We explore one of twelve Markan sandwiches (where 2 stories are placed together in a unique way) to understand the work of Jesus healing and restoring. Sometimes we just picture one of these great acts as the story of our faith...but this sandwich has more to offer.
The Pauline letter to the Church in Ephesus comes to a group of people sorting out how to live a life of faith amidst the current world. This is a situation we all face. Everything changes when the grace of God becomes a part of your life. But how does it change?
We will spend the next six weeks working through an image given in this letter of "The Armor of God" to help us understand how to navigate a life of faith today.
Are you prepared?
On this Trinity Sunday we walk through the meaning Paul lays out for the church in Rome concerning our identity as the church. We are the household of God, founded by Jesus Christ, empowered and drawn together in unity (not uniformity) through the Holy Spirit.
Wherever we go, God is there.
John 20:19-31 -- The original ending of our fourth Gospel gives us a strange rhythm of peace and locked doors.
Let us hear this story anew and receive the good news of God's grace through the peace of Jesus Christ.
Are you ready to live on both sides of the door?
Jesus is pleading with God to remove the cup of suffering from him. Three times he prays and then finds his disciples--whom had all sworn to follow him even to death--asleep.
We have fallen asleep too.
There was hope for them and there is hope for us.
Are we ready to confront our drowsiness?
Mark 10-11 -- PALM SUNDAY
We enter our final week of Lent by reading through the scene presented in our oldest Gospel story. The message given is bold and direct...for those paying attention.
Let us tell the story of The One Who Comes as we enter the week which leads us to the cross.
Will you rend your heart completely?
Do you want to see?
Jeremiah 31 -- The prophet offers a word of hope amidst what is otherwise a difficult book. The people have not been faithful and have brought about consequence for their injustice and prideful nationalism.
The people were called to a NEW COVENANT--a new way to live into the old promise.
WE are called into the New Covenant too; we can live into the Reign of God right here and now as if the future were already present.
Are we ready to let go of ourselves so that we may KNOW God and find ourselves in the process?
Numbers 21 & John 3 -- In our fourth week of Lent we come to a very strange and wisdom-packed pair of passages with a direct link to one another. We consider the invitation to life offered through a bronze seraphim (fiery serpent). We are invited to fix our eyes upon another way of understanding ourselves and God so that we may truly live a full/eternal life.
Are you ready to receive this wisdom?
Exodus 19 & 20 -- We are traversing the great promises of God. We come today to the claiming of Israel as the people of God. A covenant is shared at Mt. Sinai and the vows are given.
Let's revisit the story of Israel and consider the meaning of this great scene and the subsequent instructions. What we find, when we hold firm to the context, is a story of redemption and freedom that is often confused by people as a set of rules.
Are you ready for your orientation into the life of the people of God?
Genesis 17:1-16 -- For the second week of our Lenten series we turn to the promise of Sarah and Abraham--the third version of it.
We will consider the great faith of this amazing couple as an example for us all.
Are you ready to walk with God and trust your entire life to the path?
Joel 2: 1-2, 12-17
We begin the season of Lent with a well-known prophetic word from Joel ("Jehovah is their God") to the people, Israel. The summons of ALL people to rend (tear) their hearts as a sign of devotion and return (repentance) to God is a needed word for our own day (for any day).
Let's enter into this season of self-examination so that we may see where it is we are being called as individuals and as the church (the body of Christ) to return to our God with our whole heart. We consider the character of God alongside the reality of our own situations.
Are you ready to confront your heart?
Are you ready to claim the promise?
Mark 1:29-39 -- Week 5 is a focus on serving, but not in such a way that you are expected to add to your already busy schedule. Rather, it's about re-purposing what you're already doing in such a way that we can become servants in our life of discipleship.
Are we ready to serve?
Jonah 3 & Mark 1 -- We come to our third week in our 6-week series receiving the call into the life of being a disciple of Jesus Christ. This is no simple call. Rather, following Jesus will change everything.
Are we ready to get out of the boat?
1 Samuel 3 & John 1 -- Can anything good come from this? A question we are all asking about a great many things these days. The answer, of course, is "Yes!" Let's revisit two passages that come from moments in history where people were feeling the weight of uncertainty and ambiguity. Two characters each were searching for meaning and purpose...and hope.
We are all on this journey, friends.
Are we ready to place our hope in God on this walk of discipleship?
Genesis 1 & Mark 1 -- We begin a series centered on discipleship. For week one of the FOLLOW ME series we come to the baptism of our Lord.
We come to this annual focus with the events of our nation's Capitol fresh on our minds. We are all hurting and still in shock about the horrific events incited by our nation's leader which led to a mob storming the Capitol building causing death, bloodshed, vandalism, fear, and confusion. The darkness is very real in our world.
As we kick off Epiphany (the season of light) we providentially come to the story of God's great light piercing the darkness...of the very presence of God "with us" Tearing Apart the Heavens. Oh, how we need the Light!
Let us begin at the beginning to recommit ourselves as citizens of the Kingdom of God first and foremost...
as disciples of Jesus Christ alone...
as a people committed to responding to the world around us as our Triune God does... with LOVE.
Are you ready for the work of the Spirit in your own heart and mind?
Are you ready to BE the church?
If you'd like to discuss baptism, please visit sellersburgumc.com, email: email@example.com, or call: (812) 246-2502
John 1 --- We explore the beautiful "prologue" to our 4th Gospel (we call it "John") to hear the invitation extended to the world through "The Word becoming flesh." This same invitation comes to the reader of the Gospel narrative. It comes to us all.
Are we open to where this invitation might take us...what it might reveal...how it might change how we understand ourselves and the world around us?
Are we open to seeing everything in a different light?
2 Samuel 7 & Luke 1 -- We come to the Magnificat and all of the joy it brings. Let's walk with this incredible song and all that it has meant across the years it has been sung to encounter the joy which can walk amidst the pain of life.
We are invited into Joy.
Are we ready for Christmas?
Isaiah 61 & John 1 -- In Advent we receive the invitation for something new to be born within us. We tell the story of the new work of God in the birth of Christ as a holy echo to the work still being done today in the very body of Christ--the church.
We long for the day when things will be set right.
The truth of the Gospel is that they great day (of the Lord) began in the body of Mary as she nurtured God in utero.
We hear today of the work of John (the first human character mentioned in the 4th Gospel bearing the same name) to offer this new and revolutionary understanding of life to the people Israel.
Are they ready?
Isaiah 40 & Mark 1 -- Life seems easier when things are going well. When we are comfortable, we can maintain a certain kind of focus. But when things get upended and the unexpected confronts us, we find it unnerving and unsettling. In these moments, we can lose the right kind of focus in exchange for the wrong kind of focus...and chaos often ensues.
In Advent we spend time considering and contemplating the past story of Jesus' birth while also looking forward to Christ's return...while anticipating for the birth of Christ within us all right here and now. One our best days, we can be fully present with gratitude in the work of God among us and through us. But then...COVID, elections, threats, disagreements, and many other things come which send us spinning.
In Advent we pause from the chaos to receive the HOPE of God which gives us the PEACE we long for.
In this PEACE we find ourselves centering on God and nothing else...which reveals the folly of our pining for security and political victory.
Are we looking for the PEACE that is right in front of us?
Are we ready to receive it anew?
We enter into the season of tension and anticipation once more. We have the opportunity to consider the meaning of the story of Jesus' coming (past, present, and future) in our lives.
Are you ready for Advent?
Luke 16:1-13 -- We follow the call of this parable through the words and wisdom of John Wesley. Wesley's sermon, "The Use of Money," gives us three rules for faithful and clever/shrewd stewardship in finances: 1. GAIN all you can, 2. SAVE all you can, 3. GIVE all you can.
Let's revisit this sermon and bring our own stewardship into conversation with our faithfulness in God.
Are you ready to trust God in your financial stewardship?
