Sunday, February 24, 2013

The Circle of Lent 2/5: Forgiveness and Confession

Second Sunday of Lent
from James 5

(take a look at Circle of Lent 1/5 for intro to series)
• First picture is two folks walking. In this picture possibly equals. Maybe married couple, maybe friends, maybe pastor and member.. two beings in relationship with each other, walking together in harmony. In unity. Same path.

God wants your life to be in step with God and full and very good. Allow your life to be full and very good by seeking to be in step with God. Remember your purpose and seek to order your life.

• The new picture is of people stopped... a "sinner" who has left the chosen path, and a "righteous" one who has remained on the path. Today we'll look at each person's point of view.

• Says the “righteous” one: I do not count it against you that you walked in a different direction and that you hurt Harmony. I do not want that to be a barrier to our relationship. In other words, I forgive you. You don’t owe me. I waive my right to demand, receive, or expect restitution, you do not need to pay me back.

Forgiveness is NOT approving or condoning, it is NOT granting license to the sinner to sin. It is seeking and affirming relationship. Saying I choose not to hold a grudge (which is empty forgiveness at best).

• In many ways forgiveness is like love as described in 1 Cor 13:4-8… forgive me a little license:
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.

Repeat reading, replacing "love" with "Forgiveness".

• Forgiveness is not easy but it is necessary. We cannot simultaneously hold on to what separates other people from us and receive forgiveness mercy and grace from God or others. Consider what many would probably put in the top three relationship sins: infidelity. Only through forgiveness does the possibility of reconciliation exist; without forgiveness the broken relationship is irreparable.

Forgiveness not easy but necessary, and not necessarily deserved, but it is to be granted freely and without strings attached. It is good to be reminded of Jesus’ words that we cannot be forgiven if we ourselves do not forgive.

• Same picture, other point of view. Sinner has stopped. Why? By grace of God, sinner realizes and acknowledges sin. “I admit that I am not walking in the right direction. I admit that I am hurting Harmony.”
(Repeat out loud: by grace of God are we able to recognize our sin.)

• Sinner confesses. To whom? To self. You’d be amazed the power of speaking these words out loud, even if alone.
To God. As a part of prayer.
And if possible to the offended party.

• Why did I speak on forgiveness first? Well I had to do one first, and it’s important to me that forgiveness be independent of conditions, including confession. Plus I’ll deal with sinner next week too, as confession leads to repentance.

• Scripture, reading from James which is about community of faith & solidarity. Both are actions at the beginning of the road to recovery of community.

• Homework: this week. Confess something. Forgive something.

• Hymn 505 Love Lifted Me

Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Circle of Lent 1/5: Harmony and Sin

First Sunday of Lent
Genesis 2&3, Matthew 4:1-11

• I had an idea for sermon series: pictures came into mind illustrating various stages of relationship, including sin, confession, forgiveness, repentance, absolution. Fits nicely for Lent... (purple by the way, for royalty as well as suffering)

• First picture is two folks walking. In this picture possibly equals. Maybe married couple, maybe friends, maybe pastor and member.. two beings in relationship with each other, intentionally walking together in harmony. In unity. Same path.

Could be God. (think about the Footprints poem, walking with God.) Even in Genesis God walked in the garden. God was in relationship with people, talking with people.

• As we read in Genesis, though, people left the path.
God had a path for Adam & Eve. And how was it? It was VERY GOOD. What did they have? EVERYTHING THEY NEEDED. More than they needed. God provided. But they left the path.

• I left the path once (once! ha). Long story short, I knew I could find a better way home from the ski area than the printed pamphlet's directions. I ended up adding 2-3 hours of travel time to a 90 minute trip. (cue the music: Fleetwood Mac 1977 You Can Go Your Own Way... 1969 Frank Sinatra I Did It My Way). My pride taught me that you don't actually have to be skiing to fall down.

• Jesus had a path. Had a purpose in life, which was to do the will of his father. "My food is to do the will of the one who sent me" (John 4:34). Spirit led him into wilderness, he went. Spirit led him to do Godknowswhat for 40 days in the wilderness, and that’s what he did.

Satan tempts him. Not to do something nasty or anything, just have some bread, use the power God gave you and make bread appear. Well, spirit wasn’t leading Jesus that way. No go.

Satan tempts him: trust the angels to save you. Spirit wasn’t leading Jesus that way. No go.

Satan tempts him: worship Satan... Spirit wasn’t leading Jesus that way. No go. Jesus wasn’t gonna go where Spirit wasn’t leading him.

In the Garden of Gethsemane, like to have a different path... Not my will but thine.

