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

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Lent 3: Claim the Covenant

• Third Sunday of Lent.
with Hebrews 9    @FirstUMCBville   @kerrfunk
A video of the worship service was posted on Facebook 3/24/19
Sermon number three of five in a series based on the book One Faithful Promise by Magrey deVega.

• I used to work in a carwash. Getting a car clean takes a few steps:
1, show up; 2, select cleaning service; 3, drive into the tunnel.
That’s where we are in this covenant process.
Admit the filth, make the commitment, then put yourself in the position to receive the service. Don’t get clean by making the decision to go to the carwash. Don’t get clean by actually going to the carwash or by selecting the service, but by going through the carwash.
• One Faithful Promise. Wesley earnestly wants us to take covenant seriously. Sin is not a scraped knee in need of a bandaid, it’s something much more serious, in need of professional care.
Step One, Confide in God.
Step Two, Compose Your Spirit.
   Composing your spirit means staying focused
   and serious about committing yourself to God.
Step Three: Claim the Covenant.
• p. 33: Grab hold of God’s covenant and rely upon God’s promise of giving grace and strength, whereby you may be enabled to perform your promise. Trust not your own strength nor the strength of your own resolution, but take hold of God’s strength.
Check out the membership questions on page 34 of our hymnal:
Do you accept the freedom and power God gives you…
• I’ve told you about the monkey trap before… Attach a chain to a coconut, drill a hole just big enough for the monkey’s hand to fit in, and put a treat in the coconut. The monkey grabs the treat but cannot get his hand out as long as he’s holding the treat.
The treat that catches us is us hanging on to the notion that we can fix ourselves, that we don’t need God.
It’s an AA conundrum as well, which is why AA starts out with the premise that if we could quit drinking, we would. By myself I can try a dozen different ways of quitting, but I will always return. But when I let go of the notion that I can do it myself, I can be freed from the trap. When I can trust that there is a power outside of me, I can achieve sobriety.
And we find that God does in us what we could not do for ourselves.
• We are not able to make ourselves right.
We need to let go of the notion that we can so that God can.
• Wesley called this Prevenient Grace. Our ability to let go and let God comes from God.
• Wesley also believed we need regular opportunities to pledge our obedience to God and to remind ourselves of the need to entrust ourselves to God.
Which is why the small groups, holy clubs, societies formed, for regular accountability.
Which is why we gather in worship and specifically in holy communion.
Which is why we have prayer of confession and assurance of pardon, and why we remember baptism and renew covenant.
• This is why Christ came. This is why we gather.
• Hymn 468 Dear Jesus, in Whose Life I See

Hebrews 9:11-15 (NIV)
11 But when Christ came as high priest of the good things that are now already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not made with human hands, that is to say, is not a part of this creation. 12 He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption. 13 The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. 14 How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!
15 For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant. ò

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Lent 2: Compose Your Spirit

• Second Sunday of Lent.
with Romans 12    @FirstUMCBville   @kerrfunk
A video of the worship service was posted on Facebook 3/17/19

Sermon number two of five in a series based on the book One Faithful Promise by Magrey deVega.

• “Offer your ordinary life to God in service.” (from Romans 12)
I’m reminded of one of the first sermons I ever shared. A woman with Down Syndrome talked about serving others through the simple act of giving a cup of water to someone in name of Jesus..
The idea behind today’s theme is that when you focus on God, change can happen. God is the changer, not you. Live in grace.
• Sermon series on the book One Faithful Promise. John Wesley earnestly wants us to take the idea of covenant seriously. Sin is not a scraped knee in need of cleaning maybe and a bandaid, it’s something much more serious, in need of professional care.
Step One (last week) Confide in God. Admit the seriousness of sinfulness.
Step Two, Compose Your Spirit. Composing your spirit means staying focused and serious about committing yourself to God. It is a call to humility.
• Recall Charlotte’s Web: Wilbur the pig was humble: low to the ground. Connected.
Reminded of Moses: at the burning bush, take off your shoes. Connect to the ground.
Even in obedience and humility, though, Moses still clings to *his* way. Thinks too little of self, not enough of God. God asks Moses to trust in God and not in himself. Throw down your staff.
• Compose your spirit. Pray for alignment of behavior. Yield your station.
Paul in Philippians 3, has reason to boast, yet discards it all to embrace grace of Christ. Let it go.
• “Let me be employed for thee or laid aside for thee. Exalted for thee or brought low for thee.” Not my will but thine.
Recall Namaan (a general with leprosy, 2 Kings 5) told by servant of Elisha to wash in Jordan.
• Recall the attitude of the prophet in Ezekiel 37.
“Can these bones live?” “Lord, you know.” Followed by obedience.
• Loving God, receive my fears and anxieties associated with full trust and surrender. Give me the resolve to turn my actions over to you, as well as my associations. Thank you for giving me the capacity to serve and to make a difference in your kingdom, regardless of the station in life in which I find myself. Amen.