For Wesley's full sermon, visit: https://www.umcdiscipleship.org/articles/the-use-of-money-by-john-wesley
Revelation 7:9-17 -- We visit a vision in the book of Revelation to receive a great message of HOPE from the seer, who calls himself John.
As we remember our saints, we look forward to the day we join them in the very presence of God. We celebrate God's victory in Jesus Christ now as we celebrate our saints who have received that victory.
May we follow in their footsteps as we press on toward our Hope in Jesus Christ.
May we fix our eyes on that hope alone.
We focus on the final half of the Psalm. The Psalmist turns from a third person address to God to a 2nd person address. Things are getting more personal. In the midst of the chaos around him, King David speaks of God's presence right there with him. God provides even amidst the darkness.
We need this message today as we are all surrounded by so much chaos and darkness.
Let us hear the message anew.
In this strange season of division, stress, anxiety, anticipation, dread, and wonder... we visit one of the most well known Psalms to find comfort.
It's okay to feel on edge. It's okay to feel sad. It's okay to feel the heaviness of our reality of COVID, election, racism, xenophobia, homophobia, unemployment, and death. If you're not feeling the heaviness, then I wonder if you are paying attention.
In this time... let us turn to a simple truth and consider its meaning; the Lord is my shepherd.
Let us hear a much needed good word.
Romans 15.7-13 -- We come to the end of our focus passage in Romans. We experience Paul's beautiful tapestry of Hebrew Scripture images that he uses to illuminate the work of Jesus Christ towards the goal of fulfilling God's promises from back at the beginning. Remembering God's faithfulness and where our story is taking us helps us to remain grounded in our faith today where we currently live.
John Wesley lifts up the marks of the Christian life as faith, hope, and love. This comes from Paul. Understanding how they are woven together by Wesley gives us a similar image to what Paul offers the church and Rome and, through the work of the Holy Spirit, to us today.
Are we ready to find our footing in Jesus Christ?
Are we ready to be ONLY ONE?
Romans 15:1-6 -- In a culture and season where division is the trend, the church is needed to offer a different path. The problem is the church is not exempt from struggling to stay on the path itself. We can even got so far off the path that we actually think we are ON the path. So how do we stay the course? How do we stay on the path? The apostle Paul offers insight for our future based on the past actions of God in Jesus Christ. Let us hear this message again so that we may move with the Holy Spirit towards the Kingdom of God here, now, and forevemore.
Romans 14:13-23 -- Rights vs. Responsibilities: this is the dilemma we all face. In a world and culture where our "rights" are so highly regarded, it's up to the church to show the world how responsibility is our calling. When we consider all that we have to be grateful for--all the grace of God that has been extended to us--we can then live a life centered on grace. This is our calling.
Are you ready?
Matthew 18:21-39 -- We come to a story which challenges an entire framework of self-understanding as well as relationship to others. The church needs this message as much as we ever have.
Will we accept the invitation to grace?
Romans 12.9-13.7 & Matthew 16.21-28
Paul urges the church in Rome to come together in a way that is unique to the culture in which they live. They are called to let love define their relationships with each other and with the wider world. They are to be subversive in how they bring the Kingdom of God into their wider world.
Living this way will always come with a cost. We will be forced to reckon with our ego, with our pride, with our greed, and with many other self-seeking parts of ourselves.
Jesus reminded the disciples long ago that, if we are going to follow him into this new way of life with God, we are to be courageously authentic no matter the cost.
Are we ready to follow his lead?
Romans 12:1-8 -- Paul gives the call to the church in Rome to live by the light of the new day. The new day, for Paul, is the dawning of the day of the Lord; this will be the completion of the work of Jesus Christ already begun--to bring God's Reign in fullness for all.
So how do we live by the light of the new day? Where do we begin?
Often this task is simplified, which isn't all bad, but leaves us short of our calling. We begin with understanding the "mercies of God." When we embrace and surrender to God's mercy we can then begin to live a life in response to that mercy. Mercy changes everything...from the inside out.
By the "renewing of our mind" we are "transformed" as human beings.
Are we ready to be renewed? Even from where we are right now? Even if it takes us where we cannot possibly imagine?
This is faith, my friends.
Matthew 15.1-20 -- Jesus is confronted by some leaders who represent the "traditional" practice of the Jewish faith. They are concerned with Jesus' seeming relaxed standards for his disciples. Jesus confronts them and confronts us concerning intent.
Going through the motions in life can be easy and even deemed "polite."
We are called to go deeper. As children of God we are called to live more authentically; to remember that it's what comes out from our hearts that determines our devotion, purity, and faithfulness. No amount of tradition can bring these things upon us. Rather, we practice traditions out of our intention of love. We live life out of our intention to love as Jesus loved.
We must keep going.
Are we ready to confront ourselves and recommit ourselves with holy intent?
Matthew 14.13-21 -- We are called and enabled to go and continue the work of Jesus Christ, to live in the Reign of God wherever we are... to live in the way of mercy and compassion... to feed the souls of this world.
Have we heard the call?
Are we ready to receive it?
An invitation to the Kingdom of God/Reign of God is an invitation to growth and change.
Are we ready to find everything we've been longing for and more?
Will we hold anything back to acquire this great and lifelong gift?
Matthew 13:31-33 -- Continuing our venture through the parables brings us to these two short paired comparisons of the Reign of God to a seed and yeast. What seems insignificant turns out to be quite thorough and amazing.
Are we ready to consider the Kingdom in this light?
Matthew 13:24-30, 36-37
The Gospel narrative continues into a section of parables in the middle of the third (of five) discourses. The question at hand is concerning Jesus as the Messiah and the Reign (Kingdom) of God. What is the Reign of God? Who IS Jesus?
Through cryptic echoes of prophetic voice, Jesus invites the large crowd to reconsider all of their expectations about God and God's Reign. Those who are there to actually hear, will hear. Those who are not, won't.
Let us continue this journey through the parables with ears to hear as well.
What does this parable have to reveal about the Reign of God?
Isaiah 5:1-7; 6:8-13 & Matthew 13:1-23 -- Jesus alludes to former visions of Israel's greatest prophets to help communicate what he is up to while he ushers in and establishes the Reign (Kingdom) of God. Parables are such an incredible teaching tool that Jesus says will both conceal and reveal at the same time.
For those who are there to learn, they will hear the ancient prophetic voice and image which will lead them into a new way of thinking and understanding everything using their imagination.
For those who are there to qualify Jesus or find things to use against him, there will only be confusion.
Are we ready to consider the Kingdom of the parables?
Are we ready to open ourselves to the Kingdom of God brought to us by/through Jesus?
Are we with ears ready to hear?
Zechariah 9:9-12 & Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30 -- Jesus was nothing like anyone expected then... and Jesus is nothing like anyone expects now. We continue to struggle with the most unexpected message of God's love and grace as brought to us fully in Jesus Christ. We still work desperately to make Jesus fit into our own box. This work rarely leaves us satisfied longterm. At one time or another, hopefully, we confront our own expectations with an open and honest heart.
Jesus came to be a source of rest for those who are burdened and weary.
As the body of Christ, has the church continued to embody this same mission?
Have we received the message of the unexpected grace and love of God?
Are we ready now?
Romans 6:12-23 -- The Apostle Paul offers a couple of images to further paint his picture of the relationship between baptism and the new life of the baptized. The power of sin is reduced to only what the Christian allows. But we are called to be wholly obedient to the way of God revealed in Jesus Christ--the same way alive in us through the Holy Spirit.
God, in our baptism, becomes our biggest "Yes." Any subsequent moment in life is committed to follow the lead of Jesus as witnessed to us through the Holy Spirit ever-active in the church and world around us. When we make decisions, we must be sure our decisions are supporting our biggest "Yes." If we are headed in a direction where our "Yes" becomes a "No," we must turn around and remain committed. This commitment is a testament to the lack of power of sin and fullness of life and grace within us.
Are we ready to say, "Yes"?
