Sunday, September 24, 2017

I Am My Brother's Keeper

• Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost
with James 2:1-13  @FirstUMCBville  @kerrfunk

• Although we just read James 2:1-13, let me turn to the story of Cain & Abel, in the 4th chapter of Genesis. Cain is Adam & Eve’s firstborn, and he worked the soil. Abel is Cain’s younger brother, and he kept flocks. Cain “brought some fruits of the soil” as an offering to God, and Abel gave fat portions from his best animals. God accepted Abel’s offering but was not pleased with Cain’s, and Cain slew Abel. (Genesis 4:1-9). Cain’s anemic answer when God asked about Abel’s whereabouts: Am I my brother’s keeper?
• James answers the question: Yes. I am my brother’s keeper.
And my brother is in peril, my sister is in peril.
My brother is in jail and the mother of his children is an addict who sometimes sells herself to get another fix and not only are her children my children she’s my sister.
How shall we treat them when they knock on our door?
My brother receives a disability check although I’m not sure what the disability is. There are five people living in my brother’s home and I’m not sure they have electricity and there is mold.
How shall we treat my brother when they knock on our door?
My sister’s divorce ate up all her money and her ex is bleeding her dry financially and emotionally by taking her to court for made up issues.
How shall we treat my sister when she knocks on our door?
James answers the question: treat her like you’d treat your doctor. Treat her better than that. Have mercy and compassion on her, and be an advocate for her.
My brother is late. My sister has messed up.
It costs me on multiple levels to be gracious to my brother.
Give grace anyway. You have received grace,
a gift paid for willingly by another.
As grace-needy as your brother is, so much are you.
• Receiving the poor, indeed, preferential treatment of the poor
is a way of living grace.
I am poor with respect to God,
and I receive God’s favor by grace not by merit.
I wish to thank God, to pay it forward, to imitate God.
“You will never be asked to forgive someone else
more than God has forgiven you.”
– Rick Warren
“People won’t listen to you or take you seriously unless you’re an old, white man, and since I am an old, white man I’m going to use that to help the people who need it.” Patrick Stewart, advocating for Amnesty International. (I shared this on Oct 27, 2013, my fourth Sunday here).

• Hymn  434 When the Poor Ones

James 2:1-13 (CEB)
2 My brothers and sisters, when you show favoritism you deny the faithfulness of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has been resurrected in glory. 2 Imagine two people coming into your meeting. One has a gold ring and fine clothes, while the other is poor, dressed in filthy rags. 3 Then suppose that you were to take special notice of the one wearing fine clothes, saying, “Here’s an excellent place. Sit here.” But to the poor person you say, “Stand over there”; or, “Here, sit at my feet.” 4 Wouldn’t you have shown favoritism among yourselves and become evil-minded judges?
My dear brothers and sisters, listen! Hasn’t God chosen those who are poor by worldly standards to be rich in terms of faith? Hasn’t God chosen the poor as heirs of the kingdom he has promised to those who love him? 6 But you have dishonored the poor. Don’t the wealthy make life difficult for you? Aren’t they the ones who drag you into court? 7 Aren’t they the ones who insult the good name spoken over you at your baptism?
8 You do well when you really fulfill the royal law found in scripture, Love your neighbor as yourself. [Lev 19:18] 9 But when you show favoritism, you are committing a sin, and by that same law you are exposed as a lawbreaker. 10 Anyone who tries to keep all of the Law but fails at one point is guilty of failing to keep all of it. 11 The one who said, Don’t commit adultery, also said, Don’t commit murder. [Exod 20:13, 15]  So if you don’t commit adultery but do commit murder, you are a lawbreaker. 12 In every way, then, speak and act as people who will be judged by the law of freedom. 13 There will be no mercy in judgment for anyone who hasn’t shown mercy. Mercy overrules judgment.ò

Isaiah 58:6-9 (NIV)

6 “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
    and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
    and break every yoke?
7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry
    and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
    and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
8 Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
    and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness will go before you,
    and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
9 Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
    you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

on WV Day of Hope

• Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost
with James 1:12-27  @FirstUMCBville  @kerrfunk
A video of this sermon can be viewed at

