Sunday, August 28, 2016

What If I Don't Love Myself?

• 15th Sunday After Pentecost
with Luke 6:31, Psalm 139, Ephesians 4:1-7   @FirstUMCBville   @kerrfunk

• #AskAPastor: “I want to hear you preach on the idea that we're called to treat others as we wish to be treated but so many of us have low self-worth and so maybe we should treat others as we deserve to be treated not as we would treat ourselves.”

• A story about the Golden Rule: There was a monkey who practiced the GR, but he was occasionally foolish. There was a flood, and he climbed up a tree for safety. He saw a fish, and thought “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” so he ‘rescued’ the fish, bringing it into the tree with him.
Professor of logic and ethics Harry Gensler imagines the same scenario with another monkey named KITA. Kita sees the fish and Knows that it will die out of water. Kita tries to Imagine what it would be like to be a fish in the water and out. Kita asks herself if she were a fish would she want someone to save her in this situation by removing her from the water. Kita Acts on her process and does not remove the fish. (Know, Imagine, Test, Act). (source)
So the GR should be applied with consideration, as the opening question: treat others as you deserve to be treated, or how you would wish/hope/allow to be treated in similar circumstances.

• But I want to address the low self-worth aspect.
• Several years ago there was a Dove Real Beauty Campaign “experiment.” (click here to watch the video) Subjects described themselves to a sketch artist. Subjects described a stranger they’d met to the sketch artist. Every self description was kind of self-deprecating, and every stranger description was not only beautiful, it was more accurate. Market research indicated 4% of women described themselves as beautiful, and most are most self-critical.
Where does low self image come from?
Could be abuse, neglect, could be bullying.
Wherever it comes from, we tend to believe the negative and reinforce it ourselves.
There’s also a thing called “negative bias.” We focus more on negative input than positive. We ruminate on negative, and it therefore is ‘weighted’ heavier. “Bad emotions, bad parents, and bad feedback have more impact than good ones. Bad impressions and stereotypes are quicker to form and more resistant to disconfirmation than good ones.”
(source: NYT / Alina Tugend / 3/24/2012)
Why is there negative bias? Well, if we are familiar with negative situations we can avoid negative them for survival…
Negative events are weighted twice that of positive.
A setback is 3x more frustrating than a “progress” can counter.

• Max Lucado has a story of a wooden people called “Wemmicks” and their social interactions. The story is called “You Are Special” and you can read it here as well. 
“You are mine. That’s why you matter.”

• Psalm 139 you (yes, you!) are fearfully and wonderfully made.
• Ephesians 4:1-7 We all are fearfully and wonderfully made. Conduct yourselves with humility, gentleness, patience, love. Preserve the unity that ties you together. You are one. Y’all are one.
• One more thing about the Golden Rule and negative bias: It’s important to steel yourself against the negative onslaught with much intentional positive input.
Worship, song, scripture, prayer, community. Much more than the negative.

• Hymn 560 Help Us Accept Each Other

Luke 6:27-31    (The Voice)
27 “If you’re listening, here’s My message: Keep loving your enemies no matter what they do. Keep doing good to those who hate you. 28 Keep speaking blessings on those who curse you. Keep praying for those who mistreat you. 29 If someone strikes you on one cheek, offer the other cheek too. If someone steals your coat, offer him your shirt too. 30 If someone begs from you, give to him. If someone robs you of your valuables, don’t demand them back. 31 Think of the kindness you wish others would show you; do the same for them.” X

Ephesians 4:1-7        (CEB)
4 Therefore, as a prisoner for the Lord, I encourage you to live as people worthy of the call you received from God. 2 Conduct yourselves with all humility, gentleness, and patience. Accept each other with love, 3 and make an effort to preserve the unity of the Spirit with the peace that ties you together. 4 You are one body and one spirit, just as God also called you in one hope. 5 There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 and one God and Father of all, who is over all, through all, and in all.
7 God has given his grace to each one of us measured out by the gift that is given by Christ. X

Sunday, August 21, 2016

What's Up With Disasters?

