on.

When can do something, we can pray more and more about what we can be doing and being as Christians, his followers, on behalf of our Savior, Jesus Christ, we can do a great deal in our world to glorify him.

Recall the words of a Gospel Hymn popularized by Elvis, We Call on Him.

We call on Him

Whenever storm clouds gather
We call on Him to light our darkest day
Why must it be that only when we’re lonely
And hopes are dim, we call on Him

Why don’t we call on Him before we lose our way
To count our blessings and thank Him while we may

Sweet & Viola suggest that we focus on Jesus:

The center and circumference of the Christian life is none other than the person of Christ. All other things, including things related to him and about him, are eclipsed by the sight of his peerless worth. Knowing Christ is Eternal Life. And knowing him profoundly, deeply, and in reality, as well as experiencing his unsearchable riches, is the chief pursuit of our lives, as it was for the first Christians. God is not so much about fixing things that have gone wrong in our lives as finding us in our brokenness and giving us Christ.

 

  1. XNTY ROKZ!

Jesus says we are here to be salt and light. This is often inferred to mean that Jesus is calling us to quarrel with culture, lay down the law, throw the book at, stand firm against, oppose and become stoic. The urban dictionary defines salty – to be angry, infuriated, or annoyed. We have experienced these “salty” types and they are not Jesus’ Christians. This is very far from the truth. Jesus said that we are to bring good news not bad news to God’s good earth and people. God is emphatic in pronouncing every aspect of his creation not just good but very good!

It is very good news that the darkness does not overcome the light, God is light and Jesus is the light of the world, our world.

Salt and Light (Matthew 5: 13-16 MSG)

 13“Let me tell you why you are here. You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness? You’ve lost your usefulness and will end up in the garbage.

 14-16“Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.

 

Jesus is not calling us to be ordinary but extraordinary…astonishing in how we pray, worship, celebrate, behave, live, love, and die.

We cannot do this alone, but if we follow Jesus, we shall not walk in darkness but have the light of life…eternal life.

If we follow his way, he will help us and we will in turn help each other, this is community, Jesus’ community, the community of Christians.





Sermon March 28, 2010

27 03 2010

Luke 19:28-44
Jesus Enters Jerusalem

28 After Jesus had said this, he went on ahead. He was going up to Jerusalem.
29 He approached Bethphage and Bethany. The hill there was called the Mount of Olives. Jesus sent out two of his disciples. He said to them, 30 “Go to the village ahead of you. As soon as you get there, you will find a donkey’s colt tied up. No one has ever ridden it. Untie it and bring it here. 31 Someone may ask you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ If so, say, ‘The Lord needs it.’ “
32 Those who were sent ahead went and found the young donkey. It was there just as Jesus had told them. 33 They were untying the colt when its owners came. The owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?”
34 They replied, “The Lord needs it.”
35 Then the disciples brought the colt to Jesus. They threw their coats on the young donkey and put Jesus on it. 36 As he went along, people spread their coats on the road.
37 Jesus came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives. There the whole crowd of disciples began to praise God with joy. In loud voices they praised him for all the miracles they had seen. They shouted, 38 “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” —(Psalm 118:26)
“May there be peace and glory in the highest heaven!”
(New International Reader’s Version, Bible Gateway)

(French saying) Mauvais poulain peut faire un bon cheval
A Ragged Colt May Make A Good Horse

I recently had a nostalgic moment about the past going back to my high school days as a senior in 1977. It was about the car I used to drive. My father let me drive his newly acquired car so that I could use it to go to school and work. It had a reputation as the fastest car at the school. The previous owner, also a high school senior held several races to confirm the point before selling it to my father. The car, a beautiful maroon 1968 Chevelle SS 396, had about 350 horses under the hood. Probably too much power for a teenager!
I realized only years later the sacrifice my father made in letting me use his car. He must have loved that car as much as I did. I loved the feel of it, the sound of it and the way it looked and of course, the power that it had. I drove it for several years and then when we were going to move to Germany, I gave it back to my father and he sold it back to the previous owner as a courtesy. I may not be able to afford one now, a fully restored one is about 45K, but I can get inside one using the internet on YouTube and take a “virtual” ride.
The ride turned out to be great fun :-)

I remember driving it for the first time to my High School. I had a friend with me. I remember how I felt, like a conquering hero, like a king: driving a car with a big reputation.
It afforded me some freedoms: the freedom of not having to deal with the pressures of riding the school bus, the freedom of coming and going during lunchtime, and the freedom of going anywhere I had the time to go and money to fill the gas tank up.

