Sunday, January 29, 2012

A Promise and an Appeal

Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany
Deuteronomy 18:15-20 and 1 Corinthians 8:1-13

• A bit of what’s what… The Deuteronomy passage is about Moses and the power of God which is so awesome that people were frightened of it, scared to death. And God says to the people “I will raise up a mediator, someone like you, someone from among you, who will speak my words.”

Moses was such a prophet. There were many other prophets. Jesus Christ certainly was fully human in order to be completely relatable to humanity.

God promises to provide a go-between.

• [aside] The power point just has some words I want in front of you:

“The living core of the Christian faith is revealed in Scripture, illumined by Tradition, vivified in personal Experience, and confirmed by Reason.”

“Our mission is to reach out to all persons with the love of Christ,
and to make living, growing disciples of Jesus Christ.”

• Paul on food and freedom.  Culture of animal sacrifice, then question about eating meat from marketplace (which had likely been sacrificed to idol): Is eating it participation in idolatry?

Paul’s answer: “No, but…” If someone, another believer, a less-experienced believer sees you doing it and imitates you and falls because of it, you share responsibility for their fall.

Act out of love for them. Put aside what YOU are strong enough to do, for their benefit.

• Application: Paul appeals to community over license. Your faith informs your behavior. Let your behavior be moderated by love.

All is permissible, but not all is beneficial (1 Cor. 6:12). You have the freedom to do anything, but not everything is helpful.  Kids, listen up!

• What is beneficial? That which is edifying, building up, good for the community.

Jesus Christ set aside the power of God Almighty (could do anything) in order to connect with us without overwhelming us. Met us on our level, to spur us onto the next.

John Wooden (UCLA Basketball coach, 1960s, 10 NCAA Championships in 12 yrs, 88-game winning streak) would be a poor basketball coach if he didn’t drill a team on the basics. A good coach doesn’t start out with the advanced stuff but moves the team through the foundations in succession. And btw, he was a devout Christian, considering his beliefs more important to him than basketball: "I have always tried to make it clear that basketball is not the ultimate. It is of small importance in comparison to the total life we live. There is only one kind of life that truly wins, and that is the one that places faith in the hands of the Savior…”

• Certainly we desire to mature in faith, and our mission is to make growing, living disciples – by engaging folks at all levels and saying Walk with me…

• What is beneficial is what edifies community.

Behavior informed by faith and moderated by love.

Prayer: that we may grow in faith & knowledge & love, and use what God has given us to bless others. Inspire us and build us up, Lord.

• Hymn 382 Be Thou My Vision

Sunday, January 22, 2012

STER - On the Wesleyan Quadrilateral

Third Sunday after the Epiphany
from James 1

• Life is like a journey. Cliché, sure, but life demands examination, and life is big enough that we sometimes have to compare it to other things to understand it better, get a taste of it. One time Jesus sent disciples out with nothing but the clothes on their backs. At the end of the gospel of Mark, instructs them to go on ahead to Galilee, where Jesus goes before them. End of Matthew, instructs to go, make disciples, baptize, teach, and he will be with us. Last week we repeated God will not abandon, well it bears repeating today, as God equips and empowers us for the journey of life.

• So on the journey of life what are some of the tools we have?

Scripture. (hold up my Bible, which is pocket sized so I can take it with me... covered with duct tape... filled with notes... The best color for a bible is read) Scripture. First and foremost. Our primary resource. The witness of God’s redemptive love come to fulfillment in JC. The Bible is the Church’s book for use in the community of prayer and faith. It is a living thing (wonderful words of life) and while its parts can and must be studied it is to be studied as a whole. (human teeth)

The Bible is testimony to what God has done, and invitation to interact, to respond. It is God-inspired and useful for teaching and training in righteousness (2 Tim 3:16).

In the Bible we find our identity, we find purpose and meaning. We find all things necessary for salvation in scripture, and there is no ingredient for salvation that is not found therein.

• What’s another tool in here? I have a flashlight to help me examine scripture, to shed light on, to illuminate. The way I interpret scripture is informed by the way those who have gone before me have interpreted scripture – I don’t have to start from scratch, but I can build on my spiritual parents, stand on their shoulders. We call this tradition. What my forefathers and mothers taught, what teachers and theologians have wrestled with for generations, even what the earliest generations of Christians believed, these things are the tradition that shed light on scripture (which is primary. Scripture, illumined by tradition).

• There’s another tool in here for the journey, a pair of boots. You know the bit about if a tree falls in the forest and there’s no one to hear it does it make a sound? If living scripture is left on a coffee table does it live? As scripture is illumined by tradition, in the journey of life scripture is vivified in experience, trying it out, stretching it, hitting the road. Look at that passage from James – we are to be not only hearers but doers; the foundation of faith in action is scripture put into practice in your personal experience.

• And you gotta ask if it all makes sense, if it fits (in this backpack), if it’s reasonable. God gave us brains not just to tell our hearts to pump and our feet to move but to examine and evaluate events in our lives. We use reason to look at situations, to look at tradition and experience, to look at scripture and its teachings.

