Sunday, October 22, 2017
Sermon Summary, 10/8/17, “The Minor Prophets”
We’re in a sermon series on the Old Testament, today “The Minor Prophets.” You know at least one of them even if you’ve missed the meaning of the story: Jonah, a whale of a tale, a fish story. Jonah runs away because he hates Israel’s enemy, Assyria, and God has called him to call them to repentence. They do! Israel had gotten exclusive to an extreme. God was showing Jonah, and us, that God can show grace even to our enemies. What does that tell us today?
The Minor Prophets, minor in length, but not in message: “Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an every flowing stream.” (Amos 5:24) God had seen the northern kingdom become fat and prosperous and entitled, “trampling on the poor,” and “pushing aside the needy in the gate.” (the gate is where the elders adjudicated disputes.) But the people said, “O, we go to church, we give offerings, we’ve got a great choir and bells.” But God said, “I despise your festivals, I take no delight in your assemblies...but let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever flowing stream.” God expects fairness in our dealings with one another. God expects justice in the gate.
After all, Jesus began his ministry in the Gospel of Luke with statements of justice and fairness: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has snet me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery o sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:15-19) Jesus’ ministry was about justice.
Another Minor Prophet speaking to the southern kingdom about the same time as Amos, was Micah: “And what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8) Justice. Some would argue that issues of social justice are political agendas rather than religious issues. The Minor Prophets tell us otherwise. Jesus too. “he has anointed me to…”
John Wesley told us that balanced discipleship includes both works of piety and works of mercy, the latter including compassion and justice. Compassion is easy: feed the hungry, clothe the naked, quench the thirsty. Issues of justice are difficult: Attack the causes of hunger, homelessness, thirst, etc. Far more difficult. We often joust at windmills.
If I drill down into nearly every social ill facing us, I’ll find many I cannot address, but if I examine the root causes, nearly every one of them includes education. There are things I can do about education. I listened to my own sermon and signed up to read to third graders this year.
One more thing: We have equal justice before the law in this country, “As long a everybody pays the same.” That’s a challenge the Minor Prophets would call us to, “Pushing aside the needy in the gates.”
Sermon Summary 10/1/17) “The Major Prophets (Isaiah 61:1; Acts 8:32-33)
We’re in a series on the Old Testament. Our motivation was the story of Jesus on the road to Emmaus on Easter afternoon opening himself to the disciples “and beginning with Moses he interpreted the things about himself in all of scripture.” The Old Testament is the Bible that Jesus knew. Today, the Major Prophets: Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel (Daniel is a special case, join us on Thurs nights for Bible Study!). Isaiah is quoted more in the New Testament than any other book, 46 times in the Gospels, 30 times by Paul, 30 times in Revelation. It points to Jesus.
Jesus began his ministry is Luke by reading from the Prophet Isaiah, (61:1) “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me, he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed…” This was Jesus’ ministry and it is ours as followers of Jesus. The Major Prophets spoke to their times, they spoke to Jesus, and they speak to us.
To understand the Prophets we need to know the time and the historical events that they spoke to. Isaiah 1 (first 39 books) spoke to the southern kingdom at a time that the northern kingdom was being overrun and conquered by Assyria. Isaiah was warning the southern kingdom of the consequences for not following God.
Jeremiah and Ezekiel spoke 150 years later to the remnant in Jerusalem (Jeremiah) and Babylon (Ezekiel). Although parts of Jeremiah was dark as were the times, he had a message of hope. He bought a parcel of land, a symbol of hope, at the most trying of times. He wrote a letter to Babylon and told them to marry and have families, build house and live in them, all with a future in mind. Ezekiel too, had a hopeful message. The exiled people had lost hope away from the Temple (How can we sing songs of Zion in a foreign land? (Ps 137)). He told them that God was everywhere, with them in Babylon. Through his visions he gave them hope of return (“Them bones, them bone, them dry bones”), the vision of the valley of the dry bones. God would put sinew on them, put flesh on them, breath into them the breath of life and they would return. (Ez 37)
The Major Prophets furnished Jesus with his mission, as the Shepherd (Ez 34), as the Suffering Servant (Is 53). The latter we know from a wonderful story in the book of Acts with Philip joining the Ethiopian Eunuch on the way to Gaza. “Do you know what you are reading?” It happened to be Is 53 which we remember from every Holy Week, “Surely he has borne our infirmities and carried our diseases...he was wounded for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities, upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises we are healed.” Jesus was the personification of the Suffering Servant. Amen.
