Sunday, November 24, 2019

Christ the King Sunday

• Christ the King Sunday    @FirstUMCBville   @kerrfunk
A video of the worship service was posted on Facebook 11/24/19

I have been leading this Christ the King service for close to a dozen years, tweaking the scripture readings and the songs, but keeping the basic format. Every year I wonder, "Should I do this again?" and every year people tell me they appreciate this service. Glory to God!

Following is an order of worship for Christ the King Sunday

• Handbells at 4:20
• Children’s message at 17:50

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Keep Planting

• Keep Planting
with Luke 21:5-19    @FirstUMCBville   @kerrfunk
A video of the worship service was posted on Facebook 11/17/19

Nothing Gold Can Stay
Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower,
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf,
So Eden sank to grief.
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.
- Robert Frost, 1923
• An evocative poem about change and decay,
also sin, coming of age, maturity.
Kind of timeless in its beauty,
   like a dusty dried corsage.
Time changes all things.
The Temple was impermanent.
People change.
Life is full of instabilities.
Remember the good ol’ days?
• I thought of this poem after considering Jesus’ response to the disciples
as they marveled at the Temple.
I can see them marveling. I can imagine generations seeking to keep it in tact.
(I remember a hundred-year-old church being tuckpointed just a few years before it closed.)
Jesus is not saying pay attention to the coming of “End Times” –
indeed, saying it’s fruitless to spend yourself there; live now.
Jesus is instead saying don’t put your hope and energy in buildings.
In people. In politics. In good ol’ days.
• Things as you know them won’t last, Jesus says.
Here are some do’s and don’ts:
   Don’t be misled.
   Don’t follow false messiahs.
   Don’t panic!
   Don’t be anxious.
   DO testify. I’ll give you opportunity.
   DO trust in me. I’ll give you words.
   DO trust in me. Not a hair will be lost*
   DO persevere. Hang in there. Reward.
          *puzzling, this one. But Luke 17:33
          who seeks to save life will lose it…
          Your priority should not be self preservation.
• If you are planting a tree, and someone says Messiah is coming,
finish planting the tree, and then get up to greet Messiah.
– Rabbi Johann ben Zakkai, 1st Century
• Cling to the rock that is God. Emmanuel. Treasure in heaven. Gold that stays.

• Hymn 361 Rock of Ages

Luke 21:5-19 (HCSB)
5 As some were talking about the temple complex, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God, He said, 6 “These things that you see—the days will come when not one stone will be left on another that will not be thrown down!”
7 “Teacher,” they asked Him, “so when will these things be? And what will be the sign when these things are about to take place?”
8 Then He said, “Watch out that you are not deceived. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am He,’ and, ‘The time is near.’ Don’t follow them. 9 When you hear of wars and rebellions, don’t be alarmed. Indeed, these things must take place first, but the end won’t come right away.”
10 Then He told them: “Nation will be raised up against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. 11 There will be violent earthquakes, and famines and plagues in various places, and there will be terrifying sights and great signs from heaven. 12 But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and persecute you. They will hand you over to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors because of My name. 13 It will lead to an opportunity for you to witness. 14 Therefore make up your minds not to prepare your defense ahead of time, 15 for I will give you such words and a wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict. 16 You will even be betrayed by parents, brothers, relatives, and friends. They will kill some of you. 17 You will be hated by everyone because of My name, 18 but not a hair of your head will be lost. 19 By your endurance gain your lives. ò 

Sunday, November 10, 2019

No Handicap Parking in Heaven

• No Handicap Parking in Heaven
with Luke 20:27-38    @FirstUMCBville   @kerrfunk
A video of the worship service was posted on Facebook 11/10/19

