Saturday, August 27, 2016
Sermon Summary, “Old Time Religion,” Psalm 103:8-14, Aug 21, 2016
I recall the first time my pastor in Connecticut asked me to liturgist. For me it was a sacred duty. I remember the words of assurance that were to be said, “8 The Lord is merciful and gracious… 11 For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is his steadfast love for those who fear him; 12 as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.” (Ps 103: 8a-11,12) By the way, verses 11 and 12 are your verse memorization assignment for this week.
Too many of us think of the Old Testament God as a wrathful God, yet here is God’s self description from Ex 34:6 repeated by the Psalmist, “The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger , and abounding in steadfast love…” Is your Old Testament God a harsh God? Or is he a forgiving God? A merciful God? A God giving assurance?
We know from the attribution at the top of the Psalm that King David wrote Psalm 103, but we don’t know the occasion. Ellsworth Kalas conjectures, but there is no evidence of it, that it was a follow up to Psalm 51, David’s Psalm of penitence.
You remember the story of David’s fall from grace with Bathsheba and his murder of Uriah, her husband as a follow up. Even then he was oblivious until the Prophet Nathan declared “You are the man.” (See 2 Samuel 11 and 12). Psalm 51 tells us the occasion was “A Psalm of David, when the prophet Nathan came to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.” Innocuous words aren’t they? Anyway, Kalas points out that for all its wonderful words of penitence, there are no words of assurance, that at the time he wrote it, David may not have been able to feel God lift his burden from him. Some time later, he wrote our verses for today: “The Lord is merciful and gracious… so far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our sins from us.” Assurance. Assurance.
The Old Testament God is a God of grace! How is it that we should respond? With repentance. Jesus begins his ministry by saying, “Repent, the Kingdom of Heaven has drawn near.” Repent, not just confess, but turn around, change, start a new life, take a new path.
Change is hard. John Wesley knew that. He gathered his followers in groups and had the leaders ask every week: “What sins have you committed since our last meeting?” Now, we might not want to go to that kind of meeting, but we must at least ask the question of ourselves an if we do, we may give ourselves pause each week. And by the way, we have a God who is merciful and gracious. David was glad. We are too. Our response to grace? Repent, turn around with assurance.
Sermon Summary, “Parables of Jesus: “Parable of the Party” Mt 21:1-14; Col 3:10;12;14, Aug 14, 2016
A few years ago, the DS asked that I give the message at the District Conference. I asked that I preach on Evangelism. The selected passage for that Sunday was ours for today which includes “Go out onto the highways and byways, the streets and the lanes and invite everyone you can find to the wedding.” I told him that we were going to South Dakota but that we would be back for the Conference. I didn’t tell him the purpose of the trip. We were going to see Justin. Justin had not received an invitation. He had found life too difficult and had taken his own life. No one had invited him to the party.
Have you every been invited to a party and “just didn’t have anything to wear?” So you skipped and found it had been a great party? Can you imagine God throwing a party and we choose to not go? That’s the story. God sends so many a personal invitation and we find excuses. We’ve bought a vacation home and need to visit it. We’ve bought a new car or motorcycle and we need to try it out. Or maybe we’re are just not ready. (Jesus told a story about that too, the 10 virgins only five of whom had oil for their lamps. The other five weren’t ready.)
Do you have of Justin’s and Justine’s in your lives who need invitation? Might their lives be different if a kind person, one who strived to build them up came along side of them, who just wanted a relationship with them because of whom they are? Might their story be different?
Luke ends his version of the story there with an invitation on the streets and the lanes that filled the hall with both good and bad. Matthew continues with the King finding a guest without a wedding garment and casts him out. What is this garment? I believe it is and active faith. When we put on an active faith, we dress up like Christ. We may not have all the garment, all the faith. But if we start with new shoes for walking, new gloves for holding on, and we stick with it, soon we will find ourselves fully dressed.
Dressing up, putting on clothing is a common biblical theme. Paul in Colossians 3 tells us to cloth ourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. And above all put on love which binds everything together in perfect harmony. So clothed, we can walk along side those who need lifting up, who need to know they are persons of worth, of value. And when the day comes when their needs cannot be satisfied with things, that they need more, you, so clothed, can come along side them and make all the difference in their lives. Amen.
