Sunday, August 27, 2017

On Living Sacrifices

• Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost
with Romans 12:1-8  @FirstUMCBville  @kerrfunk

This sermon is viewable at

• From Chicken Soup for the Soul, circa 1994, though the story is older: An eight-year-old boy had a younger sister who was dying of leukemia, and he was told that without a blood transfusion she would die. His parents explained to him that his blood was probably compatible with hers, and if so, he could be the blood donor. They asked him if they could test his blood. He said sure. So they did and it was a good match. Then they asked if he would give his sister a pint of blood, that it could be her only chance of living. He said he would have to think about it overnight.
The next day he went to his parents and said he was willing to donate the blood. So they took him to the hospital where he was put on a gurney beside his six-year-old sister. Both of them were hooked up to IVs. A nurse withdrew a pint of blood from the boy, which was then put in the girl’s IV. The boy lay on his gurney in silence while the blood dripped into his sister, until the doctor came over to see how he was doing. Then the boy opened his eyes and asked, “How soon until I start to die?”
 Anecdotal to be sure, but truth. Living sacrifice.
• I am a blood donor, have been for 15 years pretty regularly. And I’m on a national bone marrow registry, And “organ donor” is on my license (it means nothing legally, though. Next of kin get to make the decision, so tell them before they have to decide).
It’s important to me to live my life in a generous way even with my body.
I get some of that from my Dad.
• My Dad was a blood donor until travel restrictions and medications disqualify him from donating. My Dad is the kind of person who will get up at 4 in the morning if you need a ride to the airport, and he’ll pick you up at any hour as well. Living sacrifice.
• Paul, in Romans 12:1: present your bodies as living sacrifices.
There’s been Love the Lord with all your Heart and Soul and Mind (HSM), now don’t neglect the use of your Body in loving and serving the Lord.
Body is a tool God can use, especially if it’s connected to HSM.
Our body divorced from HSM make for a lousy tool.
Our body, our willingness to give of ourselves, in connection with HSM: terrific tool.
• Present your bodies as living sacrifices. As Jesus did. Jesus’ incarnation is the ultimate living sacrifice. All in. Thy Will Be Done. You’ve given me body, I give it to you, I ask you to prioritize my life. You made me after all.
• Yesterday community meal, prep and service. 100ppl. Blessed. Working together.
Also yesterday: Hurricane Harvey. And will be there, we can give today if we want. We can assemble cleanup kits and hygiene kits.  Eager to help.
Also recently: Heroin overdoses in 2017 higher than year end 2016 already.
Let us be eager to help there too. To be both a cog in the recovery network and personally open and available (presenting our bodies) to minister to addicts and their loved ones.
• Hymn 2253 I’m Gonna Live So God Can Use Me

Romans 12:1-8 (CEB)    
12 So, brothers and sisters, because of God’s mercies,  I encourage you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice that is holy and pleasing to God. This is your appropriate priestly service. 2 Don’t be conformed to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds so that you can figure out what God’s will is—what is good and pleasing and mature.

3 Because of the grace that God gave me, I can say to each one of you: don’t think of yourself more highly than you ought to think. Instead, be reasonable since God has measured out a portion of faith to each one of you. 4 We have many parts in one body, but the parts don’t all have the same function. 5 In the same way, though there are many of us, we are one body in Christ, and individually we belong to each other. 6 We have different gifts that are consistent with God’s grace that has been given to us. If your gift is prophecy, you should prophesy in proportion to your faith. 7 If your gift is service, devote yourself to serving. If your gift is teaching, devote yourself to teaching. 8 If your gift is encouragement, devote yourself to encouraging. The one giving should do it with no strings attached. The leader should lead with passion. The one showing mercy should be cheerful. ò

Sunday, August 20, 2017

The Gathering

• Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost
with Isaiah 56:1, 6-8  @FirstUMCBville  @kerrfunk

I preached today at another church in town, Barboursville Baptist Church, as several area churches participate in a “pulpit swap.” All in all, six churches participated, and feedback was pretty positive. We might aim for twice a year swaps.
This sermon is on youtube at

• I’ve been a pastor in Barboursville for about four years. Three ish years ago several area pastors revived an ecumenical pastor gathering, and we call ourselves BAM (Bville Area Ministerium). There’s currently 7 churches whose pastors meet once a month or so.
• Isn’t it funny how language changes from region to region? Once I lived where they called the stuff that roads are made of “macadam.” Other places call it “blacktop” (even as in Take the blacktop south out of town for three miles and turn right). I grew up with “asphalt”.
Simple example, but language can really define us, who’s in the circle and who’s an outsider, intentionally or unintentionally.
We make / define outsiders. Isn’t that horrible?
• Who’s in the circle. In some respect (not all) that’s denominations and states and ideologies.
• Today’s Isaiah reading (Isaiah 56:1, 6-8). We don’t get to say who’s in the circle. It’s up to God. And God says that even folks we’d call outsiders, if they covenant with God, He’ll bring them into his temple with joy. He’ll make it a house of prayer for all nations.
And if God accepts someone we’d call outsider…
• what do we do? Isaiah 56:1 act justly, righteously.
Be humble and edifying. Consider the wellbeing of others. Weigh it against your own. Build other people up.
Serve others (is it convenient? Was it convenient for Jesus?) and judge not.
Live graciously to all.
Habit #5 (Stephen Covey, Seven Habits of Highly Successful People).
Seek first to understand then to be understood.
• Let us live as examples of unity within Bville. It exists among your pastors.
Unity within WV. Within nation. Within world (worldwide church news 500th anniversary of Martin Luther and the reformation, a joint declaration including many worldwide church bodies)
Unity as a means of addressing substance use disorder and racism. We stand together against substance abuse. We stand together for recovery and for ministry to families.
• We have a story to tell to the nations.