• 29 years ago my life was changed forever.
I was a freshman in college, I met the woman I would marry, and that’s what we did. 23 years ago she died.
Also 23 years ago my life was changed forever.
I met the woman I’d marry. And that’s what we did.
We’ve been married 20 years now.
The Sadducees’ question has long given me pause.
Who will I be married to in the resurrection?
I don’t even know where I want my body buried!
On the one hand, sounds like a legitimate question.
Luke points out, though, that it’s not: the Sadducees who don’t believe in life after death are asking a question about life after death. Hoping to trick or trap Jesus.
• Levirate marriage idea sounds odd to us, but in patriarchal culture where few women owned property or could honorably sustain themselves, LM offered protection for widows.
Think of it as a kind of life insurance.
A safety net for a woman in the event of her husband’s untimely death.
• One commentator I read said “I have many questions about resurrection, but the details aren’t the point. Or at least they weren’t when Jesus answered the Sadducees in the Temple. The point is, the promise of resurrection and the assurance of that promise have the capacity to guide our life in this age.”
Why aren’t the details the point?
Jesus provides an answer, with a twist.
Levirate marriage, a kind of life insurance, has death at its foundation.
The resurrection, eternal life, the kingdom of heaven, there is no death in the resurrection.
Therefore there is no life insurance and no Levirate marriage.
There are no handicap parking spaces in heaven and no flashlights.
How do our earthly relationships carry over in the kingdom?
I don’t know. Jesus doesn’t say.
But I trust there will be nothing to complain about.
• I think Jesus had another point, though, when he replied to the Sadducees.
Don’t waste your time on these things.
Recall the passage from Isaiah last week:
Live in relationship.
Live in relationship with God and people.
Esteem others.
Ritualistically going through the motions doesn’t honor me, God says. It’s your own mind game.
What I honor: seeking justice – that is, what is right among people. Helping the oppressed. Defending the orphan, pleading for the widow. Using the opportunity, power, influence you have to lift others who lack opportunity, power, influence.
• What if, instead of gatekeeping the Temple,
disciples spent their resources and efforts in outreach and advocacy?
What if instead of deciding who was in or out,
disciples fed the hungry and aided the sick?
What if the people of the church lived their public lives in such a way that others would be drawn to their actions and teachings?
• Churches are intended to be resurrection outposts with the ability to be a site and a people whose resources, words, and being can be a foretaste for the most vulnerable among us.
May we be strengthened by the promise, and worthy of the age to come.
• Hymn 372 How Can We Sinners Know

Luke 20:27-38 (HCSB)
27 Some of the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came up and questioned Him: 28 “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother has a wife, and dies childless, his brother should take the wife and produce offspring for his brother. 29 Now there were seven brothers. The first took a wife and died without children. 30 Also the second 31 and the third took her. In the same way, all seven died and left no children. 32 Finally, the woman died too. 33 In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife will the woman be? For all seven had married her.”
34 Jesus told them, “The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage. 35 But those who are counted worthy to take part in that age and in the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. 36 For they cannot die anymore, because they are like angels and are sons of God, since they are sons of the resurrection. 37 Moses even indicated in the passage about the burning bush that the dead are raised, where he calls the Lord the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. 38 He is not God of the dead but of the living, because all are living to Him.” ò

Sunday, November 3, 2019

How You Live Now

• All Saints’ Sunday
with Isaiah 1:10-18    @FirstUMCBville   @kerrfunk
A video of the worship service was posted on Facebook 11/03/19

• In February 2015 the musical Hamilton opened in New York. In 2016 it won 11 Tony awards, including best musical, and it won a Grammy too for musical theatre album. Tells the story of immigrant and US founding father Alexander Hamilton.
Near the end of the first act, five years in to the Revolutionary War, General George Washington offers Hamilton the military leadership he’s long desired, and Washington counsels Hamilton: Let me tell you what I wish I’d known when I was young and dreamed of glory: you have no control who lives, who dies, who tells your story.

Later in the musical, Aaron Burr laments that in spite of all his accomplishments, he himself will only be remembered as the man who shot Alexander Hamilton, and Hamilton’s wife Eliza spends the last fifty years of her life seeing that her husband’s story as one who shaped the nation gets told.

• You have no control who lives, who dies, who tells your story, but oftentimes, how you live now affects how you will be remembered.

• Today All Saints’ Sunday, and we read the names of some of our loved ones who have died since last November. Some of them died suddenly, unexpectedly: Dale. Larry. Ryan. Jack. Others more expected: PeeWee. Myrtle. Boogie. All of them loved, all of them leave some kind of hole in life, and it takes an act of faith to trust that they know the peace of God’s eternal kingdom now. And how they lived affected how they are remembered.

