Sunday, May 24, 2015


• Pentecost Sunday
With Matthew 17:22-27 and Acts 2:1-11

• One time God gave me a car. He did it via my brother in law. It was a 1982 Honda civic hatchback. It wasn’t much – it was falling apart and on its last legs – but it was what I needed, when I needed it, and I had it as long as I needed it, not a moment longer.
And from time to time I’ve been able to provide as my brother-in-law provided.
• Today’s reading from Matthew is odd, and I’m not going to entertain how the coin fish thing happened. Jesus gave a gift to Peter for the temple tax.
Remember when Jesus calmed the storm, what the response of the disciples was? Wonder. Amazement. Worship. Who is this man, that the winds and seas obey him? Who is this man, that a coin appears in a fish?
I’m okay leaving some things about Jesus be a mystery.
Also the community Matthew was writing to, they were struggling with identity, Christians and Jews, the Temple has been destroyed, they are people of faith interacting with a corrupt government… This story gave some insight for how that community could live in that time. Live in harmony with your neighbors, and cling to the teachings of Jesus.
• Today’s reading from Acts, the Pentecost reading, God gives a great gift to the people. Just ten days before was the Ascension, when Jesus told the disciples “wait in Jerusalem until you receive power.” At Pentecost the promise,  the presence the power of God, given to the disciples. & they immediately proclaim, and people respond.
• Today is ALSO Aldersgate Day. John Wesley receives gift from God, strangely warmed, assurance, yet another gift.
The Aldersgate experience:
John Wesley was 35 years old, ten years a preacher, yet he felt depressed and a failure in ministry. But he went through the motions of faith, and one day he met God again:
“In the evening I went unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate Street, where one was reading Luther’s preface to the Epistle to the Romans. About a quarter to nine, while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone for salvation, and an assurance was given me that he had taken away my sins, even mine and saved me from the law of sin and death.”         -- John Wesley, Journal, 24 May 1738

• As I said before, no need to rationalize / explain the gifts. The Honda, the coin, the fish, the Holy Spirit, the strangely warmed heart. I can’t rationalize / explain my love for my daughter, it just IS because of who I am. God’s gifts are because of who GOD is. Let the gifts and the scriptures themselves be a reminder of who God is… be drawn to wonder.
Who IS this God who gives such gifts?
• And consider these two things: that God’s gift on Pentecost, on Aldersgate is more than a gift to the disciples, to John Wesley… these are gifts to the world. God gives the church to the world so that the world may receive God’s blessing.
And a gift demands a response.
How might you be as God’s gift to the world?
• Hymn 2237 As A Fire is Meant for Burning

Matthew 17:22-27        (CEB)        Pentecost         05/24/15
22 When the disciples came together in Galilee, Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is about to be delivered over into human hands. 23 They will kill him. But he will be raised on the third day.” And they were heartbroken.
24 When they came to Capernaum, the people who collected the half-shekel temple tax came to Peter and said, “Doesn’t your teacher pay the temple tax?” 25 “Yes,” he said.
But when they came into the house, Jesus spoke to Peter first.
“What do you think, Simon? From whom do earthly kings collect taxes, from their children or from strangers?”
26 “From strangers,” he said.

Jesus said to him, “Then the children don’t have to pay. 27 But just so we don’t offend them, go to the lake, throw out a fishing line and hook, and take the first fish you catch. When you open its mouth, you will find a shekel coin. Take it and pay the tax for both of us.”

Sunday, May 10, 2015

The Hope of Faith

 My first sermon, maybe 18 years ago, was on the Transfiguration… I imagined the incarnation as putting on a pair of cold wet jeans… and the Transfiguration as a sudden burst of warmth and light, a divine “attaboy”. Must’ve felt great.
Supreme affirmation that Jesus is Lord, the divine Son of God.
• The Transfiguration also reminds us of Moses (the mountain, the shining, the cloud, the voice, not to mention Moses appears!)
Moses delivered the people from bondage, slavery.
Jesus would deliver the people from bondage in sin, for all time.
Moses delivered the Law, outlining God’s system of forgiveness and reconciliation in sacrifice.
Jesus fulfilled the Law, sacrificing himself for the forgiveness and reconciliation of all.
• Talking with someone about what can we First UMC do about drugs and this person expressed his remorse that because he doesn’t have it all together he can’t help lead transformation. (Do you ever feel that way? You gotta achieve a certain level of with-it before you can serve?)
Yet Peter not all together as we’ve just seen and today Transfiguration.
Who does transformation depend on?
Not Peter. Not my faithfulness / with-it.
Depends on God, Father, Son, Holy Spirit.
My job: show up and cling to Christ.
• Mitch Albom Have A Little Faith, (2009) includes story of Henry Covington, a drug addict/dealer turned pastor in Detroit…
Transformation is possible. It is the hope of faith.
Similar story last week at District Conference, a drug addict / dealer who interacted with one of our pastors who shared gospel, that former addict is now serving a church in our Western District.
• The hope of faith is that in Jesus and like Jesus real and amazing transformation can take place. That real deliverance from bondage to sin can take place. That instead of “Yes, God, it’s me… again… with the same old same old…” newness.
Hope of faith that radical change is possible can happen in self, in church, in city.
• Hope of faith to be like Christ. We share in the baptism of Christ, receiving the death of our sinful selves. We receive new life in the Transfiguration and we look to hope of resurrection.
• Cling to Christ. Represent.
• Hymn 371 I Stand Amazed in the Presence

