Saturday, June 27, 2015
Sermon Summary, “Teach Them Diligently” (Deuteronomy 6:4-9)
Father’s Day. Not that big a deal. Bet you thought I’d get the day off. Not so. Just a day pushed by the National Association of Clothing Retailers to give them a taste of Christmas. We could call it “Shirt Day.” But for the real founder of Father’s Day it was a big deal. Sonora Dodd heard a Mother’s Day sermon in 1909 by her Methodist pastor and asked him to do a Father’s Day sermon for her single Dad who had raised six kids by himself. And I’ll bet he taught them great values (this happened in church after all).
Fathers are important. Quality parenting is important. Unfortunately we can see the devastation caused in communities with absent fathers (donors would be more appropriate). Single parenthood is the primary indicator of poverty in America. And there is more that an absence of resources here. There is a likelihood that the values that we as Jesus followers believe are important are absent too; and the roles models, especially for boys, are not the ones that they need to be.
God brought his children out of Egypt and the first thing he did is give them a set of values on two tablets, two tables. The first four were about God (you can read them in Exodus 20 or Deuteronomy 5). The other table had five about how to treat one another. AND right in the middle the bridge commandment between God and neighbor was “Honor your father and mother ...that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God giving you.” The Bridge.
How is it that we as parents are to pass on, inculcate these values? In Deuteronomy 6, immediately after Moses recites the Commandments he tells us, “…. these words which I am commanding you this day shall be upon your heart; and you shall teach them diligently to your children…” (Read at Deuteronomy 6:4-9.)
He tells us we should talk about them continuously; that we should be examples with what we do with hands, how we see the world, and we should remind ourselves of God’s values when be pass the door posts of our house going out into to the world and again as we return back into our homes to be reminded of our obligations to our families.
Honor your father and mother. It is parents who teach that. You’ll notice that it is not conditional. It doesn’t say if they are nice, or if they deserve it. It says, “Honor.” God says “Just do it.”
As a child this week, think about how you can honor your parents. Make it a goal. Schedule it. As a parent or grandparent, think how you can teach a child this week. Make it a goal. Schedule it. “Honor.” The first commandment with a promise. “Just do it.”
Saturday, June 20, 2015
Sermon Summary, “The Man Born Blind” (John 9)
One of the things that Annual Conference delivers is hope. On Friday evening we heard “new voices” with a 17 year old telling us “Why Jesus.” In her darkest hour, last August she had tried to commit suicide. Now she was doing what Peter requires of us all: Always be ready to defend of anyone who asks the hope that is in you. (1 Peter 3:15)
John in his Gospel tells seven signs and then tells us these are written that we may come to believe Jesus is the Christ the Son of God and is so believing we may life in his name. (John 20:31) Maybe the signs are John’s defense of his hope. John is a difficult book to preach because instead of pithy parables he give us long narrations, this story all of Chapter 9 with Jesus’ dialog spilling over into Chapter 10. I leave the reading of the story to you, or can watch it at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DHBo7ka3YZQ.
The first thing I would note is that the man did nothing to deserve healing. He did ask. He was not aware of Jesus’ presence. He man not even have been aware of who Jesus was! We Methodists call this prevenient grace, God’s nudging even before we know it, God’s unmerited favor even before we are aware of his presence in hour lives. It happens all the time. What we must do is to respond. The man went and washed in the pool of Siloam (which means sent), and we need to respond too, normally by saying, “Yes!”
At some point we will be confronted by Jesus. In some way, like the man, we will be asked, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” When we come to understand that Jesus is the source of our grace, what will be our response?
The third point the story makes is that when the Light of the World appears and we find ourselves in the shadows, we need to step into the light. Jesus tells us (John 3:19) that many love darkness and are thereby judged already. By believing, we come into relationship with Jesus and through him eternal life.
Lastly, when challenged as the man was by the authorities we need to be able to respond. The man said (without complete understanding as is with us), “this I know that once I was blind and now I see.” We need to take time to jot down what we would say if asked casually, “Why are you a Christian, a follower of Jesus?”
Jesus answers for me in the dialogue that follows, “I came that they have life and it abundantly.” My life with Jesus Christ to full, I wouldn’t want it any other way. So may it be with you.