• You can obey the law and not be remembered. You pay your taxes? You’re almost invisible. You get negative attention by not paying them. And you get positive attention by living generously.

I think of John Wesley who lived along the lines of earn all you can, save all you can, give all you can, that it would be a sin against the poor if a wealthy man died with a large bank account.
I think of Andrew Carnegie, who lived along the lines of learn all you can, earn all you can, give all you can. Carnegie dictum. One of the wealthiest men in history, and he gave 90% of his earnings away.

• How you live now affects how you will be remembered.

• Prophet Isaiah, God speaks about how you live now.
Don’t live mindlessly. God hates that.

Live in relationship. Live in relationship with God and people. Esteem others.
Ritualistically going through the motions doesn’t honor me, God says. It’s your own mind game.

What I honor: seeking justice – that is, what is right among people. Helping the oppressed. Defending the orphan, pleading for the widow. Using the opportunity, power, influence you have to lift others who lack opportunity, power, influence.

That’s a good way to be remembered. That’s a way to live that honors life, gives glory to God.

That’s kingdom living, living as one who already knows the peace that God will give.

• All Saints’ remembrance, followed by Holy Communion

Celebration of the Saints            All Saints’ Sunday       11/03/19
We remember
and we look forward to seeing again in the kingdom:
PeeWee, Myrtle D, Dale A, Larry S, Arthur B, Ryan T, Jack W, Boogie.

Isaiah 1:10-18 (CEB)
10 Hear the Lord’s word, you leaders of Sodom. Listen to our God’s teaching, people of Gomorrah!
11 What should I think about all your sacrifices? says the Lord. I’m fed up with entirely burned offerings of rams and the fat of well-fed beasts. I don’t want the blood of bulls, lambs, and goats. 12 When you come to appear before me, who asked this from you, this trampling of my temple’s courts?
13 Stop bringing worthless offerings. Your incense repulses me.
New moon, sabbath, and the calling of an assembly—I can’t stand wickedness with celebration! 14 I hate your new moons and your festivals. They’ve become a burden that I’m tired of bearing.
15 When you extend your hands, I’ll hide my eyes from you.
Even when you pray for a long time, I won’t listen. Your hands are stained with blood.
16 Wash! Be clean! Remove your ugly deeds from my sight. Put an end to such evil; 17 learn to do good. Seek justice: help the oppressed; defend the orphan; plead for the widow.
18 Come now, and let’s settle this, says the Lord. Though your sins are like scarlet, they will be white as snow. If they are red as crimson, they will become like wool. ò

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Rachel's Story. Jesus Restores a Woman on the Sabbath.

• Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost
with Luke 13:10-17    @FirstUMCBville   @kerrfunk
A video of the worship service was posted on Facebook 8/25/19

