“Opportunity to serve”

“Opportunity to serve” November 22, 2020
( Guest Minister – Rev. Caesar J. David, Union Park United Methodist Church, Des Moines, Iowa)
Scripture Lesson:

Matthew 25:31–46
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’ Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’ Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

“Opportunity to Serve”

For I was hungry, and you gave me food to eat. I was thirsty, and you gave me drink. I
was a stranger, and you took me in. I was naked, and you clothed me. I was sick, and
you visited me. I was in prison, and you came to me” (vv. 35-36).
These words aren’t easy to understand in our context where we’re trying to understand
our roles and responsibilities. It raises many questions and issues:
 Am I being called to be responsible for people around me in society?
 What if they are different from me?
 Am I allowed to set up a qualifier to sift the deserving from the undeserving?
 Am I the person called to give, or the person that needs to receive, or both?
 Etc.
Let’s dig right into the Biblical insights we have from this important passage that links
our spirituality with social responsibility, the opportunities we have to see and serve
Christ. As we go through some of these insights some of our questions will be answered
and we’ll have some clarity, for others we must continue to explore and wrestle with
even as God speaks to us and puts His conviction in our hearts.
First of all we should regard these six deeds of mercy as illustrative rather than
exhaustive:
1) Food
2) Drink
3) Hospitality
4) Clothing
5) Nursing care, and
6) Visitation.
Here are a few insights that we get from this passage we’re meditating on. It’s to get us
started thinking in the direction of expressing our faith in the social context we are in.
1. Each of the mentioned deeds meets a specific need of a particular needy person.
But there are other needs too and addressing those is as much service to people and to God as the ones mentioned here. For example, simple things such as a
kind word or a listening ear can help a person in despair. The possibilities for mercy are boundless, just as human needs are boundless. That means the
possibilities to serve as endless too.

2. Note the surprise of the mercy-givers. When the king tells them that they have
extended these mercies to him, they cannot imagine when that could have been.
While extending mercies to “the least of these” they had no idea that they would
be rewarded for their kindness. There was no calculation in their generosity.
They gave because they were moved by human need—not by the potential for
reward.
3. Jesus gives a clear answer to the question, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”
(Genesis 4:9). The short answer is “Yes”! The questions we’re also being asked
today are “Did you obey the Great Commandment?” “Did you love God and
neighbor?” (Matthew 22:34-40). Our horizontal (with each other / other people)
relationships are important just as our vertical (with God) relationship is. Matthew
5:23-24 even says don’t try to please me / don’t worship me if you have
something against your brother. “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the
altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against
you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them;
then come and offer your gift.” The important thing is that we need to obey the
Great Commandment not out of obligation or feeling trapped or forced, but out of
a feeling of privilege like a benevolent child of the King would feel when able to.
Our action must also be motivated by the ethic of the Golden Rule (Matthew
7:12 “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this
is the Law and the Prophets.): that we would treat others the ways we want to be
treated. If we were without food, wouldn’t we welcome a hot meal? If we were
without housing, wouldn’t we welcome shelter?
4. There is a time when we fed, clothed, visited, cared for one of the least of these,
and another time when we drove past, looked away, or pretended not to see the
man or woman holding a sign asking for food, work, or some other help. And we
have our reasons for what we did and what we didn’t. We must remember that
Jesus is not teaching a system in which our works make us righteous or blessed.
No one is always able to be responsive to the needs of others. And no one is so
hard-hearted as to never care about others. The point is that God, the ultimate
judge, does notice what we do and don’t do. One of the ways in which we can
serve God is by taking care of the needs of other people.
5. We are to focus on the sufferings of people and not their identity. For the Christ￾follower there is no room for discrimination, no room for hatred, no room for
holding grudges, no room for judgment. We must be concerned about what
people are going through, that’s all.
6. When we focus on the sufferings of people we will find several approaches to
alleviating the suffering. Our efforts can range from direct charity to advocacy
and lobbying for systemic changes. All these are important. Our debates will
continue. The systems thinker say “If you give a man a fish he will eat that day,
but if you teach him how to fish he’ll eat everyday”. The person that believes in direct charity says “If you don’t give him fish today, he won’t survive tomorrow to
need any fish ever again”. They’re both right. Fortunately, if both of them do what
they think is right, the man they’re seeking to help will eat a fish today AND learn
to fish so he can eat tomorrow too.
7. We’re called to see Christ in needy people. The trouble can be at several points:
a. We don’t see people because we’re too wrapped up in ourselves and we
have no connection with anyone outside of myself and my immediate
circle.
b. We don’t see the needs of people because we don’t understand their
situation or maybe because we don’t want to see their need.
c. We don’t see the spiritual connection. We don’t see Christ in these needy
people. We may prefer to confine our spirituality to personal prayers and
personal meditation.
I think from these insights we have enough material to think about –
 The kind of spirituality we practice
 The kind of expression we give to our Christian discipleship, and
 The opportunities we have to honor and serve Christ our Lord.
May God bless us to be His eyes of compassion, His heart of love, His Hands of mercy,
healing and help.