Matthew 10:34-39 & Romans 6:1-11 -- Saying "Yes" to God (and the Reign of God) is celebrated through the ritual of baptism. The history behind this symbolic sacrament stretches all the way back to the beginning of the story of our God. When we take the time to revisit through the lens of the Apostle Paul, we hear the invitation to begin a new walk of life.
This new walk will cost us much, but we will gain even more.
Are you ready to leave your life of ego and self behind?
Are we ready to pass through the water into an entirely new way fo life with the body of Jesus Christ?
Luke 4:14-30 & Matthew 9:35-10:23 -- We are all called. We are all sent. But let us learn about what we are called and sent into before we venture into this world of faith and ministry. We get a clear picture from various Gospel encounters, particularly these two, when it comes to what sharing the good news of the arrival of God's Reign and Rule may mean for our way of life. For the most part, humanity finds a certain comfort in thinking they already have the right way of life. To challenge this comfort can bring all sorts of reaction.
Given the racial circumstances before us in protests and a call for reform and change, we must confront ourselves--have we convinced ourselves that our way of life is right when, in fact, it is seriously flawed? Racial inequality and injustice has been with our culture for centuries. Suddenly, everyone is witnessing an awakening. But we are all responding to this awakening in different ways.
How should the church respond?
Before we begin to dissect that question, let us first LISTEN & LEARN.
Especially if we are not a church where inequality and injustice has been at the forefront of our experience and perspective, we need to understand long before we try to be understood.
Let's listen and learn from those who are lifting their voice. Let's listen to our own hearts and emotions as we listen, learn, and respond.
What have we got to lose?
More importantly, what have we got to gain?
Are you ready to join in the biblically rooted art of listening?
Genesis 1:1-2:4a -- The entire story is framed with a very specific idea of all of reality including us. The tone is set from the get-go... we just keep missing it. But what if we actually accepted our role? What if we treated ourselves and others as image-bearers?
Are you ready to know who and what you are?
Ezekiel 47:1-12 & John 7:37-39 -- Jesus stood in the Temple during the final and great celebration of The Festival of Tabernacles (Booths) to reinterpret an ancient vision from scriptural images--one day, he would bring the great river of life to the very hearts of believers.
We live in the promise.
Have we truly grasped what he was offering and what he was saying?
Do we understand our mission and calling amidst a time in our society when there is an incredible thirst for justice?
1 Peter 3:13-22 -- When we are the Temple, we will not fit in to any other culture or society. We are to follow the leading of the early church; we are to be good citizens whenever and wherever we can so as not to provide any circumstance where our faith can be a stumbling block for others. We are support our culture and society so long as we can be faithful to God.
In our moments of cultural tension, we are to love "with gentleness and respect." This has, unfortunately, not always been common practice in the church. Too often we follow suite with culture and society and quest after domination in the name of God.
We must rise above our own desires for the sake of our calling as the Temple.
Are you ready to lay down your life?
Are you ready to find Life?
1 Peter 1:22-2:10 -- We are called to be the temple of God as a church. We are called to bring the very presence of God embodied into our worlds. We are charged to live our life of service to God in every moment in every place for every person..."eager to love with a pure heart."
The idea is that we only ever live our faith for the benefit of God and others--never for ourselves. This doesn't mean we live some sort of suffering existence. On the contrary, when we live as God has called and charged us to live, we experience abundant blessing like we've never imagined.
Are you ready to build your life upon God by the leading of Jesus Christ and in the power of the Holy Spirit?
John 21:1-19 -- Focusing on Peter in two scenes from the extended ending of our 4th Gospel account, we find ourselves face to face with Jesus too. We have all denied, doubted, betrayed, abandoned, and fallen in our walk of faith.
But...let us hear the truth that Jesus doesn't care about any of that.
Jesus knows Peter loves him...and Jesus knows we love him too. Let's work from that place of love this day, right now, from here. Let's move forward in our lives defined by our love, not by our failings.
Peter needed to be reminded just as much as we do.
We need to be reminded because God has work for us to do. So let's get on with it and experience the pure joy and life offered through our partnership with God in Jesus's name.
John 20:19-31 -- Having heard the first sermon on the resurrection from Mary, the disciples are still in their doubts. Who can blame them?
We find two scenes where Jesus comes to reveal the truth in the flesh for his disciples.
We can find ourselves in these scenes too. We have our questions and we have our doubts...and that's ok!! If we didn't, we couldn't call it faith.
So where is Jesus working to reveal the full truth of God's grace and love for you this day?
Are you ready to receive Life in the name of Jesus the Christ?
John 21:1-18 -- We visit the resurrection narrative of our 4th Gospel account. Looking through the lens of each character, we find the theme the Gospel writer is offering us in this moment of seeing, believing, and knowing just what the resurrection and ascension actually mean for us today.
Matthew 21:1-17 -- Jesus arrives in Jerusalem and the whole city is SHAKEN UP! Through some word study and comparing scenes from Holy Week, we will receive the invitation to enter the story ourselves to allow God to shake us up through the work of Jesus Christ.
Ezekiel 37.1-14 -- We walk through the famous prophecy of Ezekiel's valley of dry bones. It is breath that gives us life. It is God that gives us breath to become the new Israel. Let the words of this ancient prophecy bring God's promise to life in you this day.
Chris Burkhart gives us a message that was intended to be the focus for our Sunday of sharing about Indiana Conference UMC camping ministries. Enjoy Chris's deep dive into the context behind one of Jesus' most well-known sayings from our 4th Gospel account.
John 4:(1-3)4-42 -- In our final week of our series we come to the second part of John's presentation of Light and Dark in the early chapters of the Gospel account. We met a character last week who was meant to be compared and contrasted with the character we meet this week. How they encounter Jesus and what comes of the encounter are all an invitation to us to be like the nameless Samaritan woman.
In our culture, we pride ourselves on what we know and how quickly we can come by information. We rarely seek patience and we struggle to trust a process that takes time...
But this is precisely what our faith is: a gradual movement towards a new kind of life that is lived in what the Gospel write calls Light.
Let us encounter today's scene with an open heart and mind as we continue our Lenten journey of being TESTED.
Let us be led into the Light simply offering what we have in the place where we are--with full trust that God will do the rest.
John 3:1-21 -- In our second week we turn to one of the most recognized passages in all of our Bible. Can we hear it with fresh ears?
Jesus wants to invite you into an entire new way of life--a life from above.
We have to be ready...
We have to prepare...
We have to submit...
We have to embrace the light instead of the darkness, for all of its comfort and convenience.
Are you ready?
Matthew 4:1-11 -- We begin our Lenten Sunday Series by considering the per-adzoh (tempting/testing) of Jesus in the wilderness.
Lent is a time of being TESTED. Who better to lead us in this time than our Messiah?
Now, this passage was not intended to be a Lenten passage, per se, but it can guide us. If we can understand what this passage's purpose was, then we can apply it to our own time. But we must submit to this. We can understand it and study it in every way, shape, or form...but we must submit to it if we are going to experience the life that TESTING can offer.
Are you ready to be TESTED?
Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18 -- We begin the season of Lent by hearing Jesus' instruction from the "Sermon on the Mount" constructed by the author of the Gospel we call Matthew.
The whole idea of this section of the teaching is about practicing our faith and religion for God alone. In Jesus' culture, tribal/family honor and shame were the pulse of society. In our culture it's economics, but the message still applies to us as the body of Christ, the church.
Do we serve God for our own purpose and benefit...or do we serve God for God alone?
We should really consider what we do and why we do it. All too often do we find ourselves striving in our faith for ourselves rather than God.
Lent is a great time to focus and examine our hearts, souls, and minds.
Let us begin this time by setting out to to serve God alone.
Deuteronomy 30:15-20 & Matthew 5:21-48 -- In our final week of our REVIVAL series, we come to a choice: we wither pursue life and wholeness, or death and exile. This seems like a choice that exists beyond our everyday lives, but Jesus invites us to bring that choice to the forefront of our every day lives.