Matthew 17:1-13 Common English Bible (CEB)
17 Six days later Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, and brought them to the top of a very high mountain. He was transformed in front of them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as light.
 Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Jesus. Peter reacted to all of this by saying to Jesus, “Lord, it’s good that we’re here. If you want, I’ll make three shrines: one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”
 While he was still speaking, look, a bright cloud overshadowed them. A voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son whom I dearly love. I am very pleased with him. Listen to him!” Hearing this, the disciples fell on their faces, filled with awe.
But Jesus came and touched them. “Get up,” he said. “Don’t be afraid.” When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus.
As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus commanded them, “Don’t tell anybody about the vision until the Son of Man is raised from the dead.”
10 The disciples asked, “Then why do the legal experts say that Elijah must first come?”
11 Jesus responded, “Elijah does come first and will restore all things. 12 In fact, I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they didn’t know him. But they did to him whatever they wanted. In the same way the Son of Man is also going to suffer at their hands.” 13 Then the disciples realized he was telling them about John the Baptist.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

The Call of Christ

• One night a man had a dream...  Jesus said “I want you to be my disciple” and the man agreed eagerly. Jesus gave man cross to carry, selected specifically for him. About 8 feet tall, and heavy and rough. The man's eagerness fades. After carrying it for a while, the man asked Jesus, “Can you do something about the splinters?” Jesus looked at the man with compassion and made it smooth. The man was pleased that Jesus was so kind to him.

Now it’s smooth, he carries it for a while, but it's still very heavy... Jesus, could you make my cross lighter? Jesus looked at the man with compassion and made it lighter. The man was pleased that Jesus was so kind to him.

Now it's smooth and light, but still about 8 feet tall. The man says, “Jesus, my cross keeps dragging on the ground, and it makes me hunch over so. Could you make it smaller?” Jesus looked at the man with compassion and made it smaller. The man was pleased that Jesus was so kind to him.

They come to a chasm, about 8 feet across. Jesus takes his own cross, still large and heavy and rough, and it perfectly spans the gap, allowing him to cross over safely, but the disciple’s cross, which had been exactly what he needed, has been rendered useless.

• Last week’s reading from Matthew gave us Peter confessing Jesus as the Christ, and this week Jesus points out that there is a cost to being the Christ and there’s a cost to being a disciple: Whoever would be a disciple must deny themselves and pick up cross and follow Jesus, and Jesus’ path is going to crucifixion.

“Get behind me, Satan!”
• Jesus’ words to Peter sound harsh, but we’ve heard them before. Get behind me, Satan… Four words in English, four words in Greek.  Two of the words we heard in the temptation story, Get away from me, Satan (4:10). And two we heard just 9 verses later when Jesus calls Peter to follow him.

Take-home point:
The call to follow Jesus does not stop, 
and it does not rest on our faithfulness.

Have you fallen, strayed? Denied? 
The call is not revoked, it’s repeated.
Not because of my faithfulness but because of Jesus’ goodness.

• Which is one of the answers to the next question: 
Why follow Jesus?

Because of his faithfulness.
Because in him is light.
Because with him is eternal life.
Because he is the way and the truth and the life.
Because (unlike other gods or anything) 
he precedes and he accompanies.

• The call to follow Christ is not easy 
but it beats any offer out there.

• Celebration of Holy Communion

Matthew 16:21-28     (CEB)   Fifth Sunday in Easter     05/03/15
21 From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he had to go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders, chief priests, and legal experts, and that he had to be killed and raised on the third day. 22 Then Peter took hold of Jesus and, scolding him, began to correct him: “God forbid, Lord! This won’t happen to you.” 23 But he turned to Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan. You are a stone that could make me stumble, for you are not thinking God’s thoughts but human thoughts.”

24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “All who want to come after me must say no to themselves, take up their cross, and follow me. 25 All who want to save their lives will lose them. But all who lose their lives because of me will find them. 26 Why would people gain the whole world but lose their lives? What will people give in exchange for their lives? 27 For the Son of Man is about to come with the majesty of his Father with his angels. And then he will repay each one for what that person has done. 28 I assure you that some standing here won’t die before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”