P R A Y E R
Heavenly Father,
Thank you for the opportunities we have to honor you and serve you. Open our eyes to
see you in the least of our brothers and sisters. As we affirm your Reign on earth as
Christ our King, we pray that we would be used to build your Kingdom of Love and Peace.

Amen

“How Blest Are We?”

*Gospel Reading:            Luke 1:46b-55         Pew Bible NT 57

46b“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 48for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; 49for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.  50His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation.  51He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.  52He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; 53he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.  54He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, 55according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”  

   

Prayer for Illumination:

I pray for your hearing.  You pray for my speaking. Amen.

Message              “How Blest Are We?”          Tom Williams       

Adam Hamilton made a point about how different our understanding of being blessed is from what we know of the lives of the people in the Bible who were blessed.

Abraham was blessed and the blessing required him to leave his home and security and go to an unknown land.  And if we look closely at that blessing we see that it is THROUGH him that all the world is to be blessed.

    Take your choice of people in the old or new testaments and you’ll find that everyone that was blessed was beset with troubles.

    Kind David, after he is anointed as Israel’s true king by the prophet Samuel, has to run and hide because Saul wants to kill him.

    Moses, it is said, was a prophet like no other because he talked face to face with God.  There is not much in his life that could match up with our concept of being blessed.  He escaped being killed at birth only by being set adrift in the Nile (think about Nile crocodiles which still on occasion actively hunt people).  As a young man, he has to flee to the desert.  Then God blesses him and sends him back to Egypt to have a showdown with one of the most powerful and ruthless men in the world.  Even when he has won that battle, he has to lead a bunch of surly, cantankerous, whiners to a Promised Land that they refused to enter.  And then has to put up with them for another forty years.  And in the end, he doesn’t even get to enter the Promised Land himself.

Certainly, Elizabeth’s greeting to Mary where she calls her blessed sounds wonderful.  But when we look at the facts of Mary’s life, we see troubles and pain and turmoil.  She is pregnant out of wedlock, which is punishable by being stoned by the Roman conquerors of their nation, to travel to Bethlehem while she is already due to deliver a baby.  Then she gets to Bethlehem and finds they must spend the night in a stable.  And in a stable she gives birth.  

So far this doesn’t seem to fit our modern concept of be blessed, does it?  And it gets worse.  When the king hears of the baby’s birth he sends soldiers to find and kill all the children in the area.  She has to uproot her family and go with Joseph and Jesus to a country that certainly is not a “friend to Jews”, Egypt.

    John the Baptist was blessed of God and lived in the wilderness eating locust and honey before he became a homeless, traveling preacher.  And for his faithfulness, he was beheaded by Herod as a present for his daughter.