Today is the 3rd Annual West Virginia Council of Churches Day of Hope, a Celebration of prevention and recovery for substance use disorder in WV. Apportionment offerings are used in our Annual Conference to fund substance recovery ministries throughout WV. When congregations neglect not to pay apportionments in full, actual ministries actually go underfunded.
• Alcoholics Anonymous is one of the oldest recovery programs, and a template for many other recovery programs. Founded 250 miles from Bville in Akron OH in 1935.
One of my previous churches hosted an AA meeting. I didn’t know a thing about AA. No actual knowledge about it and I never asked anybody. I vaguely knew there were 12 steps.
The word “alcohol” is mentioned once in the 12 steps. Also the word alcoholics once. First and twelfth step. I was surprised when I discovered that.
The 12 steps are not about alcohol,
not about not drinking.
AA considers alcoholism a spiritual malady (p. 64), the fruit of resentment and anger and fear. Things happen in life, some people respond with resentment anger or fear, unhealthy ways, and also some people reach out for alcohol to help soothe the resentment and anger and fear.
Also since alcoholism is a spiritual malady,
it is NOT a problem of willpower.
A spiritual problem requires spiritual solution.
• Romans 7:15, 18-21, 24-25 I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me. 21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do what is good, evil lies close at hand.  24 Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!
• AA’s solution (or rather suggestion) is to turn life over to God, to turn resentments and anger and fear over to God, who is able and willing to save.
• because God is good, God is giver of good gifts (James 1:17)
And because sin – literally “missing the mark” – comes not from God but from the fruit of our own desires. (James 1:13-15).
• So questions for you:
Who plants seeds in you,
What kinds of seeds,
and who would you have tend your garden?
• Prayer for God to grow in me and be gardener of me.

• Hymn  114 Many Gifts One Spirit

James 1:12-27 (CEB)
12 Those who stand firm during testing are blessed. They are tried and true. They will receive the life God has promised to those who love him as their reward.
13 No one who is tested should say, “God is tempting me!” This is because God is not tempted by any form of evil, nor does he tempt anyone. 14 Everyone is tempted by their own cravings; they are lured away and enticed by them. 15 Once those cravings conceive, they give birth to sin; and when sin grows up, it gives birth to death.
16 Don’t be misled, my dear brothers and sisters. 17 Every good gift, every perfect gift, comes from above. These gifts come down from the Father, the creator of the heavenly lights, in whose character there is no change at all. 18 He chose to give us birth by his true word, and here is the result: we are like the first crop from the harvest of everything he created.
19 Know this, my dear brothers and sisters: everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to grow angry. 20 This is because an angry person doesn’t produce God’s righteousness. 21 Therefore, with humility, set aside all moral filth and the growth of wickedness, and welcome the word planted deep inside you—the very word that is able to save you.
22 You must be doers of the word and not only hearers who mislead themselves. 23 Those who hear but don’t do the word are like those who look at their faces in a mirror. 24 They look at themselves, walk away, and immediately forget what they were like. 25 But there are those who study the perfect law, the law of freedom, and continue to do it. They don’t listen and then forget, but they put it into practice in their lives. They will be blessed in whatever they do.
26 If those who claim devotion to God don’t control what they say, they mislead themselves. Their devotion is worthless. 27 True devotion, the kind that is pure and faultless before God the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their difficulties and to keep the world from contaminating us. ò

Sunday, September 10, 2017

What God Wants of You

• Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost
with Romans 12:9-21  @FirstUMCBville  @kerrfunk

This sermon can be viewed on youtube at

• “think of the various tests you encounter as occasions for joy.” – James 1:2
The trials we face right now are numerous.
Harvey, Irma, maybe Jose on the way.
Dozens of lives lost, thousands devastated,
billions of dollars of damage. Trials.
Not back to “normal” for millions for a decade.
Some will give up. Some will rise above.
I won’t say God plans hurricanes,
rather they are part of a habitable planet
AND God can work anything for good (Romans 8:28).
In the aftermath of disaster, communities come together,
lives become shared.
• Trials in James: actual religious persecution,
threat to life and limb.
The result: the spread of gospel.
What will you stand for? Know your why.
James offers encouragement to persevere, endure, not give up,
because through perseverance God gives maturity, wisdom.
James even says if one is lacking wisdom, perhaps they stopped short.
God wants you to fail. (don’t stop the quote there! That’s not the end goal. The end goal is maturity, wisdom, and one does not achieve wisdom and maturity without failure along the way).
CS Lewis wrote that God wants his children to learn to walk, and so he takes his hand away from them and is pleased with their stumbles.
The Rev. Samuel Wesley chided his wife Susanna one time, telling her You’ve told the same thing to that child twenty times! Replied his wife “Had I satisfied myself by saying the matter only 19 times I would have lost all my labor, for it was the 20th time that took.”
• God delights to give maturity and wisdom. As any parent desires for their child to grow and delights in the watching.
And consider Jesus’ words in Matthew 7: Is there a man among you who would offer his child a stone when he asks for bread? Or a snake when he asks for fish? If you who are evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good things to those who ask him.
• God delights in you and desires that you achieve maturity and wisdom.
• (story of man who received the command from God: push on this rock. Man pushes, grows strong, but does not move the rock. Man cries out to God, dejected. God says I asked you to push, and you did. I didn’t ask you to move the rock; I’ll do that.)