Sermon Summary, “I AM, You Are” (John (selected verses))
Pretending is a great kid’s game. “I am Superman.” “I am Wonderwoman.” “I am a cowboy.” Remember? Well, there were questions swirling around Jesus, too, to the point that Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” One said, “John the Baptist” another, “Elijah” a third, “One of the prophets. Jesus then asked, “But who do you say that I am?” We then hear Peter’s great confession, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.” Wow!
The answer becomes a theme in the Gospel of John. It first appears in the story of the woman at the well in chapter 4. The woman says, I know the Messiah is coming...when he comes, he will proclaim all things to us.” Jesus says to her, “I AM.” (most translations force sound English grammar by saying, “I am he,” but the Greek is “I AM.”) In chapter 5, Jesus walks to the boat on water and tells the terrified disciples, “Do not be afraid, I AM.”
“I AM” derives from the story of Moses at the burning bush where asked by Moses, “Who shall I tell the Israelites (in Egypt) has sent me.” God says to Moses, “Tell them that I AM WHO I AM has sent you.” This is the conjugation of the crude Hebrew form of the verb “to be,” I WAS, I AM, I WILL BE. In “Revelation” Jesus tells us “Grace and peace from the one who is and who was and who is to come.” Of course the Biblical narrative tells us that “he was” the Creator, the personal God who walked in the garden, the savior of the people of Israel, through Jesus Christ the Savior of all humanity, and he is the one who will come again. Powerful stuff, all wrapped up in this little verb, “to be.”
Seven times in John, Jesus tells us that he is the unqualified, “I AM.” Seven other times Jesus declares himself I AM by what he does for us, for example, “I AM the bread of life,” “I AM the gate for the sheep,” “I AM the Good Shepherd,” “I AM the resurrection and the life,” “I AM the way, the truth, and the life,” “I AM the true vine.”
When Jesus declares, “I AM the light of the world,” he is standing in the Temple courtyard during the Feast of the Tabernacles bathed in light from torches and lamps. Yet he says, “I AM the light of the world. Those who follow me will never walk in darkness but have the light of life.”
Of course in John 20:21 Jesus commissions his disciples by saying, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” In Matthew, Jesus has told us, “You are the light of the world.” “I AM the light of the world,” “As the Father has sent me, so I send you,” “You are the light of the world.” “I AM, you are. Let your light shine before others that they may see you good works and give glory to God in heaven!”
Monday, June 1, 2015
Sermon Summary “Holy Ghost” (Selected Verses from John and Acts 2)
I grew up with the Holy Ghost (KJV), and I bet you did too. John 20:22 would have been “Receive ye the Holy Ghost.” We still sing “Come, Holy Ghost Our Hearts Inspire.” And, I grew up with Casper the Friendly Ghost (created in 1935!) who of course was looking for playmates, friends, but would too often scare them away. But of course once friends, he was my friend, just mine. You see, I grew up in the “All about me” time from too. We still do. Unfortunately we think of the Holy Spirit as “just ours” too. Flowing from that too often comes a concept of a very personal faith that discards the social or community faith and from that a belief that we can be Christian with the church without community. We want our own Casper.
I don’t think that’s what the Pentecost story in Acts 2 tells us, nor do the Spirit inspired stories that flow from Acts 2. The Holy Spirit was God’s intentional plan for equipping and building up the church. In Acts 1:8 Jesus says, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all of Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (The “you” is plural in the Greek)
People from all over the world gathered in Jerusalem, heard the power of the Pentecost sermon, received the Holy Spirit and returned to their towns, some to begin churches before Paul or Apollos arrived. The Spirit was building the church. Peter and John received gifts that built up the church. Stephen received the power to witness. The Spirit scattered the apostles who employed that power. Barnabas was empowered to find Paul and then the two were commissioned by the Spirit, all to build up the church.
In John’s story of the gift of the Spirit (told for his non-Jewish audience in Ephesus), Jesus commissions (“As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” (John 20:21); and then “breathed on them and says to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” (John 20:22) Just as Matthew commissioned the church and then said, “And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Promising his presence and power. The Holy Spirit is Jesus’ intentional gift for building up the church.
O yes, were are individually gifted by the Spirit, but it is not for ourselves, but for the benefit of others to be used in building up the body of Christ for fulfilling the mission of the Church.
We can have Caspers as friends, but it’s our job to make our Caspers part of the body of Christ and a disciple of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. That’s Jesus’ plan.