September 25, 2016 – Presence

Pentecost 19   September 25, 2016   Psalm 84, Hebrews 10:19-25, Romans 12:1-2, Acts 2:42-47          Presence ******************************************* A wife calls her husband, who is still in bed – “Time to get up, get ready for church, dear.” But the husband stays in bed, and hollers back, “I don’t want to go to church today. I don’t feel like going to church. They don’t like me. And I don’t like the sermons.” His wife cajoles him, “Come on honey, you know it’s important to be in church. You need church, your family needs you there with us… And the church likes you just fine… And the sermons usually aren’t as bad as you think…” But the husband isn’t getting up. He keeps saying, “I don’t want to go.” Till finally when his wife won’t give up, he says, “Give me two good reasons why I should go.” His wife says, “Well – it is Sunday morning. And you are the pastor.” That story, for the record, is not about me… At least not on Sundays. I love church. Love worship. Love being part of our parish and each of our two churches… Love our pumpkin patch and all our outreach activities… I actually love most of what we do… (It’s only once in a great while meetings on a Monday… that I’m sometimes just a little less eager to be present for…) And we are talking about being present today. Just as we’ve sung – Surely the presence of the Lord is in this place – so surely also – in our membership vows we pledge to be present for God – through our prayers – our presence – our gifts – our service – and our witness. Today we’re in week two of our series exploring the promises we make in being part of this church. We’re talking about our pledge to be present for God and one another – in the life, work, and witness of the church. Now of course I pray every day for the church, asking God to increase our participation in all the life of the church… But.. It wasn’t always this way. When I was young our family didn’t go to church, except briefly, part of one year… And there were times, as a younger adult, even after I became a Christian, when I wasn’t so sure about the church. There was a time when I stayed away from church more than five years. I was young, a bit idealistic, and overly critical of others, including churches that didn’t seem to measure up to my expectations… When I finally began to attend church again, I did some church hopping…  And found… not every church I visited had much visible resemblance to the church we see in our last reading from the book of Acts. (There wasn’t a whole lot of awe and wonder on display…) But pretty soon, by grace, I found a small Methodist church, near where I lived, with a good pastor, a welcoming congregation… And when I began worshiping there regularly I learned there were people doing many of these book of Acts practices we’ve just read about… Often a bit under the radar – but joy, awe and wonder began to be visible for me in the life of the church…...

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October 4, 2015

Pentecost 19 October 4, 2015 Job 1:1-3, 13-22, 2:1-10; Hebrews 2:10-18 **************************************************************** I really don’t like suffering, and I really don’t enjoy talking very long about suffering. And the book of Job is all about the hardest kind of suffering to deal with – the undeserved suffering of the innocent. So as much as I appreciate the wisdom of Job – I admit I don’t find reading Job easy going. I find it difficult to keep my attention focused on all the questions Job raises about unmerited suffering. Questions, which, as Bible scholar Gerald Janzen notes, “…begin by asking after the meaning of such suffering – but in their most extreme form they go on to call into question the meaningfulness of life – and of existence as such….” And probably the reason I choose to read Job in spite of all the discomfort it brings, is simply because Job describes our human condition so well… We like to believe there’s always order and meaning in life. But so often life doesn’t cooperate. As one news article yesterday pointed out, the nine people gunned down in cold blood this past week in an Oregon college writing class, were there to teach and to learn about (quote) “… the art of constructing a reasoned argument (–) when the incomprehensible burst through the door.” We dedicate ourselves to constructing meaningful lives. But then so often incomprehensible things come along, wrecking all that’s reasonable. And yes, the Umpqua Community College story is an extreme example. But life seems so very full of extreme examples lately. In yesterday’s news there’s also the story of nineteen people killed in a hospital in Afghanistan – a dozen hospital staff and at least seven patients in a clinic run by the Nobel Peace Prize winning non-profit Doctors Without Borders. The hospital was bombed by mistake, apparently, by US-coalition planes…. The bombing went on for an hour, in spite of repeated calls from hospital staff to stop bombing… Doctors, nurses, and patients in the hospital must have felt like Job – as his servants came in, one after another, each reporting yet another catastrophe… And in Guatemala this week a mudslide killed at least 56 with 350 still missing and the toll may go much higher…And in Nigeria at least fifteen civilians were blown up by suicide bombers…Something we’ve come to expect on almost a daily basis in Iraq, Syria, and elsewhere… And checking news online, I sometimes think God and the angels in heaven must feel like Job every hour, every day…. As messenger after messenger after messenger comes in with news of yet another senseless calamity… (So…) We will study the original story of Job – since we really can’t escape the story even if we try… And even if it’s been a long time since we’ve read it… Even if we’ve never read it… We know the basic story of Job, who is blameless and upright, God-fearing and avoiding all evil. (Although Job is distinctive in his single-minded devotion to God…And in his unusual prosperity – and in his sharing generously with all in need. Still…) In most ways Job’s like anyone who has had a good life, then suddenly finds it taken away, with no clear reason why… Job’s a loving, doting father...

