Sunday, September 28, 2014

Bringing Treasure

Twentysixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
on Matthew 12:31-37, 
in which Jesus mentions a sin which will not be forgiven
and speaks again of bearing good fruit.  @FirstUMCBville  @kerrfunk

Curious, puzzling, partly disturbing passage to read. Blasphemy against the HS is unforgivable? The general thinking is if you are concerned that you've committed the “unforgivable sin”, you haven't.
Jesus says tree is good (and its fruit) or tree is bad (and its fruit).
If you didn't get it, he spells it out: there are good people and there are evil people, and everyone will have to answer for their actions. (v.36)
How's that make you feel?
Makes me a little squirmy...
Makes me kinda wish God graded on a curve,
so that I (a pretty decent fellow)
could be compared against someone really bad...

That's kinda how we think of it, if we're honest.

But if we're honest, does not each person already deserve condemned guilty? (v.37)
I think of Rom 3:10 (no one blameless) and 3:23 (all have sinned)
and John 3:17 (Jesus did not come to condemn...)
Good news that although all earn condemnation, 
Rom 8:1 there is no condemnation and Rom 10:9 Believe in heart, testify with lips... and John 17:3 gift of eternal life is to know God

Our words and deeds represent / indicate what's inside us.

We're on crest of new year...
making plans, committees, budget, leadership, vision.
Asking you to confirm, reaffirm commitment to Christ and to congregation... to bring good fruit out of your good treasure.

Commitment to Christ: All. Willingness to let the light of Christ shine in dark corners of life, not withhold parts. Commitment to witness. To learn at Master's feet.
Commitment to congregation. We affirm that we will support the church with our “prayers, presence, gifts, service, and witness” in our baptismal/new member vows.

Easy (& fun) to commit to a sports team, but compare the return...
Your team doesn't notice much if you leave them.
The church notices. We need your commitment (to Christ and church)

Prayer from p. 401, UMH
Hymn 444 Young and Fearless Prophet

Sunday, September 21, 2014

What for Fruit?

• Twentyfifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
on Matthew 12:15-30, 
in which God speaks highly of His chosen servant, 
and Jesus responds to the Pharisees who link him with devilry.  @FirstUMCBville  @kerrfunk

What do you do when you're defied? 
I get grumpy. Perhaps self-righteous.

How productive are you (when you're defied)? 
Me, not so much. I stew.

(therefore pray for me to be a new creation)

Two defiances connected to today's reading:
the Pharisees defy Jesus –
they challenge him about healing, accuse him of devilry
and Jesus defies the Pharisees by healing on the Sabbath and mysteriously slipping free from their ill intent.

Jump back to Matthew 7:20, in the Sermon on the Mount:
Jesus says, “You will know them by their fruit.”
Jesus is talking about watching out for false leaders.

What for fruit do the Pharisees have? Jealousy.
When up against person / idea they don't like?
They seek to discredit or destroy.

When Jesus is challenged, what for fruit? He heals.

What for fruit do the Pharisees have?
Their teaching burdened others & created outcasts
Jesus' teaching inspired others, healed them.

In the same way, (especially as election season rolls around)
we can evaluate leaders, policies, directions, issues...
by the fruit they produce

And keep in mind, we're evaluated by our fruit.

If you cannot heal, at least do not hurt.
Wesley set these rules over 250 years ago:
Do no harm. Do good. Keep the ordinances (practice holy living).

If you cannot heal, at least do not hurt.
And do speak healing. Don't burden. Don't cast out.

And recall the quotation from Isaiah: a bruised reed he won't break,
a smoldering wick he won't snuff out?
These are not top tier performers, but Jesus rejects none, casts none out, offers instead easy burden.

This is Kingdom of God. It is who I want to be and where I want to be.

Hymn 407 Close to Thee

Sunday, September 14, 2014

What to do with Sabbath?

• Twentyfourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
on Matthew 12:1-14, 
in which Jesus draws the ire of the Pharisees 
for his understanding of the Sabbath.  @FirstUMCBville  @kerrfunk

When I meet with couples in premarital meetings I present them with list of ten emotional needs and then I have them each force rank them, order them from greatest priority to least. Force rank does not mean that some are not important it means they're lesser priority.
We're messy living beings and we have to set priorities.

God has set priorities for folks, even so we both need help narrowing priorities down (what is the greatest commandment?) AND we have ability to set em ourselves, which can be dangerous, and upsetting to some when our priorities do not match theirs.

Christians are in an odd spot. On the one hand, “Sabbath” is mentioned nearly 200 times in Old and New Testaments. God is a jealous God, very serious about people honoring the Sabbath. And yet on the other hand, Jesus heals on the Sabbath half a dozen times or more, and if he doesn't defy he challenges commonly held Sabbath practices, and the church has honored the Sabbath on Sunday for many centuries, if not back to the first century.