What's Up With Disasters?
and How Can We Call God 'Loving'?
• 14th Sunday After Pentecost
with Romans 8:18-30   @FirstUMCBville   @kerrfunk

• So the world has been watching the Olympics. And last week Huntington WV was in the news with 27 heroin overdoses on Monday afternoon.
Also Louisiana had the worst flooding since SuperstormSandy (2012) (and Sandy was second to Katrina, 2005).
Tens of thousands of homes destroyed.
Also 36,000 acres burned in CA (more square mileage than Huntington plus Barboursville plus Charleston)
Not to mention 250,000+ dead in 2004 tsunami, 220,000 in Haiti 2010…
Why are there disasters? And how can we call God loving?
• When I am in a room with Michael Phelps and Simone Bile, the average number of Olympic medals is eleven. Number they have grossly outnumbers how many I have.
Romans 8:18: the suffering we know now is grossly outweighed by the glory to come. Such is the extravagant love of God.
Consider Jesus turning water into wine, in John 2. Jesus provided 180 gallons of good wine. If you pay $25 for a bottle of good wine, that’s valued over $20,000.       
God is extravagant with people.
Consider Rom 5:8-9 God demonstrates his love for us in this: while we were still sinners (that is, while we were rebellious and of no use to God), Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! (since God desired relationship with us while we were rebellious, God will surely keep us now & in the future).
God loves people extravagantly.
• Now: What’s up with disasters? Horrible deaths of countless innocents. Destruction that takes greater toll on poor and already suffering. How can God be called loving?
--> Does God cause disasters?
No. Natural disasters are natural, directly connected to conditions that make planet habitable. Warm and cool and change. Humidity. These cause hurricanes and tornadoes. Plate tectonics. These cause earthquakes and tsunamis. Planet without such conditions: the moon. Also uninhabitable.
See also Romans 8, all creation groans. All creation awaits the new to come.
--> If God has power to stop disasters and does not, is not God horrible?
No. For one, God sees the big picture, knows how (&when) the story will end. And Two, Romans 8:28 God works all things together... Doesn’t cause, but works together.
Three Olympic moments to remember, instances of competitors embracing and exemplifying sportsmanship. Each one I daresay brought glory and honor to their land in the way they responded to circumstances.
American Ajee Wilson, women’s semifinals 800m (two laps). Finished second. Waited for last finisher.
Weightlifter David Katoatau, from SP island nation of Kirabati. Video of his enthusiastic post-lift dances. And he lost.
American Abbey D’Agostino, 5K. Competitor Nikki Hamblin collided with Abbey and Abbey assisted Nikki to complete race.
*After this message was composed, the news was received that Hamblin and D'Agostino each received a special Olympic award for good sportsmanship.
How do people respond to circumstances?
“The glory of God is humankind fully alive,” (Irenaeus, 2nd C).
--> Does God design disaster? Open to debate. Maybe. Who knows?
Consider the story of the man who saw the struggle of the butterfly emerging from the cocoon, and decided to “help.” The butterfly was never able to fly.
Again, Romans 8:28.

• Recall again Rom 5:8-9 God demonstrates his love… the countless innocents that die? God loves them more than we can know. God is ultimately concerned about each and every bit of creation, and again, knows the ultimate end is good.
• Hymn 525 We’ll Understand it Better By and By

Romans 8:18-30 (CEB)                                         8/21/16
18 I believe that the present suffering is nothing compared to the coming glory that is going to be revealed to us. 19 The whole creation waits breathless with anticipation for the revelation of God’s sons and daughters. 20 Creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice—it was the choice of the one who subjected it—but in the hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from slavery to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of God’s children. 22 We know that the whole creation is groaning together and suffering labor pains up until now. 23 And it’s not only the creation. We ourselves who have the Spirit as the first crop of the harvest also groan inside as we wait to be adopted and for our bodies to be set free. 24 We were saved in hope. If we see what we hope for, that isn’t hope. Who hopes for what they already see? 25 But if we hope for what we don’t see, we wait for it with patience.

26 In the same way, the Spirit comes to help our weakness. We don’t know what we should pray, but the Spirit himself pleads our case with unexpressed groans. 27 The one who searches hearts knows how the Spirit thinks, because he pleads for the saints, consistent with God’s will. 28 We know that God works all things together for good for the ones who love God, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 We know this because God knew them in advance, and he decided in advance that they would be conformed to the image of his Son. That way his Son would be the first of many brothers and sisters. 30 Those who God decided in advance would be conformed to his Son, he also called. Those whom he called, he also made righteous. Those whom he made righteous, he also glorified. X

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Sacrifice -- Why?

