Sunday, October 30, 2016

Good News in Tough Times

• 24th Sunday after Pentecost
with Habakkuk 1:1-4 & 2:1-4  and   Luke 19:1-10    @FirstUMCBville   @kerrfunk

• The prophet Habakkuk gives voice to one of the most common questions, one that we visited in August, What’s up with disasters?
Since August we saw Haiti -- which was still recovering from 2010 earthquake that killed tens of thousands -- experience the greatest hurricane in fifty years, Hurricane Matthew 10/4, leaving thousands dead. Where is God?
And why doesn’t God stop the fighting in the Middle East,
and the Syrian refugee crisis in which more than 11 million people 
(that’s the population of Ohio) have been killed or forced to flee their homes. 
Meanwhile we deal with opiate epidemic and an election unlike any before it. Polarized and divided, next week half of country may feel like the world is ending and half the country may be on their knees thanking God for answering their prayers.
• (read Habakkuk 1:1-4 again)
Habakkuk is in the southern kingdom, the north fell to the Assyrians 120 years ago and things are not looking good for the home team. Destruction is on the horizon.
And God replies (in the part we didn’t read but you can) if only you’d been living by our covenant which I gave you so that things would go well with you. But I’ll give you a glimpse of what will happen later: the invaders will also be destroyed.
Though the sorrow may last for the night, the joy comes with the morning (Ps 30:5).
• And there’s a bigger picture, God says. Another issue that we visited recently when God spoke through the prophet Jeremiah and said I will inscribe my word on their hearts and I will make with them a new covenant – which many Christians see as fulfilled in the arrival of Jesus. I will live in them.
• Consider the God/human relationship like a marriage relationship. Our "Where is God" question is marital distress. Check out this author's thoughts about relationship distress:

…most fights are really protests over emotional disconnection.
Underneath all the distress, partners are asking each other 
Can I count on you, depend on you?
Are you there for me?
Will you respond to me when I need, when I call?
Do I matter to you?
Am I valued and accepted by you?
Do you need me, rely on me? 
(p. 30, Hold Me Tight, Sue Johnson)

• You can count on God. In God’s time. And in God’s way. But God will not abandon.
Nothing can separate…
• Fast-forward to Luke 19 and Jesus and Zacchaeus.
Good news: It’s possible to seek God and find.
It’s possible to be found by God.
It’s possible to have a change of heart.
• Therefore two times to practice faith & righteousness…
When you feel like it, and when you don’t.

• Hymn 540 I Love Thy Kingdom, Lord

Luke 19:1-10 (NIV)
19 Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. 2 A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. 3 He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. 4 So he ran ahead and climbed a fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.
5 When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” 6 So Zacchaeus came down at once and welcomed Jesus gladly.
7 All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.”
8 But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”
9 Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”  X

Habakkuk 1:1-4, 2:1-4 (The VOICE)  
1 This is the vision with which the prophet Habakkuk was burdened.
2 How long must I cry, O Eternal LORD, and get no answer from You?
Even when I yell to You, “Violence is all around!” You do nothing to save those in distress.
3 Why do You force me to see these atrocities?
    Why do You make me watch such wickedness?
Disaster and violence, conflict and controversy are raging all around me.
4 Your law is powerless to stop this; injustice prevails.
    The depraved surround the innocent, and justice is perverted.

2 I will take my place at the watchtower. I will stand at my post and watch.
I will watch and see what He says to me. I need to think about how I should respond to Him
When He gets back to me with His answer.
Then the Eternal LORD replied to Habakkuk2 Write down this vision.  Write it clearly on tablets, so that whoever reads it may run swiftly to tell.
3     For the vision points ahead to a time I have appointed;
        it testifies regarding the end, and it will not lie.
    Even if there is a delay, wait for it.  It is coming and will come without delay.

4  Look at the man of pride: Something in his soul is not right; he is not honest and just.
But the righteous one will live by his faithfulness.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

On Tithing and Stewardship

• 23rd Sunday after Pentecost
with 2Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18  and   Luke 18:9-14    @FirstUMCBville   @kerrfunk
• A man was sitting in a city park watching children throw coins into a fountain when one of the children began to choke. The man rushed over and expertly performed the Heimlich, causing a coin to pop out of the child’s throat. “Thank you, are you a doctor?” exclaimed the mother. “No, I’m the stewardship chair at my church.”
Warning: I went to a retreat this week, and the topic was stewardship.
Thanks be, though, because that’s not the feeling I get from this congregation.
• Luke 18: Two men praying in the temple. With which do you identify?
The second appears really broken up.
Been there. W
e don’t know much else. 
If you were really broken up, would church be where you’d go?
What do you imagine happened next? Changed man, or no?
It's easy to point a finger at the first man,
but he’s not a demon by any means.
Gives thanks for life status…
we do the same (thank God for family and home)
Fast twice a week… anybody?
Honestly I might fast twice a year…
Give a tenth of income (tithe).Not asking for show of hands,
but I will let you know that your pastor tithes.

