Sunday, September 25, 2016

Danger, Danger!

• 19th Sunday After Pentecost
with 1 Timothy 6:6-19   @FirstUMCBville   @kerrfunk

•  There was a dog sitting on a porch, occasionally howling in pain. A passerby asked why the dog was howling.
“Oh, he’s sitting on a nail,” said a man on the porch.
“Well, why doesn’t he move?!” asked the passerby.
“It doesn’t hurt that much!”

It’s amazing the things we will put up with,
and the things we’ll complain about.

Suppose the porch builder consistently built poor quality porches, and you got a new neighbor who wanted a porch…
Who are you going to recommend? Someone else!
Or consider Samsung’s Galaxy Note 7
which was recalled after reports of fire and explosion.
We warn about danger. WHY DO WE WARN?
Responsible folks in community relationship warn about danger because we care about others.
• The first epistle to Timothy, a set of instructions and advice from seasoned pastor and mentor to mentee. In the sixth chapter Paul warns about the danger of riches. Yes, the danger. Paul treats the acquisition of riches as a “fatal distraction” if you will, and lifts up “Great gain in godliness with contentment” (verse 6).
That’s the ideal.
Be not attached to goods or status, pursuit of material gain.
Instead pursue God.
Remember your confession of faith with other faithful, and with the testimony of Jesus Christ.
Be rich in good works (verse 18). Be like Jesus. Live generously.
More Like You, the choir sang.   
John 3:30: He must increase and I must decrease.

• Some interesting statistics about giving: According to the Nat’l Center for Charitable Statistics,
people who give highest percentage of their income:
People who earn >$10M, give 5.9% of their income.
Next highest: people who earn <$50K, give 4%.
There’s a U-shape between them, with the lowest at $200-250K (who give 2.4%)

(also: 45% of religious folks give average of $1700 or 1.8%)
(my belief: some above average folk here.
Aside: consider your giving)

• We warn because we care about others.
And because we care about others, I would offer two words:
• One: Seek to be responsibly educated, which includes NOT being immovably right. Don’t be closed to discussion or relationship with folks who think/act/believe differently.
• Two: Use your status for good. Face it, we’re white Christians, for the most part heterosexual.
We are in a position of privilege and power (P&P).
That is, folks who aren’t straight don’t have the same P&P
(think about the simple freedom of walking hand in hand.
Or not getting fired or evicted because of your orientation.)
Don’t be so distracted by majority status
that you neglect those who don’t have that status.
Folks who are not white don’t have the same power and privilege.
I have never worried that I’d be pulled over and or shot bc the color of my skin, because I have P&P. Use my voice, my status my P&P because I care about others, for benefit of others.

• Paul encourages Timothy & community to remember the good confession (6:12)
Let us remember the good confessions we’ve taken.
From the baptismal vows in the hymnal:
p. 35 #8
Do you, as Christ’s body, the church, reaffirm both your rejection of sin and your commitment to Christ? (We do.)
Will you nurture one another in the Christian faith and life and include [other church members] in your care?
With God’s help we will proclaim the good news and live according to the example of Christ. We will surround these persons with a community of love and forgiveness, that they may grow in their trust of God, and be found faithful in their service to others. We will pray for them, that they may be true disciples who walk in the way that leads to life.
p. 38 #15
As members of this congregation, will you faithfully participate in its ministries by your prayers, your presence, your gifts, your service, and your witness? (We will).
Members of the household of God, I commend these persons to your love and care. Do all in your power to increase their faith, confirm their hope, and perfect them in love.
We give thanks for all that God has already given you and we welcome you in Christian love. As members together with you in the body of Christ and in this congregation of The United Methodist Church, we renew our covenant faithfully to participate in the ministries of the church by our prayers, our presence, our gifts, our service, and our witness, that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ.

• Hymn 189 Fairest Lord Jesus

1 Timothy 6:6-19     (NRSV)
6 Of course, there is great gain in godliness combined with contentment; 7 for we brought nothing into the world, therefore we can take nothing out of it; 8 but if we have food and clothing, we will be content with these. 9 But those who make their highest goal to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains.
11 But as for you, man of God, shun all this; pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of the faith; take hold of the eternal life, to which you were called and for which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. 13 In the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, I charge you 14 to keep the commandment without spot or blame until the manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 which he will bring about at the right time—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords. 16 It is he alone who has immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see; to him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.
17 As for those who in the present age are rich, command them not to be haughty, or to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but rather on God who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. 18 They are to do good, to be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share, 19 thus storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of the life that really is life. X

Sunday, September 11, 2016

What Happens After We Die?

• 17th Sunday After Pentecost
with 1 Corinthians 15:35-49   @FirstUMCBville   @kerrfunk

• #AskAPastor: “What Happens After We Die?”

