Friday, February 17, 2017
Sermon Summary (2/12/17), “But I Say to you” Matthew 5:20-26
We’re in a sermon series, “Say and Do,” looking at what Jesus said and did to better know what we are to say and do. Last week, “You are the light of the world,” and we said, “It is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.” Today, we move further into the Sermon on the Mount, the centerpiece of Jesus’ teachings.
Jesus takes the teachings of Moses, reaffirms them, radicalizes them, and then gives concrete examples of living the new meaning. He does an amazing thing. He says, “But I say to you.” Jesus is relocating the authority of the law within himself. Later the crowds will be amazed because, they say, he speaks as one with authority!
It is easy not to kill. But Jesus recognizes it is the heart that is the problem. “But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother or sister, who ever says Raca (Aramaic term for contempt)… “ Anger and contempt, just like murder, have no place in human relationships.
Then he does an amazing thing. He places human relationships above our relationship with God. “If you are there before the altar and remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there… and first go be reconciled…’ It is the absolute will of God that we live in harmony with one another!
The Ten Commandments were given on two tablets, sometimes called table 1 and table 2. The former dealt with our relationship with God, the latter, table 2, with our relationships with one another. Jesus spends far more time with table 2 than the former. It is the absolute will of God that we live together in harmony. And all of them, all of them, fit within the law to “Love one’s neighbor as one’s self.”
John Wesley’s rules fit this bill. He said, “First do not harm.” First, because it is very difficult to undo harm. Forgiveness, yes; consequences, very difficult. How do we avoid anger, contempt, belittling, demeaning? How do we avoid hurting one another? First, do no harm.
“Then, do good.” Just as Jesus calls us to positive action (go, be reconciled with your neighbor), Wesley tells us, “Do good.” How is it that we can be a positive force in our neighbor’s life? J. Ellsworth Kalas wrote a book, The Ten Commandments from the Backside,” in which he restates the commandments in positive terms. Instead of just “Do not murder,” he says “Embrace life.” How is it that we give life to another? We need to be thoughtful, we need to be intentional to not just not harm but to do good. Kalas says instead of not just coveting, be grateful for all that your neighbor has. Grateful people do all the good they can. So may we live in harmony! Amen.
Sermon Summary (2/5/17), “One Candle” Matthew 5:13-16
Last week in prayer time we described the world as “crazy.” It’s no less this week. War between Ukraine and Russia; Iran testing ballistic missiles; arguments with our best allies; character assassinations and name calling in the halls of congress; civil war raging in Syria with refugees as the overwhelming problem in the world today, 60 million people without homes, 6 million from Syria alone. The problems of the world are overwhelming. What are we to do?
In this sermon series, we are looking at what Jesus said and do so that we can seek what we are to say and do. Last week we looked to the mind of Christ. Knowing the mind of Christ we can ask and answer “What would Jesus do if he were me.” We could determine what to do in the midst of chaos. What is it we are to do in the midst of darkness, in the midst of evil, in the midst of chaos.
In my search this week, I rediscovered “The Christophers,” formed in 1945 in one of the darkest periods of our national life. Its premise was that every person has the positive ability to shape the future. Its Scriptural basis is Romans 12:21, “Do not be overcome by evil, overcome evil with good.” And its theme, motto, slogan is “It is better to light one candle than curse the darkness.”
And today, Jesus is saying to us “You are the salt of the earth.” Salt does not exist for itself. It exists to provide zest, preservation, to others. What if we were to wake up each day saying, “My life is not my own. It is for others. I exist my others.” Would that change how we live?”
Then Jesus says, “You are the light of the word...let your light so shine before others that they can see your good works and give glory to your father in heaven.” This word “good” is a special one in Greek meaning “beautiful” and “winsome” and “wholesome.” “That they can see your beautiful works…” What if we were to say every day, what beautiful thing is there I can do that will give God glory? What if?
When the world is overwhelming, what beautiful thing, what one candle can I light instead of cursing the darkness? In Syria, one of the darkest and most evil places I can imagine, a group called the “White Helmets” has emerged to run toward the explosions and rescue people from the refuse. In three years 3000 White Helmet volunteers have saved the lives of 70,000 people by asking what beautiful thing can I do today, what one candle can I light today?
When things are overwhelming, when things seem too complex, when things seem darkest, “It is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.” So may it be with all of us. Amen.
