Sunday, August 31, 2014

Paradox and Repentance

• Twentysecond Sunday in Ordinary Time
on Matthew 11:16-24, 
in which Jesus scolds unrepentant cities.  @FirstUMCBville  @kerrfunk

Earlier in chapter, we affirm identity of Jesus Christ, 
and of John the Baptist.
Now we learn about the crowds... about people in general.

People are fickle. 

John the Baptist ate sparingly and didn't drink, 
but the people were not satisfied with him. He was weird. (Matt 11:18)

Jesus ate with sinners and drank,
and the people called him a glutton and a drunk. (Matt 11:19)

People have seen Jesus in action and have remained unmoved.
People have seen miracles and have not changed lives or actions. 
(Matt 11:20)

People are hard-hearted, like Pharoah.

And Jesus should remind you of Moses, 
God's chosen one sent to free the people.

Jesus has done miracles,
& miracles should get attention 
and should inspire change.
But the people are unmoved.

So Jesus reminds that if you lay down with dogs you'll get fleas.
The laws of God are good and just.
And if you follow it's for your benefit.

 On the Last Day it'll be better for Sodom 
than Tyre, Sidon, Capernaum. (Matt 11:22)
The sins of T, S, or C aren't spelled out here,
but we do know the sins of Sodom...

Ezekiel 16:49 Sin of Sodom is this: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. 
They were haughty and did detestable things before me.

Pride, gluttony, unmoved, stingy... These are the sins of Sodom.
Laws of God are for your benefit...

Humility, simplicity, generosity, compassion... 
These are fruits of repentance, signs of God's priority in your life.
These are qualities Jesus demands.

And Jesus gives us grace. 
It's a paradox because grace is freely given: 
there is nothing we can do to earn saving grace 
(i.e. works righteousness) AND our works must reflect God's grace... 
the fruits of repentance must be evident in our living.

Jesus gives both warning and encouragement (paradox).

When he comes again, how would you like to look him in the eye?

I need him. I want to be like him.

Hymn 206 I Want to Walk as a Child of the Light

Sunday, August 24, 2014

The Beginning of the End

• Twentyfirst Sunday in Ordinary Time
on Matthew 11:1-15, 
in which John the Baptist wonders about Jesus the Christ, 
and Jesus commends and edifies JtB.  @FirstUMCBville  @kerrfunk

• John the Baptist sends two disciples to ask whether the Christ is the One.

Two ways of looking at JtB's question... does he doubt, or not doubt?
Traditional: doubt. JtB imprisioned, Jesus not meeting his messianic expectations...
Possible: JtB confesses Christ, and is strengthening witness of disciples.

Regardless, Jesus points to several messianic passages (Isa 35 and 61) and says, “What do YOU think?”

And then Jesus commends and edifies JtB.
JtB is nothing to sneeze at. JtB is the real deal.
JtB is the predecessor of God's chosen one. Look at the prophets' writings.

It's reassuring. To JtB, to JtB's disciples, to the crowds, to the original hearers, to US.
...that Jesus is the one told about in Isaiah...
...that the time is NOW (every now)...
...that God is redeeming...

Jesus assures b/c ppl need assurance.
It's why we say “I love you” more than once.

Jesus assures b/c we tend to see what we want to see... 
we find an explanation or expectation we're comfortable with 
and we stick with that.
Yet Jesus did not fit the popular expectations, 
and tends not to remain in boxes...

Jesus assures b/c we constantly hear otherwise.
Assurance threatened by racism oppression violence
by ISIS, terrorism, abuse, poverty
by drug crime, depression

Recall the promises of God and the actions of Jesus (healer, savior, chosen) who strengthens us 
-- to pick up cross
-- to remain faithful (verse 6)
(may Jesus' negligence to meet our expectations not cause us to stumble)
-- and to bear witness

Live in expectation that the end is near,
and not in confidence that you always have another day.

Hymn 421 Make Me a Captive, Lord 
(btw in verse 2: “wind” rhymes with “find”)

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Huddle Up

• Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
on Matthew 10:34-11:1, Jesus sent the Twelve to teach and preach and heal, to proclaim that the Kingdom of Heaven is near... Coach Jesus's “huddle up” speech comes to an end.  @FirstUMCBville  @kerrfunk

Matthew 10:34-11:1, in which Jesus' warning slash encouragement speech concludes.
Honestly I'm a little glad to come to end of Chap10, ready for Chap11. We've had four weeks of Jesus' speech to disciples,
and the tension has been ratcheting up.
(btw, it takes about six minutes to read the chapter, & it IS one speech...)

It starts out nice, go and proclaim the Kingdom of Heaven is near,
I give you authority to drive out evil spirits and heal the sick.

But oh: travel light. And folks may not welcome you. 
I'm sending you out like sheep among wolves?
You'll be handed over to the government and flogged? 
Hated and persecuted and killed?
And now disciples must choose between God and family, 
and pick up a cross?

This chapter makes a person squirm a bit.

Because Jesus calls for a pretty high level of commitment.

Why? Because the level of pain in the world requires a pretty high level of commitment.
Because the powers of God >> powers of darkness.

The world can be inhospitable.
Shooting of 18-yo Michael Brown last Sat outside St. Louis. Young man not even the latest in line of not a handful, not dozens, but hundreds of black men slain by white cops in the last decade. There are peaceful protestors as well as rioters and looters. Not much peace. Not much understanding. World can be inhospitable.

Death by suicide of Robin Williams. Because depression, addiction, disease (Parkinsons).
Depression is a real medical condition, needs treated like a medical condition just like diabetes or high blood pressure need treated. 