The invitation Jesus extends is to "Repent!" or, to say it in a clearer way, detached from the years of religious baggage usually associated with it, "Reframe your thinking!"
Let us hear the invitation once more to REFRAME and be REVIVED so that we may have life and wholeness in God through the presence of Jesus Christ experienced through the Holy Spirit.
Are you ready to wake up?
Isaiah 58.1-12 & Matthew 5.13-20 -- We continue our series of REVIVAL: to be restored to life/consciousness--to be awakened!
Our word is Ev-ed (EVD = עבד) and it means a number of things: labor, work; to serve...and... worship. What a loaded word!
We will look at how this word is used as a theme in the Hebrew Bible (and the Christian Scriptures--see Paul's work on being a slave to God and others) to understand how it can impact how we live our every day lives.
Let's revisit the words of the prophet Isaiah for the people, Israel, and hear it with fresh ears.
Let's revisit Jesus' words to the disciples and crowds upon the mount to understand the life to which we are called.
Are you ready?
Micah 6.1-8 & Matthew 5.1-12 -- Calling upon an old word which evokes image more than a century old...we enter into a quest for REVIVAL.
We begin with the prophet Micah who is seeking to awaken the people, Israel, back to consciousness so that they can remember who they are.
Jesus announces the reality of the Kingdom of God upon a hill in Galilee to awaken the people, Israel, back to consciousness as he ushers in the new Kingdom.
And here we are today--in need of awakening... remembering... REVIVAL.
Are you ready?
Matthew 4:12-23 --- As we finish our series, we bring it all back to where it begins... with a calling.
Our PURSUIT of God begins by being called. We are all called to "Change our hearts and lives, for here comes the Kingdom!"
We struggle to begin our journey because we have to give up OUR journey in order to accept the journey of faith through Jesus Christ.
We have to get out of the boat. We have to let go of what we think we will find. We have to let go of who we think Jesus Christ is. We have to let go of what we think the work of God is all about. We have to leave EVERYTHING behind.
Are you ready to live a life of DEVOTION?
Isaiah 49:1-7 & John 1:29-42 --- On this Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Sunday we celebrate the gift of the prophets and our struggle to understand their message.
Biblical prophecy was not about telling the future. Rather, it was about seeing the past and present with a fuller clarity--unveiled. From this clear perception of reality, our prophets could understand where we were headed. When Israel's kings were not obeying the leading of God, the prophets could see it and boldly spoke truth about where such disobedience would lead both the king and his people. The prophet Isaiah understood God's plan for Israel with such clarity that he proclaimed the hope and truth for a people who had been decimated by war and exile.
Jesus came and proclaimed to a war-bent Israel about the certain destruction awaiting them if they did not turn around and live by God's Reign (kingdom).
But...sadly...people often resist prophets. When others see something we do not, we struggle to open our eyes--especially if "our" way of seeing things benefits us.
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. proclaimed a bold truth about the reality of the 20th century and race relations. Many people would not hear it. Many more were left "undecided" or "moderate" in their stance.
Let us remember the message of the prophets so that we might understand that a life of faith is about the Holy Spirit entering into our heart of hearts to begin the RECALIBRATION of our lives. We've all gotten off track. We're human--that's just the struggle we face. We MUST allow God to RECALIBRATE our hearts to how they were meant to function and exist.
Will you fully open up your heart to God in such a way?
Matthew 3:13-17 -- On this 2nd Sunday of Epiphany we celebrate the baptism of our Lord, Jesus Christ. The unique way our first Gospel author lays out the scene is powerful--if you understand what the author is bringing together.
In our PURSUIT of the will of God as a way of life requires submission. We'll spend time with this word, as it is often misunderstood and used to directly oppose the very order into which God has called us all (every human being). Then we will reveal how our Gospel writer shows that Jesus is the author of full submission to God as a means of showing us the way and redeeming us all at once.
Let us remember the baptism of our Lord and remember our own as well.
Are you ready for SUBMISSION?
Matthew 2:1-12 -- Wise men/magicians/Kings show up to find the King of the Jews, but this is problematic for everyone in Jerusalem...especially for the King of the Jews, Herod. They are looking for a newborn king who is THE King of God. This is not what anyone expected.
In fact, the Gentile Kings are not what anyone expected.
Jesus is not what anyone expected either.
God's revelation in the story are of the unexpected. God's revelation in our lives is often the unexpected. This leads to us being troubled, ...just like Herod and all of Jerusalem. We often let our expectation dictate what we are willing to see from God.
But we need to live a life in PURSUIT of God's work rather than asking God to fit into our own framework.
Are we ready for the unexpected?
Are we ready to live a faith of PURSUIT?
Psalm 30:1-5, 11-12 -- The gift of joy is one we have to make room for. On our final Sunday of our Advent series, we consider the joy extended to us in the good news of the birth of Jesus Christ the Son of God.
Let us go all-in for the joy of God this Christmas season.
Luke 1.26-45 -- In the third week of our Advent series we remember the story of Mary and Elizabeth and how they grappled with the favor (Altogether Love) of God upon them and all humanity. They struggled to understand because they most certainly did not fit the part as we might have expected.
God is always working through the unexpected...at least by our standards.
Why do we doubt? Why do we hold back? Why do we resist the altogether love of God?
Only when we fully accept the Altogether Love of God can we EVER come to know LOVE at all. Only then can we truly understand how to love ourselves and others.
Are we ready to believe this good news?
1 Peter 1:3-5 -- Peter calls his church to be a people of HOPE. We receive that call today--to be a church of altogether hope rather than one of almost hope. We are so easily distracted and allow ourselves to be pulled into the way of the world around us rather than being a light to that world for Christ and the new Kingdom which is being birthed right here and now.
Are we ready to go all-in to the HOPE of God given through Jesus Christ and experienced through the Holy Spirit?
As we begin our Advent series "Almost Christmas: A Wesleyan Advent Experience," based off of a sermon John Wesley gave in the 18th Century "An Altogether Christian," we hear from a Wesleyan expert portraying Rev. John Wesley.
Weaving in history and the elements of Wesley's preaching, Rev. Bert Kite (a retired pastor who served SUMC in the 1980's) offers us a message about being and Altogether Christian (and All-In Christian) vs. an Almost Christian.
Colossians 3.1-17 -- Paul writes to the church in Colossae to remind them of their new life in Jesus Christ. When we remember the source of true life and the true gift that it is to us all we are able to grasp and hold onto gratitude as a way of life. When we remain thankful and rooted in our identity in Christ, we find that all of life can be a source of joy for us. Even amidst confusing times of joys, sorrows, tragedies, loss, change, and the unexpected. When we hang onto the larger story of this world and this life we can endure with songs of praise and gratitude.
Are we ready to remember?
Are we willing to focus on the gift that is Jesus Christ?
Will we let a life of giving thanks guide is into a life of faith based upon love and hope?
Philippians 4:1-9 -- Paul wrote to the church he established in Philippi seeking to help mend the relationship between two of his fellow ministers. These women are partners in the spreading of the gospel, but they are experiencing division. Paul calls upon the church to seek good things to allow gratitude and reconciliation to be cultivated in their hearts and in their church.
We could all use a lesson in how to grow deeper in our love and gratitude of God and life itself!
Prayer is key.
We must pray and align ourselves with God and God's desires for our lives.
Through prayer and following after the way of Jesus Christ in partnership with the Holy Spirit and the church, we can cultivate gratitude and be led into a life of beauty and joy.
Ephesians 5:15-21 -- Paul writes to the church in Ephesus about how to engage in proper relationship with one another. It seems the church in Ephesus was not seeing eye to eye on a number of things that arose from some in the church being Jewish while others were Gentiles. Like the church today they could not agree on what constituted faithful living.
Paul reminds them that they have become distracted. In the early days of the Jesus Movement they needed to be reminded that while they lived in the Old Age where evil surely existed, they were children of the Light of the New Age and the New Day of Jesus Christ.