Saturday, August 13, 2016
Sermon Summary, “Parables of Jesus: Prayer” Luke 11:1;5-13: 18:1-8, July 24, 2016
I remember my Mom teaching me to to pray. I was three or four. “And take special care of Uncle Dean.” I was too young to know who God was and as I read these parables, I wonder if it is more important to know how to pray or to know the nature of the God to whom we are praying? How or who? As it turns out, Jesus did both. “Our Father..” Then he teaches us the nature of God.
In the first parable (space necessitates leaving the reading to you), a man knocks on the door of a friend at midnight, begging for bread to show hospitality to a guest and is rebuffed until the friend finally gives in because of his persistence. In the second, a reluctant secular judge finally gives a poor widow justice, not because of he was just, but because she was a pest. William Barclay calls these parables of contrast. God is NOT like that. In verse Luke 11:13, Jesus says, “how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?”
Holy Spirit. This is the key. We do not always get what we ask for and in retrospect, we know how often that would have been harmful to us or to others. But we always, always receive the presence of God in the person of the Holy Spirit. It is the nature of God to be present with us, to be available for conversation with every breath we take and every step we make. For Jesus, prayer was part of him, with every breath. With every breath we take and every step we make.
God answers our petitions with the presence of the Holy Spirit. I picture my life as a series of forks in the road, paths that I must choose. I know this, if I ask the Holy Spirit, I am far more likely to choose the correct path. Sometimes I’m wrong and end up on the wrong path because of my free will. Sometimes I end up on the wrong path because of the free will of others (remember he story of Joseph being thrown into prison because of Potiphar’s wife?). Even on the wrong path, God is with us and will allow us to make the best of it. Constant communication with every breath we take and every step we make. I guess that’s what Paul meant when he said, “All things work for Good for those who love God..” God has given us his Holy Spirit for the asking.
Before finishing, “Uncle Dean,” prayer of intercession, really a prayer of “Thy kingdom come..” My Uncle Dean could only be safe if the kingdom is breaking through where he is, where he and others around him and creation are within the will of God. “Thy kingdom come..” is no small prayer.
Saturday, August 6, 2016
Sermon Summary, “Parables of Jesus: All In” Matthew 13:44-46, July 17, 2016
CH Dodd said, “At its simplest the parable is a metaphor or simile drawn from nature or common life, arresting the hearer by its vividness or strangeness, and leaving the mind in sufficient doubt about its precise application to tease it into active thought.” A metaphor set along side a complex concept to reveal a spiritual truth. Vivid, Jesus once told of putting manure around a tree for three years. Strange, mysteries to tease the mind.
Today Jesus tells stories of the Kingdom and asks are we “All in”? Are we? At its simplest, the Kingdom is where God rules, where his will is done. At it’s more complex, Jesus told seven different parables to share the complexities of the Kingdom. Today, the great worth of the Kingdom.
Important to note that the Kingdom is “Both/And.” It is both a current and future reality. It is breaking in now in the presence of Jesus, but it’s not quite yet. And we know that it is a future reality. The Gospel of John does not use the term the Kingdom of God, but “Eternal Life.” Your eternal life begins now and is a future reality. “Those who believe in me will never die.”
The question for today remains “Are we all in?” Are we?
44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
A plowman in a field going about his business stumbles over a treasure, finds of such value that he reburies it, goes and sells all he has and buys the whole field. First hearers would have said, “The dummy, it was finders keepers. He didn’t have to buy the field. The treasure was already his!” But he had to make sure he was “all in.”
45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; 46 on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.
Now we have a man who not just accidently finds the kingdom of great worth but has been searching his entire life for it and yet, it is of so much more value than he expected that he sold all that he had and bought the one pearl. He went all in.
I love the song from "Godspell," "Day by Day." "Day by day, day by day. O dear Lord, three things I pray: to see you more clearly, to love you more dearly, to follow you more nearly, day by day." I think that's what it means to be all in, to invest ourselves in the Word of God to see him more clearly; to continually converse with God, prayer, that continuous of conversation to love him more dearly; then to ask what it means to love my neighbor and to discover what it means to follow him more nearly.