Nostalgia is a wonderful thing. It gives us the opportunity to revisit fond memories.

If we go further back further in history before there were automobiles and when we think of other modes of ground transportation, we think of camels, donkeys and horses.
The horse was a popular mode of transportation for thousands of years. The riders often developed a relationship with their horses and even gave them special names. The riders loved their special horses and rode them with great dignity.
Here are a few famous horses and their famous riders:

Marengo – Napoleon
Shawnee-George Washington
Silver-The Lone Ranger
Comanche-Captain Myles Keogh
Buchephalas-Alexander the Great
Trigger-Roy Rogers

I believe that Jesus always walked wherever he went, but on one occasion, the Gospels record that he saddled up onto a donkey. I wonder if he named his ragged little donkey?
I am going to get off track here for a moment. I want to clear up a mystery about the seeming strange way Jesus decided to acquire the donkey.
The donkey was not his! It belonged to someone else. In fact we notice that the owners show up rather quickly as the disciples go to take the donkey.
33 They were untying the colt when its owners came. The owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?”
34 They replied, “The Lord needs it.”

In our society, we can’t simply go up to the local car dealership, grab a set of car keys, jump in and start it and go down the road assuming that everything would be fine if we simply yelled out the window as we speed away “the Lord has need of it!” Watch how quickly the parade gets very big with all the gendarmes following behind with the Reality Channel producers in tow to make the next season’s episode.

This was different; Jesus knew what he was doing…the right to acquire a donkey for transportation was a royal right, when a ruler needed transportation, the people would provide it on the spot. The method would be to go and seize the donkey without asking permission. That a lord had need of transportation and that it was the royal right to acquire it in Jesus day, made this action legal and understandable.

1. The messiah had need of the donkey and it was scriptural. Zechariah 9:9 (New International Reader’s Version)
A King Comes to Zion
9 “City of Zion, be full of joy!
People of Jerusalem, shout!
See, your king comes to you.
He always does what is right.
He has the power to save.
He is gentle and riding on a donkey.
He is sitting on a donkey’s colt.

2. The servants of officials could borrow an animal such as a horse or donkey for use in official business for purposes of unpaid transportation. The donkey was set aside on special occasions as the property of the Lord.
Zechariah 14:21 (New International Reader’s Version)
21 Every pot in Jerusalem and Judah will be set apart to the Lord.

Now that we have that cleared up. We know that Jesus gets a donkey, saddles up and begins his journey toward Jerusalem to enter the great city.
Up until recently, we didn’t know that on the other side of Jerusalem, another rider was making his way into Jerusalem in a parade of his own.
Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan in their book “The Last Week” reveal that as Jesus leads his procession under his banner as King of Peace into one end of Jerusalem. At the same time the Roman Empire’s own, Pontius Pilate, full of empire power, enters at the other end. What a contrast, Pilate rides in on his magnificent warhorse flags waving, with all the signs of the Roman Empire and a cavalcade of well-armed soldiers carrying shields, swords and lances running alongside in an intimidating display of power. An impressive parade! Pontius Pilate is there to ensure that there is order in Jerusalem during the festivities. Apparently thngs could get out of nhand. He is there to keep the peace. Pilate intends to keep things manageable and under control.
Jesus, on the other hand, enters on a ragged donkey, with a ragged group of followers, well-wishers and curious on-lookers. “He is there to bring a peace that is far different, a peace that passes all understanding” and to inaugurate publicly the kingdom of God, his father’s kingdom. Jesus is the King of Peace, the messiah, the Christ. (for this refernce and the refrence to “The Last Week” I am indebted to http://www.ucc.org/worship/samuel/)
Pilate’s onlookers display a cautious and respectful welcome and keep their distance for fear of being trampled, or cut down by a sword or spear…for him they roll out the red carpet (A metaphor used by Leonard Sweet in his treatment of this text) .
Jesus’ onlookers and followers display unreserved joy, wild excitement, and throw caution to the wind as they toss their cloaks and palm leaves down in front of him all the while trying to touch him as he passes by, for him they roll out the green carpet (ibid).

