Sunday, July 28, 2013

In the Midst of Life

From Luke 8:16-25: 
A lamp on a lampstand; Jesus' mother and brothers; Jesus calms a storm

• Pull out your scriptures…
Last week, parable of the sower, the soils. God desires hearers and doers of the word. Seeds planted in last week’s reading are nurtured in this week’s reading, reinforced.

“No one lights a lamp and then covers it or puts it under a bed, instead they put it on a stand so that those who enter can see the light.” – Luke 8:16

It would be pointless, even negligent to do that. The very purpose of lighting lamp is to give light. The very purpose of receiving the word of God is to shine it, to share it, to be changed by it, to bless others with it. To receive the word of God and sit on it would be pointless, even negligent. (Therefore we are obligated to follow up after our VBS in Palm City)

There is no gospel without resulting action. Even though some of the seeds from last week fell on poor soils, there was abundant production from the good soil.

And good news is we can choose how we respond to God’s word, whether we nurture it or neglect it.

• And good news is that the one who hears the word and does it is part of God’s family. Blessed is the one who hears the word and responds, producing a harvest for God, they shall be the family of God.

• The third section introduces us to Luke’s telling of Jesus, Master over Storms. Although there are fishermen among the disciples, they’re no match for the powerful storm that comes upon them. Sometimes that happens, in the midst of life, mighty powers assemble against us, perhaps even while we are trying to respond to God’s word. Needless to say the storm captures the attention of the disciples – they’re perishing, they are powerless. But in their powerlessness they call upon Jesus, they call upon their master – “Master, Master,” they call out – that word Master, epistates, unique to Luke, is a statement of faith in itself: you who have authority, you who can make things stand… Master, Master, we’re perishing. They call out to Jesus, and Jesus rebukes the storm. Who is this, who commands the winds and the water? He is the holy one of God, the one through whom God is saving the world.

The good news is that there is no storm over which Jesus does not have power, not even the sea of sin, which can be overwhelming, but mastered by Jesus.

The good news is that just like God saved the people from destruction in the sea when they were being pursued by the Egyptians, God in Jesus is saving people from the mighty powers assembled against them, against us.

• This weekend Pope Francis is in South America. Some 3 million folks have gathered to hear him as he addresses World Youth Day.  Can you imagine if he went there and didn’t greet the people? It’d be a scandal. It’d be pointless and negligent. No, his purpose was to go and preach the word and encourage young people and disciples of all ages to use their faith and their status and their resources to make the world a better place, to overcome the mighty forces of apathy with the Gospel, to build the church. He is calling people to let the light of God shine and bring its redemptive power against a fractured world. I may not be Catholic but Pope Francis is my brother, a hearer and doer of the gospel.

• CUMC, we have a light in Ctown, a lampstand that was erected 93 years ago for the purpose of giving light to Campbelltown, and it is our duty and our calling to use that light for the glory of God in strengthening his kingdom, enlarging his family. And we have a master, an overseer, who has authority over mighty powers, who is worthy and able to overcome any obstacles, and God is saving the world through him. We are a part of that mission of salvation.

• Closing Song: From the Ends of the Earth 

Sunday, July 21, 2013

A Steep Walk

Ninth Sunday After Pentecost
Luke 8:1-15, The Parable of the Sower

• Here we are, walking through the Gospel According to Luke. It is a blessing spending time in the word, like a bag of tea steeping in hot water. 
Challenge: read next week’s text every day (it’s Luke 8:16-25, or even just all of chapter 8). And don’t just read, but interact. Take notes, ask questions of the texts and ponder them. Discuss passage and notes with friend or family member, or email same or me. Improve next Sunday’s worship experience throughout the week by interacting with Word and disciples. Increase understanding and appreciation.

• One question you might ask: What is this parable about, really?

-Perhaps it’s about how to be effective soil, how best to receive God’s word: (nurture yourself as soil by maintaining right balance of water, air, nutrients, organics… God gives the word of life and you control how it lives in you… shape up!)

-Or is it judgment and/or warning about being poor soil? (shape up or ship out)

-Is it statement that there are poor soils and good? (statement that not all will receive the word and grow)

-Is it an illustration that disciples must dig for meaning, that disciples must invest some sweat equity, and that not all will be disciples?

• Reading & praying, I diagrammed the parable (in notebook… another way to interact with the text) and noticed how it’s a parable about the hearer’s heart. (verse 8:15 esp: The seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.)

The question that continued to stick out to me was quotation from Isaiah 6:9-10 (knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God has been given to you, but to others I speak in parables so that ‘though seeing, they may not see; though hearing, they may not understand’… (catch that? Jesus tells parables in order that some won’t understand… so that J’s disciples will be ones who work for knowledge) 
That passage continues with God telling Isaiah: Make the heart of this people calloused; make their ears dull and close their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed. Conceal the truth… prevent understanding and repentance) God judges the people and Isaiah is commanded to warn them, though we’re even told they won’t heed. Do it anyway.