• 13th Sunday After Pentecost
with Philippians 2:1-11   @FirstUMCBville   @kerrfunk

• A stranger set his book on an adjacent table at Panera and asked my companion if he’d watch his stuff while he filled his drink. “I’ll guard it with his life,” joked my companion as he pointed to another diner.
Sacrifice is related to value.
• Today’s Ask-A-Pastor question is simply “Sacrifice – why?”
• A few sacrifices from scriptures:
- Cain and Abel sacrifice (Gen 4:3-4. Cain offers fruit of the soil, Abel offers the fatportions of some firstborns from his flock).
Why sacrifice? Praise, thanksgiving, worship.
- After the flood, (Gen 8:20-21) Noah offered burnt offering animal sacrifices (God had instructed him to bring more than two of those animals!) and God was "pleased by the aroma." God responds with the covenant of the rainbow.
Also from Genesis 8, There is life in the blood (see also Ex 20:24) and God values life, and will demand an accounting for life.
- Job 1:5 sacrifices to cover for his childrens’ possible sins.
Why sacrifice? Intercession, forgiveness.
- Of course, the sacrifice of the Passover (Exodus 12) in which the faithful are saved from death because of their obedience and because of the blood of the lamb.
- You can read much about sacrifice in Leviticus.
A sacrifice system offered way to atone for sin, to clean & commit self, and to worship God / have fellowship with God.
• Consider the direction of sacrifice: outward. Away from self.
Consider root of sinfulness: inward. Me. Self-reliance, self-edification, self-glory.
Sacrifice is a prescribed treatment to our propensity to pride.
Also prevention!
Why sacrifice? It’s the pill to cure our ill! Direction.
• Before a faithful one was admitted to heaven, she asked to view hell. She saw tables heaped with good food, but the occupants were unable to eat because the only utensils were three feet long, and no one could feed themselves.
Then she was surprised in heaven to see tables heaped with good food, and three-foot-long utensils. The difference was that in heaven, the occupants were feeding each other.
• I suspect, though, that the question “Sacrifice – why?”
has to do with Jesus’ violent death on the cross.
Continuing the direction idea (sacrifice is us acting outwardly, giving something of our best to God in praise thanksgiving love) there’s an aspect of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ which is GOD GIVING GOD’S BEST TO HUMANKIND saying I desire your fellowship & company.
Still, violent.
Why does all-powerful God have to have a crucifixion to satisfy some blood debt?
Why can’t God just say Okay, I forgive you, I don’t need blood payment.
• When we sin, when we elevate ourselves over God, we choose separation from God. What’s the result of separation from God? We're like fish out of water. Separation from God is bad because we’re made by God for God & just as a fish made for water struggles out of water so we struggle away from God.
When we sin, it’s like we’re diving off a platform into rocky water or an empty pool. Away from God and into suffering.
And here’s the thing: Jesus knows we ultimately can’t bear separation from God so he dives into our situation to bear it for us, to absorb it, to remove the separation and the stain and bring us back into relationship with God.
It’s not that blood is required as payment for sin, it’s that death is the result of our choice to remove ourselves from God,
and Jesus jumps in and bears the consequence of our choice.
• The hope of Jesus is that we would be oriented towards God, & seek to bring others into alignment as well. & if we would bring others into alignment, what’s our direction? Away from self. 
Live sacrificially.
• Hymn 398 Jesus Calls Us O’er the Tumult

Philippians 2:1-11        (Common English Bible)
2 Therefore, if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort in love, any sharing in the Spirit, any sympathy, 2 complete my joy by thinking the same way, having the same love, being united, and agreeing with each other. 3 Don’t do anything for selfish purposes, but with humility think of others as better than yourselves. 4 Instead of each person watching out for their own good, watch out for what is better for others. 5 Adopt the attitude that was in Christ Jesus:

6 Though he was in the form of God,
        he did not consider being equal with God something to exploit.
7 But he emptied himself
        by taking the form of a slave
        and by becoming like human beings.
When he found himself in the form of a human,
8         he humbled himself
              by becoming obedient to the point of death,
          even death on a cross.
9 Therefore, God highly honored him
        and gave him a name above all names,
10     so that at the name of Jesus everyone
        in heaven, on earth, and under the earth might bow
11         and every tongue confess that
            Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. 