    Jesus, the very Son of God, did not live a life of ease and free of troubles.  You may have realized when we read the Bible passage from Isaiah that this is the passage that Jesus read in the synagogue and then told the crowd that He was the person that Isaiah was prophesying about.  The good, religious people took him out of the synagogue to a high hill and tried to throw him off of the cliff.  That is the way His ministry started.  And we know, that in the end, they did succeed in killing Him.

    Count your blessings.  Count them one by one.  Count your many blessings, see what God has done.

    I may never sing that song with the same innocence that I’ve sung it in the past.  Amen?

    Ten or more years ago a new understanding of blessings came to me when I was reading and thinking about Romans 8:28 “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God to them who are the called according to his purpose.”

    I had always loved this verse because it gave me comfort that God was on my side.  Anybody else love that verse and claim it as your own?

However, one day I saw it with new eyes.  I saw that it said “all things work for the good”.  It didn’t say that all things were going to be good.  It wasn’t a promise of “A cloud of pink ice cream where every star is a candy bar and the moon is a marshmallow dream.”

It said that God would take everything and everyone that I encountered in life and make it good for me.  Good for me.  You know, like this medicine is good for me.  The foul smelling, nasty tasting medicine that makes me want to vomit, is good for me.  You know what I’m talking about here.  Amen?

    I came to understand that I don’t have to like it, for it to be good for me.  

You don’t have to like it for it to be good for you.  Do you understand that?

What we have to do is turn it over to God and he will make it good “for” us.  Do you see?

Now I’ve lived long enough that I like you can look back on my life and see many things that came into my life that were far from pleasant.  And yet because of that unpleasant experience, my life was ‘shifted’ onto a better path.  I have been blessed.  And whatever comes into my life, I turn it over to God.  I give it as an offering of my will to Him.  And He in turn gives me a peace that the world will never know and can not take away.  

I have a joy, joy, joy, joy down it my heart.  Down in my heart to stay.  

BLESSED

2020 November 01 Sermon “BLESSED”

Responsive reading

Psalm 34:1-10, 22

I will bless the LORD at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth.

My soul makes its boast in the LORD; let the humble hear and be glad.

O magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together.

I sought the LORD, and he answered me, and delivered me from all my fears.

Look to him, and be radiant; so your faces shall never be ashamed.

This poor soul cried, and was heard by the LORD, and was saved from every trouble.

The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them.

O taste and see that the LORD is good; happy are those who take refuge in him.

O fear the LORD, you his holy ones, for those who fear him have no want.

The young lions suffer want and hunger, but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing.

The LORD redeems the life of his servants; none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned.

Matthew 4:2-5:12

Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every- sickness among the people. So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought to him all the sick, those who were afflicted with various diseases and pains, demoniacs, epileptics, and paralytics, and he cured them. And great crowds followed him from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and from beyond the Jordan.

When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:

  • “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

  • “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

  • “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

  • “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

  • “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.

  • “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

  • “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

  • “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

  • “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Sermon on Matthew 4:23-5:12

“BLESSED”

In Matthews gospel, Jesus has just recruited his first four disciples, Peter, Andrew, James, and John. He then went with those four men throughout all of Galilee District. He was teaching the people in the synagogues where Jews worship God. He was preaching the good message of how to become members of the kingdom God, where God, in love, rules over the lives of people who follow His commands.

Although he was training people what it meant to live a life in God’s kingdom, he was also teaching how to live in love with one another. He demonstrated that, though his main message was to prepare for the coming kingdom, he was also concerned about their earthly life as well.

So he was also healing all the Galileans who had diseases or who were sick or injured.

Quickly people who lived in other parts of the Syria District heard what he was doing with these miraculous healings. Friends and families brought to him people who suffered from illnesses, people who suffered from many kinds of diseases, people who suffered from severe pains, people who were controlled by demons, people who were epileptics, and people who were paralyzed. And Jesus healed them all.

