Sunday, July 27, 2014

On a Mission from God

(Alternate title: Time to Make the Donuts)

Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
on Matthew 10:5-15, Jesus sends the Twelve to teach and preach and heal, to proclaim that the Kingdom of Heaven is near.  @FirstUMCBville  @kerrfunk

In the eighties there was this donut commercial... “Time to make the donuts.” This guy was always making donuts, around the clock, no matter the weather. They were always fresh.
There is an urgency in Jesus' words today.
You go when the harvest is ready (which is now).
But unlike a crop harvest which you know when you're done, this is an ever-necessary harvest...
it's always time to make the donuts.

What's the urgent message?
“The kingdom of heaven (KOH) is near.” (verse 7)
Why is it an urgent message?
People don't know. People forget.
People get tired or deceived.
People need reminded that
the Kingdom of Heaven is near.
What's the KOH look like?
It looks like people doing the things Jesus did.
It looks like people preaching and teaching, healing, raising the dead, and cleansing the sick, casting out demons.
What's the message? KOH is near... 
When all you can see is sickness and pain,
hear this good news: KOH is near. Here I am. 
When all you can see is poverty, hear this good news:
KOH is near. Here I am. The people of God are here.
The hope of God is here. The God of hope is here, and
the kingdom looks like people working together.
How good and pleasant it is when God's people live together in unity! (Psalm 133:1)

Second point about Jesus' instructions:
verse 6: go to the lost sheep of Israel.
Start where you are.
Start with familiar, with family, with neighbors, with coworkers. 
You don't have to go far to represent KOH,
to share God.

Third point: Trust God a la Proverbs 3:5
Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and lean not on your own understanding.
Jesus says don't load up for a big journey...
trust in God and rely on the hospitality of others.
Don't let the logistics of your mission derail your mission.
Your mission is not about your skills,
your talents, your ingenuity, etc.
but about working with God, working with and through others, inviting others into kingdomwork with you...
KOH can be proclaimed by anyone, anywhere.
You don't need special equipment, so go and tell.
People are hurting and hungry now.

Oh, and btw, sometimes you'll be rejected.
Don't let it bother you. 
Shake the dust off.
You don't get strong by carrying a grudge.
Leave the past behind you. Give it to God,
and you be 
hospitable anyway.

KOH is near.
It looks like the church following Jesus, reaching out, inviting, healing, living.

Hymn 562 Jesus, Lord, We Look to Thee

Monday, July 21, 2014

At the wedding of Kim and Mike

Mike and Kim married each other on Saturday July 19 at First Church.
Much of this wedding sermon I've shared before at other weddings, but I have not "published" it as it were.
This homile takes place after the declaration of intent and reading of scripture and before the vows and rings.

Well, we’ve already done the “dearly beloved” part, and we’ve done the “declaration of intent”... The weather has been fine and the ring bearers were able to complete their task even without shoes... The ushers got everybody seated alright, and nobody’s fainted or run off. That is worthy of applause. everything is going according to plan.

Now’s the part when I’m supposed to say something deep and meaningful about marriage, while bringing up witty and funny things about Kim and Mike.

I met Mike and Kim about nine months ago... I know their stories a little bit. How they met through the emergency management thing where Mike is some kind of assistant director of 911... he lured a date out of Kim with candy, something like that.

You know them, know their love where Mike looks at Kim and says “Wow, I sure am a lucky guy” and where Kim looks at Mike and says “You got that right”

In premarital I had ’em write letters to each other, splaining their love (and I’d like to read ’em to you now) (just kidding)

I won't read the whole thing, but listen to how Mike started his: “We met for the first time June 14, 2010. At 5:06PM.” You can tell he's a 911 director, including the time. 
Say, Mike, how many days ago was that? (Mike: 1,495). 
Kim, do you know how many minutes that is? (Kim: 2,154,129).

Kim closed her letter with “Your love helps complete my life.”

Their letters were beautiful. Talking of the depth of love they so freely share with each other, how they’re inspired by the other and uplifted by the other, how they see the other as a gift from God. Each one says “I can’t believe you chose me. It’s amazing that you choose me, I can’t believe how you complete me.”