• For Rachel, it was a good day if she could get to the market and back without falling – or being tripped. It was a GREAT day if she could go pray in the synagogue without being teased or harassed. There were times when children imitated her bent walk, but that didn’t bother her too much. They were children.
The thing that hurt her even more than a day’s difficult bent-over journey was how her former playmates treated her. Some of her peers were disciples of rabbis now, some even in training to become rabbis.
And she couldn’t decide: was it worse when they openly talked about what sin she must’ve done to be bent over (and I won’t enumerate the sins they considered), or was it worse when they ignored her entirely? For eighteen years she had born both the insults and the isolation.
• One unbearable thing was watching her girlfriends get married and start families. At least at their weddings, though, she could escape for a few hours with the help of the abundant wine. And really, can you blame her?
Worse though than watching her friends marry was the shame and indignity of her younger sister wed, though she had had not so much as an inquiry even from an old widower. She could not bear a child, this she knew, and even if she could, she couldn’t care for it.
• Rachel didn’t know why or how it happened, but during her years of becoming a woman, her back had not grown right and she could not stand straight. Sometimes the memories of running and playing with friends were all that she had to make it through the days anymore.
She had lost count of the number of “healers” she had seen and the number of attempts that had been made to straighten her. It was humiliating, strangers touching her to try to fix her, and from time to time a “helping” hand lingered where it oughtn’t.
But what could she do? Who would believe her if she told anybody? So she bore the shame as best she could. At least the bottle didn’t judge her, though its relief was temporary and often came with a cost.
• Still she loved the Sabbath. Rachel was not as weary on the Sabbath. She felt like somehow in spite of the synagogue leaders, there was… “life” in the synagogue. Especially when it was quiet and nobody spoke.
Often times those precious moments of peace carried her through the week, and sometimes she felt like she could fly. (Isaiah 40 those who trust in the Lord will renew their strength; she remembered. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not faint. She remembered. She hoped. Sometimes she had to make herself hope, she had to fake it til she made it, and sometimes she failed, but she tried to hope.)
And believe it or not, her prayers every week, every day, were not for her own healing. That was too selfish, she thought. Her prayers were for those who ridiculed or mocked her, judged her or ignored her. That their hearts might be turned. And maybe, that she would have the strength to bear their slings and arrows.
• Recently, Rachel had heard a bit about a new traveling rabbi, though. Heard of authentic healings, not shams and quacks. She’d heard of powerful teachings and stories. She’d even heard a bit about religious leaders shamed by this man’s calm reasoning.
She bit down on the inside of her cheek to shock herself from the pleasure of thinking of those who looked down on her getting theirs. Still, as she washed on Friday afternoon and helped prepare the sabbath meal for tomorrow, she hoped. She wasn’t sure what she hoped, but she hoped.
• And then the time came. Time to go to synagogue. Whispering a quiet prayer for strength for the journey, she went. There were more people than usual, she noticed with a bit of dismay. More people to look at her sideways or ignore her.
She resolved to make herself as small as possible, to attract as little attention as she could. She arrived at the synagogue and attempted to be invisible.
• But after years of being stared at, she suddenly knew everyone was looking at her. Her peers, her sister and her husband and children, the synagogue leader. And the teacher. The rabbi she’d heard about.
Not only was he looking at her, but she could feel… genuine love as he approached. It dawned on her that this man was not going to judge her or make fun of her, and even as she was coming to this realization, trying to stand up a little straighter so she might see him better, she heard him say – apparently to her – “Woman, you are free of your disability.”
• Rachel was still reeling from his address – he spoke clearly and with honor and dignity somehow, she could feel it, like he knew her, like he really knew who she was, and not just the unmarried bent-over woman.
And as this realization was beginning to sink in, he touched her, and she didn’t shudder or pull back in shame – she stood! Right up! Oh! She looked into his face instead of at his adams apple or up his nostrils – right in his face!
And his eyes, there were worlds in those eyes and she was standing and she was restored and what could she do but fall to her knees – kneeling but upright – and cry through her tears, Hallelujah, give thanks to the Lord for He is good, his love endures forever!
She remembered the words of Moses’ sister Miriam, The Lord is my strength and my defense; he has become my salvation. He is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him. And again, his eyes, and his hands, and her back, and his voice. Glory to God. Glory to God.

• She didn’t know how much time had passed. Could’ve been seconds, could’ve been a month, she had no idea. But the air felt suddenly cold as the synagogue leader cast a disdainful eye at her – there were no worlds in his eye, not like the traveling rabbi – and he spoke to the crowd over her through her.
She was invisible again, or she wanted to be invisible, as the leader rebuked the traveling rabbi, for making her well on the sabbath. But, but, this is an occasion to rejoice, she thought to herself. No wrong has been done – we’re all supposed to be praising the Lord… Sabbath was created by God to celebrate life, creation, which God declared Very Good. Sabbath was not a punishment a chore or a sentence. It was a gift. To be shared with others who have worlds in their eyes.
• The teacher then honored her even more: already she’d received more than she’d ever dreamed of, yet here the teacher called her Daughter of Abraham. Oh! To be restored to physical wellness and to community – the community she lived in and the community of the Lord. Tears continued to flow as she repeated again and again, Glory to God. Glory to God.
• And she noticed she was not the only one crying Glory to God. Indeed, the entire crowd was now praising the Lord, rejoicing at her salvation, and Rachel noted with curiosity that behind the beards of the religious authorities, cheeks flushed red with shame as they not she rushed to escape the attention of the crowd. They were ashamed, not she. She never imagined it was possible.

