Tuesday, May 23, 2017
Sermon Summary (5/21/17) “A life of Generosity” (Ecc 5:10; 1 Tim 6:17-19)
What make you happy? A new car? A new toy? Ten thousand dollars more? Twenty thousand? A survey of surveys, 450 thousand people, showed that above $75,000 there was very little correlation of gain with happiness. What did correlate, however, was the number of friends a person had, and their faith. Relationships and religion. So, what aspects of religion bring joy, make us believe we are living well? That’s what this sermon series I about.
Today our topic is generosity: a generosity of spirit, a generosity of wealth (our things), and a generosity of time.
A generosity of spirit has to do with relationships, how we treat people, how we are kind and gracious to them and look for the best in them; how we affirm them, value them and lift them up. Jesus’ command, what we’ve come to know as the “Royal Law,” my say it best: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” We wrestle with who our neighbor is looking for an out. Jesus closes that out with the story of the Good Samaritan. We then wrestle with a definition of love, maybe best defined by Scott Peck: “Love is the will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth.” Will—intentionality. Extend—effort. Nurture—to lift up, to affirm. Spiritual growth—aspirations, actualization. Bottom line, love is a choice; it requires intentionality and effort. It is about lifting others up. Here’s a thought: Pray that you can become the kind of person that others want to be with, to see coming because you affirm them, value them.
A generosity of wealth and spirit. If we do not have a generosity of spirit we will more than likely faith at these. Ebenezer Scrooge may be the personification of grasping. He lacked a generosity of spirit and it flowed into his concept of sharing wealth and time (read the second paragraph of Charles Dickens’ wonderful novella).
So what is required of you? The biblical guidance is the tithe but we fall way short? “Christians” in America give an average of 2.8 percent. How can we start being a person known as generous with a capital “G”? Just round up. To the next dollar or the next denomination. What would it take for your server to think that you are “G”enerous? What about God?
Time. It is our interface with others, our relationships that makes us truly human, that makes a difference in the lives of others. One volunteer shared arriving at a first grade classroom where she read finding the class in turmoil because a playmate had been taken away by social services. Her mother had been put in jail. She said being there that day had given her purpose and joy. I would suggest that her generosity of time was part of living well. Amen.
Sermon Summary (5/14/17) “Six Words Mothers Teach Us” (Mt 6:14-15; Col 3:13)
I’m wearing two carnations, a white one for my Mother and a red one for my Step-Mother. I can just feel my Mother pinning a carnation on me on Mother’s Day, a day that holds many memories of my Mom.
Mothers are special teachers. Today we concentrate on six words that mothers teach us: “I am sorry” and “I forgive you.” (Except for Mamabears that protect at all cost. We have a sign in our house that says, “If momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” Even Mommabears should understand that unhappiness and holding a grudge is not a way to “Live Well.”)
Forgiveness comes to crescendo in the New Testament with Jesus making it essential to relationships. In the Lord’s Prayer he says, “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Some say this is a dangerous prayer if ask for forgiveness to the extent that we forgive others! Additionally, this is the only line of the prayer that Jesus explains. In the verses immediately following the prayer (Mt 6:14-16), he says, “14 For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; 15 but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” Wow! CS Lewis says this is unequivocal. If we do not forgive, we will not be forgiven!
In my wedding sermons, I made forgiveness a pillar of marriage. We just cannot go forward if we do not forgive. Paul says, “forgive one another; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you must also forgive.” (Col 3:13) Must forgive.
Luke says “if any sins against you and repents, you must forgive.” How good are you at repentance? Repentance is a theological term. The street language is “I am sorry.” How good at saying “I am sorry”?
“I am sorry “and “I forgive you” are operative words. In our series we find the operative words are “to do.” The Golden Rule, “To do unto others…” And the requirement, “What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to do lovingkindness…” “To do.” To say “I am sorry”; to say “I forgive you.” To do.
I spent last weekend with Ray Buckley, a friend and an amazing man. Finest storyteller I know. A book he has authored is Christmas Moccasins. A grandmother works are year making three pair of the finest moccasins. We find the grandmother and her grandson out in the snow on Christmas Eve looking for three youths who had accosted them the previous Christmas. Her present for them? Christmas moccasins, yes; but more importantly, Christmas forgiveness that frees both them and their adversaries. Central lessons for living well. Amen.
Friday, May 19, 2017
Sermon Summary (5/7/17) “The Requirement” (Micah 6:8))
We’re in the midst of a sermon series on “Finding Joy in Everyday Life: Five Essentials for Living Well.” What does it mean to live well? Rick Warren would say it is “not about you.” Jesus would say, “Whoever wants to be first must be last and servant of all.” So what does the Lord require of me? Of you?
Maybe it was best stated by Micah, 8th century bc prophet, who scolded the northern kingdom for materialism, greed, and oppressing the little guy. “Can I tolerate wicked scales and ...dishonest weights?” and “They covet fields and seize them.” The case for the latter is King Ahab and Queen Jezebel who arranged to have Naboth killed in order to seize his vineyard, his ancestral property, just because Ahab wanted it.
These sins are not restricted to ancient times but happen among us. We seize property by eminent domain, normally from the little guy; we take advantage of those who may not know the ways of the world because we can. In too many cases our infrastructure favors the big guy at the disadvantage of those who already have little.