Mike is foundation in a world where Kim has known instability, and Kim expands Mike's connections. They have been by each others' sides through surgeries and tragedies, and together they're learning about unconditional love.
They are foundation for each other, and anchor, and they are at the same time the wind beneath the wings of their dreams. They are motivation for each other, an unexplainable positive force. They are light to each other. Together they move forward, and they move forward together.

It is beautiful to behold.

But this DAY & this MARRIAGE are not about you as individuals, but about (you) and the mystery of your union. I say “mystery” because from this day forward, though you retain your individuality, something new is created that includes both of you and yet is different than each of you, something more that the sum of its parts. Something new, designed by God.

God designed us to be together. Literally. God created us in love and designed us physically, spiritually, and emotionally to go through life with a partner, and when partners are together in Christ, when God is a part of relationships, then God adds to our ability to make lifelong promises.

It’s a good thing, because feelings in relationships change. There will be times when the two of you are closer than you ever imagined was possible, and there will be times when you have to choose to act in loving ways, because there’s mess in the world, even in the world of your marriage.

God calls this mess “sin”, and it came in to the world through the devil’s deception, and human beings took over from then, trading truth for lies and putting self above others, even above God.

And in God’s grace God provides a solution to the unstoppable mess of sin: he gave us his son Jesus Christ.

Lo and behold, Jesus comes and loves us like a husband and wife love each other. Loves us more deeply even than Mike and Kim love each other. And his deep love for us motivates Jesus to say “I give my best for you... I give of my very life for you.” & because of his exemplary selflessness we are able not only to have fellowship with God forever, but we’re able to do some pretty incredible things here on this earth... like make such promises to each other as lifelong fidelity to one another in times of laughter and times of tears, in health and illness, success and failure, conflict and tranquility, even in doubt and in trust. Your relationship with each other becomes life-giving

It is the perfect love of God that brought us to this sacred space on this day, and it is the perfect love of God that will guide you and sustain you throughout your marriage, throughout your life together.

Mike and Kim, I am thrilled to stand here today before God and your friends and family, witnessing to your commitment to each other, and I claim for you the perfect love of God, who has taken the pieces of your pasts and brought you together, which has sustained you in the past, and binds you together today, and which will be over, under, around and inside of you, sustaining you and binding you and bringing you to maturity together, I claim that abiding power for you in Jesus’ name. Amen.  

Sunday, July 20, 2014

What's in a Name?

Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
on Matthew 9:35 - 10:4, Jesus teaches and preaches, heals, and sends. The Twelve disciples are named.  @FirstUMCBville  @kerrfunk

You may have figured out that I like to know what's behind word meanings. That applies to names, too.
Kerry = "dark haired." 
Melissa = "honeybee."
Alexandra = "Defender of humankind"

We celebrated a wedding yesterday at First Church.
Mike and Kim.
Michael = strong protector, after the archangel.
It means Who is like God?
Kimberly = royal fortress, meadow. 
So Mike's home is Kim's castle. :)

Jesus = “God is Salvation”...

• “What's in a name?” is a fun place to start, a tip of the hat to Shakespeare, but another good question is 
“What do you want on your Tombstone?” (the phrase made famous by Tombstone pizza, playing on the more serious question what do you want your gravemarker to say after you've died...)

Name the epitaph: ***
- That's all, folks
- The best is yet to come
- Author of the Declaration of American Independence,
of the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom,
and Father of the University of Virginia
(seriously, how's THAT for a tombstone?)
Many are basic. Name, year of birth dash year of death.

How might you be remembered after your death?
By your years, by your family, by your deeds?
How much time do you spend living that?
How much time do you spend living other things?

The Gospel of Matthew was written 50 years after The Twelve disciples have been named, and a good number may already be dead – tradition is that after Judas, ten of the eleven remaining disciples were martyred for their faith, several of them crucified upside-down since they did not feel worthy to die in the same manner as Jesus. The Apostle John is said to have lived until the year 100 or later, and traditionally is the only one not martyered).