Sermon Summary (1/29/17), “Who is Blessed?” Matthew 5:1-12
This week, give or take a week, I celebrated 30 years in Lay Speaking. The class, in the winter of 1987, was one of my most spiritual experiences and changed my life. During the course, the director gave a talk on Phil 2:5, “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus.” Seeking the mind of Christ. We do that in the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew’s compilation of the highest teachings of Jesus.
He begins by telling us who God favors: “Blessed are the poor in spirit… Blessed are those who mourn… Blessed are the meek.” We’re talking about the real destitute here, those who are continually in tears, the spineless who are walked on by society, what Simon and Garfunkel called the “sat upon, spat upon, ratted upon.” Are they blessed because they are “sat upon, spat upon, ratted upon”? No, they are not blessed by anything they do. They are blessed by the divine activity of Jesus Christ, the Kingdom of God breaking through in the person of Jesus Christ.
In both Matthew (the sat upon, etc.) and Luke (4:18) “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free,” Jesus begins his ministry by declaring who God favors. I can surmise that God is on their side because he knows we are not. At least it is not in our nature until we take on the mind of Christ.
The blessings of the marginalized are not because they are marginalized, it is grace. They can do nothing to earn their blessings and neither can we. It is Jesus’ intention to bring us all into the Kingdom of God, to have the mind of Christ, to live by the rules of the Kingdom, and that’s what he teaches in the remainder of the Sermon on the Mount.
A preview of his teachings: It is not just adherence to the Law, our overt behavior that matters, it is our hearts that matter. We are to be salt and light. We are not to get angry with our brothers and sisters; we are not to treat them as objects; we are to love our neighbor, pray for those who persecute us; focus on God; live by the Golden Rule.
We are to focus on life in the kingdom. We are not called to be poor, unless, unless our wealth keeps us from focusing on the kingdom. Jesus told the rich, young ruler to sell all he had. They were his focus. We are to pure in heart. Not just morally pure, but singular focused on the kingdom. We are to seek the mind of Christ. We find that by living in the kingdom. Amen.
Sermon Summary (1/22/17), “Come and See” John 1:35-49
This sermon is based on a wonderful presentation by Rev. Matt Miofsky and Annual Conference 2016 that can be view at https://vimeo.com/170466598 I highly recommend you take the time to view it. In the verses from John above (read it too), Andrew, Peter, Philip and Nathanael all receive invitations and respond because of their relationships, not because they know or know of Jesus.
The premise that there is someone you know that you wish was in church with you this morning. Without evoking the dreaded “E” word (“Evangelism,” that Matt says is really hospitality to those not here yet), Matt says, “Come and See.” Eighty five percent of those who come to church do so because of Invitation. Evangelism is about invitation. Eighty two percent of those invited will come and see.
Matt points out that there is a difference between an announcement and an invitation. An announcement requires no response. An invitation requires a “yes” or a “no.” My granddaughter announced that she love the move “La, La Land” and that we ought to go. Had she said, “I loved that move so much that I’m going again tomorrow. Would you come with me?” That is an invitation.
All you need to make invitation is something you are passionate about and a few friends. We ought to be as passionate about our faith and our church as “La, La Land” don’t you think?
Evangelism is about relationship. None of the people who were invited knew anything about Jesus. John the Baptist’s disciples knew nothing of Jesus but they had a relationship with John. He invited them to follow Jesus. Peter knew nothing about Jesus but he was Andrew’s brother and he went and say. Philip did not know anything about Jesus but he was from the home town of Andrew and Peter. Nathanael, the skeptic knew nothing of Jesus, but had a relationship with Philip. The disciples who changed the world responded to their friends before they responded to Jesus. Evangelism is about relationship.
Evangelism is about connecting people to Jesus. We need to be doing the things that connect people to Jesus. Worship is seldom enough. That’s why we have Sunday School and Disciple Bible Study and Wednesday Night Worship and Study. It’s about Jesus.
Lastly, evangelism is about changing lives in Jesus Christ. Matt included stories of people whose lives were changed because friends or relatives or neighbors asked them to “Come and see,” with prayers and persistence. Jesus says “Come and see, abide with me.” Invitation begins with a passion and a friend. Who is it that you wish was with you today? Ask them to “Come and see, come with me.”