Sunday, April 20, 2014

I Will Never Ask You What You Weigh

Resurrection Sunday
Resurrection scripture: Matthew 28:1-10
Our journey through Matthew: Matthew 7:24-28 (a house built on rock or sand... Jesus speaks with authority)

Come to church on Easter to hear good news: 
I will never ask you what you weigh.
Who says what you should weigh?
Weightloss & maintenance are difficult. 
Sometimes I succeed, sometimes I fail.
Sometimes I feel like that's how I'm evaluated, measured, weighed.
Where have you had success, failure in other arenas? Lenten discipline? Study, devotion? Behaviors: lying, laziness, uncleanliness. Bad habits or practices, drugs, alcohol, smoking, porn.
Success, failure, up and down?

I can't do it on my own. 
I can't lead a life perfectly pleasing to me, 
or perfectly pleasing to God on my own. 
When I weigh myself against God's standard I don't measure up.

But Jesus can. 
Jesus can and Jesus did live a life perfectly pleasing to God. 
When God weighs Jesus, he measures up exactly right. 
When God looks at his Son he gets the biggest smile on his face you ever did see.

And here's an amazing thing: 
Jesus takes all my shortcomings, every area where I don't measure up... Jesus took all the sin the world had to offer, took it and died with it. Took it away from me, removed the guilt of sin from me, took my sin and died with it on the cross.

And God's heart burst with pride at the selfless love of his Son – that Jesus wanted to relieve people where they didn't measure up, even if it cost him his life. Jesus the Son of God would rather die than witness the sin-guilt-death of his people. Yes, God's heart burst with pride at the selfless love of Jesus.

And that perfect selflessness could not be contained by death.
And hallelujah, Christ arose!

In his sacrifice my value, my weight is made perfect.
There is nothing I can do to earn this grace, and there is nothing I can do to make God love me less. I am changed by Jesus. I cannot do life alone, but with Jesus I can do anything.

And I want to praise him, love him, learn from him, tell about him.

I want to build my life on him (Matthew 7).

Jesus rose, and he goes on before us (Matthew 28).
Alleluia, praise the Lord, thanks be to God.

We read in Luke 24 that on the day of resurrection Jesus walked with some disciples but they didn't recognize him. Not until Jesus broke bread for them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it, and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him... They returned to the other disciples and told how Jesus was made known in the breaking of the bread. In the breaking of the bread you are made known, you fill our souls. In the blessing from the cup you life us up, you make us whole. 
(Distribute Holy Communion)

Sunday, April 13, 2014

The Garden King

Palm Sunday
Palm Sunday reading: Matthew 21:1-11
Matthew series: Matthew 7:15-23 (You will know them by their fruit... the one who does the will of my Father in heaven will receive the kingdom)

I'm a blood donor, giving as regularly as I can for last dozen years.
Yesterday I went to a blood drive at a rural church. Took a long time to get there, passed many country churches on the way there.
I got to thinking about how the mission of country church might differ from suburban, or urban... Perhaps the rural church is mostly shepherd, Urban must address local needs, suburban both? (Not a heirarchy).

Palm Sunday reading (Matthew 21:1-11) the people welcome Jesus as king. Perhaps even by Jesus' design. 
If I said "I cut down the apple tree, I cannot tell a lie..." who would you think of?
Jesus' actions remind the people of the prophet Zechariah (9:9)... Perhaps not an accident or odd detail that Jesus came into town on donkey, colt, but a reminder of a prophecy that the king would ride into town on a donkey and peace would reign.

In Mt 21:9 the crowds call out to Jesus the Son of David, crying out “Lord, Save!”
But Mt 7:21 not everyone who calls Lord Lord will enter kingdom. Indeed we see before the end of the week that the ones who laid their cloaks down before Jesus call for his crucifixion. & instead of saying This is Jesus the King they call him prophet (11).
Not all who call Lord Lord will enter...

God wants fruit-bearing disciples.
Jesus is not only King, he's gardener,
seeking crop of righteousness, seeking to sow glory for God...