• Did you know, You have a savior who sees you, knows you truly, loves you.
Who wants to touch you and restore you to life, heal you from whatever it is that ails you, restore you to the heart of worship.
Do you know, that same savior calls you, sets you aside in spite of your history, your addictions, your infirmities, says Follow me as well as Go and tell. Our job our calling is to seek to know the Lord who gives life and focus on that
• What do you suppose Rachel did the next day, or the next week? She’s won the lottery. Her shame is gone and she can hold her head up high, literally.
I see her with renewed confidence, no longer wishing to be invisible, but shining bright the love that shined on her.
• Imagining her restoration lifts me up, gives me hope and peace,
inspires my praise and makes me want to sing and share.

• One other thing. Did you notice what happened before Jesus restored the woman? He saw her. He saw her, he called to her, he treated her with respect and dignity, he announced her freedom, and then he defended her honor.
• Who do we see. What people, bent broken and ashamed, do we see, cut off from community, in need of restoration do we see, and how do we see them.
Who do we see that is worthy of derision? Who do we see who could be restored by lovingkindness? Who do we see that is beloved of God? Who do we see that is not?

Hymn 262 Heal Me, Hands of Jesus

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Sometimes God Meets Us In Unexpected Ways

• Resurrection Sunday
with John 20    @FirstUMCBville   @kerrfunk
A video of the worship service was posted on Facebook 4/21/19

• The year was 1969, the nation was in moral decline and it seemed best days were in the past, and a young pregnant couple was apprehensive. Was it right or good to bring child into this world?
Then one spring day like today, Bill’s father George pointed out something extraordinary in an ordinary thing: a blade of grass, poking up from a small crack in the pavement in a parking lot. Pushed aside layers of dirt, rock, and concrete to reach the sunshine of the world above. It had such a strong will to live, it overcame all odds to fulfill its destiny.
Became a beautiful symbol of hope and new life, and the couple found that in that single blade of grass, God had touched them.
Sometimes God meets us in unexpected ways.
• The year was 30, and the events of the past few days left their heads spinning, it had all happened so quickly. For a few years hope had been building up because of the life and teachings of Jesus, who so deftly exposed the false teachings of the religious leaders. Just a week ago they had been on top of the world, but they were still trying to figure out how and when things changed. A couple of nights ago Jesus had been arrested in the dark and tried in secret and illegally sentenced to death. Crucified dead and buried before we could even do it properly. Now that the sabbath was over there was at least the hope that they could properly care for the body.
Mary went early. Sees the stone gone. Runs to tell Peter.
Peter and John run to see. They see the grave clothes lying there.
They see and believe, though they still don’t understand.
Mary looks in again, sees angels.
Jesus appears behind Mary, and speaking her name, she recognizes him. She worships, and she tells the disciples I have seen the Lord.
Sometimes God meets us in unexpected ways.
• The year is now. We’ve all experienced loss. 20th anniversary of a particularly memorable school shooting. 900-yr-old church burned last week. This morning’s news of bombs set off amidst Easter services in Sri Lanka, death count over a hundred forty. Untold abuses and injustices.
And I would venture to say we’ve all had a friend tell us about meeting God in an unexpected way, a way that quickened them, gave them hope where there was none before. I daresay some of us have had God meet us in unexpected ways. God continues to call people and be present.
• If you have experienced the living God, tell.
If you have not, listen. Trust.
God is real, giver of hope and life, of grace and power.
There is no power greater,
and no darkness that can quench God’s light.
• The year was 1970. George pointed out a single blade of grass to Bill and Gloria, and Gloria wrote a poem about her renewed hope.
How sweet to hold a newborn baby,
And feel the pride, and joy he gives;
But greater still the calm assurance,
this child can face uncertain day because He lives…
Because He lives, I can face tomorrow.
Because He lives, all fear is gone.
Because I know He holds the future,
and life is worth the living just because He lives.
- Bill and Gloria Gaither

