Sunday, February 28, 2016


•Third Sunday of Lent
Matthew 22:34-46   @FirstUMCBville   @kerrfunk  

That’s what’s going on around the country…
(here’s what’s happening in your neck of the woods) (Al Roker)
and now you know…
(the rest of the story) (Paul Harvey)
Your turn: Walter Cronkite (and that’s the way it is).
KerryBart (I love you and there’s nothing you can do about it) (By the way, I first heard that from the Rev. Rudy Rasmus) 
How about Jesus? What signature saying did Jesus have?
Last week I entertained some mission statements & shared Jesus’ emphasis on teaching and healing and leading, but catchphrase? Before I get there…
•Today we read the fourth event where the Pharisees seek to test Jesus – the same word used when Jesus is tempted in the wilderness by Satan. In chap 21:23, by what authority. Last week question about taxes. Then a question about the resurrection and marriage in 22:23-33, and now what is the greatest commandment.
Greatest commandment? Not a genuine question. (akin to who is your favorite child?)
Commandments are generally viewed without hierarchy, part of a whole… you break one, and the whole is broken. The question is something of a trick, trying to trap Jesus into denigrating the word, or at least get him off balance in a debate, at least show some prowess. Also note gathered: they huddle up, like a football team on the offense.
And Jesus responds not with one of The Ten (as our ears might expect) but with Deut 6:5, the morning prayer, the Jewish “creed” if you will: Love the Lord your God with all your heart soul and mind. Called “the Shema.” Worth repeating. WAS repeated. The Centerpiece of morning and evening prayer.
The command to love God is a no brainer.
Love = agape = commit without condition, without reserve.
And Jesus continues with a second commandment: love your neighbor like yourself, Lev. 19:18.
NOT a no-brainer. Love = agape = commit without reserve. In Luke, this commandment is the setup for the parable of the Good Samaritan.
•Once again, Jesus deftly avoids the Pharisees’ trap.
And this is not the first time we’ve heard Jesus say love your neighbor as yourself (Lev 19:18).
We heard him quote it to the crowds, early in his basic teaching in the sermon on the mount in chapter 5 (you’ve heard it said love your neighbor and hate your enemy but I tell you love your enemy and pray for those that persecute you.)
And we heard him quote Lev 19:18 just three chapters ago when a rich young man asked him what he needed to do to get eternal life, and Jesus lists five commandments relating to relating to other people (expected answer) and love neighbor as self.
And now a third time, not to the crowds or to a potential disciple but to a lawyer, a teacher of the law.
If it seems like I’m belaboring a point, it is this:
the OT passage Jesus quotes THE MOST is this.
Love your neighbor as yourself.
You might call it Jesus’ catchphrase.
Jesus quotes this verse three times. It’s important.

•It’s important to measure up a person’s words with their actions… in Jesus… in political candidates… in yourself… and in community.
How do we “Share the love of God with people in a hurting world”? Really, how do we?
How does our mission and Lev 19:18 affect what we do as First Church, in worship & everything?
And aside: after tolerating Pharisees’ tests 4x, Jesus shuts them down with one question, and finishes his interactions with them. The next we hear Jesus say is his final speech, to the crowd…
• Hymn 463 Lord Speak To Me

Matthew 22:34-40     (Common English Bible)
34 When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had left the Sadducees speechless, they met together. 35 One of them, a legal expert, tested him. 36 “Teacher, what is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 37 Jesus replied, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being,[Deut. 6:5] and with all your mind. 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: You must love your neighbor as you love yourself.[Lev. 19:18] 40 All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.”