Sunday, August 7, 2016

A Life of Action

• 12th Sunday After Pentecost
Isaiah 1:1, 10-20   and Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16   @FirstUMCBville   @kerrfunk

• During my vacation I was able to reflect on daily life without having to bear “normal” responsibilities. It gave perspective. Especially during political conventions and the beginning of the Olympics.
It’s important to be in thoughtful dialogue on issues
as we are God’s harvest workers and shepherds in this world.
The Christian life is a life of action.
• In Isaiah’s time God laments how faith practice is all practice and no faith, and it’s not honoring to God.
Faith practice should be living. 
(Imagine a devout Christian
whose business practices are ruthless and unjust… 
Imagine planning disobedience
because you know you can rely on forgiveness…)
The Christian life is life of action, not a life of checklist.
• Isaiah 1:17 what God wants: Justice. Aid.
Heartfelt compassionate action.
What else God wants: to make you clean:
“I’m standing here with soap & water, why do you turn away?”
• Hebrews 11: Faith practice is living, not ritualistic / formulaic.
Faith is actional. God-directional. Not self-concerned.
• Isaiah 1: God is more interested in works of mercy
than works of religion.
(The Christian life is both. Communion is both)
We want either/or.
How about this: “Do a good turn daily” or “Read your Bible daily”?
(answer: both. But do you think that one is preferred? Which? Why?)
• I spoke earlier about politics, which is really about people.
Engage. Dialogue. Represent. Point to God.
Act honorably & in such a way that folks not turned off by behavior.
• Faith practice should motivate compassionate action
& indeed that action should be organic and powerful.
Our church cannot exist unto itself
but must be involved in life affirming mission,
& periodically revisit and review.
• Take cue from Jesus, who did not sit at sideline and watch,
but extended his whole self, at risk of death,
so that we might have life & salvation.

• Hymn 2177 Wounded World

Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16 (CEB)     8/07/16
11 Faith is the reality of what we hope for, the proof of what we don’t see. 2 The elders in the past were approved because they showed faith.
3 By faith we understand that the universe has been created by a word from God so that the visible came into existence from the invisible…
8 By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was going to receive as an inheritance. He went out without knowing where he was going.
9 By faith he lived in the land he had been promised as a stranger. He lived in tents along with Isaac and Jacob, who were coheirs of the same promise. 10 He was looking forward to a city that has foundations, whose architect and builder is God.
11 By faith even Sarah received the ability to have a child, though she herself was barren and past the age for having children, because she believed that the one who promised was faithful. 12 So descendants were born from one man (and he was as good as dead). They were as many as the number of the stars in the sky and as countless as the grains of sand on the seashore. 13 All of these people died in faith without receiving the promises, but they saw the promises from a distance and welcomed them. They confessed that they were strangers and immigrants on earth. 14 People who say this kind of thing make it clear that they are looking for a homeland. 15 If they had been thinking about the country that they had left, they would have had the opportunity to return to it. 16 But at this point in time, they are longing for a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore, God isn’t ashamed to be called their God—he has prepared a city for them.  X

Isaiah 1:1, 10-20  (Common English Bible) 8/07/16
1 The vision about Judah and Jerusalem that Isaiah, Amoz’s son, saw in the days of Judah’s kings Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah…
10 Hear the Lord’s word, you leaders of Sodom.
    Listen to our God’s teaching, people of Gomorrah!
11 What should I think about all your sacrifices? says the Lord.
I’m fed up with entirely burned offerings of rams
    and the fat of well-fed beasts.
    I don’t want the blood of bulls, lambs, and goats.
12 When you come to appear before me,
    who asked this from you, this trampling of my temple’s courts?
13 Stop bringing worthless offerings. Your incense repulses me.
New moon, sabbath, and the calling of an assembly—
    I can’t stand wickedness with celebration!
14 I hate your new moons and your festivals.
    They’ve become a burden that I’m tired of bearing.
15 When you extend your hands, I’ll hide my eyes from you.
Even when you pray for a long time, I won’t listen.
Your hands are stained with blood.
16     Wash! Be clean! Remove your ugly deeds from my sight.
    Put an end to such evil;
17 learn to do good.
Seek justice: help the oppressed; defend the orphan;
   plead for the widow.
18 Come now, and let’s settle this, says the Lord.
Though your sins are like scarlet, they will be white as snow.
If they are red as crimson, they will become like wool.
19 If you agree and obey, you will eat the best food of the land.
20 But if you refuse and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword.

The Lord has said this.  X