Glory for God is do the will of the Father...
verse 21 do the will of the father, enter heaven.
This is life of discipleship, this is what it is to call Jesus Lord and King: Combination of word (calling him Lord, Lord) and deed (produce fruit)

I've been here six months. Getting to know you.
How do we proclaim King AND produce fruit?
Interact. Tell. Demonstrate that Jesus is Lord in life and that there is righteous fruit in connection with Jesus being Lord.
Church should be a haven for the outcast (and not a maker of outcasts). A place of hope and healing.
Combination, interrelation of word (Lord, Lord) and deed (produce fruit)
Keep Jesus alive.

Hymn 168 At the Name of Jesus

Wednesday, April 9, 2014


Sixth Wednesday in Lent
Noon worship service at First UMC Huntington
Scriptures read: 1 Peter 2:4-12, Matthew 5:13-16

I don't know you. My human assumptions about who would come to this: NOT new believers... folks who attend mid-day mid-week Bible study, folks who attend mid-day mid-week Lenten worship service. (assumptions are sometimes wrong; I'll get back to that)
You don't know me. Kerry, UM pastor for a dozen years, three different churches in Eastern PA, accepted mid-year cross-conference appointment, First UMC Barboursville for past 6 months.
Going with assumptions... there is plenty of negative press out there about the church. Plenty of Christians who don't speak for me.
Negative attention from Westboro to Pat Robertson and every stripe in between.
My word to this mid-day mid-week gathering: 
You are the light of the world. 
Live in such a way that others will see how you live and will give glory to God
not in such a way that they will run when they see you coming.
My hope for the church, a la Isaiah 58... that the church would be a haven for outcasts (and not a maker of outcasts)... that the church would be a healer of wounds (especially church-inflicted wounds)... that the church would be a defender of the oppressed. “Then your light shall break forth like the dawn...”
Live in such a way that others will see how you live and will give glory to God
not in such a way that they will run when they see you coming.
The church is the bride of Christ (Revelation 21). We gotta do our part to be appealing, attractive. I look forward to the day when the nations look to the church with awe, respect, eagerness to learn what it is we have, how our lives have been changed, shaped, and saved by Christ.
On wrong assumptions: my google autocomplete this morning...
The five autocompletion results I got when I entered "why do Christians"
- fast
- celebrate Christmas
- eat pork
- worship on Sunday
- pray

Live so that others will glorify God because of your conduct.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Santa and a Rose Garden

Fifth Sunday of Lent
On Matthew 7:7-14
Ask and ye shall receive... the Golden Rule... the narrow path
• “Offering Song” by Jim Cole...
Man to God: What's $1M to you? God to man: a penny.
Man to God: What's a million years? God to man: a second.
Man to God: Will you give me a penny? God to man: In a second.
God is not Santa, indulging our wants.
Give me $1M... (not Santa, sorry). Cure cancer... (not Santa, sorry)
But what about “Ask and you shall receive!”
I never promised you a rose garden.
Okay, perhaps it's a leap to bring Lynn Anderson's 1970 country hit into the mix, but there are times every disciple has wondered, “God, there's a lotta rain here, is there no sunshine? Is there no rose garden? Is there a balm in Gilead?”
Can God be trusted?
Two keys for reconciling this passage...
Verse 11: if you know how to give good gifts to your children... so your Father.
and ASK (ask, seek, knock) is all about prayer; more about your position with respect to the Father, less about inform & petition.
God the Father is real, is alive, is in relationship with you.
God the Father is able and desiring to give you what you need.
No other god can make such a claim.
God the Father is the parent, the supreme divine parent... knows your needs... indeed, knows your future and what is best for you, knows plans for you.
No other god can make such a claim.
So what do you do when you “Ask and you don't receive”?
You have a choice: reject parent, or trust parent.
You have a choice: Decide God is not good...
or God may have other plan,
Submit to God who knows best, and praise God.
And God does promise a rose garden... in his timing.
And in the meanwhile God has gifted and empowered his church to be his body on earth, to be good news so no one needs to walk through the valley of the shadow of death alone... So if you are in need, the church is here. And if you are here, be there for one in need.
And in the meanwhile, God has given and continues to give the perfect gift of his Son, in whom we have life.

Into communion liturgy