Then crowds started to go with him wherever he went. Imagine that sight as formerly blind, lame, deaf and mute people followed him to the synagogues on the day of worship.

Can you see the disturbance that would bring to the order of worship? If through your worship center doors a wandering preacher, teacher, healer came with a crowd shoving in behind, how would the congregation act? How would you react?

Would people be filled with joy because so many came to join in worship? Would people be upset because this crowd of strangers had invaded their sanctuary?

Would the preacher quietly step aside to hear the message of this stranger? Would he be recognized as the Son of the most high God or labeled a cult leader?

There were people from the District of Galilee and people from the Ten Towns area, from Jerusalem city, from other parts of the Judea district, and from areas east of the Jordan River.

I can’t help but think of the Neal Diamond song :

“It’s love, Brother Love say

Brother Love’s Travelling Salvation Show

Pack up the babies

And grab the old ladies

And everyone goes

‘Cause everyone knows

‘Bout Brother Love’s show

Hallelujah, brothers

Halle-hallelujah

I said brothers

(Hallelujah) Now you got yourself two good hands

(Halle-hallelujah) And when your brother is troubled,

You gotta reach out your one hand for him

(Hallelujah) ‘Cause that’s what it’s there for

(Halle-hallelujah) And when your heart is troubled,

You gotta reach out your other hand

(Hallelujah) Reach it out to the man up there

(Halle-hallelujah) ‘Cause that’s what he’s there for.”

Honestly, I can’t think of a better summery of Christ’s ministry than reaching out and reaching up connecting the human and the divine.

When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a hillside. I’ve heard some say that he went to a narrow place where he could distance himself from the crowd in order to begin teaching his new disciples.

I’ve heard others claim that he climbed the hill so that his voice could be projected downward, making it easier for the crowd to hear.

Both could be equally true. One does not cancel out the other. He could easily have withdrawn to speak with Andrew, Peter, James and John. His voice could still be heard down the hillside.

A French painter, James Tissot, painted Jesus’s stranding on a rocky outcropping and arms upraised. People behind him are seated while multitudes stand below. I love the grandure of the scene.

However, I’ve always imagined that, inspite of the crowd, it was a more intement setting with Christ seated with people seated along the hillside, looking for all the world like sheep dotting the landscape.

Our Scripture section reads. “He sat down in order to teach his disciples.” As I said, in Matthew’s gospel, this happens immediately after calling the first four disciples. So I can only imagine how these men we wondering and waiting to begin their training.

So when Jesus sat and began to teach, they came near to him to listen. They would have been very attentative to his words. There could be a test afterward.

Jesus’s began to teach them by saying, … but wait a minute. Y’all know he is going to be saying a lot of “Blessed is he who …” But what does that really mean to be blessed?

Definition of blessed

endowed with divine favor and protection.

“blessed are the meek”

Similar: words are:

favored

fortunate

lucky

privileged

select

happy

joyful

joyous

blissful

glad

enviable

So we could say that a blessing brings pleasure or relief as a welcome contrast to what one has previously experienced.

Okay, let’s look at the blessed ones on Jesus’s list.

  • “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Poor in spirit. Spiritually bankrupt. I’ve been there, as I’m sure some of you have been. So far down that you have to look up to see the bottom. For some of us, we had to reach that point before we were ready to reach out to God. I believe God is pleased with people who recognize that they have a spiritual need; when they ask, he will welcome them as His children in His kingdom.

  • “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

We mourn because of loss. Things and people are lost to us in many ways: death, divorce, accidents, injuries, illnesses, relocation. We mourn the loss of a family member or friend. We mourn a severed relationship. We mourn a lost job or treasured possession. It is very hard to see a blessing here.

God is pleased with people who mourn because it is one of the most honest of emotions. When we mourn, we can open our hearts completely to God. God, in turn, will open us to grace and grant us a peace and comfort beyond human understanding and he will encourage and comfort the mourner.