He focuses in on how they need to rethink how they live and cooperate together with each other and with God.
He gives them some guidance on how to PAY ATTENTION and not become distracted.
It all hinges on gratitude.
Paul knows all about the necessity of gratitude at all times--he wrote the letter while he was sitting in prison waiting to be executed.
Are we ready to be thankful in every situation?
Are we ready to develop good habits?
Are we ready to live our faith Monday through Saturday (end not just on Sundays)?
1 Corinthians 9.6-15 -- Paul addresses the church in Corinth to appeal for a collection to give the "saints" (Jesus followers) in Jerusalem. He's been appealing to them practically, but then switches gears to bring a larger picture into their minds. He brings in three references to passages in the Hebrew Bible (the only Scripture the early church had) to paint the picture with more clarity.
We need this picture today.
Even though we are not taking up a collection, the message Paul brings helps us see our whole life as a church in the big picture of God's work in all of Creation. We were created out of love and given faith as a gift. The only proper response to our life and faith is gratitude. When we are grateful, we become generous. Generosity comes from gratitude and generosity inspires more gratitude. When we consider all we've been given, we give out of our gratitude. When we give to others, they respond with gratitude in generosity in turn.
The cycle is meant to be repeated. Through this life of giving and thanksgiving we come to know Life as it was intended to be.
So Paul invites the church (then and now) to remember this grand truth of the bigger picture.
Then we are invited to re-member ourselves into the ongoing work of God.
A life lived in gratitude is far more joyful than any other approach. We were made for gratitude, you see.
Are you ready to live the Life God offers?
We finish our series talking about the reason we give to God and others. Our finances, our resources and our decisions are an important part of our lives. Why should we give? How does that impact us? How does that impact God? How do we give?
All of these questions matter, so let's turn to the Scriptures and reflect upon what we know.
Are we willing to allow God to define our lives and our giving?
Are we ready to be defined by generosity?
We have a tough time keeping ourselves in right relationship with our stuff and God. Often we are content with our relationship with God and the calling placed upon our lives to become more Christ-like... Often we are discontent with our stuff to the point where we've gone into debt to accrue more stuff...
This is backwards: we should be content with our stuff and discontent with our relationship with God.
How can we begin the journey towards a better way to joy?
How can we cultivate contentment?
Proverbs 21:5 & 21 -- Wisdom is of God and should be integrated in all we do. This includes our finances! God wants us to have life and joy in every aspect of our life. If we think we can do better than to let God guide us in our resources, we are probably having a tougher time than we realize.
Where are you investing your time, talent, and treasure?
Do you even know?
Do your investments support your life's purpose and mission? Do you even know your life's purpose and mission?
What might it look/feel/be like to have every aspect of our lives contributing to our life's purpose and mission as defined by God who wants us to have life and joy abundantly?
We begin our stewardship series by examining ourselves. Are our dreams God's dreams? Has the "American Dream" become a nightmare?
Let us enter into this time willing to re-evaluate our goals for our resources.
Let us learn to live with ENOUGH.
Exodus 1.8-2.10 -- On our annual Children's Sabbath Service we celebrate the children. We spend time to acknowledge the injustice around us that particularly threatens the younger generations. What can we do?
Our passage from Exodus speaks of significant, though often overlooked, action being taken by a set of women to subvert the demands of a power-hungry and paranoid ruler. Despite his disconnection and fear of a group of foreigners in the land, they women work within their means to save children.
One child went on to change the world--his name was Moses.
Let us hear their story and consider how we can get into the business of God's justice here and now just like Shiphrah and Puah did.
Are we ready to follow the justice of God wherever it takes us?
Luke 12.13-21 -- In our final week of our series, we consider the parable of the rich fool.
We have spent three weeks on witnessing the abundance of blessing that God gives us through wisdom. So...now we talk about what to do with all that we've been given. In our culture there is a great focus to become rich by the standards of the culture itself, but Jesus beckons us to be rich towards God.
Are we ready to experience the true joy of this life that comes through giving ourselves away?
Mark 6:30-44 -- The Feeding of the 5,000 is a familiar story with some unfamiliar meaning lying just below the surface. Today, in our third week of our series, a teaching is offered to help us see the meaning of this story in a new light.
Sticking with our parallel of bread and wisdom, let us consider how Jesus provides for us in abundance when we pull up a seat at the banquet table.
Are you ready to come and seek out life from the God of Abundance?
Exodus 16 (yes, the entire chapter) -- Week 2 of our series leads us into the desert wilderness with some hangry Israelites struggling to trust the God of Abundance. God abundantly responds to their complaining with steadfast sustenance, but with instructions to help guide them into a better way of life well beyond the clutches of the place "restriction" and "narrowing" (Egypt). The trouble is, they are having a hard time letting go.
We all struggle with letting go of what was for what is. We often reflect on the past with an obscured view of that reality--sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse. The God of Abundance is ever calling us forward into growth and life through the presence of Jesus Christ within us through what we call The Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is always working to provide for us so that we can experience true life in all of its fullness (eternal life here and now). But we have to let go of what we knew for what the Spirit knows. We have to trust.
We are all stuck in Egypts and are hesitant to follow the God of Abundance into the unknown wilderness that leads to a Promised Life (land). Will we trust?
Will we discover that all we need is already here?
Will we find the extraordinary miracle within the ordinary path before us?
Will we discover a simple truth: The God of Abundance already gives us All We Need.
1 Kings 17 -- The prophet Elijah enters the scene for our first week of "God of Abundance" to display trust in God while also depending on the most unlikely sources of life and strength.
God of Abundance focuses on the Wisdom of God offered through the symbol of bread. We will spend the next four weeks considering the double image so often used in Scripture to better understand what God is offering us all abundantly.
In the droughts of our lives, are we ready to trust and keep giving of ourselves to others?
Luke 13.10-17 & Hebrews 12.18-29 -- We conclude our series with Wesley's third general rule: Stay in Love with God (attend to all the ordinances of God).
When it comes to justice, we must begin with our own relationship with God. How can we see God's justice if we are not in relationship with God through the means of grace made available through the Holy Spirit?
So often today we hear many voices from multiple sides of justice issues all claiming to be speaking the truth. How can we stay grounded in truth in a way that is responsibly biblically responsible (not a typo)?
What is our relationship with God? Is it like Mt. Sinai or Mt. Zion from Hebrews 12?
Are we like the synagogue leader from Luke 13 or Jesus?
We must attend to our own souls if we hope to ever attend to the world around us from the perspective of God. If we wish to be in pursuit of God's life made available to us, we must walk our faith with the utmost serious devotion and allegiance to the Holy Spirit who promises to shake us up and help us reach perfection.
Upon what do we build our foundation in our faith? How do our choices speak to our motivations, our allegiance, and our devotion?
The Flip-Side of God's justice is an unshakeable joy. Are we ready for to find it?
Isaiah 5.1-7, Luke 12.49-56, Hebrews 11.29-12.2 -- We continue our series by focusing on the faith of our Biblical heroes and heroines while reflecting upon our part in the story of faith today. We look back to the past stories to help keep us focused on running our race of faith amidst the trials and temptations of our day.
The author of Hebrews introduces us to an image of our faith ancestors which, coupled alongside of John Wesley's Three General Rules and his 22 questions, provides us with all we need to remember our place in the story of God's promise in Jesus Christ.
Let us revisit what it means to have the Holy Spirit of fire within us.
Let us remember what it is to run faithfully.
Isaiah 1:1, 10-20; Micah 6:8; Luke 12:32-40 -- Focusing on Joy, the flip-side of justice requires us to trust God and pursue the divine image of justice where everyone...EVERYONE is full equal and in a reality of equity. This vision is very hard and troubling for those who are on the higher end of what they HAVE while the HAVE-NOTS find God's justice to be a good news worthy of dancing and celebration.
