October 16, 2016 – Witness

Pentecost 22   October 16, 2016   Matthew 28:18-20, Colossians 3:12-17, Romans 12:9-13   Witness ***************************************************** I got an email, about a week ago, from Arne Carr, with a note saying – we saw this sign on a church here in Texas (where they were on vacation). Nathan insisted I send it to you. The sign said: Jesus is coming. Hopefully before the election. And seriously, there was a news story just yesterday, that said 52% of Americans say this election cycle is seriously stressing them out. I thought that was maybe  too low a percentage – but I haven’t taken any scientific polls, and perhaps we’re so used to high levels of stress, that some of us barely notice the increase. And indeed the stress of our election cycle with all its darkness bordering on chaos, is still pretty mild, compared to the lives of people in many parts of the world. Thinking, just over the past few weeks, of Haiti, Columbia, Venezuela, and the Carolinas, all in our own hemisphere… And Iraq, Syria, Central African Republic, Sudan, Nigeria, Afghanistan, among the many places enduring much higher levels of destruction and suffering than we are… Which is not to make light of our own very real trials and struggles… Just to keep our struggles and troubles in perspective, remembering we’re all in this together, according to God’s word. And remembering, as we pray for Jesus and his kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven… Remembering we have our parts to play in the drama of his coming kingdom. As the hymn reminds us: O Jesus, I have promised, to serve thee to the end; be thou forever near me, my Master and my friend… O Jesus, we have promised…to serve you to the end. When we join the church, and every time we welcome a new member, we pledge, and pledge yet again, to practice our faith together, as we say these words from the service of baptism and membership in our hymnal: “As members together with you in the body of Christ and in this congregation of The United Methodist Church, we renew our covenant faithfully to participate in the ministries of the church by our prayers, our presence, our gifts, and our service, that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ.” We say these words together, and together seek to be faithful in fulfilling our vows. Over the past four weeks we’ve been reviewing the topics of prayer, presence, gifts, and service. Today we’re using witness as a one word summary for the last phrase of our membership vows  – “that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ.” (And–) Serving as witnesses for Christ and his kingdom can sum up all the other promises we make to God and one another as members of Christ’s body. The quality of our witness for Jesus – all of our giving glory to God – really does depend on our prayers, our presence, our gifts, our service…When we do all these together from the heart, God is glorified, and the church truly flourishes… And yes, it is a big responsibility to be witnesses for Jesus. Jesus tells us we’re to be his disciples – to be the light of the world. (We know the song...

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October 25, 2015

Pentecost 22 October 25, 2015 (Psalm 334,Job 29:1-5, 10-13; 30:24-29; Mark 10:46-52) Job 42 ********************* God speaks to Job out of the whirlwind – asking question after question after question… And when God finally stops asking and speaking… Job speaks to God: “I know you can do all things… and no purpose of yours can be thwarted… I spoke of things I didn’t understand… (Things too wonderful for me)…. I had heard about you – now I have met you… Now I repent in dust and ashes.” (And) What does Job mean by “I repent? … in dust and ashes?” I’ve been remembering my seminary Christian Ethics professor, Dr Cartright, not long before he retired, looking back, telling us about being ordained (half a century or so earlier)…Not sure he could go through with it; not sure about the vows he was taking. He said ‘We were all kneeling at the altar, and the Bishop was praying over us; we were saying yes to a series of questions, pledging our lives to God…And I was doing ok with all that… Till the bishop said we will promise to abstain from drinking and smoking. Which I wasn’t ready to do. So I started to get up on my feet to leave,’ our Professor said. ‘But the bishop put his hand on my shoulder, kept the pressure on… Before I knew it, the service was over, and I was ordained.’ Which is a bit like how I picture God, stopping Job in his tracks as he’s attempting to repent of what he’s said to God and to his friends… God is, of course, ok with Job repenting of sin; and Job freely admits he’s not sinless, several times, in earlier speeches. And God of course, encourages Job (and all of us) to repent of whatever we say about God that isn’t correct. And now that he’s encountered God in person and experienced the majesty of God firsthand, now Job indeed knows God is beyond rational understanding. Led by God’s leading questions, Job earnestly repents of thinking God has to be like we think God has to be, and act like we think God ought to act… But if Job is attempting to repent of what he’s said about his friends, the theologians, who’ve been telling him to repent of sins he hasn’t committed – badgering him to accept their conventional-wisdom – Well – God will not let Job repent of that. And if Job is attempting to repent of how he spoke to God – with anger, hurt, and pain in his voice – with loud shouts and hollering, raging against the injustice of his suffering… God won’t let him repent of that either. Job is a blameless, upright man, scripture tells us. He’s been blessed with a wife, seven sons, three daughters – also thousands of sheep and camels, hundreds of oxen and donkeys, and many servants. But God allows, permits, even encourages The Accuser, the Prosecuting Attorney of the heavenly courts – to put Job to the test. Then Job loses his wealth, his servants, his beloved sons and daughters, his own health and happiness, and all he used to know about God… Yet even sitting in a heap of ashes, covered with dust, afflicted with painful sores, Job...