Ongoing trouble in Middle East. Islamic group ISIS taken control of dam that provides power and water for 7 million inhabitants of Baghdad, US seeking to remove from power, reports of ISIS killing dozens or more, plus thousands of refugees without access to adequate necessities.

Drug abuse addiction trafficking in our own Huntington / tristate area.

The world can be inhospitable but God is stronger,
and people need to know that the KOH is near, is here,
that there is hope, there is relief, there is renewal, there is justice
that though there be grave darkness in the world 
the darkness does not overcome.

Jesus quotes Micah 7:6, which describes the sad state of affairs in Israel...
Look on to verse 8: 
Though I have fallen, I will rise. 
Though I sit in darkness, the Lord will be my light. 
He will bring me out into the light; 
I will see his righteousness.

This is the speech of encouragment that Coach Jesus gives.

But he's not just coach. He's team Captain. 
What's he do at the end of the speech?
11:1 When Jesus finished teaching his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and preach in their cities.

He's on the field. So let's go.

Hymn 396 O Jesus I Have Promised

Sunday, August 10, 2014


Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
on Matthew 10:26-33, Jesus sent the Twelve to teach and preach and heal, to proclaim that the Kingdom of Heaven is near... and tells 'em there will be opposition.  @FirstUMCBville  @kerrfunk

• Jesus' warning / encouragement speech in Matthew 10 continues.
Don't be afraid of those who can kill the body...
God values you. Don't deny God.
→ Life & faith & discipleship are bigger than our years on earth.

Persecution is alive and well in the world.
We've been horrified at news over the last week or more about Christian genocide in the Middle East, young and old being tortured, raped, beheaded, because they're Christians. Tens of thousands starving in mountains where they're trying to escape persecution.
And there are no easy answers. Negotiate? Deny Christ? Retaliate?

I take comfort in belief / knowledge / hope that God will ultimately prevail, and that earthly sufferings and injustices are but temporary afflictions. They are horrific now but will be but a fleeting glimpse then.

2 Corinthians 4:17 (NCV) We have small troubles for a while now, but they are helping us gain an eternal glory that is much greater than the troubles.
(Also verse 1, we do not lose heart – be courageous!)

1 Peter 2:24 (NIV) “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness ...”

Your discipleship may not be challenged like Iraqi Christians' today,
yet it does no good to “weigh” your challenges against theirs,
any more than it helps starving kids in India when you clean your plate.

Hebrews 10:23 (NRSV) Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful.

What to do? Keep the faith. Terrible to drop your light because of darkness elsewhere.
What to do? Church / recharge / refuge / huddle
What to do? PRAY. Pray specifically. For strength, for relief, for end of persecution,
for peace, for hearts to change. For course.

Write. Send $. Maintain local witness. Acknowledge Father.

Hymn 468 Dear Jesus, in whose life I see...

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Jesus' D-Day Pep Talk

Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
on Matthew 10:16-25, Jesus sent the Twelve to teach and preach and heal, to proclaim that the Kingdom of Heaven is near... and tells 'em there will be opposition.  @FirstUMCBville  @kerrfunk

That was quite a storm we had yesterday. High winds, black clouds, sideways rain... reminded me of my cousin's wedding 20 years ago, at least the rehearsal. Incredible storm the night before the wedding. It was an outdoor wedding, on the banks of the San Antonio River, which was a raging torrent of swirling muddy water from the rains the night before. Perfect illustration for the priest's wedding homily, don't you think?
Kind of like Jesus' little pep talk here. Pep talk? It's alarming! True, but...
see General Patton's address to troops just two weeks before D-Day...
You are not all going to die.  Only two percent of you, right here today, would be killed in a major battle.  Death must not be feared.  Death, in time, comes to all of us.  And every man is scared in his first action... Every single man in the Army plays a vital role.  Every man has his job to do and must do it.” (G. Patton, pre-D-Day pep talk.)
Jesus, sending The Twelve into discipleship, does not sugar coat. Some will die. Persevere.
Don't ask why do bad things happen, but what do we do when bad things happen? Peresevere. Hold head high. Think outside the box. Be creative.
What DON'T we do? Don't despair. Don't cave in. Don't give up.
One aspect of Christianity is discipleship, resolve. Be like Christ.
In difficult circumstances, what did Christ do? Held head high.
Withdrew. Prayed.
Face circumstances w/ fear maybe, but not cowardice.
Jesus' pep talk: Trials and beatings, even execution, they're gonna happen. Persevere.
& when it happens, it's not a sign that you're supposed to stop.
Sometimes we look at difficult circumstances as signs to quit,
when in fact they may be signs that we're on the right path!
Rev. Shauna Hyde, (First UMC, Ravenswood) addressing local hunger needs via outdoor refrigrator. Until complaints brought in Health Dept. Tuck tail or persevere?
Jesus says you will have opposition.
From trusted leaders maybe. Even from family.
Don't despair. Persevere.
Jesus was betrayed by close friend. He's with you.
The original audience of this passage would've thought of Micah 7:6 Son disrespects father / a daughter rises up against her mother / a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law / the enemies of a man are those of his own household.
How about the next verse:
But me! I will keep watch for the Lord /
 I will wait for the God of my salvation; / my God will hear me.
Per last week: there's an urgency to Jesus' message.
The time to proclaim is now.
Verse 23 you won't even get through all of Israel before the Son of Man comes...
By our understanding, SOM hasn't returned... but...
I work better w/ deadline than ambiguity, how about you? Don't delay.
Also trials = witness opportunity. Whereas last week's message was to go to the lost sheep of Israel, this week you'll speak to foreign kings... your witness will be heard far and wide, and news of the Kingdom will spread.

Hymn 617 I Come With Joy...