•  15 years ago USA and world entered new era as nearly 3K died in terrorist attacks. As I say at every wedding, sin came into the world through the devil’s deception, and human beings have carried it on since then.
We live in a world racked by violence.
Even when death is natural, our lives are upset.
When a friend loses a loved one, what do you do?
What do you say?
Benjamin Franklin is quoted as saying
Nothing can be said to be certain except death and taxes.
One of the powerful things about death is that there is nothing we can do about it, it is not under our control, and we hate not being in control. You can define death scientifically, you can discuss it philosophically, you can read books about it or watch movies about it, but it remains surrounded by a shroud of mystery.
• But, some things we know: It is inescapable.
Death will happen to every one of us.
Christians believe there is life beyond death, that there is something about us, an individual soul or spirit which lives on.
We vary on the specifics, but in general, it is believed that this soul, created by God, is immortal, that after death this part of us remains conscious, and that we in fact are endowed with some kind of new body.
For the faithful, in addition to receiving peace and rest, that soul remains in God’s presence forever, which is very desirable. (see Philippians 1:21-26 For to me, living is Christ, and dying is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which I prefer. I am hard pressed between the two: my desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better, but to remain in the flesh is more necessary for you. Since I am convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with all of you for your progress and joy in faith, so that I may share abundantly in your boasting in Christ Jesus when I come to you again.)
• Some other thoughts on the desirability of heaven:
No handicapped parking in heaven (because no need).
No wheelchairs. No glasses (maybe sunglasses).
No streetlights. No lawyers! No hospitals. No churches.
The list goes on.
Yet many people are defined by what they do.
Pastor. That’s who I am.
Nurse. Craftsman.
New definition: not what you do, but who you are.
Whose you are. Beloved child of God.
• What will we look like? This week we learned of the death of Isabelle Dinoire, who received a partial face transplant in 2005. After a year she said, “It may be someone else’s face, but when I look in the mirror, I see me.”
There is something inside that is the “you” and the “me”.
The “living thing” from Puff the Magic Dragon.
Consider the butterfly. There are no baby butterflies, you know? All butterflies are adults from emergence. The adolescent butterfly is a caterpillar. Genetically identical, same DNA. Not different creatures at all. Old theory was egg, caterpillar, death, pause, reincarnation/resurrection into new critter.
Not exactly. Caterpillar, chrysalis, organs dissolve, most cells die, but some reorganize. “Imaginal discs,” present in the egg and caterpillar, consume the caterpillar soup and grow into the adult butterfly.
In fact, and amazingly, there’s some kind of memory transfer. Expose a caterpillar to, say, the scent of lemon, and then shock the caterpillar. It learns to avoid lemon. The same creature when it’s a butterfly retains the aversion. Its life continues though its form is very different.
• What will we look like? Perhaps as similar as caterpillar and butterfly, an acorn and a tree.
Yet risen Jesus had a body, was recognizable, ate… also went through walls…
Retain individuality, reflect God’s glory in every way, nothing to complain about.
All new.

• Hymn 707 from 1985 Hymn of Promise

1 Corinthians 15:35-49     (Common English Bible)
35 But someone will say, “How are the dead raised? What kind of body will they have when they come back?” 36 Look, child! When you put a seed into the ground, it doesn’t come back to life unless it dies. 37 What you put in the ground doesn’t have the shape that it will have, but it’s a bare grain of wheat or some other seed. 38 God gives it the sort of shape that he chooses, and he gives each of the seeds its own shape. 39 All flesh isn’t alike. Humans have one kind of flesh, animals have another kind of flesh, birds have another kind of flesh, and fish have another kind. 40 There are heavenly bodies and earthly bodies. The heavenly bodies have one kind of glory, and the earthly bodies have another kind of glory. 41 The sun has one kind of glory, the moon has another kind of glory, and the stars have another kind of glory (but one star is different from another star in its glory).
42 It’s the same with the resurrection of the dead: a rotting body is put into the ground, but what is raised won’t ever decay. 43 It’s degraded when it’s put into the ground, but it’s raised in glory. It’s weak when it’s put into the ground, but it’s raised in power. 44 It’s a physical body when it’s put into the ground, but it’s raised as a spiritual body.
If there’s a physical body, there’s also a spiritual body. 45 So it is also written, The first human, Adam, became a living person, and the last Adam became a spirit that gives life. 46 But the physical body comes first, not the spiritual one—the spiritual body comes afterward. 47 The first human was from the earth made from dust; the second human is from heaven. 48 The nature of the person made of dust is shared by people who are made of dust, and the nature of the heavenly person is shared by heavenly people. 49 We will look like – that is, we will bear the image of the heavenly person in the same way as we have looked like the person made from dust. X

Sunday, September 4, 2016

How Do I Recharge My Spiritual Batteries?