  • “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

We often, falsely equate meek with weak. People who are meek are gentle and other-centered as opposed to self-centered. A perfect example of meekness can be found in Matthew 5:39-42 where Jesus said,But I tell you not to oppose an evil person. If someone slaps you on your right cheek, turn your other cheek to him as well. If someone wants to sue you in order to take your shirt, let him have your coat too. If someone forces you to go one mile, go two miles with him. Give to everyone who asks you for something. Don’t turn anyone away who wants to borrow something from you. The meek yield not out of weakness but out of strength.

  • “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

I know far too many people who struggle to be right rather than righteous. I include myself amongst them. I fight to prove myself right rather than choosing to follow the path of righteousness. Being righteous means to be right with God, to submit your will to His. Philippians 2:5 Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, What Would Jesus Do? Was a popular saying a while back. I endorse it — if — if you’ve spent time reading the gospels and truly sought to think like Jesus did. Then — and only then — can you seek to be righteous as he was righteous — to do what Jesus would do. God is pleased with people who sincerely desire to live righteously just like they desire to eat and drink. When you have studied to show yourself approved, as often as you have eaten a meal or a snack, then you are on the road to righteousness.

  • “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.

Answer this honestly to yourself. Have you ever been praying the Lord’s prayer and gotten to that line that says, “forgive me my sins as I have forgiven those who sin against me” and realize that what you really want is to be completely forgiven EVEN THOUGH you have NOT forgiven others? Jesus was pretty clear on this point, that SOME forgiveness is conditional. Matthew 6:14-15 “For if you will forgive men their sins, your heavenly Father also will forgive you your offenses. But if you will not forgive men, neither will your Father forgive you your sins.” Also in Matthew 18, a forgiven slave’s response is truly disgusting. He found a fellow slave who owed him money. He intimidated his debtor with physical violence. He was deaf to his debtor’s pleading. He unjustly misused the king’s law. He refused to forgive him the debt which, although a substantial sum, was nothing compared to the enormous debt he himself had been forgiven. And the end of the story reads, “And his lord, being angry, handed him over to the torturers, until he repaid the entire debt.” So be merciful, mercy full, so full of mercy that it splashes it on everyone you meet.

  • “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

Pure of heart? What does that even mean? I found this on the BillyGraham.org website and it said it better than I can. “The pure in heart are the only ones who can know what it means to be supremely happy. Their hearts are pure toward God and, as a result are pure toward their fellowmen. They are happy because, in possessing Him who is All and in All, they envy no man’s worldly goods. They are happy because they envy not another man’s praise. Because they are the enemy of no man, they regard no man as their enemy. The result is peace with God and the world.”

  • “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

Peacemakers are those rare people who step into the storm of high and agitated emotions and calms the storm. To be a true peacemaker you must first be at peace with God. Next you must be at peace with yourself. I think of the example of the woman caught in adultery in John 8:4-11

And they said to him: “Teacher, this woman was just now caught in adultery. And in the law, Moses commanded us to stone such a one. Therefore, what do you say?” But they were saying this to test him, so that they might be able to accuse him. Then Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the earth. And then, when they persevered in questioning him, he stood upright and said to them, “Let whoever is without sin among you be the first to cast a stone at her.” And bending down again, he wrote on the earth. But upon hearing this, they went away, one by one, beginning with the eldest. And Jesus alone remained, with the woman standing in front of him. Then Jesus, raising himself up, said to her: “Woman, where are those who accused you? Has no one condemned you?” And she said, “No one, Lord.” Then Jesus said: “Neither will I condemn you. Go, and now do not choose to sin anymore.”

A key to peace is finding common ground … and possibly finding the ground on which we stand isn’t so solid.