Jesus’ well-wishers might just be the very people that we get to know from learning about them in the Bible:

• The couple from Cana came because they remembered when they ran out of wine; he turned the ceremonial water into wine so they could celebrate at least 60 gallons worth.
• Jairus, his daughter and his family and friends of the Synagogue, Jesus raised Jairus daughter for which they are all eternally grateful.
• Blind Bartimaeus who was blind from birth until Jesus healed him as he was on the way to Jerusalem; he became a disciple that day.
• Zaccheus short of stature but tall in generosity, he was never the same since he had dinner with Jesus.
• Lazarus and his entire family and the new people he brought to Jesus.
• The woman at the well and her entire village.
• And many many many more lined the streets to touch him with their hands, hearts and minds as he so touched them.

And finally, who else is in that parade but you and I, for we too are in that enormous parade of people, that moves through history: past, present and future, as we remember how he touched our lives, changed us, and set us on a new path, as we continue our life-long celebration of our friend and savior Jesus the Christ.

But let us not leave out the donkey. I would like for us to remember the donkey and the fact that Jesus includes this stubborn but extremely hard working and very special donkey in his victory parade, which I would like to now suggest a name: invictus…which is Latin for unconquered.
Why do I include the donkey, the donkey is part of this green carpet parade and part of God’s good creation.  Leonard Sweet asked these questions and makes these connections in his commentary about Jesus when he states that a Green Carpet goes with a Green Gospel:

For God so loved the . . . . church.” Right?

Let me try again . . . “For God so loved [yout church].” Right?

Let me try again . . . “For God so loved the US of A.” Right?

Let me try once more . . “For God so loved human beings.” Right?

NO:  For God so loved the world.” OR more accurately, “For God so loved the entire creation, the cosmos.

When Jesus died on the cross, he died for the cosmos. Yes, he died for you and for me. But he also died for every living creature, and for the restoration of relationships among all creatures and their Creator.”
In fact, Mark 16:15 says to “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every living creature.” Or in the NIV version: “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.”

The entire cosmic creation begins to be restored, in Christ Jesus and that is truly something to have a parade about. Hear Isaiah…(KJV)
Isaiah 11:6 6-The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them.

Isaiah 65:25 25-The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, and the lion shall eat straw like the bullock: and dust shall be the serpent’s meat. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain, saith the LORD.

Amen!





Sermon March 21st 2010

20 03 2010

“The worst wheel of the cart makes the most noise.” 

I took my inspiration for this title from B. Franklin’s “Poor Richard’s Almanac”

John 12:1-11  Mary Pours Perfume on Jesus
1 It was six days before the Passover Feast. Jesus arrived at Bethany, where Lazarus lived. Lazarus was the one Jesus had raised from the dead. 2 A dinner was given at Bethany to honor Jesus. Martha served the food. Lazarus was among those at the table with Jesus.
3 Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard. It was an expensive perfume. She poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the sweet smell of the perfume.
4 But Judas Iscariot didn’t like what Mary did. He was one of Jesus’ disciples. Later he was going to hand Jesus over to his enemies. Judas said, 5 “Why wasn’t this perfume sold? Why wasn’t the money given to poor people? It was worth a year’s pay.”
6 He didn’t say this because he cared about the poor. He said it because he was a thief. Judas was in charge of the money bag. He used to help himself to what was in it.
7 “Leave her alone,” Jesus replied. “The perfume was meant for the day I am buried. 8 You will always have the poor among you. But you won’t always have me.”
9 Meanwhile a large crowd of Jews found out that Jesus was there, so they came. But they did not come only because of Jesus. They also came to see Lazarus. After all, Jesus had raised him from the dead.
10 So the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus too. 11 Because of Lazarus, many of the Jews were starting to follow Jesus. They were putting their faith in him.
( New International Reader’s Version-BibleGateway) 
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Desiderata

19 03 2010

You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars, you have a right to be here!

This just came to my mind yesterday. I was thinking at how nasty we Christians can be with our talk of salvation and damnation in relation to the “other.” I am not convinced that Jesus intended all this “hell” talk.
Sadly there is a great deal of this talk in the epistles, much more than I am comfortable with. 

In light of this, the words of Desiderata come to me, it is a beautiful poem written by Max Ehrmann.  (see this site for a good treatment: http://www.fleurdelis.com/desidera.htm)

Desiderata-(Things to be Desired) was put to music, this poem was spoken by Les Crane who recieved a Grammy for “best spoken word recording” in 1971.  I first heard it in the early 70’s and played it until the record broke.  The reverse side of the record was recorded in Spanish.  Simply amazing.

Excerpt in Spanish:

“Tú eres una criatura del universo. No menos que las plantas y las estrellas, tienes derecho a existir.”

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