• Affirmation of Faith 888, then communion liturgy

John 20:11-18 (CEB)
11 Mary stood outside near the tomb, crying. As she cried, she bent down to look into the tomb. 12 She saw two angels dressed in white, seated where the body of Jesus had been, one at the head and one at the foot. 13 The angels asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?”
She replied, “They have taken away my Lord, and I don’t know where they’ve put him.” 14 As soon as she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she didn’t know it was Jesus.
15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who are you looking for?”
Thinking he was the gardener, she replied, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him and I will get him.”
16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabbouni” (which means Teacher).
17 Jesus said to her, “Don’t hold on to me, for I haven’t yet gone up to my Father. Go to my brothers and sisters and tell them, ‘I’m going up to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” 18 Mary Magdalene left and announced to the disciples, “I’ve seen the Lord.” Then she told them what he said to her. ò

An Easter letter from Bishop Sandra Steiner Ball
Dear West Virginia Conference, The Lord is Risen!! Christ is Risen!!
What a wonderful blessing. What a wonderful proclamation for this Easter morning!
“I have seen the Lord!”- Mary Magdalene proclaimed on that first Easter morning. (John 20:18) It was unbelievable! It was unexpected! God broke into this world in an unexpected way. It was exciting! It was life-giving, not just for the moment but for generations to come.
Since the time that Mary Magdalene ran to meet the disciples exclaiming these words, Christians have proclaimed this good news: Christ is risen! Christ is risen, indeed! Hallelujah! – year after year, after year.
Throughout the centuries, across all human barriers, God’s power to bring resurrection—to bring new life, to heal what is broken, to mend what seems irreparably torn, to forgive what seems to be unforgivable, to redeem those whose lives appear to be unredeemable — is unexpected, exciting, powerful, hope-filled and indeed life-giving!
Over and over again, we who follow Jesus proclaim this good news because the story of salvation, of new life through Christ is not over! The Easter message, the Easter sighting, the Easter proclamation needs to be declared again and again for the people who still need to hear, whose lives still can be changed by this good news – In Christ - new life can be ignited, birthed, begun!
We have seen the Lord! We proclaim on this Easter Sunday! Come and see him—he will make all things new!
As Christians gather today and throughout the Easter season, may we carry this hope of Christ to all who need it—in our families, in our schools, our communities, at our jobs, in our work, in our play, and beyond—so that all might come to know the life-changing Easter proclamation of the love of God!
On this Easter Sunday and in this Easter season and beyond, I invite you and your congregation to recommit yourselves to spreading this very good news and Christ’s invitation to salvation and eternal life.
Hallelujah! Christ is risen! May we all be the conduits for others to also see the Lord so that they along with us might receive Christ’s life raising, lifesaving power!
Peace,     Bishop Sandra Steiner Ball

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Cantata: Jesus Saves

First UMC and Barboursville Baptist combined for another community cantata the evening of Palm Sunday.

"Jesus Saves" by Mauldin and Smith

What Changed?

• Palm / Passion Sunday
with Luke 19 and 23    @FirstUMCBville   @kerrfunk
A video of the worship service was posted on Facebook 4/14/19

• Whichever gospel we read, we get the story of Jesus, healing, teaching, leading disciples, and heading towards Jerusalem. Always a step or two ahead.
Our district has a lead team to fulfill the duties of district, to encourage and propel ministry, to keep ever before us the mission to make disciples of Jesus.
We discuss discipleship, we pray for one another,
and we intentionally look for “glory sightings.”
• I shared a glory sighting this past week around some conversations I had:
What did Jesus do? What does it mean that Jesus saved us?
Why did he have to die? What changed after his coming?
• How might you address those questions?
How about If God really loves us why doesn’t he just forgive us?
Why sacrifice his son for people who reject God?
Consider Old Testament sacrifice: life for life. It’s easy to reduce the idea of sacrifice to an economic transaction (cost of this sin or that) but to reduce to transaction is not to understand or honor sacrifice. I submit to you:
One, sacrifice never was about appeasing God but about people having some kind of "skin in the game". Sure, God could just forgive, but we humans are fickle and prideful and if something is just given to us, we don't really value it as much as something we worked for. Animal sacrifice has the symbolic meaning of life and value, plus the rules always were that good (flawless, firstborn, prize-winning) animals were used (again, we're prideful... not just any ol' animal will do as a symbolic 'me'.)
So one, sacrifice is more about humankind than about God and
Two: Imagine Jesus, Son of God, saying to God the Father, "I would like to get some skin in the game. People maintain this chasm between [God and humankind] and I would like to bridge it. I would like to demonstrate how much we love them, even if it means my own death. Maybe the sacrifice of a blameless life will be valuable enough that they'll respond."
What changed is where we had no hope of real reconciliation, we now have real hope of reconciliation. Where there wasn't a way before, now there is a way.
• Jesus lived life we could not live, died death we should have died, to gain for us a life we could not gain. Our response: honor. Go with him to the cross this week, so that come next week you may be filled with light and life.