And Micah says, “And what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to do lovingkindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8)
Justice. The Hebrew word is “Mishpat” which is used over 400 times in the Old Testament. And who do you suppose God had in mind when he called for justice? Zechariah tells us “do not oppress the widow, the orphan, the alien, the poor.” (Zech 7:10) The marginalized were the center of Jesus’ ministry, too. We must ask in all that we do, “Is it fair, is it just, have I somehow tipped the scales?”
Lovingkindness. The Hebrew word is “Hessed,” used over 200 times in the Old Testament. We have no such word. It is grace, and mercy, and forgiveness, and agape, and kindness all rolled into one. Jesus scolded the Pharisees for neglecting the weightier matters “Justice, mercy (Hessed), and faithfulness.” Do you think the Pharisees were bad people? No, they just failed to pay attention.
Lynn called this week, making me aware of a ministry that she is passionate about; one where unwed, expectant mothers can receive Hessed, kindness. It only requires our pocket change for five weeks, from Mother’s Day to Father’s Day. We need to pay attention to where God is working in the world, providing Hessed, and join in.
Lastly the Lord requires that we walk humbly with him. We normally have it backwards. We want God to walk with us. It is when we walk with him that we pay attention to those who need Mishpat and Hessed. So may our walk be with God. Amen.
Thursday, May 4, 2017
Sermon Summary (4/3017) “The Gold Standard” (Mt 7:12)
We’re beginning a new sermon series, “Finding Joy in Everyday Life: Five Essentials for Living Well,” today, “The Gold Standard,” the Golden Rule. Every civilized culture has had a law of reciprocity. We are most familiar with “An Eye for an Eye..,” a great leap forward applying proportionality in the treatment of one another. Most rules of reciprocity were negative, “do not do to others,” Paul says in Romans 13, “Love does no harm to a neighbor.” But Jesus changed that.
Jesus changed everything! He said, “Do...Do!” “Therefore, in everything do to others as you would have others do to you; this is the law and the prophets.” This is the sum of 1500 years of ethical teaching. Pay attention.
“Therefore,” in summary of all that that has gone before (The Sermon on the Mount, the highest ethical teachings of Jesus.); in summary of all the moral teachings of God, do… Then, “in everything.” What does he mean by everything? He means in “Everything.” From “first go be reconciled with your brother or sister” (Mt 5:24); to “Do not judge your brother or sister.” (Mt 7:1) The whole of his highest ethical teaching, In everything, in all relationships, “Do.”
Yet in most of our relationship transactions, we don’t treat others as we wish to be treated do we?. We want be winners and the expense of others. We want them to be losers. In contrast, Stephen Covey says, “Win-Win or no deal.” Don’t you imagine that’s what Jesus meant?
Don’t we hate telemarketers? How would you like to have a job where 99 percent of the people said “No” and say it harshly. I’ve decided to sincerely tell them I” hope your day goes well, I hope in your next call you make a sale, that things go well with you.” Isn’t that how we would like to be treated?
What about business? James Cash Penney named his first store “The Golden Rule Store.” He was one of the first to call his employees “associates,” and profit share; and call his customers “partners.” In his book he says, that the Golden Rule “carries us past the letter of the law to the spirit which gives life. It makes us willing to sacrifice...for the welfare of others.”
And in our social structure? Branch Rickey did everything in his power to successfully break the major league color barrier because watched a negro player “brought low, crushed, just because of the color of his skin.” There came a time when he could no longer ignore it. He had placed himself in the skin of another and decided he would not want to be treated that way. But he did more, he took the Jesus’ version “Do to...” And that changed everything. So be it for us. Amen.
Sermon Summary (4/23/17) “A Trust Relationship” (Luke 24:13-35 and 1 Cor 15 excerpts)
I bet you thought Easter was over. Over. Actually, the Church’s Easter Season runs all the way to Pentecost, this year June 4th, so we ought to spend at least two weeks on the resurrection! So, God raised Jesus from the dead. You can take that to the bank. You can count on it. Paul, the Apostle Paul, bet his life on it! As did all the Apostles. And hear this, you don’t die for what you know to be a lie. You don’t die for a lie!
The resurrection is central to our faith. Here’s what I want you to take away: You can trust God. God raised Jesus from the dead and he will raise you. You can trust God.
Sometimes we lose hope. The disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13 and following) had expected Jesus to redeem his nation Israel and their hopes were dashed at the crucifixion. Jesus (unbeknownst to them) came along side and explained how the Son of Man must suffer, die, and on the third day be raised so that repentance and forgiveness could be proclaimed to all nations. And at the meal that evening, he was made known to them in the breaking of bread. A community that had lost hope, was a community of restored hope!
You can trust God. How is your trust factor? Paul’s fledgling church in Corinth had lost hope. Someone had told them that Christ had not been raised. They had lost hope. Paul was writing (1 Cor 15) to restore their hope and he employed one of the oldest Creeds of the early church, circa 40 ad, to tell them: “3 For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, 4 and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to [Peter], then to the twelve.” (1 Cor 15:3-5)
Event: Jesus died. Theological interpretation: for our sins according to the scriptures. Proof: He was buried.
Event: He was raised. Theological interpretation: on the third day according to the scriptures. Proof: He appeared to the apostles and then to more than 500 at one time.
You can trust God.
Paul close his words to Corinth with 58 Therefore, my beloved, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord, because you know that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.
What does a person in a trust relationship with God do? Be steadfast, excel in the work of the Lord. Amen.