When we read Isaiah's opening lines we are confronted with the reality of injustice present in ancient Israel. God is well aware of the greed and idolatry present within the people beyond the walls of the Temple--which makes their worship inside the walls of the Temple detestable and empty.
At the end of the indictment is the invitation to sit down and settle things with God in the invitation to embrace the divine vision of justice. If we can trust God and let go of our greed and idolatry and live obediently, then we can live life abundantly.
John Wesley's three general rules begin with "Do no harm." God wants Israel to stop harming the "poor." What does this look like in our context today?
Are we ready to live obediently?
Ecclesiastes 1.2, 12-14; Luke 12.13-21; & Colossians 3.1-11 -- In our final week of our series LIVING AS DISCIPLES, we bring it all together as we walk through Paul's exhortation to the church in Colossae from 2,000 years ago. He emphasizes the new self which is set on things above in comparison with the old/former self we have left behind when we died with Christ in baptism and rose again with him in a new life with the Holy Spirit.
Our journey of faith living as disciples of Jesus Christ is not over at baptism. Rather, it just begins. We MUST seek after the knowledge which is offered as we conform to the image of God in Jesus Christ. We have so much left to learn. We have so much left to do in our world. We have so much yet to leave behind. We must be vigilant in our faith.
With our foundation built upon the HOPE of Christ, with the VISION of God before us, in a life of being ruled by LOVE alone, we must seek the things of God "above."
We must stay focused and allow The Holy Spirit to lead us into life.
Are you ready?
Colossians 2.6-19 -- At an early age we learn to function within the context in which we were born. We learn what parents, grandparents, teachers, friends, pastors, and many others expect of us. We learn who is in charge in which setting and how to adjust our behavior accordingly. We are taught who is in charge and where our place is in the ranks.
Paul is urging the Colossians to understand a simple idea: through the cross of Jesus Christ, all things have been reconciled to God--it has been accomplished. Now...only God is our ruler. Everything and everyone are led into the way of the Reign of God. We are all to understand that no other entity or power holds any influence or authority over God in Jesus Christ. We, as the church...the body of Christ, are urged to not surrender our power and influence over to anything other than Jesus Christ whose presence is within US through the Holy Spirit.
We do not need to appease any higher power for the sake of being at peace with God.
Having built our lives on the HOPE of Jesus Christ and with the VISION of God's great and glorious plan for all Creation, we are to live into the New Order where the WAY of God was revealed in Jesus Christ--the way of LOVE.
We are to ruled by LOVE (agape = self-giving, selfless) in all that we say, do, think, and seek. We are not to pursue power over anything or anyone...nor are we to give our power over to anyone other than God.
How does this new order impact your life?
What does it mean to be ruled by LOVE in your world?
Are you granting power and authority to anything/anyone other than God?
Deuteronomy 30:9-14 & Colossians 1:15-28 -- God had a vision for all of creation from the get-go, but not every part of creation cooperated. Where humanity failed, Jesus succeeded. Now, through Christ Jesus we all share in the Holy Spirit of God to become disciples: agents of God's vision.
As we celebrate 50 years since a group of individuals fulfilled the great vision of the moon landing given by John F. Kennedy, we consider what it took for them and what it takes for us to fulfill a vision.
Paul offers a grand image of Jesus through an ancient hymn in Colossians to get the church started. We can apply this same idea to our reality today. If we know the vision and we understand where we are in the process, we have a great opportunity to get involved with the plan.
Let us consider what it means to have the presence of Jesus Christ, the Word of God, within us.
Let us continue in our series as we seek to live as disciples to participate in God's vision.
Amos 7.7-14 & Colossians 1.1-14 - As human beings, as Christians, as Americans, as (insert any other label of identification you might have for yourself), we are often pushed and pulled to understand our world through a variety of lenses. Our personal histories and home-grown cultures influence how we see and understand everything (especially God, the Bible, religion, etc.).
What influences are actions and decisions most?
The Gospel of Jesus Christ is first and foremost a story of HOPE. We know the goal (end) of all things: Heaven and Earth both renewed completely into one shared reality. The work needed to assure this reality has already been ACCOMPLISHED through the cross of Jesus Christ.
Does our life reflect a Gospel of Hope?
This HOPE is a plumb line which we can measure the foundation we build our lives upon.
Let us assess our situation with open honesty and a true thirst for the truth.
2 Kings 5.1-14 & Galatians 6.1-16 - In our final week of our series we consider what it is to truly put on the new self.
Paul uses the image of new clothes, baptism, and new creation. Essentially, we cast all of our old ideas, self-understanding, theology, and polity to the trash heap. We MUST...let it all go. We MUST...never again pick it back up.
Naaman entered into the grace of God through pure faith and trust in slaves and servants...and the Israelite prophet, Elisha. When he came to understand a new perspective beyond his own limitations and conceptions, his entire world and view changed...forever. He truly experienced complete change.
Paul brought that same change to the life of the church in Galatia, but they are venturing back to their old ways because of the unwillingness of some new teachers to truly trust in the cross of Jesus. Instead, they lean upon the old understanding of "earning" God's favor through following the rules of the Law as if it brought salvation.
Paul pleads with the Galatians, and pleads with us, to lay down our old limits and focus on the only thing that is important--new creation brought through grace in the cross of Jesus Christ.
Is the new creation a part of our own faith journey?
Or is the new EVERYTHING?
Galatians 5.13-25 - The Fruit of the Spirit is one of the most useful passages for us to assess ourselves and our situations. In a time where people have wildly different ideas and messages, we can work through Paul's list of the fruit of the Spirit to help with our discernment. In a world where we can feel that we are being biblically responsible in our actions and words, we can look to this list to evaluate if we are "Spirit-led" or simply "spirited."
A major battle for us all is to let the selfish desires of our hearts be put to death. So often we try and make OUR way be God's way. This kind of thinking leads to certain outcomes that Paul has listed as the "works of selfish desires."
Paul is reminding the church in Galatia to evaluate the agenda of the teachers who have shown up and pressured them to abandon the gospel of Christ for the gospel of Law. We still fight this battle today.
Let's evaluate ourselves...
Let's evaluate our church...
Let's evaluate our understanding of God's will using this wonderful and beautiful list of the Fruit of the Spirit to identify how we can live into the way of God.
Luke 8.26-39 & Galatians 3.23-29 | We are invited into freedom in Christ Jesus. Understanding all this means involves a realization that you are NOT free, what you can be freed FROM, and what you are freed FOR. Paul walks the Galatians through this process when they are digressing back into a world where the LAW (Torah, Pentateuch, Genesis-Deuteronomy, Books of Moses) provides the means of right relationship with God and neighbor (the Kingdom of Heaven/Reign of God). The Law simply gives you rules to help you understand what sin is: it cannot bring your life healing/salvation.
Jesus Christ brings people, all people, an invitation to freedom. Paul reminds his church in Galatia which reminds the church today that we have been freed and clothed in Christ. This changes everything in how we live, act, relate to others, and pursue the things of this life. Sometimes, like the Galatians, we digress back into the old way.
Will we listen to the wisdom of the Holy Spirit?
She has so much more to say.
Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31; Romans 5:1-5; John 16:12-16 - Entering into the season of Pentecost leads us through Trinity Sunday. Much of our attention at church is centered on Jesus and God, but the role of the Holy Spirit is just as important. The presence of God's Spirit is eternal stretching all the way back prior to "the beginning."
Let us consider how this Wisdom can impact our hearts and lives TODAY and, through us, the hearts and lives of others around us TOMORROW.
There is much more to be said. Will we listen?
John 13:31-35 & Acts 11:1-18 | The church has existed for almost 2,000 years. The death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus, God's Anointed (Christ), created the reality of the Spirit of God being available to all. The thing is...it took some time before the church realized that the Spirit of God was available to ALL.