• Hymn  539  O Spirit of the Living God

James 1:1-12 (CEB)
1 From James, a slave of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ.
To the twelve tribes who are scattered outside the land of Israel.
2 My brothers and sisters, think of the various tests you encounter as occasions for joy. 3 After all, you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. 4 Let this endurance complete its work so that you may be fully mature, complete, and lacking in nothing. 5 But anyone who needs wisdom should ask God, whose very nature is to give to everyone without a second thought, without keeping score. Wisdom will certainly be given to those who ask. 6 Whoever asks shouldn’t hesitate. They should ask in faith, without doubting. Whoever doubts is like the surf of the sea, tossed and turned by the wind. 7 People like that should never imagine that they will receive anything from the Lord. 8 They are double-minded, unstable in all their ways.

9 Brothers and sisters who are poor should find satisfaction in their high status. 10 Those who are wealthy should find satisfaction in their low status, because they will die off like wildflowers. 11 The sun rises with its scorching heat and dries up the grass so that its flowers fall and its beauty is lost. Just like that, in the midst of their daily lives, the wealthy will waste away. 12 Those who stand firm during testing are blessed. They are tried and true. They will receive the life God has promised to those who love him as their reward. ò

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Living Attractively

• Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost
with Romans 12:9-21  @FirstUMCBville  @kerrfunk

This sermon can be viewed on youtube at

•  “Preach the Gospel at all times. If necessary, use words.”
(attributed to St. Francis)
What does it mean, really?
What does it look like in practice, in real life?
(really, stop reading right now and sit a spell with this one)

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this:
to care for orphans and widows in their distress,
and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
– James 1:27
• Question: Is “religion” belief, or is it action?  
Answer: Yes.
What kind of action?
Generous, considerate, compassionate, selfless, service.
That’s how to express devotion to God, thankfulness for salvation.
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, 2 and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. – Ephesians 5:1-2
• The story of the disciple, the mentor, and the mirror.
Love should be shown without pretending.
Let love be genuine. – Romans 12:9
• Love and ministry as Paul writes involve knowing who you are
with respect to God and with respect to people.
• wrt God, you are child, you are object of love and delight, you are fearfully and wonderfully made, you are bought and redeemed, you are recipient of grace.
• wrt people you are equal, and none is more equal than others. (in eyes of God). There is no hierarchy or status in family of God, none more deserving of grace nor less deserving.
Live at peace – Romans 12:16.
Live generously and considerately and attractively.
16 Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.
– Jesus, in Matt 5:16 (Sermon on the Mount)
• …attributed to Mahatma Gandhi:
“I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians.
Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”
• In your life… give them Christ.
• Hymn  In the Breaking of the Bread

Romans 12:9-21 (CEB)
9 Love should be shown without pretending. Hate evil, and hold on to what is good. 10 Love each other like the members of your family. Be the best at showing honor to each other. 11 Don’t hesitate to be enthusiastic—be on fire in the Spirit as you serve the Lord! 12 Be happy in your hope, stand your ground when you’re in trouble, and devote yourselves to prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of God’s people, and welcome strangers into your home. 14 Bless people who harass you—bless and don’t curse them. 15 Be happy with those who are happy, and cry with those who are crying. 16 Consider everyone as equal, and don’t think that you’re better than anyone else. Instead, associate with people who have no status. Don’t think that you’re so smart. 17 Don’t pay back anyone for their evil actions with evil actions, but show respect for what everyone else believes is good.

18 If possible, to the best of your ability, live at peace with all people.19 Don’t try to get revenge for yourselves, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath. It is written, Revenge belongs to me; I will pay it back, says the Lord. [Deut 32:35] 20 Instead, If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink. By doing this, you will pile burning coals of fire upon his head. [Prov 25:21] 21 Don’t be defeated by evil, but defeat evil with good. ò