• Hymn 295 In the Cross of Christ I Glory

Luke 19:28-40 (CEB)
28-29 As Jesus was going towards Jerusalem, he came to Bethphage and Bethany on the Mount of Olives, where he gave two disciples a task: 30 He said, “Go into the village over there. When you enter it, you will find tied up there a colt that no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 31 If anyone asks, ‘Why are you untying it?’ just say, ‘Its master needs it.’”
32 Those who had been sent found it exactly as he had said.
33 As they were untying the colt, its owners said to them,
“Why are you untying the colt?”
34 They replied, “Its master needs it.” 35 They brought it to Jesus, threw their clothes on the colt, and lifted Jesus onto it.
36 As Jesus rode along, they spread their clothes on the road.
37 As Jesus approached the road leading down from the Mount of Olives, the whole throng of his disciples began rejoicing. They praised God with a loud voice because of all the mighty things they had seen. 38 They said,
“Blessings on the king who comes in the name of the Lord.
    Peace in heaven and glory in the highest heavens.”
39 Some of the Pharisees from the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, scold your disciples! Tell them to stop!”
40 But Jesus answered, “I tell you, if they were silent, the stones would shout.” ò

Luke 23:33, 44-49 (CEB) 
33 When they arrived at the place called The Skull, they crucified him, along with the criminals, one on his right and the other on his left. …
44 It was now about noon, and darkness covered the whole earth until about three o’clock, 45 while the sun stopped shining. Then the curtain in the sanctuary tore down the middle. 46 Crying out in a loud voice, Jesus said, “Father, into your hands I entrust my life.” After he said this, he breathed for the last time.
47 When the centurion saw what happened, he praised God, saying, “It’s really true: this man was righteous.” 48 All the crowds who had come together to see this event returned to their homes beating their chests after seeing what had happened. 49 And everyone who knew him, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance observing these things. ò

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Lent 5: Connect to God in Prayer

• Fifth Sunday of Lent.
with Daniel 9 and Luke 11    @FirstUMCBville   @kerrfunk
A video of the worship service was posted on Facebook 4/7/19
Sermon number five of five in a series based on the book One Faithful Promise by Magrey deVega.

• A mark of a good conversationalist is the skill of listening, which includes prompting / asking / inviting / encouraging talk.
We know that prayer is conversation with God, but the dialogue part of it feels complicated.
Our reading from Daniel 9 begins with Daniel reading scripture – listening to God, asking, in essence, what’s on God’s mind, what makes God tick, what God’s priorities are.
Daniel’s response follows our OneFaithfulPromise outline.
Confide in God / Confess.
Compose your spirit – be serious about committing self to God.
Claim the covenant. For the sake of your name, petition for mercy.
Choose faithfulness. Daniel laments unfaithfulnes.
And today’s C: Connect to God in Prayer.
Which is also what Daniel did. Wrap it up in prayer.
• In prayer we position ourselves before God. Wesley encourages set aside time and place, and literally position as a means of directing our attention.
But how do we pray?
• Our Luke 11 reading today also begins with seeking God as the disciples request of Jesus teach us to pray.
That in itself is a prayer, a connecting with God.
Ye have not because ye ask not. (James 4:2)
Ask for connection with God. And claim the covenant:
God is good, and because God is good God gives what we need.
Consider the meanings in the phrases of the Lord’s Prayer:
Our (community) Father (relationship) in heaven (confession of elevation)
Hallowed (holy, set apart) be thy name (relationship. I’m not God)
Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as in heaven
   (May your inherently superior goodness and righteousness infuse our existence)
Give us our daily bread (sustain us. You know better than we do. We rely on you.)
And forgive as we forgive. (relationship with God, relationship with others.)
Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil (give us strength to follow your righteous path)
For thine is the kingdom… (praise)
• Connect in prayer. Wrap it up in prayer. Begin middle and end in prayer. And enjoy prayer.
• PRAYER God of grace and love, thank you for your constant presence and power in my life. Help me to serve you with full willingness and obedience, without expectation of blessing in return. Grant me an enjoyment in my prayer life, that I might hear your voice, know your heart, and understand your will. Amen.
• Hymn 618 Let Us Break Bread Together