• 357 Just As I Am

Romans 12:1-3 (MSG)
12 1-2 So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.
3 I’m speaking to you out of deep gratitude for all that God has given me, and especially as I have responsibilities in relation to you. Living then, as every one of you does, in pure grace, it’s important that you not misinterpret yourselves as people who are bringing this goodness to God. No, God brings it all to you. The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what he does for us, not by what we are and what we do for him. ò

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Lent 1: Confide in God

• First Sunday of Lent.
with 1 John 1:5-9    @FirstUMCBville   @kerrfunk
A video of the worship service was posted on Facebook 3/10/19

• I’ve been listening to a lot of Billy Joel lately, and today’s reading reminded me of his 1977 song “The Stranger”
Well we all have a face that we hide away forever and we take them out and show ourselves when everyone has gone… they’re the faces of the stranger but we love to try them on.
Billy Joel says our interactions with other people are based on different masks we wear. He sings about the surprise (and shock!) when we get a glimpse of someone’s hidden self, and confesses at the same time: have you ever let other see your stranger?
• Who does see, by the way? God does. God sees past all our masks. God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all. And something that can be seen in the light can be addressed. Mended, healed, made whole.
• When I was a kid, you coulda made me cry by sending me to the principal’s office.
Or by threatening to call my parents. Total and shameful fear of exposure.
I’m using Magrey deVega’s book One Faithful Promise for a Lenten sermon series. The author tells about one day in college when he returned to his dorm room and there was a message on his answering machine: “I saw what you did last night. Don’t think that nobody saw.” The message made him sweat quite a bit, but it turned out he was the innocent “victim” of a friendly prank. But it feels like when you’re driving and a police car pulls behind you – you review your actions to see if you’ve committed any infractions.
• When we are truly vulnerable, exposed, in the light, God can deal with our issues.
Something that can be seen in the light can be addressed. Mended, healed, made whole.
It happened with Adam and Eve in the garden. King David after Bathsheba, and the prophet Nathan (2 Sam 12). Even Jesus in Gethsemane. God is able to meet us in our vulnerability and work in us.
• What is God like? How would you describe God? How do your feelings about exposure line up with your descriptions about God?
God is good, God is just, God is loving and righteous.
God is able and desiring to forgive.
Forgiveness is good for us and even necessary.
God is the source of forgiveness.
Lent is period of self-examination and repentance and renewal.
John Wesley: It’s important to be deeply aware of own sin and guilt so to see the saving grace of Jesus Christ.
• Read from covenant prayer (p. 13 in book).
and this concluding paragraph from Step One (p. 21.)
Wesley’s first step is necessary: Confide in God and confess your sins. Take inventory of the ways that you’ve wronged God and others. Remember how helpless you are against the constant barrage of sinful influences around you, and your ongoing struggles within you. Admit that you can’t defeat these sins on your own. And prepare yourself for an adventure that will lead you to making and keeping a faithful promise in Christ.
And closing prayer p. 22:
Gracious God, thank you for seeing me for who I really am and knowing me better than I even know myself. Teach me to trust in you, that I might not fear the consequence of vulnerability and transparency before you. Forgive me of my sins, and show me the power of your redeeming love. Amen.