Jesus knew who he was and whose he was, clearly knew purpose

• When I do premarital counseling I utilize Willard Harley's website: (Tons of good resources there). One thing he states there is the Policy of Joint Agreement:
"Never do anything without enthusiastic agreement between you and your spouse."

Relating to God... never do anything w/o enthusiastic agreement between you and God.

• Does that sound restrictive or freeing? Recall garden God provided abundance not scarcity. Recall God’s map for you... study it. Include prayer and worship and service and humility.

God wants your life to be in step with God and full and very good.
Allow your life to be full and very good by seeking to be in step with God.

• Hymn 455 Come, Sinners, Be Committed

Sunday, February 10, 2013

The Mountaintop

Transfiguration Sunday
Luke 9:28-36

• Did you ever have a mountain top experience? At a retreat, heard an inspiring speaker, experienced powerful worship? Think of a time when you really met with God. People make commitments in such times. And like the disciples, we don’t want to come down.

• During this experience on the mountain, Jesus changes. He glows (Moses did, too, after receiving the Ten Commandments). Metamorphosizes. Receives divine visit from Moses & Elijah – affirmation from some major characters from the Old Testament.

Imagine putting on wet jeans and sweatshirt on blustery day like today – that's the incarnation. Jesus is away from his heavenly home for a lifetime, and in the Transfiguration experiences a momentary respite.

Peter wants to preserve the moment, but while he’s speaking, God speaks.

This is my Son whom I dearly love, with whom I am well pleased. Listen to him!

Public and divine encouragement for Jesus... "attaboy" and "listen to this guy."

• It's enticing to stay there and soak up the sun but that’s not the purpose of this divine episode.

Three part purpose:
Divine encouragement, public acknowledgement, commission.

Jesus didn’t stay on the mountain because there was work to be done.
Passage before: Jesus is Christ. The Son of Man will be killed and raised.
Passage after: Jesus casts demon out of boy, reiterates SOM will be killed.

Jesus didn’t allow the guys to stay on the mountain because there was work to be done, and that work happens at ground level, where the people are.

But Jesus is Emmanuel God-With-Us, & having experienced God on the mountain, they return to “normal” life, with Jesus.

• We experience God, encounter God, are fed by God, but we can’t stay here, we go with Jesus into the world... so we can lead others to encounter God.

Meanwhile, we praise
• Hymn: How Great Thou Art

Sunday, February 3, 2013

True Love

Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany
1 Corinthians 13:1-13

• Ah the famous wedding passage, images of brides and grooms, happy couples beginning “happily ever after”. Then of course we have the wisdom of children (stolen from the internets) on what love is…

“Love is when your puppy licks your face even after you left him alone all day.” Mary Ann – age 4

“During my piano recital, I was on a stage and I was scared. I looked at all the people watching me and saw my daddy waving and smiling.  He was the only one doing that.  I wasn’t scared anymore.” Cindy – age 8

“When someone loves you, the way they say your name is different.  You know that your name is safe in their mouth.”  Billy – age 4

“When my grandmother got arthritis, she couldn’t bend over and paint her toenails anymore.  So my grandfather does it for her all the time, even when his hands got arthritis too. That’s love.” Rebecca – age 8

“There are two kinds of love.  Our love.  God’s love. But God makes both kinds of them.” Jenny – age 8

• These are all well and good and I believe Paul’s passage applies well to children and couples but there is more. Paul is addressing a church that is divided, a fledgling church that is in conflict and in need of both guidance and correction.

Paul finds that the church is in conflict, divided over belief and authority, wrestling with issues of status and pride. Paul talks about love as a way – the only and best way, really – of dealing with the conflict. He’s been talking about unity and spiritual gifts, and he builds up to this grand chapter in which he demonstrates that love is the way to deal with conflict and division, love is the way to interact with one another and the way to imitate Christ. Love is not avoiding conflict but entering in to it, setting Christ-like values and priorities.

• When God saw the broken state of humankind, when God saw how God’s people had turned on him, forgotten him forsaken him denied him despised him, when God saw that the God/human relationship was broken, what did God do? He entered in to it in love. (This is how the love of God is revealed to us: God has sent his only Son into the world so that we can live through him. – 1 John 4:9) (God shows his love for us, for while we were still sinners Christ died for us. – Romans 5:8)

• So true love is incarnational, it is real. (and I’ve been holding back)

• Jesus did not hold anything back. In Jesus God said if you’ve lost the way, Jesus is the way.

Let us pour ourselves, no, let us pour Christ into the broken situations in our lives and in the lives of those we come in contact with, loving humbly and deeply, sacrificially and unconditionally, even as in the love of Christ we are being made whole.

• Sacrament of Holy Communion