Pharisees concerned with letter of interpretation of law: make sure you don't do this.
Jesus concerned with spirit of law: honor God. Plan rest.
And when prioritizing, love and compassion come first.

God wants our hearts more than our mindless obedience.

Little House on the Prairie. Sabbath seemed like Sunday punishment. 
Should be celebration.

Brother Lawrence (17th century monk, The Practice of the Presence of God)
lived sacramentally moment to moment... IMO even better than setting aside Sabbath.

Consecrate all your years to His love; I assure you, if I had known Him sooner, and if the things that I tell you new had been told me, I would not have waited so long to love Him. Believe and count as lost all the time that is not spent in loving God!” (p. 48)

When a monk asked him what he was doing and what was occupying his mind, he replied, “I am doing what I will do throughout all eternity. I am blessing God, I am praising God, and I am adoring and loving Him with all my heart. This sums up our entire call and duty, brothers: to adore God and to love Him, without worrying about the rest.” (p. 55)

The “word of the Lord” is not cold mindless checklist, but lives (& thrives!) in our hearts
and God requires us to spend ourselves in service and in love, and to not neglect rest.

Sunday prayer from This Day (a prayer book I use): 
God of great deeds: on the first day of the week you wondrously called forth light out of darkness. On the first day of the week you graciously raised Jesus from the dead. On the first day of the week you powerfully formed the church through your gift of the Holy Spirit. By this triple witness you testify to us concerning your covenant love. Grant that all who worship you this day may do so in spirit and in truth, and present to you a living sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving; through Christ our Savior. Amen.

Hymn: The Church of Christ in Every Age

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Open Carry

• Twentythird Sunday in Ordinary Time
on Matthew 11:25-30, 
in which Jesus praises God as Father 
and invites weary ones to try his yoke.  @FirstUMCBville  @kerrfunk

Author unknown, The Trouble Tree...

The carpenter I hired to help me restore an old farmhouse had just finished a rough first day on the job. A flat tire made him lose an hour of work, his electric saw quit, and now his ancient pickup truck refused to start. While I drove him home, he sat in stony silence.

On arriving, he invited me in to meet his family. As we walked toward the front door, he paused briefly at a small tree, touching the tips of the branches with both hands. When opening the door he underwent an amazing transformation. His tanned face was wreathed in smiles and he hugged his two small children and gave his wife a kiss.

Afterward he walked me to the car. We passed the tree and my curiosity got the better of me. I asked him about what I had seen him do earlier.

"Oh, that's my trouble tree," he replied." I know I can't help having troubles on the job, but one thing's for sure, troubles don't belong in the house with my wife and the children. So I just hang them on the tree every night when I come home. Then in the morning I pick them up again."

He paused. "Funny thing is," he smiled, "when I come out in the morning to pick 'em up, there ain't nearly as many as I remember hanging up the night before.

There's a kind of freedom you can only get by releasing your troubles,
laying them down. In doing so you free yourself, you open your arms your hands to receive blessings instead.

In Matthew 11, Beautiful passage of God's grace offered in, through, & by Jesus Christ. Come to me, weary and burdened, my yoke is easy, my burden light.

There's a kind of exhausting works-righteousness that Jesus is speaking against here, a notion that there's a behavior-modification you can do to achieve the peace that God offers. (as if the trouble tree replaces meaningful relationship with God)

Jesus had seen the way religious leaders had heaped burdens and rules and practices on peoples' lives, turning the Law (which was given that it may go well with you) into legalistic lists devoid of life.

See Matthew 23, where Jesus fleshes that out: The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat... but do not do what they do... they tie up heavy loads and put them on men's shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them... 
(Trouble tree is no substitute for relationship).

One time I was asked if I actually liked being married. Middle school girl who viewed the wedding ring as a shackle, a “ball and chain”. 
No, it's a sign of a wonderful relationship, a celebration not a limitation.
This girl needed to see marriage differently. Up to me to “open carry”.

And so as a Christian. Some people see religion as lifeless and restricting. They need to see people “open carrying” Christianity as a wonderful relationship, a celebration not a limitation.

Yoke both restrains and enables, and no one lives without yoke.
It is not a burden to be Christian, it is a joy to know God, to share life.
Carry yoke of Jesus.

Jesus came to redeem the world of the brokenness that sin brought into the world, including the brokenness of religion, somehow thinking that if you do all these right things, if you follow this checklist of dos and don'ts you can behavior-modify yourself out of sin and into grace.

God gave law and the law is good, but we cannot sufficiently meet its demands to earn God's grace – that is pure gift. God says I will cover you. Give me your heart, for I can do more with your heart than your measured legalism. I desire your obedience, yes, but I desire your heart so much more. Let me shoulder your burden with you, let me show you how to live, let me fill you and fulfill you.

And our response: praise, and open carry.

Let Jesus sustain you.

Into communion liturgy