Luke 11:1-13 (CEB) 
11 Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”
2 Jesus told them, “When you pray, say:
‘Father, uphold the holiness of your name.
Bring in your kingdom.
3 Give us the bread we need for today.
4 Forgive us our sins,
    for we also forgive everyone who has wronged us.
And don’t lead us into temptation.’”
5 He also said to them, “Imagine that one of you has a friend and you go to that friend in the middle of the night. Imagine saying, ‘Friend, loan me three loaves of bread 6 because a friend of mine on a journey has arrived and I have nothing to set before him.’ 7 Imagine further that he answers from within the house, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up to give you anything.’ 8 I assure you, even if he wouldn’t get up and help because of his friendship, he will get up and give his friend whatever he needs because of his friend’s brashness. 9 And I tell you: Ask and you will receive. Seek and you will find. Knock and the door will be opened to you. 10 Everyone who asks, receives. Whoever seeks, finds. To everyone who knocks, the door is opened.
11 “Which father among you would give a snake to your child if the child asked for a fish? 12 If a child asked for an egg, what father would give the child a scorpion? 13 If you who are evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?” ò

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Lent 4: Choose Faithfulness

• Fourth Sunday of Lent.
with 2 Corinthians 5    @FirstUMCBville   @kerrfunk
A video of the worship service was posted on Facebook 3/31/19
Sermon number four of five in a series based on the book One Faithful Promise by Magrey deVega.

Pretty Woman was on TV last week. 29th anniversary of its 1990 release. Millionaire business mogul Edward Lewis gets directions from a prostitute on Hollywood Blvd, and invites her back to his room. She disappears into the bathroom for a few moments, and Edward suspects she’s doing drugs and confronts her about it. It’s floss. “I stopped doing drugs when I was 14. This is dental floss. I had all those strawberry seeds. And you shouldn’t neglect your gums.”
Good dental health doesn’t just happen; it’s achieved and maintained.
And if you neglect it it suffers.
Just like you wouldn’t go a day without brushing your teeth, don’t go without attention to spiritual health as well. Something every day to nurture your connection with God. Choose to be faithful.
• One Faithful Promise. Wesley earnestly wants us to take covenant seriously.
Step One, Confide in God. Admit the seriousness of sinfulness.
Step Two, Compose Your Spirit.
Staying focused and serious about committing yourself to God.
Step Three: Claim the Covenant. Receive the freedom and power God gives.
Step Four: Choose to be faithful.
• Wesley outlines the path to breaking faithfulness.
Temptation arises. Spirit warns. Prompts to watch and pray.
Might follow through, or… might bend ear to temptation.
Personal commitment weakens. Spirit warns again.
   Now you know you’re on slippery slope. It becomes difficult to turn around now unless prevented – you’re fully listening to temptation now.
Too often we willfully ignore the Spirit’s warnings and alerts.
• Therefore: Choose to be faithful. renew commitment daily.
For Wesley, formally renewing one’s commitment involves a pledge of regularly choosing to be faithful. Why? Because each day is filled with opportunities to break commitment.
So Wesley encourages Christians to resolve in God’s strength never to go back.
• 2 Corinthians 5:16-21. There is a new creation. We are made reconcilers – active.
We are made ambassadors. Representatives. – active.
So that we through Christ we might become righteousness. Not just passively receive but by the grace of God actively receive and achieve. There is no “graduation” from faithful commitment.
• Daily commitment. Practice means of grace. Communion. Acts of piety. Acts of mercy.
• Hymn 338 Where He Leads Me

2 Corinthians 5:16-21 (NRSV)  
16 From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. 17 So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. 20 So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. ò

Matthew 7:13-14 (NRSV)                          
13 “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction, and there are many who take it. 14 For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it. ò