God gives a warning: there is danger ahead. Okay, we’re here, we’re facing a steep walk, there is danger and hurt in our future, yeah. 
But hold your head up, persevere undeterred, because God is interested in our RESPONSES to all manner of things. Do we respond with faith or with despair? Do we withdraw when challenged or trust in God and meet challenge?

• It’s a parable about heart and attitude, and God desiring doers not hearers only. Disciples gotta work it, be faithful without hope of reward. Jesus talks in parables to strengthen and prepare, to mature disciples rather than leave them weak. CS Lewis God wants us to walk therefore God is pleased with our stumbles.

• By the way, the Isaiah 6:9-10 warning, I notice, comes between Isaiah’s commission (I will go) and the sign of Immanuel God Is With Us… just as its placement in Luke 8 is between list of who will go and Jesus who is with us (but you’ll have to read ahead for that part).

• No matter what circumstances may be,
God is God (and we are not), and we are commissioned
Read the Word and interact with it. Let it be like tea infusing into you.
God wants fruit (maturity), the word is the seed… spread it liberally.

Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.

• Closing Hymn 296: We’ve A Story to Tell to the Nations

Sunday, July 14, 2013

A Tale of Two Diners

Eighth Sunday After Pentecost
Luke 7:36-50, Jesus dines at the home of Simon the Pharisee. His feet are attended to by a "sinful woman."

• I am envious of Jesus’ handling of situations.
All the more reason to spend time with him, learn from him to be like him.
All the more reason to worship him as Lord.

• Today’s interaction with a Pharisee, not the first interaction in Luke (nor the last)…
First was in chapter 5 when a man’s friends lowered him through the roof of the house Jesus was speaking in… There were Pharisees (
Φs) there – Jesus’ healings and teachings had caught their attention, and the house was crowded. Remember what Jesus said to the paralyzed man? “Your sins are forgiven.”

The Φs began to think to themselves “who is this who speaks blasphemy? No one can forgive sins but God alone?” And Jesus knew their thoughts, their judgment, and he shamed them.

• Second interaction with the Φs was in chapter 6… the Φs question why Jesus and his disciples were disregarding Sabbath law by gleaning wheat… and Jesus heals a man… on the Sabbath. Well that episode ends with “[the Pharisees] were furious and began to discuss with one another what they might do to Jesus.” (6:11)

• There’s a third mention of the Φs, right before this episode, a parenthetical statement that the Φs rejected God’s purpose for themselves because they had not been baptized by John (7:30).

• So we get to this scene in Luke 7:36, a Pharisee has invited Jesus to dinner, and I have to wonder: Why? What did this Pharisee want to accomplish by hosting a dinner for Jesus? Was he looking for a way to accuse Jesus of something? Was he hoping to actually learn something? Was it a status thing? Did he do it to be seen? Whatever the case may be, we find out he didn’t wow anybody with his hospitality.

• And in the second verse of the reading the scene turns to an uninvited guest, a woman from the city, a sinner, we’re told, who breaks all kinds of social rules as she comes in, cries on Jesus’ feet, wipes the tears with her hair, and the pours perfumed oil on them.

• According to the narrator this woman is a sinner, and the Φ's inner monologue indicates to us that a man of God should not allow such a woman to touch him…
And it’s not the first interaction Jesus has with someone “unclean” as it were… we’ve seen Jesus touch the dead (7:14) and leprous (5:13), and Jesus has been touched by many.

If Jesus is striving for ritual cleanliness, well, he’s failing.

But we read in 7:34 that Jesus was a “friend of tax collectors and sinners.”

• So just as I wondered why did the Φ invite Jesus to dinner, I wonder Why did this woman do what she did? I wonder if she did it out of desperation, tired of being judged as a sinner – I mean she’s invisible. We don’t know her name, we don’t hear her voice, we just know that she’s a sinner, that’s all she’ll ever be known as, and she’s desperate to be known even just this once as a human being, she longs for it enough to risk everything for a chance to be known by Jesus. Somehow she knows that Jesus is safe. (fruit of repentance?)

• And Jesus sees her. He doesn’t look at her and see a sinner, he looks at her and sees a human being, a child of God, a sister a daughter. Jesus sees her. And although the Pharisee obviously sees the woman as well, Jesus points out that he actually *doesn’t* see her (Do you see this woman? 7:44)… he just sees a sinner, someone who would make him dirty, someone who a righteous person should avoid.

• What can we take away from this story?

-Judge not (we heard recently in Luke 6:37!) Judgment belongs to God (Deut 1:17), humanity and mercy are better than judgment. Judging the woman as unclean (as the Φ did) may have been true but it did nothing to bring redemption, instead it fortified separation.