  • “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

We’ve already talked about what it means to be righteous. But what if our righteousness leads to persecution, condemnation, and punishment? I think of the evangelists and missionaries who have been physically abused or killed while attempting to bring God’s Word to people who would not accept it. I’m reminded of Paul and Silas in Acts 16:22-24. “And the multitude rose up together against them: and the magistrates rent their garments off them, and commanded to beat them with rods. And when they had laid many stripes upon them, they cast them into prison, charging the jailor to keep them safely: who, having received such a charge, cast them into the inner prison, and made their feet fast in the stocks.”

Brothers and sister, being a Christian isn’t for sissies. This world is broken. In this world you may be punished for doing the right thing and saying the right words. But for doing so you will inherit the kingdom of heaven, which is eternity with God.

In Jesus’s sermon on the mount each of these all too common human conditions are paired with a blessing.

So when troubles come — and they will — believe that there is a blessing at the and of every hardship. Endure the temporary to gain the eternal.

Our earthly life is but a dot on our eternal life line that has no end.

Rejoice, the Lord is King,

Your Lord and King adore;

Mortals, give thanks and sing

And triumph evermore:

Lift up your heart, lift up your voice;

Rejoice, again I say, rejoice.

2

His kingdom cannot fail;

He rules o’er earth and heav’n;

The keys of death and hell

Are to our Jesus giv’n:

3

Jesus, the Savior reigns,

The God of truth and love:

When He had purged our stains

He took His seat above:

4

He sits at God’s right hand

Till all His foes submit,

And bow to His command,

And fall beneath His feet:

Amen

Also visit my other blogs

  • Tom and Ella’s Daily Journal of Our Lives

http://TomAndEllaJournal.com

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Sin Happens – So Does Forgiveness

Matthew 18:15-20
“If a believer does something wrong, go, confront him when the two of you are alone. If he listens to you, you have won back that believer. But if he does not listen, take one or two others with you so that every accusation may be verified by two or three witnesses. If he ignores these witnesses, tell it to the community of believers. If he also ignores the community, deal with him as you would a heathen or a tax collector. I can guarantee this truth: Whatever you imprison, God will imprison. And whatever you set free, God will set free. “I can guarantee again that if two of you agree on anything here on earth, my Father in heaven will accept it. Where two or three have come together in my name, I am there among them.”

