Sunday, May 28, 2017

Bloom Where You're PLanted

• Seventh Sunday of Easter / Ascension Sunday
with Acts chapter 8  @FirstUMCBville  @kerrfunk

• How many of you are second or third or fourth generation where you live?
What would it take for you to leave your home?
It’d have to be serious.
What would your attitude be if you left?
Today’s Acts reading precipitated by the stoning of Stephen and the rise of Saul the zealous persecutor, armed with authority to arrest and imprison (or worse) Jewish Christians.
People left their ancestral homes.
And Luke (author) uses the word diaspiro (1289), a word for scattering, sowing, planting (as opposed to much more common diaskorzo (1287), wasteful scattering a la the prodigal son squandering his inheritance)
Can you imagine blooming where you’re planted?
• Christians are scattered, planted throughout the Mediterranean, including Samaria. Yes, that Samaria, of Good Samaritan fame. Jews and Samaritans got along like Hatfields and McCoys. Like Jonah and the Ninevites.
To be ousted from your ancestral home and to go to the people your clan has despised. It’d have to be serious.
• Philip goes to Samaria and preaches Christ, and like Jonah and the Ninevites, the people respond overwhelmingly favorably. Philip blooms where he’s planted and bears fruit immediately, strong ripe beautiful fruit immediately.
• The apostles in Jerusalem catch wind of God is doing in Samaria through Philip, and Peter and John are sent to strengthen the witness. Again, folks are praying earnestly for what we might call their enemies, and they go not for their own purposes but to witness about Christ and to bear the Holy Spirit to them, which they bear by prayer and by presence, the laying on of hands.
And their witness is fruitful as well. They preach to many Samaritan villages, who hear and receive the Word.
• It must’ve been serious for folks to leave their ancestral homes and face folks traditionally avoided. But they do so because they have the Holy Spirit and because they recognize it is not theirs to keep but they are compelled to share, not merely in prayer but in presence.
The Word they share is life in Christ, empowered by the Holy Spirit.
As the bishop shared last week, life in Christ which knows no bounds, indeed is boundary breaking, empowered by the Holy Spirit a la Star Trek, to boldly go where no one has gone before, to offer connection to the living God.
• That’s what you have. That’s what we have.
A God worth proclaiming,
a God worth risking for, a God worth living for.
• We are called to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
To share the love of God with people in a hurting world.
What will we let stop us?

• Hymn 539 O Spirit of the Living God

Acts 8:1-25  (CEB)
At that time, the church in Jerusalem began to be subjected to vicious harassment. Everyone except the apostles was scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria.Some pious men buried Stephen and deeply grieved over him. Saul began to wreak havoc against the church. Entering one house after another, he would drag off both men and women and throw them into prison.
Those who had been scattered moved on, preaching the good news along the way. Philip went down to a city in Samaria and began to preach Christ to them. The crowds were united by what they heard Philip say and the signs they saw him perform, and they gave him their undivided attention. With loud shrieks, unclean spirits came out of many people, and many who were paralyzed or crippled were healed. There was great rejoicing in that city.
Before Philip’s arrival, a certain man named Simon had practiced sorcery in that city and baffled the people of Samaria. He claimed to be a great person. 10 Everyone, from the least to the greatest, gave him their undivided attention and referred to him as “the power of God called Great.” 11 He had their attention because he had baffled them with sorcery for a long time. 12 After they came to believe Philip, who preached the good news about God’s kingdom and the name of Jesus Christ, both men and women were baptized. 13 Even Simon himself came to believe and was baptized. Afterward, he became one of Philip’s supporters. As he saw firsthand the signs and great miracles that were happening, he was astonished. ò
14 When word reached the apostles in Jerusalem that Samaria had accepted God’s word, they commissioned Peter and John to go to Samaria. 15 Peter and John went down to Samaria where they prayed that the new believers would receive the Holy Spirit. (16 This was because the Holy Spirit had not yet fallen on any of them; they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) 17 So Peter and John laid their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.
18 When Simon perceived that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money.19 He said, “Give me this authority too so that anyone on whom I lay my hands will receive the Holy Spirit.”
20 Peter responded, “May your money be condemned to hell along with you because you believed you could buy God’s gift with money! 21 You can have no part or share in God’s word because your heart isn’t right with God. 22 Repent, therefore, change your heart and life! Turn from your wickedness! Plead with the Lord in the hope that your wicked intent can be forgiven, 23 for I see that your bitterness has poisoned you and evil has you in chains.”

24 Simon replied, “All of you, please, plead to the Lord for me so that nothing of what you have said will happen to me!” 25 After the apostles had testified and proclaimed the Lord’s word, they returned to Jerusalem, preaching the good news to many Samaritan villages along the way. ò

Sunday, May 7, 2017

There's Only Two Times to Praise God...

• Fourth Sunday of Easter
Communion Sunday
with Psalm 103  @FirstUMCBville  @kerrfunk

• Attention folks with school-aged kids, be sure to check out camping at Asbury Woods this summer, the 2nd & 3rd week of July. Info in newsletter, scholarships are available.
A favorite experience of mine as a camp volunteer, leading Bible study by a creek. We were acting out scripture passage, and one boy volunteered to be the Holy Spirit, although the HS was not part of the passage. Okay. And he wandered around, every now and then whispering “bless!” and ‘sprinkling’ random people with blessing. It was great.
• In today’s reading of Psalm 103, nine times the word Bless. Also eight “all”, for totality, completeness. God does not do things half-way.
What is bless in Psalm 103?
Hebrew word ba-rak, 68 times in the Psalms, close second 62 in Genesis, plus another 200 throughout the rest of the OT.
To bow, kneel, bend the knee. Honor, revere, praise.
Humble self, lift up [other].
In English, adore, consecrate, sanctify.
To make or pronounce holy.
Set apart [as special]. Bestow good upon. Exalt.
Blessing has to do with positioning yourself
with respect to the one being blessed
To bless is to see someone, recognize them, honor them.
• WHY “bless the Lord”? The Psalmist can’t stop singing about why.
The Lord is the one who forgives (completely) heals (completely) saves (completely). The Lord lifts up, fills, renews. And that’s just three verses.
Psalmist continues to reveal character traits and actions of God
And a person would be right to say Yeah But what about God who does not save? What about wrathful God of OT? What about God who completely punishes for sin?
We learn of an inconsistent and disproportionate God who punishes a little (and that justly) and who blesses beyond compare, completely, generation to generation, forever and ever.
• How to bless the Lord? Remember positioning.
A young married man confided to his father after the wedding,
“I don’t know, Dad, I don’t know that it feels any different now that we’re married. I don’t *feel* married.”
And the wise father replied, “Son, it doesn’t matter whether you *feel* married or not… you better *act* married. You live as a married man. You do things with and for your wife, you honor her and think of her first and set her above all others (except God).”
• Bless God frequently nay constantly. When you feel like it and when you don’t.
With all of yourself. In word and in action. With humility (again, lift the other up).
• Expect to see God and you probably will.
Show up when God shows up. (which is when?) Be mindful and thankful.

Children’s Message

What is ‘blessing’, how do we use ‘bless’?
We were blessed with a baby.
So and so was blessed with addiction.
I was blessed with a loving family.
So and so was blessed with economic insecurity and divorced parents.

Jesus challenged the meaning of blessing, do you remember what he said?
Blessed are the poor, the hungry. Blessed are those who weep now.
Blessed are the persecuted.

What’s up with that?
Those are drawn closer to God.

And it’s easy if you have lots of good things to be distracted by those good things and forget about God. (You grownups, consider Steinbeck’s story The Pearl.)