• 399 Take My Life and Let it Be

1 John 1:5-9 (HCSB)
5 Now this is the message we have heard from Him and declare to you: God is light, and there is absolutely no darkness in Him. 6 If we say, “We have fellowship with Him,” yet we walk in darkness, we are lying and are not practicing the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say, “We have no sin,” we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. ò

Text Box: One
The Wesleyan
for Renewal

By Magrey R. deVega
Lent Sunday Sermon Series
                         based on the book

March 10     Confide in God - 1 John 1:5-9
March 17     Compose your Spirit - Romans 12:1-3
March 24     Claim the Covenant - Hebrews 9:11-15
March 31     Choose faithfulness - Matthew 7:13-14
April 7         Connect to God in Prayer - Luke 11:1-13

Sunday, March 3, 2019

For the Transformation of the World

• Transfiguration Sunday
with Luke 9  and  2 Corinthians 3    @FirstUMCBville   @kerrfunk
A video of the worship service was posted on Facebook 3/3/19

• The UMC met in General Conference this past week to discuss the denomination’s positions and policies regarding human sexuality. It was anticipated not without some anxiety, and there was much drama during the conference.
Yesterday, our Bishop Sandra Steiner Ball issued a pastoral letter to our Annual Conference, lamenting and decrying behavior of both sides at the GenConf, pleading for compassion and integrity.
Personally I was very disappointed with the passing of the Traditional Plan.
It feels very much like GenConf does not even want to make room at the table.
Personally I grieve that the 32-member Commission on A Way Forward spent 15 months in prayer study dialogue, experienced spiritual growth and real community and transformation, and their work, affirmed by the bishops, was scarcely discussed, and that poorly.
• One highlight was an impassioned speech by a young ministry candidate, JJ Warren. He longs with all his heart and with plentiful passion to become a United Methodist pastor. He brings people to Jesus through campus ministry, people whom the church has cast out. He is a disciple maker bearing fruit for the church for the transformation of the world. He is going to do so whether The UMC welcomes him or not.
He likened the spiritual pain of unChristlike rejection to nailing The UMC to the cross. The crucifixion of our church. He longs for resurrection, and prays that The UMC doesn’t first have to die.
• Today is Transfiguration Sunday. Our Luke passage begins “after saying these things”… What are these things? The way to the resurrection is through the cross, and the cross must be picked up and carried. And after saying these things, the glory of God was shown.
Then Paul in 2 Corinthians 3 writes that where the Lord’s Spirit is there is freedom, and that we are being transformed into the image of God. This fuels us to proclaim God’s word openly.
• Bishop Sandra Steiner Ball had a word for the clergy yesterday, to be the church, to love God and neighbor, to recognize the hurt done by our churches and to repent, that we might grow in the likeness of God,
sharing the love of God with people in a hurting world,
and making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

• Hymn In the Breaking of the Bread

Luke 9:28-36 (CEB) 
28 About eight days after Jesus said these things, he took Peter, John, and James, and went up on a mountain to pray. 29 As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed and his clothes flashed white like lightning. 30 Two men, Moses and Elijah, were talking with him. 31 They were clothed with heavenly splendor and spoke about Jesus’ departure, which he would achieve in Jerusalem. 32 Peter and those with him were almost overcome by sleep, but they managed to stay awake and saw his glory as well as the two men with him.
33 As the two men were about to leave Jesus, Peter said to him, “Master, it’s good that we’re here. We should construct three shrines: one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah”—but he didn’t know what he was saying. 34 Peter was still speaking when a cloud overshadowed them. As they entered the cloud, they were overcome with awe.
35 Then a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, my chosen one. Listen to him!” 36 Even as the voice spoke, Jesus was found alone. They were speechless and at the time told no one what they had seen. ò

2 Corinthians 3:12 – 4:2 (CEB) 
12 So, since we have such a hope, we act with great confidence. 13 We aren’t like Moses, who used to put a veil over his face so that the Israelites couldn’t watch the end of what was fading away. 14 But their minds were closed. Right up to the present day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. The veil is not removed because it is taken away by Christ. 15 Even today, whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their hearts. 16 But whenever someone turns back to the Lord, the veil is removed. 17 The Lord is the Spirit, and where the Lord’s Spirit is, there is freedom. 18 All of us are looking with unveiled faces at the glory of the Lord as if we were looking in a mirror. We are being transformed into that same image from one degree of glory to the next degree of glory. This comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
4 This is why we don’t get discouraged, given that we received this ministry in the same way that we received God’s mercy. 2 Instead, we reject secrecy and shameful actions. We don’t use deception, and we don’t tamper with God’s word. Instead, we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God by the public announcement of the truth. ò