41 Now as the Pharisees were gathering, Jesus asked them,
42 “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?”
“David’s son,” they replied.
43 He said, “Then how is it that David, inspired by the Holy Spirit, called him Lord when he said, 44 The Lord said to my lord, ‘Sit at my right side until I turn your enemies into your footstool’?[Ps. 110:1] 
45 If David calls him Lord, how can he be David’s son?”
46 Nobody was able to answer him.
And from that day forward nobody dared to ask him anything.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

The Dirt Belongs to God

• Second Sunday of Lent
Matthew 22:15-22
with Philippians 3:17 – 4:1   @FirstUMCBville  @kerrfunk

Some scientists figured out how to make life, and they wanted to demonstrate their new skills to God. So God and the scientists met for a showdown. But when the scientists reached for some dirt to begin with, God said, “You can’t start with that, that’s mine.
You have to make your own dirt.”
The dirt belongs to God.
•The dirt belongs to God. The last few parables have had to do with productivity and a harvest for God. God is a landowner, God planted a vineyard, God is looking for a harvest of righteousness. We are the workers. A disciple is a faithful, obedient, productive worker in God’s vineyard, in God’s dirt. And from last week’s reading, a disciple wears the garments of righteousness. A disciple looks Christ-like. A disciple acts Christ-like.
•In today’s reading some Pharisees seek to trap Jesus,
either into pledging allegiance to Caesar (or something with a graven image) or to have him align himself as anti-government.
Jesus deftly bats the trap aside.
“This has Caesar’s mark on it. Give it back to him.”
“And the stuff that has God’s mark on it? Give it back to God.”

•What’s the stuff that has God’s mark on it?
Humankind. Made in the image of God.
Give humankind back to God. Be imitators of Christ. 
Have the mind of Christ.

•I thought about discipleship and the gospel of Matthew and why Jesus came… what was Jesus’ mission?
Some ready thoughts: Seek/save lost (Lk 19:10). Life abundant (Jn 10:10).
Do will of Father (Jn 4:34). Be about Father’s business (Lk 2:49).   John 3:16.
But what about Matthew’s gospel?
Three of Jesus’ stated mission statements in Matthew: to fulfill law (5:17),
to call sinners (to discipleship) (Matt 9:13) and as a ransom for many (20:28).
•Scan of the narrative, study what Jesus does, why he came.
Teach. Heal. Lead. Preach. Cleanse. Guide. Teach. Save. Heal. Impart wisdom. Redeem. Preach. Encourage righteousness. Heal. Teach. Direct. Orient. Lead. Revive. Transform. Teach.
There’s a lot of teaching and healing in there. And a lot of leading.
•Give God’s stuff (that is, yourself) back to God
by following Jesus. Being a disciple, being a learner & doer, teaching the way to others.    Being a faithful obedient productive worker in God’s dirt.
•Study. Fellowship. Reach out. Engage. Get hands dirty.

• Hymn insert The Church of Christ in Every Age 

Philippians 3:17 – 4:1      (Common English Bible)
17 Brothers and sisters, become imitators of me and watch those who live this way—you can use us as models. 18 As I have told you many times and now say with deep sadness, many people live as enemies of the cross. 19 Their lives end with destruction. Their god is their stomach, and they take pride in their disgrace because their thoughts focus on earthly things. 20 Our citizenship is in heaven. We look forward to a savior that comes from there—the Lord Jesus Christ. 21 He will transform our humble bodies so that they are like his glorious body, by the power that also makes him able to subject all things to himself.
Therefore, beloved brothers and sisters whom I love and miss, who are my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord.

Matthew 22:15-22     (Common English Bible)
15 Then the Pharisees met together to find a way to trap Jesus in his words. 16 They sent their disciples, along with the supporters of Herod, to him. “Teacher,” they said, “we know that you are genuine and that you teach God’s way as it really is. We know that you are not swayed by people’s opinions, because you don’t show favoritism. 17 So tell us what you think: Does the Law allow people to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”
18 Knowing their evil motives,
Jesus replied, “Why do you test me, you hypocrites? 
19 Show me the coin used to pay the tax.”
And they brought him a denarion. 
20 “Whose image and inscription is this?” he asked.
21 “Caesar’s,” they replied.
Then Jesus said, “Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar
and give to God what belongs to God.” 
22 When they heard this they were astonished, and they departed.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

What's With the Wedding Garment?