Isaiah 56:1, 6-8 (Common English Bible)
56 The Lord says:
    Act justly and do what is righteous,
    because my salvation is coming soon,
    and my righteousness will be revealed.

6 The immigrants (foreigners. outsiders) who have joined me,
    serving me and loving my name, becoming my servants,
    everyone who keeps the Sabbath
       without making it impure,
    and those who hold fast to my covenant:
7     I will bring them to my holy mountain,
    and bring them joy in my house of prayer.
    I will accept their entirely burned offerings
      and sacrifices on my altar.
    My house will be known
       as a house of prayer for all peoples,

8   says the Lord God, who gathers Israel’s outcasts.
I will gather still others to those I have already gathered.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Faith and Works

• Tenth Sunday after Pentecost
with Romans 10:5-15  @FirstUMCBville  @kerrfunk

Some weekend events I'll address later:
• White supremacist rally and torches and vehicular homicide
in Charlottesville, VA Aug 11-12, 2017
• From the journal of Ron Reid, 1946-2017:
Love Pray Thank Every Day. And laugh.
• A few points from Romans 10:5-15
1, The Law is great  but no one can keep it perfectly.
2, Salvation is a gift from God.
It is entirely grace, entirely God’s choice.
This means a few things: neither the highest nor the lowest earns salvation, therefore there is no highest there is no lowest
(see Romans 10:12)
Salvation is a gift from God… means
I am not the gatekeeper. I am not the giver of grace.
You are not the gatekeeper. You are not the giver of grace.
Righteousness is given imputed, imparted,
graced by God, not by following the Law.
We receive grace and righteousness by faith.
(see Romans 10:10).
We’re all in the same boat with respect to the grace of God.
• Now. This theoretically is all review. Admittedly it is challenging to apply God’s leveling of hierarchy. So now: the events of this weekend.
• City of Charlottesville VA planned to remove a statue of General Robert E. Lee from a downtown public park (Emancipation Park, formerly Lee Park). People and groups gathered to protest the removal of the statue. The gathering was called “Unite the Right” and it included thousands of people gathering in Charlottesville.
On Friday night there were people carrying torches, shouting white supremacist slogans and surrounding a predominantly black church that was holding a worship service, and it wasn’t because they wanted to go in and pray… (aside: remember today’s reading from Romans? There is no us and them. The same Lord is Lord of all. I don’t see that in these peoples’ actions, do you?)
On Saturday there were other people gathering in Charlottesville, people gathering to protest the Unite the Right rally, speaking for equality and against racism and violence.
On Saturday one person (a 20yo white man) deliberately drove his car into a crowd of the counterprotesters, killing one and injuring two dozen or more.
This is not how Christians (or Americans, or humans) should act. And humans (and Americans and Christians) need to stand against this kind of violence.
• Check out our baptismal covenant.
United Methodist Hymnal, p. 33 #1 and #2.  p. 34 #4, #6, #8
33.1 we are incorporated into God’s mighty acts of salvation
33.2 we acknowledge what God is doing…
        ...we affirm our commitment

34.4 we renounce spiritual forces of wickedness, we reject evil.
        we accept the freedom and power God gives to resist evil…
        …Christ has opened the church
            to people of all ages, nations, races…

34.6 …Christ’s representatives in this world
35.8 …reaffirm rejection of sin and commitment to Christ.
       community of love and forgiveness…
       ...growth, trust, faith… prayer…
• We do not and can not and will not tolerate evil,
we will stand and speak against evil,
we will stand and work for the oppressed
we remember that we have been given grace
and we are called to be representatives.
• A final thought: today’s reading from Matthew 14,
Peter walking on water. 
Q: Why wasn’t Jesus in the boat?
A: Jesus had sent the disciples ahead of him while he prayed.
Q: Why was Jesus praying?
A: He’d found out about John the Baptist’s beheading.
Q: Why was JtB beheaded?
A: Because JtB spoke against a Power (Herod)
     and against abuse of power.
     JtB stood for righteousness,
          even if it was risky, even if unpopular.
And the disciples worshiped Jesus, who was with them in the storm, the very presence of God.
"Let my heart be broken with the things that break the heart of God." Bob Pierce
Hymn 2220 We Are God’s People. Not for lording ourselves but for serving world, teaching love.
Benediction 2 Cor. 13:11 – Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.

Romans 10:5-15 (CEB)    (with notes)
5 Moses writes about the righteousness that comes from the Law: The person who does these things will live by them.[Lev. 18:5] 6 But the righteousness that comes from faith talks like this: Don’t say in your heart, “Who will go up into heaven?” [Deut. 9:4, 30:12] (that is, to bring Christ down) 7 or “Who will go down into the region below?” [Deut. 30:13] (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). 8 But what does it say? The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart [Deut. 30:14] (that is, the message of faith that we preach). 9 Because if you confess with your mouth “Jesus is Lord” and you have faith in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 Trusting with the heart leads to righteousness, and confessing with the mouth leads to salvation. 11 The scripture says, All who have faith in him won’t be put to shame. [Isa. 28:16] 12 There is no distinction between Jew and Greek, because the same Lord is Lord of all, who gives richly to all who call on him. 13 All who call on the Lord’s name will be saved. [Joel 2:32]
 So how can they call on someone they don’t have faith in? And how can they have faith in someone they haven’t heard of? And how can they hear without a preacher? 15 And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, How beautiful are the feet of those who announce the good news. [Isa. 52:7]