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November 9, 2014 – No other gods

Exodus 32:1-14 When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered around Aaron, and said to him, “Come, make gods for us, who shall go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.” Aaron said to them, “Take off the gold rings that are on the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.” So all the people took off the gold rings from their ears, and brought them to Aaron. He took the gold from them, formed it in a mold, and cast an image of a calf; and they said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!” When Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made proclamation and said, “Tomorrow shall be a festival to the Lord.” They rose early the next day, and offered burnt offerings and brought sacrifices of well-being; and the people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to revel.         The Lord said to Moses, “Go down at once! Your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have acted perversely; they have been quick to turn aside from the way that I commanded them; they have cast for themselves an image of a calf, and have worshiped it and sacrificed to it, and said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt! The Lord said to Moses, “I have seen this people, how stiff-necked they are. Now let me alone, so that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them; and of you I will make a great nation.” But Moses implored the Lord his God, and said, “O Lord, why does your wrath burn hot against your people, whom you brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? Why should the Egyptians say, ‘It was with evil intent that he brought them out to kill them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth’? Turn from your fierce wrath; change your mind and do not bring disaster on your people. Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, how you swore to them by your own self, saying to them, ‘I will multiply your descendants like the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever.’“ And the Lord changed his mind about the disaster that he planned to bring on his people. 1 Corinthians 10:1-7, 14-15 I do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was Christ. Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them, and they were struck down in the wilderness. Now these...

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October 20, 2013 – Pentecost 22

Luke 18:1-8 Then Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart. He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people. In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Grant me justice against my opponent.’ For a while he refused; but later he said to himself, ‘Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.’” And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them? I tell you, he will quickly grant justice to them. And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” Pentecost 22  Oct 20, 2013 Luke 18:1-8    Listen to the unjust judge ***************************************************************** Jesus tells a parable about our need to pray always and never lose heart, telling us, ‘In a certain city there was a judge who didn’t fear God or have respect for anyone – and in that city there was also a widow, who kept coming and saying to the judge, “grant me justice against my opponent.” ‘ This judge refused to help the widow, as long as he could. But she never stopped nagging and nagging and nagging him, and being in his face — till finally the judge relents, saying to himself, “even though I don’t fear God or respect anyone – yet, because this woman keeps nagging and bothering me and never stops – I will have to grant her justice, or else she’ll really make a mess of me.” Another possible translation of this verse says “or else she might give me a black eye” – probably not meaning a literal black eye (this is a parable), but a black eye of a reputation. This judge is getting pretty nervous about being embarrassed and emotionally beaten up by this fired-up widow. The parable is based on real-life situations. William Barclay’s commentary says there were many unjust judges like this in the Roman empire’s judicial system — hands out for bribes, justice for sale at a price, and no justice if you don’t pay the judge. And Jesus says, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And won’t God grant justice to his people who cry to him day and night? Yes, justice, quickly. But when the Son of Man comes – will he find faith like this widow is showing, here on earth?” *** Jesus doesn’t always tell us when he’s telling a parable, and he very seldom tells us in advance what the message of a parable’s about — and since he’s doing both of these things today, we should notice both what he says about ‘pray always and never lose heart’ — and also notice this is a parable about widows and justice… and persistence. And I’ve been remembering this week back to my first job out of college with a church lobby group, going to see a Senate staffer, and him telling me, “I really strongly...

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