In our world of religion, dogma, and theological sparring we often forget that the whole thing was always about bringing unity between all people to one another and God. We often find that we have drawn lines, built walls, and created exclusive circles with our pride, fear, anger, and confusion as our true lords.
The world is all about boundaries, borders, and divisions. The Spirit is all about breaking boundaries.
Let us revisit the story of Peter as he retells the story of an encounter he had with the house of a Roman centurion and the Spirit already active in their lives.
Let us consider how we are called to "Go" and BE the good news in flesh to ALL.
Luke 15 - Some religious leaders and Bible experts were grumbling about the kinds of people Jesus was establishing relationship with around the table. Why is the joyful healing and celebration of some a nightmare for others?
We read Luke 15 and try to understand all that is happening in the story. There is 1 father and 2 sons. Typically, we reduce the whole point down to one son and leave it at that, but there is SO MUCH MORE going on here.
What does it mean to be a child?
What does it mean to be a sibling?
Let's revisit the story with fresh eyes and ears to see what kinds of new life the Spirit might unlock within us.
Luke 24.13-35 - In our second week on this passage we focus on the first recorded meal of the New Testament and comparing it with the clear and alluded to partner text from Genesis 3--the first recorded meal in our scripture.
Comparing the "opening" of the eyes from these two meals allows us to understand how our Gospel writer is speaking to the church of his/her own day and ours as well.
Understanding the framework the overall Gospel narrative is presented speaks to the calling we have today as individuals and as a church body.
What does a resurrected Jesus mean for you and your world?
How will you approach the table and your calling?
Luke 24.13-35 - The first story of the Resurrected Jesus occurs in a mysterious way: to disciples who have decided to abandon the mission. This rich passage offers us a look into ancient worship practice and a story all too familiar for us all. In our first of two weeks examining the story we consider where we have become distracted in our own journey--our own walk in the Way.
Where might Jesus be walking with us unrecognized waiting to encounter us and bring us back into the life which we have longed to live?
Luke 24:1-12 - The story of an empty tomb is not a new story, nor is it the point. Our story is of the resurrected Christ among us now, but do we tell that story? We preach a Crucified Savior, but I wonder if we have stopped looking for our Resurrected One. As the church, we must look within to understand ourselves before we can look beyond to understand others or our world.
Let us consider looking for life through the Resurrected Jesus.
Let us look for the living among He who lives.
John 13.1-17, 31b-35 - Our 4th Gospel tells the story of Jesus' final meal with his disciples unlike the other three. The meal takes place on the night before Passover and there is no meal described. Instead, building off of the ongoing development of this sacred festival, we are taken to a scene which happens after the meal. The washing of the disciples' feet is ground-breaking if we but understand its significance.
Let us walk through the bigger story which this scene takes place to understand more of what is happening after this meal.
Let us consider just what Jesus has done for his disciples, what he has done for us, and what we are called to do for one another.
Jesus rides into Jerusalem at the week leading up to Passover. He rides in as a Messiah and the people love it. Of course the religious leaders (Pharisees, Zealots, Sadducees, and scribes/scripture experts) do not want anything to do with what is happening: Jesus is doing everything wrong by their expectations.
Sadly--inevitably--most of the crowd shouting "Hosanna!" on Sunday will be shouting "Crucify him!" on Friday.
What happened over the few days in between to create such a swing of attitude?
What did they think would happen?
Who did they expect?
...perhaps it's time to consider, "Who do we expect?"
Throughout the first part of our third Gospel people have been asking, "Who is this man, Jesus?" Finally, Jesus addresses his identity. He then completely subverts the entire idea and expectation of his identity as Messiah.
Who is Jesus to you?
Who do you say Jesus is?
Jesus approaches a man who has been waiting by a pool for 38 years. Jesus knows he's been there a long time, but asks, "Do you want to be made well?" After hearing the man's response Jesus invites him to receive new life.
In our Lenten Season we continue analyzing our relationship with God through Jesus Christ empowered by the Holy Spirit. The work of the Holy Spirit is ongoing and requires are constant desire to grow ever so deeper into God.
Do we sometimes fall asleep to this reality?
Do we grow comfortable with life to the point where we no longer desire to grow/change?
Do we want to be made well?
Jesus is wrestling with the expectations of many whom he encounters. Even John the Baptist, his second cousin, is beginning to doubt about Jesus because his expectations are not being met. Some religious leaders are skeptical because Jesus is not acting like a holy Messiah of their expectations. It seems that only the "sinners" are open to Jesus.
A particular Pharisee, Simon, invites Jesus to his home for a meal. An uninvited and unexpected guest disrupts the whole occasion which leads to a fascinating and challenging conversation between Jesus and Simon. It's from this conversation that we confront our question, "Do you see this woman?"
Will we see?
Will we resist?
Will we let go of our expectation?
Will we accept the peace offered?
Matthew 14.22-33 & Luke 8.22-25
Rembrandt's "Jesus Calms the Storm" is a wonderful piece that illustrates our passage from Luke. You can find it HERE.
The Church, as I often envision it, is like a boat. The Gospel writers offer us stories for the church through a boat image as well. Amidst the storms we can find ourselves lacking faith. Jesus asked and Jesus asks, "Where is your faith?"
Let's walk through these stories and consider which side of the boat we reside on: the side of faith or the side of panic.
"Where is your faith?"
Jesus meets a man plagued by demons. Everything about the man is wrong, in the eyes of a good Israelite, but Jesus looks beyond and asks him, "What is your name?"
Names are of great significance in the Bible...and in our day.
Names possess power, intimacy, connection, identity, understanding, and much more.
In our time of wrestling with the questions of Jesus, in the time of Lent where we evaluate our relationship with God, we must spend time considering our own identity.
What is your name?
We begin the Lenten Season by understanding that Jesus is not the great "Answer Man." Rather, Jesus is the great "Questioner." So...in the season of self-examination we will spend time with the questions from Jesus himself. Faith is a journey and Lent points out this aspect of faith as good as anything could. So let's journey together.
We begin with his question to the first disciples in the 4th Gospel we call "John."
"What are you looking for?"
If we are following after Jesus, have we wrestled with this question?
Where might the question take you?
The Transfiguration of Jesus is more than a story on top of a mountain. Every account of Jesus' transformation is coupled with his descent from the mountain into a chaotic scene. The point is clear--Jesus came to offer freedom/liberation/freedom/good news. The Gospel writer offers this truth in a parallel story of Jesus with Peter, James, and John on a mountain in prayer. Jesus never intended to remain on the mountain because there was a mission to be lived.
We often find ourselves caught up in the temptation to remain on the mountain rather than SEE ALL THE PEOPLE. The glory of God, while certainly seen on the mountain, was never the glory Jesus came to bring. The crowd is ASTOUNDED by the glory of God Jesus reveals through the great exodus from slavery to sin and death.
Will we work hard to remain on the mountaintop experiences of our faith?
Or will we descend and engage the mission of bringing freedom to people in the way of the cross of Jesus?
In our third week we come face to face with some serious invitation into a way of life that runs directly counter to our cultural instincts. Our temptation is to water this teaching down and qualify it so that we are not faced with the actual choice to engage it as it is offered. We all do this.
If we can begin from the proper place of relationship with God, the invitation makes more sense. If we can understand our identity as a child of God first, then the teaching becomes more clearly a direct invitation into a better way of life that we should all strive for.
The crowd is faced with many questions.
Will we follow Jesus into this radical agape?
Have we become too comfortable with our world of reciprocal relationship?
In our second week we encounter Jesus coming down from the mountain with his disciples and, again, encountering the expectant crowd who were seeking healing/salvation from their afflictions.
Jesus raises His eyes to the disciples and proclaims a prophetic imagination about the new reality/Kingdom/Reign that is breaking into the world through Him. This monumental great reversal upends the world as we know to bring it right-side-up and out of it's upside-down state.