• 16th Sunday After Pentecost
with Ephesians 5:15-20   @FirstUMCBville   @kerrfunk
(aside: click here to watch the quartet singing I’ve Just Seen Jesus)

• #AskAPastor: “How Do I Recharge My Spiritual Batteries?”

• A lumberjack (let’s call him Galen) was hired for a wood cutting crew. The individual record was 7 trees chopped down in a day. On the first day Galen chopped down 6 trees. Second day he got up at 6am and worked for 12 hours, chopping down five trees. Third day he got up at 5am and worked until 7pm, chopping down only three trees. Next day he got up at 4am and chopped until 8pm, but only felled one tree. The foreman asked him, “How often did you sharpen your axe?” Galen replied: “Sharpen my axe? I didn’t have time to sharpen my axe!”

Sharp axe, charged battery... Sometimes our lives fill with discontent. Sometimes the demands on our time pile and pile and pile up and we break under the pressure. Sadly during those times we tend to not sharpen our axes because we don’t have time.

Be careful how you live, not as unwise people, but as wise, making the most of the time.” – Eph 5:15-16

Making the most of the time may very well mean stopping what you’re doing, analyzing and evaluating your priorities, and then making some changes in your actions.

Sharpening an axe, in the short term, takes away from productivity: you’re not making progress. But it is part of the progress, a vital part of getting things done. Like Martha (Luke 10:38-42), some of us are busy doing so many good things we do not take time to discern what things are needed.

Take time to analyze your schedule, for the week and for the month. What are you devoting your time to? What things really matter? What activities have eternal consequences? Determine what things you can leave out of your schedule without harm to yourself or others. Choose to neglect those for a period of time. After that time period has expired, look back and see if it has made any difference in your life.

• Perhaps stopping what you’re doing will require a fast, breaking the pattern of what you normally do, so you can determine or understand what the will of the Lord is. Break the pattern because even spiritual discipline can turn into mere routine into empty ritual into boredom, losing the meaning and dishonoring God. Break the pattern by changing when you devotion, where you worship, what you wear... see it in a new light. Fast from food, from ego, from TV computer radio, from speaking. Remove yourself from distraction so you can take the time to listen to God. Write a prayer, paraphrase a scripture passage, journal your griefs and your woes. Empty yourself before God. Find a trouble tree if you have to.

• Some rechargings are simpler: take a break. Practice good bodily self-care.

• Psalmist wrote that it was in comparison to others that he stumbled in life (all unhappiness comes from comparison; but you whoever you are are fearfully and wonderfully made) and he nurtured envy until it consumed him and distorted his view of God:

When my soul was embittered, when I was pricked in heart, I was stupid and ignorant; I was like a brute beast toward you. (Psalm 73:21-22)

• Whether discontent or overwhelm there are a few things we can do to recharge the batteries. Paul tells us to seek the Lord, to be filled with the Spirit, to join in communal worship, singing Psalms and hymns, giving thanks to God all the time... Psalmist confessed that it was when he went into the sanctuary that he regained proper perspective... into the sanctuary for worship, to be in community, to share strength, to receive nurture...

In addition to keeping Sabbath, keep a jubilee. 7 wks set aside a sacred time, a down time, not chore time or activity that requires recovery. Do something like before (Write a prayer, paraphrase a scripture passage, journal your griefs and your woes). Pray a passage or a newspaper or a hymn.

Step away from yourself by doing something for someone else. Volunteer at hospital (paint peoples’ nails!) Visit a shut-in. Help out at a blood-drive or a race. Contact a school or a church, see if they could use help. Write a letter.

• Above all give thanks. (Psalm 73:23-26) That is the literal meaning of eucharist.

• Hymn in the Breaking of the Bread
Ephesians 5:15-20 (CEB)
15 So be careful to live your life wisely, not foolishly. 16 Take advantage of every opportunity because these are evil times. 17 Because of this, don’t be ignorant, but understand the Lord’s will. 18 Don’t get drunk on wine, which produces depravity. Instead, be filled with the Spirit in the following ways: 19 speak to each other with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs; sing and make music to the Lord in your hearts; 20 always give thanks to God the Father for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. X

Psalm 43:3-5 (CEB)  
3 Send out your light and your truth;
    let them lead me;
let them bring me to your holy hill
    and to your dwelling!
4 Then I will go to the altar of God,
    to God my exceeding joy,
and I will praise you with the lyre,
    O God, my God.

5 Why are you cast down, O my soul,
    and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
    my salvation and my God.