Wednesday, June 6, 2018
Sermon Summary, 6/3/18, “Reviving the Secret Word” (Micah 6:8; Col 3:12-15; Romans 9:12:9-21)
There was a time that Rosemary was not very happy with me. I promised I’d change. She replied, “You won’t change; people don’t change.” She’d tell you I have changed. What was the secret? Secret is the operative word. God changes us, more correctly the most definitive attribute of God, changes us, and it’s the “Secret Word.”
It is the most definitive attribute of God and the translators have kept it a secret from you. It shows up 246 times in the Old Testament and you’ve never heard of it. It’s right there in our Scripture, “and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8) It’s there.
It shows up in your favorite Psalm: :”Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” (Ps 23:6) It’s there.
It shows up in the words of description of many of our heroes: Job, Ruth, Esther, David and Jonathan, the nation Israel. It’s there.
So here’s the secret word. It is the Hebrew word, “Chesed.” (the C is silent.) “Chesed.” So what? It’s Greek to me. No, it’s Hebrew.
No, it’s not Greek. Part of the problem was that for Greek and for English translators, the Hebrew word, “Chesed” took a dozen words to describe. It was translated as devotion or loyalty, unchanging or steadfast love, mercy or merciful, love, kindness, goodness, righteousness, favor, faithfulness. One translator, the most literal, the NASB, even made up a word, “lovingkindness.” “Chesed” is the secret word and it is awesome! The most definitive attribute of God.
Paul was faced with the same problem and had to use multiple attributes to describe the Christian life: “clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness..patience...forgiveness...Above all, clothe yourselves in love which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” (from Col 3:12-15)
In Romans 12:9-21, the instruction set for Christian living, he again lists a dozen attributes. In Galatians 5:22, the fruit of the Spirit (note it’s singular) he lists nine to make up a single fruit. All along the Secret Word was “Chesed.” If only it had been Greek instead of Hebrew.
But here’s the deal. If you examine all of what Paul calls us to do, they can all be achieved with “Kindness.” How was I changed? I would suggest that Rosemary allowed God’s lovingkindness to flow through her to be her kindness to me. Kindness changed me. And here’s the deal, when God forms us to allow His kindness to flow from us, it is not just for one, it is for all. And kindness changes us, our families, our communities, and yes, transforms the world. The Secret Word is “Kindness.” Amen.
Sermon Summary, 5/20/18, “Living in God’s Will” (Col 1:0-10; Ro 12:1-2)
We’re finishing a series, “The Problem of Pain.” Talked of God’s nature. He is not a God who causes pain. He heals not harms, walks through trials with us, loves us more that we are capable of. We have a God we can trust, with those we’ve lost, with our lives.
So, what is God’s will for us? What does a walk with Jesus look like? A few options: A Calvinistic approach might be that God is Sovereign, there is a plan for our lives, we don’t take any steps that God has not pre-ordained. Very Calvinistic, extremely Calvinistic. Predestination. But that makes God responsible for evil, too. For the school shootings, for all the rapes and serial killings, for genocide, for all the tears and mourning. Oh, and yes, for damnation. We were elected before the foundations of the earth.
I can’t accept that. Neither could John Wesley. Wesley believed in grace, that God’s grace was available to all, we just have to accept it, to say, “yes.” We have the free-will to accept or reject it. We have the choices about how we live our lives.
Now there are somethings that God may not care about. The university we attend (but he does care how we act there). He may not care about the teams we root for even though we care a lot. Which sock we put on first. So, what then does God care about? OTHERS. God cares about our relationships with others. “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” is the theme of the New Testament. Jesus said it, James said it, Paul said it, John paraphrased it. Relationships matter.
Others, how we treat others matters to God’s will, how we walk with Jesus, because every decision we make impacts others. We need to consciously think of others with every decision (or non-decision) we make. Think of times when you’ve harmed someone you care about. Most often it is from thoughtless phrases or acts.
In Colossians, Paul urges us to be filled with the knowledge of God’s will so that we may bear fruit is every good work. The fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23) is all about relationships: We love others, extend joy to others, are kind to others, are patient with others, are generous with others, gentle with others, extend peace to others, deal with others with self-control.
When we walk with Jesus it is like co-authoring our life with him. Beginning with a blank journal and fill with the knowledge of his will, co-writing our life’s story with him. We discern his will with him. We act based on our understanding of his will. We witness to his will in all that we do. In so doing, he turns our mourning into dancing, he removes our mourning garments and clothes us with gladness!
Sermon Summary, 5/20/18, “God’s Will and the Problem of Pain” (Acts 2:1-12; Mt 7:13-14)
How often do you hear this from someone well meaning at an untimely death, the loss of a child, the loss of a spouse, “It must have been the will of God”? How could you accept a God like that? Not my God. My God heals rather than harms, brings peace rather than pain, stills the storms rather than throwing me to the waves. My God loves me, even more than I know. It is the will of my God that we will walk with him and him with me through the storm, the suffering and pain.
But if the losses we experience are not the will of God, what then is the will of God? How do we find it? How do we discern it?
My friend Ken posted this on facebook. Ken and Stephanie can relate to this having to raise a severely handicapped child. In the midst of life’s twists and turns, Stephanie heard a call and become an ordained minister, not part of Ken’s plan either.
The secular world will tell you that life is the journey and not the destination. I would argue it is both the destination and the journey. The destination gives purpose. The journey gives meaning. With our destination as God, we invite Jesus in the person of the Holy Spirit to walk with us and we find meaning in the will of God.
We enter life through the narrow gate when we choose to follow Jesus, we journey in his will when we walk in his ways.
The disciples experienced changed lives of meaning at Pentecost through the gift of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit used the Resurrection Event to dramatically change all their lives and in so doing gave birth to the Church of Jesus Christ. In a way, one could say that the Church is proof of the Resurrection. The Church simply wouldn’t exist today without that foundation. And it was built by the experience the disciples, Peter, John, Paul, others had with the Holy Spirit. The Church and the Spirit are the reason that Pentecost is such a big deal. The disciples walked in will of God and lived lives of meaning and purpose.
We need not be theologians to walk in the will of God. We are followers of Jesus. We simply need to ask in everything thing we do, what would Jesus guide us to do? How would he ask us to love God and neighbor? It is Jesus that is the center of all things. The Father has sent us the Spirit of Christ to teach us all things. We simply need to walk with him. More next week. Amen.