But not everyone is ready for this new reality. Not everyone in the crowd will receive the justice/judgment of God. Some are too hard-hearted to consider an alternative way. After all, many people find the injustices of their world quite comfortable for themselves when they are on the side of benefit. Not everyone welcomed the good news of Jesus.
Are we ready to welcome it now?
Do our own expectations threaten our ability to be conformed to the way of God's Kingdom reality?
Do we cling to money, status, full stomachs, and an unjust world?
Do we live among our community as a people who serve God alone in such a way that people see the truth of this rightside-up reality of Jesus Christ?
We begin our series "See All the People" at a time when the church is anticipating a significant time of Special General Conference. Our series is not focused on this vote concerning human sexuality, but we cannot pretend as if it is not also on our minds and hearts in the days to come.
In our passage, Jesus calls the first disciples. This calling is not about a personal relationship with Jesus. Rather, Jesus invites them to come and be all about "catching people alive." They are invited to follow him and commit their lives to something well beyond themselves.
In a world where we search for significance and meaning, we often find ourselves starved. Jesus offers us the opportunity to follow Him as a part of the church--to let go of everything in order to follow in His way of life, healing/salvation, and truth.
Are we like the crowd pressing in on Him?
Are we like Simon Peter, James, or John?
Will we continue to press in hoping for what WE seek?
Will we leave everything we know and embrace what He seeks for us?
Love. We love God, our family, our homes, and tacos. In our culture we wrap up all sorts of meaning into four letters. In Paul's time, the word is agape. We read "love" but what Paul is referring to is something entirely different than anything romantic, nostalgic, sentimental, or sensual. Instead, agape speaks to a "self-giving" active interest in the other. God revealed this agape for us through Jesus' incarnation, birth, death, resurrection, and ascension. We are called to BE LOVE in all that we do. Are we ready for this kind of agape life? Have we understood where this story begins in our lives?
In a world where independence and self-reliance are heralded as virtues...Paul calls the church to be in need of one another. In a world where we make a name for ourself, the church invites us into an eternal family where we give all of ourself up...to be...a member of the very body of the Messiah/Christ. This strange idea is illustrated by Paul's use of the body and its many parts/members. Let's revisit the image to see how we can be renewed in our minds, hearts, souls, and bodies. Will you receive the Word with open hands? Will you accept the call to be needy?
Like a beautiful symphony, the church is a group of people working together with their unique gifts to follow the leading of the director by the will of the composer to work in partnership with the wind/breath to create rich and meaningful music. We all have gifts. We are all gifted for others. Like the church in Paul's day, we sometimes measure ourselves in comparison which causes some to feel less worthy and others to feel more worthy. This is not how the symphony of our faith is meant to be played. If you proclaim "Jesus Is Lord" with your entire being (not just your lips), then you are gifted. So what is your gift? Will you join in and help us create the symphony of faith in Jesus' name?
The story of Jesus' baptism in our 3rd Gospel offers some compelling meaning that we can apply to our own lives--after all, that was the point of the author. We are all offered the gift of God's grace and defined by God as "beloved." When we fully grasp this message...it changes everything. The image offered by John the Baptist of the work that can be accomplished when we receive the presence of Jesus in our lives, and the transformation that comes through the work of the Holy Spirit, is beautiful and often misunderstood. Let's revisit the story. Let's reconsider the grace. Are you ready to accept your identity as beloved? Are you willing to let Jesus bring the work of the Holy Spirit into your life?
Isaiah 60:1-6 & Matthew 2:1-12 The story of the Magi is as familiar as it is unfamiliar. We often miss the crucial details of the story so that we can fit it into the Nativity scene of which it never sought to belong. The mysterious and wonderful arrival of these strange travelers speaks of a faith that is coming to light through the presence of Christ. We celebrate this meeting of the Gentile world with their Savior on Epiphany Sunday. Again and again those that we would expect to celebrate the arrival of God's King instead seek to cripple and kill. Again and again those we would never expect show up and offer all that is right: honor, praise, and a lack of expectation. Will we FIND Jesus in our world today? Will we approach him as a Herod...or a traveler from the edge of the world?
Luke 2.41-52 Jesus as a boy is lost. His parents are searching. When they find him, he was not where they expected he would be and he did not respond the way they anticipated. Is this story so unique? Have we wandered down the road of our everyday lives and simply assumed Jesus was walking with us? Have we bothered to check if we are heading in the right direction? Will we SEARCH? Are we ready for the unexpected when we find him?
Luke 1-2:7 We walk through the first couple chapters of the Gospel we call Luke to consider the underlying message in light of our series. All of the people we think will act appropriately struggle. All of the people we think will act inappropriately seem to understand and be willing in ways that are faithful. The presence of Jesus Christ turns the world upside down, so to speak. Let's consider the opening stories and the faith of its characters to ask ourselves some important questions. Do we make room for what God is bringing into our lives and into the world? Do we have rigid expectation or are we truly willing to allow our lives to be done with as God says?
Zephaniah 3.14-20 & Luke 3.7-18 All kinds of people came to be baptized by John the Baptist. Common people, tax collectors, religious leaders, soldiers, and even Jesus come. Many ask, "What shall we do [to live into the way of God]?" John gives different groups different answers with the same underlying message. We must hear the message of justice and grace. We must put it into action with everything we DO. Do you approach God asking what God will do for you... or do you approach asking what you can DO?
Malachi 3.1-4 & Luke 3.1-6 John the Baptist calls his fellow citizens to Prepare the Way. The way of God is equity. Mountains are brought low while valleys are risen up. All paths are to be made straight. This is very counter-cultural...sometimes even for the church. We are given the Holy Spirit to be the very presence of the Divine within us. Scripture talks of the purifying power of fire and the Holy Spirit is THE fire of purification given so that we might be made perfect. While our human nature may lead us to resist the flame, the spiritual thirst we have draws us into the fire to be REFINED. Are we willing to step into the fire? Are we willing to let go of all in our life that does not truly give us life? Are we willing to let the Holy Spirit make that distinction for us?
Jeremiah 33.14-16 & Luke 21.25-36 Christmas is coming!! But it's not here yet. We take our time and celebrate Advent in anticipation of the "coming" of Christ. We retell the story of the birth as we begin a new liturgical year in the church, but we also tell of the eventual final coming and all of the comings in between. We sometimes get too excited and move into Christmas too quickly. We will heed the words of the Baptist to "Prepare the Way" by understanding all that the comings of Christ mean for us today. We begin at the end. Jesus tells us to "STAND" when the world seems to be falling apart. The new age is coming. It's already arriving. Do we live in a way of preparation?
Revelation 1:4b-8 We go back to the introduction of the letter we call Revelation. The author, who calls himself John, begins the letter with an offer of Grace and Peace from God, The Holy Spirit, and Jesus Christ. When we understand all that this introduction has to say, we come to a grand realization about our reality here today. We are all invited to become something more through the love and work of Jesus Christ. Are we ready to understand and accept this wonderful news? How will we respond?
Hebrews 10:11-28 There were days when sacrifices were offered regularly by everyone day after day, year after year, over and again to ensure right relationship with God. The author of Hebrews shows how the sacrificial giving of Christ on the cross offered the final sacrifice ever needed. We all have right relationship with God because all that was ever needed has been accomplished. Can we accept this good news? Can we let go of the guilt and shame that we so easily acquire and pile on each other? Can we be confident in our faith and become the church we were always meant to be?
Hebrews 9:11-28 According to the author of Hebrews, Christ's work on the cross brought the final victory for reconciliation. Using symbology from first century sacrificial religion, the author offers us a theological understanding of Jesus' death to bring security to the church across all time and space. What does this victory mean for us today? How does this theology become a part of our every day faith?
Revelation 21:1-6a We celebrate All Saints Sunday with a series called Dwellings. Today's focus is on the HOPE we have in the certainty of God's plan to make all things new. All the earth will be joined together with God so that all of us are in the very presence of God. With the certainty of the future, we can dwell in the present with a hope that overcomes any and all circumstances.