-As we brought up last week, God does not always act in the ways we’d think he’d act – His ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8-9)

-Jesus is more than a prophet or a good man – he has the authority to forgive sins
(Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner)

-There is forgiveness, even peace (shalom wholeness salvation!) in Jesus (nothing can separate us from his love, Romans 8:38-39)

• I look forward to the day when people will see people as God sees people, when God’s invitation to all people is celebrated by all.

• In the meanwhile, I’m a sinner, 
I’ve been seen by Jesus and saved by Jesus, 
and I strive to see like Jesus. 
Soli Deo Gloria -- To God be the glory!

• Closing Hymn 66: To God be the Glory

Sunday, July 7, 2013

"Great Expectations"

Seventh Sunday after Pentecost
Luke 7:18-35, John the Baptist wonders if Jesus is the one.

• It’s a transition Sunday for some churches and pastors… Here are two stories I found online of expectations of pastors... (scroll to the bottom)

 Today is also the first Sunday of the second half of 2013… reflections on New Year’s Resolutions? How has 2013 been what you hoped it would be, how do you hope to steer from here? What are you looking for at CUMC?

• Luke 7:18-20, John the Baptist (JtB) apparently wondering if Jesus really is the one. Is this the guy I’ve been telling the people God would send? I mean I thought he was, but I’m not sure.

Read Luke 3:2-18, when JtB enters the scene.

JtB baptism of repentance, calling for acts of justice and mercy, proclaiming a more powerful one coming with judgment and purifying fire!
Is this Jesus really the one?

• What has Jesus been doing? Gathering disciples and teaching them. Healing folks and, well, generally not meeting JtB’s expectations.

• Says Jesus, Let my record speak for itself. (Read 7:22 about the blind lame leprous deaf dead and poor). These are things Elijah did generations ago, things the prophets have spoken of, these things are the Father’s validation of my ministry.

Says Jesus, What are you looking for? If you want to be involved in the kingdom of God, find the “least of these,” find the oppressed, the poor, the powerless, and use your power to better their conditions.

• This passage addresses not only John, who questioned whether Jesus was the one or not, but the Pharisees and teachers of the law, who questioned both Jesus AND JtB. Jesus says Follow John or follow me, but by all means don’t sit there doing nothing! Be involved in acts of justice and mercy, produce fruits of repentance, yes. Teach and better the lives of the powerless around you, yes, but don’t stand around waiting for the one who will meet all your expectations… bear the good news, be involved in community and compassion, there’s room for all in God’s kingdom.

from The New Interpreter’s Bible on Luke, p. 167
Jesus condemned the people of his generation because they let their expectations prevail over God’s call to them… Because God had not acted as they had expected, they refused to respond to God’s call for them… to join in the fulfillment of God’s redemptive purposes for that generation and for generations to come… [We must not] let our expectations for what God can do and is doing, and our restrictions on what passes for proper church life, prevent us from seeing how God is still at work in our own generation.

 Remember Mr. Rogers saying that whenever there is crisis, there are helpers. Look for the helpers. Be helpers.

• (what did the people look for in JtB? In Jesus? In JtB and in Jesus there was the power of God, there was teaching with power and there was action.)

What are you looking for at CUMC?

If perfect community or flawless leadership, sorry. We have warts.

If place to learn and study word, grow in discipleship, share gospel,
you can find it here, but you have to get out of your seat.

If you’re looking for Christ, he’s here. We celebrate him always.

• into communion liturgy at rail

The stories I found about expectations of pastors:

Be vulnerable and honest and personal, but not too personal because this isn’t a therapy session and we need lots of Bible but not too much because it has to relate to what’s happening in our lives and in the world today but it can’t be political and it has to be challenging and deep and significant and at the same time easy for everybody to understand and it has to be funny but not too funny because you’re not a comedian you’re a pastor and while you’re at it mix it up and try new things and don’t get it in a rut but make sure to be consistent and talk about your own struggles, but not too much because that’s depressing.  And we love stories about your family.  But not too many.  That can be weird.  Just be vulnerable and honest and…

Found while searching for:

The perfect pastor preaches exactly 10 minutes.
He condemns sin roundly but never hurts anyone’s feelings.
He works from 8am until midnight and is also the church janitor.
The perfect pastor makes $40 a week, wears good clothes, drives a good car,
buys good books, and donates $30 a week to the church.
He is 29 years old and has 40 years experience.
Above all, he is handsome.
The perfect pastor has a burning desire to work with teenagers,
and he spends most of his time with the senior citizens.
He smiles all the time with a straight face because he has a sense of humor
that keeps him seriously dedicated to his church.
He makes 15 home visits a day
and is always in his office to be handy when needed.
The perfect pastor always has time for church council and all of its committees.
He never misses the meeting of any church organization
and is always busy evangelizing the unchurched.
The perfect pastor is always in the next church over!
If your pastor does not measure up,
simply send this notice to six other churches that are tired of their pastor, too.
Then bundle up your pastor and send him to the church at the top of the list.
If everyone cooperates, in one week you will receive 1,643 pastors.
One of them should be perfect!