• First Sunday of Lent
Matthew 22:1-14
with Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and 1 Corinthians 2:11-16
also Colossians 3:12-15   @FirstUMCBville  @kerrfunk

• Recall the previous passage on the landowner and the tenants
(Matthew 21:33-46)…
God desires fruit, and if the original workers will not do the work (or if they’re greedy or violent or they kill the landowner’s son!) the landowner will find new workers!
God desires a harvest of righteousness,
and seeks workers who will work towards that!
• In chapter 22 the theme is continued
of the rejection of the unfaithful (and violent!) workers
Plus there’s the added description of grace
(there’s a wedding feast planned and you’re invited!)
plus the repeated invitation (verse 4)
And when the king’s servants are killed we get the added identification of Jesus with the prophets. And the scribes and Pharisees are aligned against [the prophets and Jesus].
• After the invited guests reject the king’s invitation, the king has servants invite whomever to the wedding feast.
How generous! How grand! How glorious!
(there is that confusing and disturbing aside of verse 7, in which the king destroys the city of the earlier intended guests… Impracticality aside, it’s worth considering that this is Matthew’s addition to Jesus’ parable, added to reflect the fall of Jerusalem in the later first century)
Expanded invitation!
How generous! How grand! How glorious!
God’s gracious invitation extended to all!
• And then the confusing bit about the wedding garment
aaand the expulsion of one guest.
Simply put, “They’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love…”
Yes, the invitation to the wedding feast is expanded to many more, but we still have a God who desires a harvest of righteousness, and someone has come in who is not clothed in righteousness, who is not known by God’s love, who does not have the mind of Christ.
Consider again that this may be a later addition in Matthew’s telling, and that an early audience would hear both invitation and warning: you can come in, and you’re expected to participate in God’s harvest of righteousness.
• I like this commentary and it also haunting… The invitation is generous and it is broad, but it is not an invitation to a come as you are party, and it… does not pretend that “you are just fine the way you are.” You are not [“just fine”]– you are troubled, confused, sinful, mortal, perhaps sick or in deep distress. The Gospel is not the announcement that any of us is just fine the way we are. Rather, God loves us so much that he will not leave us unchanged.  It is not our banquet… it is the marriage supper of the Lamb. God wants us there as what God has made us to be, not as the mess we have made of ourselves.
(Leonard Klein, The Lectionary Commentary, p. 128. LK is a Lutheran pastor in York PA).
• I am thankful that God has saved a wretch like me.
I will give thanks in how I live my life.
It is my aim to be known by the love of God in me.
I am thankful that we have God’s word and its assurances that the Spirit of God is with us and that we are being made new and can have the mind of Christ, that God invites us to the wedding feast of his son! and gives us the will and the way to respond.
• Recall that Lent is a season of repentance and self-examination,
of prayer and fasting and self-denial. 
Do consider your response to God’s invitation.

• Hymn 396 Oh Jesus, I Have Promised 

Matthew 22:1-14     (Common English Bible) 
22 Jesus responded by speaking again in parables: “The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding party for his son. He sent his servants to call those invited to the wedding party. But they didn’t want to come. Again he sent other servants and said to them, ‘Tell those who have been invited, “Look, the meal is all prepared. I’ve butchered the oxen and the fattened cattle. Now everything’s ready. Come to the wedding party!” ’ But they paid no attention and went away—some to their fields, others to their businesses. The rest of them grabbed his servants, abused them, and killed them.
“The king was angry. He sent his soldiers to destroy those murderers and set their city on fire. Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding party is prepared, but those who were invited weren’t worthy.  Therefore, go to the roads on the edge of town and invite everyone you find to the wedding party.’
10 “Then those servants went to the roads and gathered everyone they found, both evil and good. The wedding party was full of guests. 11 Now when the king came in and saw the guests, he spotted a man who wasn’t wearing wedding clothes. 12 He said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without wedding clothes?’ But he was speechless. 13 Then the king said to his servants, ‘Tie his hands and feet and throw him out into the farthest darkness. People there will be weeping and grinding their teeth.’
14 “Many people are invited, but few people are chosen.”