Sermon Summary 9/24/17) “The Historical Books (and a Wedding)” (Following the worship, Rick and Lynne came forward to join themselves in Christian Marriage.) (Col 3:12-14; Hosea 11:1-4)
I’ve been distracted again. We’ve been involved in a sweep of the Old Testament (The Bible that Jesus Knew), and we have been distracted. Today, by a wedding. Can you imagine?
But before we get distracted, today we are looking at the historical books of the Old Testament, from Joshua and the conquest of the Promised Land, through their exile to Babylon 600 years later in 2 Chronicles, and their return in Ezra and Nehemiah. Entry, 600 years, exile, return.
But it is the exile I want to talk about. It may be the most important period in Jewish history because it was there that they learned to become a faithful people. Do you remember that God had a Covenant relationship with his people? “I will be your God and you will be my people.” A Covenant relationship that the people had broken over and over again by running after other gods, by violating the first commandment “You shall have no other gods before me.” They could not resist the Canaanite gods. After 600 years, God said enough was enough. They would never learn to be faithful in Canaan, and he allowed Nebuchadnezzar to take them into exile. For two generations they put their faith back together. They learned to become faithful.
Why do we study history? Because we cannot learn from the future. We can only learn to become faithful in our relationships from the past. We cannot learn from the future. St. Paul was a student of history. And just three verses, he gives us the tools to become faithful in our relationships (Col 3:12-14)
“Cloth yourselves in compassion, kindness..” Kindness may be the universal antidote. Whenever we disagree, have a complaint, we need to ask, “What is the kindest way I can put this?” Kindness. One of my gurus says that successful couples use “soft starts.” Kindness.
“Humility, meekness…” Never letting ego, pride getting in the way. Placing the other above self. “Patience,” going at the pace of the other.
Then “bear with one another and if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.” Forgiveness is a pillar of marriage. “So you also must forgive.”
“Above all, cloth yourselves in love which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” Love, not a feeling, but building each other up, valuing the other, lifting them up. God through the prophet Hosea demonstrates kindness, love, lifting, valuing in Hosea 11:1-4, putting on love. So may it be with all of you.
Sermon Summary (9/1017) “The Bible that Jesus Knew: The Torah” (Ge 37:1-4; Ex 20:3; Deut 6:4-5; Lev 19:17-18)
We were starting a new sermon series, “The Bible that Jesus Knew” until I got distracted. Have you ever been distracted? Started for the garage and ended up in the kitchen? Here’s the verse that distracted me: “You shall have no other gods before me.” This is the verse that we violate each and every day. We place other things before God every day and that’s sin! And that’s good news! Stay tuned.
Last week we spoke of Jesus coming along side two disciples on the Road to Emmaus, “And beginning with the Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all of scripture.” (Lk 24:27) That’s where we were going, the Bible Jesus knew, this week the Law of Moses, the Torah—until I got distracted.
We know many of these stories, the pre-historical creation, the call of Abraham to place him at the crossroads of the world so that his descendants could be a light to the nations, the birth of Isaac, of Jacob, the father of the twelve tribes, the Joseph story. In Exodus, we find tribes in Egypt where they are slaves. God calls Moses out of a burning bush.
Then guidelines for living in Exodus and Leviticus. Here’s where we find Ex 20:3, “You shall have no other gods before me.” And in Leviticus, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The Bible Jesus knew.
In Numbers they are poised to enter the Promised Land. Finally, Deuteronomy, Moses’ sermon to prepare them, the second reading of the Law and the prayer that echoes to this day, “Hear O Israel, the Lord your God is One, and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.” Where have we heard that? It’s from the Bible Jesus knew.
But what I was distracted to tell you was “You shall have no other gods before me.” Our universal sin. But the good news is that we can be forgiven. We can enter the process of repentance and we can be forgiven. And we need to enter that process every day.
Other sins come and go. If we are doing something bad we need to stop, but this sin we need to repent of each day. We have a God-shaped hole in our hearts and we try to fill it with family, with job, with things. We put them before God. All good things. Not bad things, good things. But the problem is that we make good things, ultimate things. Then the next thing is that we create our identity around them, around family, around job, around things. And when they fail, we fail. Even worse, we wrap our egos around our identity, we compare. Soon our families are better than others, our things are better, then we are better, our race is better. We destroy the fabric of our communities.
But the good news is we can repent every day. We can be forgiven!