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October 19, 2014 – Get help

Exodus 18:7-12 Moses went out to meet his father-in-law; he bowed down and kissed him; each asked after the other’s welfare, and they went into the tent. Then Moses told his father-in-law all that the Lord had done to Pharaoh and to the Egyptians for Israel’s sake, all the hardship that had beset them on the way, and how the Lord had delivered them. Jethro rejoiced for all the good that the Lord had done to Israel, in delivering them from the Egyptians. Jethro said, “Blessed be the Lord, who has delivered you from the Egyptians and from Pharaoh. Now I know that the Lord is greater than all gods, because he delivered the people from the Egyptians, when they dealt arrogantly with them.” And Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, brought a burnt offering and sacrifices to God; and Aaron came with all the elders of Israel to eat bread with Moses’ father-in-law in the presence of God. Exodus 18:13-26 The next day Moses sat as judge for the people, while the people stood around him from morning until evening. When Moses’ father-in-law saw all that he was doing for the people, he said, “What is this that you are doing for the people? Why do you sit alone, while all the people stand around you from morning until evening?” Moses said to his father-in-law, “Because the people come to me to inquire of God. When they have a dispute, they come to me and I decide between one person and another, and I make known to them the statutes and instructions of God.” Moses’ father-in-law said to him, “What you are doing is not good. You will surely wear yourself out, both you and these people with you. For the task is too heavy for you; you cannot do it alone. Now listen to me. I will give you counsel, and God be with you! You should represent the people before God, and you should bring their cases before God; teach them the statutes and instructions and make known to them the way they are to go and the things they are to do. You should also look for able men among all the people, men who fear God, are trustworthy, and hate dishonest gain; set such men over them as officers over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. Let them sit as judges for the people at all times; let them bring every important case to you, but decide every minor case themselves. So it will be easier for you, and they will bear the burden with you. If you do this, and God so commands you, then you will be able to endure, and all these people will go to their home in peace.” So Moses listened to his father-in-law and did all that he had said. Moses chose able men from all Israel and appointed them as heads over the people, as officers over thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens. And they judged the people at all times; hard cases they brought to Moses, but any minor case they decided themselves. Acts 6:1-7 Now during those days, when the disciples were increasing in number, the Hellenists complained against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution of food. And the twelve called together the whole...

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September 29, 2013 – Pentecost 19

Luke 16:19-31 “There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man’s table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores. The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side. He called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these flames.’ But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony. Besides all this, between you and us a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who might want to pass from here to you cannot do so, and no one can cross from there to us.’ He said, ‘Then, father, I beg you to send him to my father’s house— for I have five brothers—that he may warn them, so that they will not also come into this place of torment.’ Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.’ He said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’” Pentecost 19 Sept 29, 2013  (Ps 147, Deut 15:7-11, 1 Tim 6:6-19)   Luke 16:19-31 Even if someone rises from the dead – other readings posted at end *************************************************************** Gospel means good news. The gospel of Jesus Christ is always good news. Though our gospel reading today sounds a bit like one of those stories that starts by saying, we’ve got good news – and we’ve got bad news. First the good news. This rich man is the one and only person Jesus ever describes as in the hot place, with no way out. (I hear this very short list as good news.) This rich man today in Hades, an ancient word for a sort of long-term-after-life-interim-residence on the way to heaven or hell – though the destinies of those going either direction seem already determined as Jesus tells it– this rich man is the only one in the whole New Testament we ever hear of in hell. Good news. *** Then there’s also bad news. We don’t have to be Adolph Hitler to end up in hell. This guy sweating it out in Hades today is no serial killer – not guilty of genocide – hasn’t mugged anyone in dark alleys. All he’s done to get where he is to treat his neighbor like a piece of furniture he doesn’t notice. *** And there’s more good news – and more bad news… The good news is that Jesus tells this story to the Pharisees – the zealous religious leaders who (in Luke) always seem to thinking...

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