Colossians 3:12-15      (Common English Bible)          
12 Therefore, as God’s choice, holy and loved, put on compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. 13 Be tolerant with each other and, if someone has a complaint against anyone, forgive each other. As the Lord forgave you, so also forgive each other. 14 And over all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. 
15 The peace of Christ must control your hearts -- a peace into which you were called in one body. And be thankful people.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

On the Miracle of the Transfiguration

• Transfiguration Sunday
Matthew 17:1-9
With Exodus 34:29-35 and 2 Corinthians 3:12 – 4:2   @FirstUMCBville  @kerrfunk

• Transfiguration is a unique word for a unique event. It refers to a scene in Matthew 17 when Jesus goes up on a mountain with Peter James and John. When he gets there he glows like the sun in front of them, Moses and Elijah appear, and the voice of God announces This is my Son whom I dearly love, with whom I am well pleased. Listen to him. It’s a miracle, and there are a number of things we can “take home” from it.
• An interesting miracle. There’s a 2001 novel by Leif Enger called Peace Like A River. It’s on my top ten list of novels and I recommend it. Here’s a quotation from the beginning: No miracle happens without a witness. Someone to declare Here’s what I saw. Here’s how it went. Make of it what you will. (Miracles are also described as disturbing and unnatural, but I’ll leave it up to you to follow up.)
• A few things to take home from this miracle? It’s a unique and divine stamp of approval on the life and person of Jesus. Also it conveys Do not fear, also that God desires to be in relationship with people.
• Do not fear. (and do tell. Witness. Here’s what I saw. Here’s how it went.)
Moses: people feared his shining face because to see the face of God was to die (Exodus 33:20) God will not leave his people abandoned. And God is to be taken seriously.
Also with Moses and the veil: God sees us genuinely. And desires to be with us.    
• Do not fear. Paul writing during a time when people are beaten and killed for their faith.
Don’t let such tactics prevent you from being a person of faith. Don’t hide but be genuine. No shame. Don’t be discouraged when things don’t go your way.
• Also Jesus’ transfiguration foreshadows Jesus’ death,
also gives glimpse of heavenly life after death.
• But my frequent prayer is that because of your relationship with God – because you are a witness to God’s actions in life – you would be changed. People would know by looking at you, interacting with you, that you have something good. A peace that passes understanding, perhaps. A serenity, a knowledge of God, and that your life would be attractive.
• God chooses to be a part of your life through fellowship, through praise and study,
through communion…

• into Holy Communion

Exodus 34:29-35        (Common English Bible)
29 Moses came down from Mount Sinai. As he came down from the mountain with the two covenant tablets in his hand, Moses didn’t realize that the skin of his face shone brightly because he had been talking with God. 30 When Aaron and all the Israelites saw the skin of Moses’ face shining brightly, they were afraid to come near him. 31 But Moses called them closer. So Aaron and all the leaders of the community came back to him, and Moses spoke with them. 32 After that, all the Israelites came near as well, and Moses commanded them everything that the Lord had spoken with him on Mount Sinai. 33 When Moses finished speaking with them, he put a veil over his face. 34 Whenever Moses went into the Lord’s presence to speak with him, Moses would take the veil off until he came out again. When Moses came out and told the Israelites what he had been commanded, 35 the Israelites would see that the skin of Moses’ face was shining brightly. So Moses would put the veil on his face again until the next time he went in to speak with the Lord.

2 Corinthians 3:12 – 4:2      (Common English Bible)          
12 So, since we have such a hope, we act with great confidence.
13 We aren’t like Moses, who used to put a veil over his face so that the Israelites couldn’t watch the end of what was fading away.
14 But their minds were closed. Right up to the present day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. The veil is not removed because it is taken away by Christ. 15 Even today, whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their hearts. 16 But whenever someone turns back to the Lord, the veil is removed. 17 The Lord is the Spirit, and where the Lord’s Spirit is, there is freedom. 18 All of us are looking with unveiled faces at the glory of the Lord as if we were looking in a mirror. We are being transformed into that same image from one degree of glory to the next degree of glory. This comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

This is why we don’t get discouraged, given that we received this ministry in the same way that we received God’s mercy. Instead, we reject secrecy and shameful actions. We don’t use deception, and we don’t tamper with God’s word. Instead, we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God by the public announcement of the truth.