National statistics show that (only) about 5% of people give 10% or more. 1 out of 20.
Average charitable donation total is 2.6% of income, and about one third of active givers in churches give about $10/wk or less ($500/yr).
• Earlier in Luke 11:42 Jesus chastised the Pharisees for tithing mint and rue but neglecting justice and love of God.
“You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone.”
Tithing is about loving God.
It is a profession of faith that God is greater. 
Why tithe? It is saying Yes & Thank You,
it’s what you were taught,
it demonstrates belief in mission,
& it is good to live generously.
I have never regretted tithing.
I encourage you to step towards tithing.
The problem is when the means become the end, the tithing becomes the goal
as opposed to the relationship being the goal.
Relationship is the goal. Loss of self-righteousness, and genuine remorse at offense, & let the remorse be a steering wheel not a brake, directing into way of God.

• Paul lives under fear of death, but praises and trusts in God.

• Hymn 419 I Am Thine, O Lord

2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18 (NRSV)   
6 As for me, I am already being poured out as a libation, and the time of my departure has come. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 From now on there is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have longed for his appearing.
16 At my first defense no one came to my support, but all deserted me. May it not be counted against them! 17 But the Lord stood by me and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. 18 The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and save me for his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen. X

Luke 18:9-14 (NRSV)          
9 He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt:
10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.’
13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 

14 I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.”  X

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Getting To Know You

• 22nd Sunday after Pentecost
with Jeremiah 31:27-34 and 2 Timothy 3:14-4:5    @FirstUMCBville   @kerrfunk
• Getting to know you, getting to know all about you…
(The King and I, 1951, R&H. Julie Andrews)
How do people get to know one another?
Shared experiences. Working together.
Talking. Personal interactions…
We’ve been getting to know each other these three years.
And we can do more.
• We’re in election season, getting to know candidates,
getting to know our fellow Americans,
and astounded at the polarity and depth of division.
• Last week’s Jeremiah passage:
The people have been relocated.
God tells them to settle in.
Abide in me in spite of circumstances.
This week: There are good plans for your future.
I will make a new covenant, written in peoples’ hearts.
They will know me.
Getting to know you.
• The Abraham covenant: Land, people, blessing.
It’s all on God, literally.
• The Mosaic covenant: the 10 Commandments / the Law.
There will be blessing if upheld by people.
Given in midst of rescue.
• The Jeremiahic covenant / New Covenant:
I will be their God, they will be my people,
I will engrave instructions on hearts.
They will know me. I will forgive them.
This is new. This is knowing in the depths of being. 
It is God’s gift.  
• 2Tim reading like last week, abide in God.
Be strong. Keep control.

• Hymn 382 Have Thine Own Way, Lord

2 Timothy 3:14-4:5 (Common English Bible)   
14 But you must continue with the things you have learned and found convincing. You know who taught you. 15 Since childhood you have known the holy scriptures that help you to be wise in a way that leads to salvation through faith that is in Christ Jesus. 16 Every scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for showing mistakes, for correcting, and for training character, 17 so that the person who belongs to God can be equipped to do everything that is good.
4 I’m giving you this commission in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is coming to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearance and his kingdom. 2 Preach the word. Be ready to do it whether it is convenient or inconvenient. Correct, confront, and encourage with patience and instruction. 3 There will come a time when people will not tolerate sound teaching. They will collect teachers who say what they want to hear because they are self-centered. 4 They will turn their back on the truth and turn to myths. 5 But you must keep control of yourself in all circumstances. Endure suffering, do the work of a preacher of the good news, and carry out your service fully.  X