• These four things – Scripture (first), illuminated by tradition, vivified in personal experience, confirmed by reason – form what’s known as the Wesleyan quadrilateral (from the teachings of John Wesley), and are tools that we have to examine and evaluate everything we come across on the journey. Armed with these tools (and the Holy Spirit, can I get an amen) we’re equipped to address things in our lives like death, life, growth, grief, change.

• Something happen? What’s scripture say about it? What have other believers throughout history taught about it? Can I live with it? Does it make sense?

Wesley believed that the living core of the Christian faith was revealed in Scripture, illumined by tradition, vivified in personal experience, and confirmed by reason. Scripture [however] is primary, revealing the Word of God 'so far as it is necessary for our salvation.'

Wesley saw the Quadrilateral not merely as prescriptive of how one should form their theology, but also as descriptive of how almost anyone does form theology.

Prayer that God’s word would be living in us as we live and grow in faith and action. Every Day.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Get Ready

Second Sunday after the Epiphany
1 Samuel 3:1-20

• "Lord willing and the creek don’t rise," I will retire in 25-30 years. I don’t know what church I’ll be in, don’t know where in country I’ll live. I'll be closer to goal of 50th wedding anniversary, and I trust serving God in some capacity. Specifics, I don’t know.

Repeat after me: In the face of the unknown, trust in God.

• Reading a book about the 21st century (George Friedman's The Next 100 Years), and it points out how pretty much you can count on things being completely different even over a 20 year time span. 1900 Europe had ruled the world for 400 years but in two 20 year periods fractured and baby nation USA rocketed to unprecedented global power....
Though no specific predictions some general things predictable
and the more you plan for possible futures the better off you’ll be,
and one thing’s for sure: things aren’t going to stay the same.

• I wonder, what will CUMC look like in 20 years? Hymnals, multimedia, #of services, #of pastors, #of buildings… what will CUMC look like in 20 years, and how will we prepare for and weather change?

Repeat after me:  Get ready: God may speak in unanticipated ways.
(also trust in God)

• Samuel story: God speaks through an unanticipated prophet.
- S’s mom barren, she prayed for a son to dedicate to God, God heard & they both delivered.
- S is serving under priest Eli, but doesn’t know the Lord (apparently Eli hasn’t been much of a teacher), and we’re told The word of the Lord was rare, and visions not widely known. (…)
- But God makes a way, God does not abandon his people. (repeat) God speaks to S.

 (Eli, btw, shows some maturity in directing boy to respond to the Lord,
and when he hears of deserved punishment, does not whine but accepts & praises).

• Repeated: trust in God, God may speak in unanticipated ways, God does not abandon…

• Related to today's message... some things from the Bishop's midwinter retreat.
- There was a drama, a woman dreams diversity in heaven (it isn’t just people like us)
- There was a video of a woman priest wheelchairbound with cerebral palsy, and her theology of incarnation

- There was the testimony of a Korean pastor sent to anglo church (one parishioner cried twice: when he was appointed there, and then when he was appointed somewhere else)

How would any of these pastors be received?

• Next week I'll talk about evaluating change (hint: REST), but leave you with this:

          God will speak to people who will listen to God and honor God

          & God will be found, even in the midst of change. God is reliable.

• Hymn 534 Leaning on the Everlasting Arms

Sunday, January 8, 2012

This Is What You've Been Trained For

First Sunday after the Epiphany
Baptism of the Lord Sunday

Mark 1:4-11 and Acts 19:1-7

We've had our Christmas celebrations, we had our New Year’s covenant renewal…
now what, what’s next?

• Top Gun (1986) (synopsis) after graduation from flight battle school the graduating class hears this speech: The SS Layton has become disabled and has wandered into foreign territory.
A rescue operation will soon begin. Your mission is to give it air support.
There are MiGs in the area. If you witness a hostile act, return fire.
They carry the Exocet anti-ship missile. They can fire it from miles away.
This is the real thing.   This is what you've been trained for.     Make us proud.

They get a baptism by fire, as it were.

• Today's two scripture readings have to do with that: “This is what you’ve been trained for”
We have John the Baptist saying People get ready, order your lives, straighten up and fly right, and if you’re moved by ME just you wait…

We have Jesus submitting to John’s baptism, why? To fully identify with those he came to save and to show us if you would follow me THIS is where you start.

We have Paul taking the pulse of a community and finding them not fully equipped…

• These things are all connected to the question of purpose.
Jesus knew his purpose (do the will of him who sent him, to seek & save the lost, that we might have life abundant).
Paul knew his purpose (reach many for Christ, proclaim forgiveness in Jesus’ name).
John the Baptist knew his purpose (ready the way for Christ).

• A New Year’s resolution or at least hope of mine is that the worshiping congregation would not memorize but OWN our purpose, our mission, and demonstrate that ownership by practice.
          Our mission is to reach out to all persons with the love of Christ, and to make growing and living disciples of Jesus Christ.

• This is what you’ve been trained for…

What leaps out there for me is the action of reach out…

• reach out in healing…. Alongside compassionate presence.
• reach out in addressing poverty… circles
• reach out in being involved in ministries of reconciliation (prisoners, victims, addicts)
• those are just a few… be the hands and feet of Jesus Christ beyond these walls, using gifts in service.

• We are empowered by God (not left without power, as Paul discovered in Ephesus)… blessed to be blessing.