Will we find the kingdom of great worth, our eternal life? Will we make it our business, day by day, by Word, by prayer, by following?
Sermon Summary, “Parables of Jesus: Commending Dishonesty” Luke 16:1-13, July 3, 2016
We begin a new series on the parables of Jesus with my least favorite parable. While most are difficult, Jesus always left a little doubt so that we wrestled with the application, this one may be the most misunderstood, misinterpreted, most ambiguous of all. And it’s about money. Maybe that’s why I don’t like it.
Actually, Jesus talked more about money than any other topic save the Kingdom. Even the lost sheep (a family asset), the lost coin, and the lost son (he squandered his property) were about money. One of every seven verses in Luke is about money.
But don’t you hate it when others get involved in your finances, when God gets involved in your finances? I know a family that is deeply in debt but still buys the newest model muscle car each and every year. It puts stress on them, their family and their marriage. Maybe that’s why God is interested in our finances. By the way, another reason is that we make more financial decisions each day than any other kind. In some ways, our lives are defined by our financial decisions.
“There was a rich man” (I’ll leave you to read the verses) who summoned his manger to fire him. Alarmed the manager became very clever in a time of crisis. “I know what I’ll do, I’ll indebt my master’s debtors using his money so when I’m fired they will invite me into his home. I’ll build a bridge to my future.”
Then guess what? The manager called the sheriff? No. He commended the dishonest manager. “The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly...and I tell you, make friends with your accusers b means of dishonest wealth [earthy riches] so that when it is gone, they may welcome you into their eternal homes.” In other words, build bridges to your eternal home.
The secret to this parable is how God views money. He views it, all of it, as a tool to eternity. What if for one week, or one day, or one hour, we viewed our assets as a tool to eternity? What if we slept on our financial decisions? Prayed about them? Asked how our financial decisions contribute to our eternal wealth? A tool to eternity.
I’m reminded of a story of a Nun who had taken a vow of poverty who was wrestling with a decision to buy a computer printer. She finally did. When asked if she’d won, she said if she ever stopped wrestling with those decisions, she would lose. So be it with us.
Sermon Summary, “Life of Meaning: Making a Difference” July 3, 2016
A man tells his Rabbi “I haven’t been able to sleep for three weeks. A colleague passed away, my age, my neighborhood, our children played together, he sat just a few desks from me. Last week a new man was hired to sit at desk, his wife decided to move the kids back home. She’s gone already. The house is for sale. It’s as if he never existed. Rabbi, that will happen to me too. It will happen to me and a few days later it will be as if I never lived. Shouldn’t a person’s life be worth more than that?”
We’ve been searching for a life that matters. Life is the little things, the truly human things we do each and every day: Belong to people; accept pain as a part of life or we’d never dare to hope or love; today, make a difference, make a difference in the life of another and be remembered.
I’ve thought about the people here that make a difference: Ronnie and Sue with Spirit Riders. I met a girl last Sunday that has been coming to CrossWind ranch for eight years. A lot can rub off in eight years. I think of Scout Masters in Columbia who are also great dads. Of the stories my aunt told about my Mom, teacher her so many things, of a farmer who gathered the young farmers each and every week to talk about farming, of the farm wives who nurtured an Italian war bride who knew nothing about living in America., of a friend of mine in Jeff City, 79 years old, who meets every week with a teenager without an influential adult in his life.
Colin Powell tells us that mentoring in about passing on a 100 generations of knowledge to the next generation. A 100 generations. Elisha asked his mentor Elijah for a double portion of his spirit. Who do you want to inherit a double portion of your spirit?
It could be close to home. Susanna Wesley spent one hour every week, one-on-one with each of her 10 children to nurture their spiritual life. It could be in the schools. Every teacher has someone in her class that needs the presence of a loving adult. It could be nurturing a child at a swimming hole teaching them knots and talking about life experiences that they will recall years from now. Who do you intentionally want to inherit a double portion of your spirit? The difference you make will give your life meaning. Amen.