Jeremiah 31:27-34 (Common English Bible)    
27 The time is coming, declares the Lord, when I will plant seeds in Israel and Judah, and both people and animals will spring up. 28 Just as I watched over them to dig up and pull down, to overthrow, destroy, and bring harm, so I will watch over them to build and plant, declares the Lord. 29 In those days, people will no longer say:
Sour grapes eaten by parents leave a bitter taste in the mouths of their children.
30 Because everyone will die for their own sins:
    whoever eats sour grapes will have a bitter taste in their own mouths.
31 The time is coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and Judah. 32 It won’t be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt. They broke that covenant with me even though I was their husband, declares the Lord. 33 No, this is the covenant that I will make with the people of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put my Instructions within them and engrave them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. 34 They will no longer need to teach each other to say, “Know the Lord!” because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord; for I will forgive their wrongdoing and never again remember their sins. X

Sunday, October 9, 2016

On Living in Babylon

• 21st Sunday After Pentecost
with Luke 17:11-19 and Jeremiah 29:4-7   @FirstUMCBville   @kerrfunk

• Luke 17:17, a favorite Halloween costume standby:
A button that reads “1/10” printed large,
with “Luke 17:17” printed small.
(think about it)

Some vocabulary from the Luke passage:
Verse 13 Have mercy. Eleison. Act with compassion.
Relieve my affliction.
Verse 14 ekatharsia purify, cleanse, remove impurity (also v17)
and as The Voice points out (augments, amplifies, annotates)
restores dignity & community connection to the outcast.
Verse 19 sesoke, same root as word “savior” (sozo). SAVE.
Original request: Relieve affliction. 
SALVATION offered AS WELL AS cleansing.

• I intended to go more here, but found the Jeremiah passage from the lectionary speaks to end of the week events.
Donald Trump’s pornographic remarks from years ago brings up at least two responses: the man shouldn’t be allowed to run for POTUS – from both sides! – AND the man should be forgiven, judge not, let the one without sin cast the first stone.
Both responses have been heard.
Seems to me no matter what, there will be some disappointed people in four weeks’ time. Actually seems could be a dangerous time, whoever wins. Some will be living in undesirable territory.
Like the people of Jeremiah’s time. They had witnessed (historically) the destruction of the northern kingdom 135 years earlier – but God had saved Jerusalem. And now Jerusalem destroyed and a fraction of its people marched 500 miles away.
The people are hungry for a word of hope.
Will God be with us ever again?
Will God rescue his people and strike down the Babylonians?
The people look at the current times and the political landscape and cry Lord save us. Have mercy. Kyrie eleison. Send us Emmanuel, savior.
• And Jeremiah, pastor-prophet, delivers a message to the people:
Settle. Move in. Plant gardens, have families.
Focus on me instead of where you are, in spite of where you are.
Learn that my presence and my power is not tied to geography or circumstances. Don’t worry.
• Some are going to be worrying way to election,
and some will be worried disappointed afterward.
But who is God?
• I think of Jesus’ words in John 15:5 :
Abide in me. Those who abide in me bear much fruit.
Apart from me you can do nothing.
Carried away to Babylon? Abide in me.
Worried about election? Abide in me.
It only takes the faith of a mustard seed.
I put myself into your hands, Lord.          
Turn to the Covenant prayer, hymnal 607
• Hymn 66 Praise My Soul the King of Heaven.

Jeremiah 29:1, 4-7 (The Voice)
29 The prophet Jeremiah wrote a letter from Jerusalem to the elders, priests, prophets, and all the rest who had been taken to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar. 2 (This was after King Jeconiah of Judah and his mother had been taken into exile, along with servants of the court, officials of Judah and Jerusalem, and many of the craftsmen and artisans.) 3 The letter was hand-carried by Elasah (son of Shaphan) and Gemariah (son of Hilkiah), whom Zedekiah king of Judah dispatched to Babylon on a diplomatic mission to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon.
Jeremiah’s Letter: 4 This is what the Eternal, Commander of heavenly armies and God of Israel, says to those He exiled from Jerusalem to Babylon: 5 “Build houses—make homes for your families because you are not coming back to Judah anytime soon. Plant gardens, and eat the food you grow there. 6 Marry and have children; find wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, so that they can have children. During these years of captivity, let your families grow and not die out. 7 Pursue the peace and welfare of the city where I sent you into exile. Pray to Me, the Eternal, for Babylon because if it has peace, you will live in peace.”  X

Luke 17:11-19 (The Voice) 
11 Jesus was still pressing toward Jerusalem, taking a road that went along the border between Samaria (considered undesirable territory) and Galilee. 12 On the outskirts of a border town along this road, He was greeted from a distance by a group of ten people who were under quarantine because of an ugly and disgusting skin disease known as leprosy.
Lepers (shouting across the distance): 13 Jesus, Master, show mercy to us!
Jesus: 14 Go now and present yourselves to the priests for inspection of your disease.
They went, and before they reached the priests, their skin disease was healed, leaving no trace of the disease that scarred them and separated them from the community.
15 One of them, the instant he realized he had been healed, turned and ran back to Jesus, shouting praises to God. 16 He prostrated himself facedown at Jesus’ feet.
Leper: Thank You! Thank You!
-- Now this fellow happened to be, not a Jew, but a Samaritan. --