“The Twelve” are remembered 2,000 years later...
Because they followed Jesus. Because they said Yes.
Because they gave their lives in service and in witness.

What do I hope to be remembered for? Being a disciple.

Hymn 2172 We Are Called

*** (by the way, the famous epitaphs belong to Mel Blanc, Frank Sinatra, and Thomas Jefferson)

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Called to Follow Jesus

15th Sunday in Ordinary Time
on Matthew 9:27-38; Jesus gives sight to two blind men, he casts a demon from another man, and crowds move him to compassion.  @FirstUMCBville  @kerrfunk

We are at end of major section of Matthew started in January.
Teaching and discipleship, miracles and authority.
No power greater than Jesus. Also Jesus' great compassion.
Summary preach, teach, heal.

Jesus leads by example (go, do, show compassion), putting people first.
Jesus handing power to people
- the bleeding woman (by your faith)
- the blind men (do you believe? … Just as you have believed 9:29)
- the transitional plea to the Lord of the harvest (9:36-38)
     to ask for God to send (& empower) people

Jesus concerned @ shepherds. Is shepherd. Calls shepherds.

Calls you to be disciple. To act with compassion (which requires sight... look around... you can look far or near, variety of ways to respond. Yesterday's homeless picnic in Huntington, UMCOR) and to shepherd. To respond with faithful “YES” to call.

into prayer of confession, and Hymn 121 There's A Wideness In God's Mercy

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Alive Again

(alternate title: Be Encouraged!)

14th Sunday in Ordinary Time
on Matthew 9:18-26; on the way to revive a "ruler's daughter" a woman touches Jesus' cloak and is healed. @FirstUMCBville @kerrfunk

Reading this story-in-a-story, 
do you notice anything missing?

This is one of the 30-odd stories that occur in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Both Mark and Luke include several other details that Matthew does not include: the name of the leader (Jairus, a synagogue leader), the age of girl (12, which is also the length of the woman's non-descript bleeding), some of the details regarding the woman's healing, and the details of the girl's revival (talitha koum).

Matthew tells the nested stories using 8 verses.
Mark uses 22 verses, and Luke uses 16 verses.

Result of Matthew leaving details out:
our focus is on Jesus' healing (saving) and raising from the dead.

Matthew was written in last third of first century (many scholars would say around the year 90), to a community of Jews not in Jerusalem and perhaps in the chaos of a post-temple period. 
It was written forty, sixty, maybe seventy years after the events. 
It was written to say Remember, and Be encouraged. (as verse 22, tharsei, take heart, be of good courage, in the middle of this story, also the beginning of chapter, with man & friends) 
(also, three uses of “saved” in the middle two verses).

Several points Matthew makes:
Jesus takes immediate action at the leader's request,
Jesus is able, even when interrupted, to provide healing / salvation
Jesus is able, even when human initiative, to provide healing / salvation
Neither death nor extended illness is too great for Jesus.
So Be Encouraged! Be alive again!

Is there a chronic condition in your life? 
Be encouraged! Be alive again!
Would you reach out to touch the Lord, as the woman did?

Is there something dead in your life? 
Be encouraged! Be alive again!
Would you bring your situation to Jesus, as the leader did?

Yeah but PK there is suffering, there is death.
There are unanswered prayers.

I know. And though I don't believe God specifically designs situations that cause suffering and grief, I do believe God can work great good in any situation, and that our responses to suffering, death, and unanswered prayers can either be pleasing or disappointing to God.

God did not remove the cross from Jesus. 
I believe God was pleased with Jesus' response.
And Jesus bids us follow him, 
though it may lead to a cross.
Remember Emmanuel, God Is With Us. 
We are never alone.

I believe God is interested in how we respond to situations,
both blessings and impossibilities (including extended illness and death).

And I believe that Jesus chooses to go with us, to encourage and strengthen us and to save us and bring us into new life, both now and in the time to come. And that God resides in and empowers his living body on earth to give encouragement and life.

lead into Hymn 630, Become to Us the Living Bread, and into Communion