Jesus: 17 Didn’t all ten receive the same healing this fellow did?
Where are the other nine? 18 Was the only one who came back to give God praise an outsider? 19 (to the Samaritan man) Get up, and go your way. Your faith has made you healthy again.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Suit Up and Show Up

• 20th Sunday After Pentecost
World Communion Sunday
with Luke 17:5-10   @FirstUMCBville   @kerrfunk

Having the faith of a mustard seed woulda been nice last week when Jimmy E. was removing the well-rooted shrubberies alongside and in front of the church. It took a tractor, two backhoes and two days, but the job eventually was completed…
But. The life of faith is neither magic nor self-serving
Jesus has just told the disciples to forgive their brother 7 times in a row if necessary, and they say This is an impossible thing… they cry Increase our faith! We want to do what you say, but we just can’t see how it can be done.
Faith is not measured like flour; it is enough that faith exists.
Forgiveness is our job. And we have the power to do it.
• The life of faith is neither magic nor self-serving,
but it is for benefit of humankind, for the glory of God.
“Soli Deo Gloria.”
 “Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Colossians 3:17)
“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” (Colossians 3: 23-24)
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:8-10)

• The Hunger Walk is today, to raise hunger awareness, and funds.
Recall a child’s first steps: you call the grandparents, take a picture!
I have no clue how many steps my teenager took yesterday, and I did not call the grandparents. It’s normal. It’s expected.
The second part of today’s reading feels a bit harsh,
no special treatment for doing your job…
What is our job?
The mission of The UMC: to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
The mission of First Church: to share the love of God with people in a hurting world.
These ideas should inhabit our every action.
• In all circumstances, represent God. Suit up and show up. That’s the point.
I read recently someone was asked why God allows suffering:
“The existence of suffering calls us to action.”
Suit up and show up.
• Last week we remembered part of the baptismal covenant p. 35 #8, p. 38 #15     
This week p. 34 #4, p. 37 #12
p. 34 #4
On behalf of the whole church, I ask you: Do you renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness, reject the evil powers of this world, and repent of your sin? (I do.)
Do you accept the freedom and power God gives you to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves? (I do.)
Do you confess Jesus Christ as your Savior, put your whole trust in his grace, and promise to serve him as your  Lord, in union with the church which Christ has opened to people of all ages, nations, and races? (I do.)
p. 37 #12
Remember your baptism, and be thankful.
The Holy Spirit work within you, that having been born through water and the Spirit, you may live as a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ.
• Hymn 635 Because Thou Hast Said

Luke 17:5-10          (The Voice)       
5 The apostles said to Jesus:
We know we don’t have enough faith!
 Help our faith to grow!
(Pointing to a nearby mulberry tree) Jesus replied: 6 It’s not like you need a huge amount of faith. If you just had faith the size of a single, tiny mustard seed, you could say to this huge tree, “Pull up your roots and replant yourself in the sea,” and it would fly through the sky and do what you said. So even a little faith can accomplish the seemingly impossible.
7 Imagine this scenario. You have a servant—say he’s been out plowing a field or taking care of the sheep—and he comes in hot and sweaty from his work. Are you going to say, “You poor thing! Come in and sit down right away”? Of course not! 8 Wouldn’t you be more likely to say, “First, cook my supper and set the table, and then after I’ve eaten, you can get something to eat and drink for yourself”? 9 And after your servant has done everything you told him to do, are you going to make a big deal about it and thank him? [I don’t think so!] 10 Now apply this situation to yourselves. When you’ve done everything I’m telling you to do, just say, “We’re servants, unworthy of extra consideration or thanks; we’re just doing our duty.”  X

James 2:14-17 (CEB)

14 My brothers and sisters, what good is it if people say they have faith but do nothing to show it? Claiming to have faith can’t save anyone, can it? 15 Imagine a brother or sister who is naked and never has enough food to eat. 16 What if one of you said, “Go in peace! Stay warm! Have a nice meal!”? What good is it if you don’t actually give them what their body needs? 17 In the same way, faith is dead when it doesn’t result in faithful activity.… X