Sin Happens

So Does Forgiveness

“Tell your brother that you are sorry!”
“But, Dad!”
“Tell him you are sorry!”
“Daddy, you don’t understand … “
“Tell him you are sorry!”
“I’ll say it – but I won’t mean it!”
Sound familiar?Which one are you in this little scenario?The one who doesn’t want to say, “Sorry”?The father who is looking to make peace between the “combatants” so that he can forgive them both?Maybe you are the third one in the story, the one who was wronged. Did you want to be forgiven if it meant you had to forgive also? Maybe, like me, you’ve been all three at different times.
What are we to do when a Christian does something – well – unchristian?
Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Literally “Forgive our sins in the same way we forgive those who sin against us.” I’ll admit that I’ve choked on those words a couple of times in my life. I’ve started to say them – and then realized that there was someone I had not yet forgiven.
Why couldn’t we pray, “Forgive our sins even though we can’t/won’t/haven’t forgiven them”? Forgiveness is unnatural. We are all at the center of our own universe. Anything, that doesn’t go the way we want it, is a bad thing. Anybody who disagrees with us is a moron. People who try to stop us are bad people.
In Matthew 18:21 & 22 Peter asks Jesus just how many times hehas to forgive his brother or sister who sins against him. And then offers up an answer for himself that seemed extremely generous. “Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.
In our gospel reading for today, Jesus lays out a plan of what to do if a Christian acts in an unchristian way toward you. Once you have tried every step, the last thing is to treat them as an unbeliever and a tax collecter. Now two things are important to understand here: One, this is not talking about the sin of non-believers; and two, being treated like an unbeliever or a tax collector is the LAST option in the list.
Let’s look at what Luke recorded in chapter 7: “Jesus said to his disciples:
“There will always be something that causes people to sin. But anyone who causes them to sin is in for trouble. A person who causes even one of my little followers to sin would be better off thrown into the ocean with a heavy stone tied around their neck. So be careful what you do.”
Okay, so here is what I understand this to mean to us.
Sin Happens!Make sure you don’t.Don’t lead others into sin!If you do sin, Get right with God – Quick!Do your best to lead sinners back to God.
In Luke chapter 17:3-4 it says, “Correct any followers of mine who sin, and forgive the ones who say they are sorry Even if one of them mistreats you seven times in one day and says, “I am sorry,” you should still forgive that person.”
Forgive, Forgive, Forgive! That is what the good news is all about. Right?
Jesus came to forgive us and expects us to forgive each other. Man! That is so hard sometimes! At least we have a plan to follow. Jesus gives instructions what to do if one of his followers sins against another, “Go and point out what was wrong.” Don’t wait. Don’t let it fester and grow. Go now! But do it in private, just between the two of you. Don’t go to a third party and start gossiping about the problem. I know, that it is easier to complain than it is to forgive. However, that is NOT the Christian way to handle it.
If that person who wronged you listens, you have won back a follower.
Woo Hoo! Yea!
But we know that system doesn’t always work. Right? So here is what to do if that one refuses to listen, take along one or two others. No! They’re not your “muscle”.
The Scriptures teach that every complaint must be proven true by two or more witnesses. Plus where two or more believers are gathered, God is there also.
But what If the follower still refuses to listen to them? Report the matter to the church.
Do you notice the progression here? We start off one-to-one, then bring in a few more, now we bring in the whole body of believers.
Anyone who refuses to listen to the church must be treated like an unbeliever or a tax collector.
That sounds bad – doesn’t it So … that’s it? We give up on them? No! There DOES come a time when we have to do MORE than forgive, not LESS. We need to treat our brother or sister like an unbeliever or a tax collector.
How did Jesus treat unbelievers and tax collectors?
He actively sought them out. He went into their homes. He ate with them. He healed them. He prayed with and for them. He befriended them. He sought to bring them into the Kingdom of God.
Can we do any less?
Chances are that sometime in the last few minutes, while we talked about forgiveness, we have thought of someone whom we have not forgiven. Or maybe we’ve thought of someone who hasn’t forgiven us.
We need to pray for that relationship because our relationship with each other can interfere with having a strong relationship with God. Then we need to actively seek to mend it. Forgive as you have been forgiven.
Amen!
©Thomas E Williams 2020

Originally published Monday, August 15, 2011

Prayers

“All the Jews know my way of life from my youth, a life spent from the beginning among my own people and in Jerusalem. They have known for a long time, if they are willing to testify, that I have belonged to the strictest sect of our religion and lived as a Pharisee. And now I stand here on trial on account of my hope in the promise made by God to our ancestors, a promise that our twelve tribes hope to attain, as they earnestly worship day and night. It is for this hope, your Excellency,<sup class=”footnote” data-fn=”#fen-NRSV-27817a” data-link=”[a]” style=”font-size: 0.625em; line-height: normal; position: relative; vertical-align: text-top; top: auto; display: inline;”>[<sup class=”footnote” data-fn=”#fen-NRSV-27817a” data-link=”[a]” style=”font-size: 0.625em; line-height: normal; position: relative; vertical-align: text-top; top: auto; display: inline;”>a<sup class=”footnote” data-fn=”#fen-NRSV-27817a” data-link=”[a]” style=”font-size: 0.625em; line-height: normal; position: relative; vertical-align: text-top; top: auto; display: inline;”>] that I am accused by Jews! Why is it thought incredible by any of you that God raises the dead?

“Indeed, I myself was convinced that I ought to do many things against the name of Jesus of Nazareth.<sup class=”footnote” data-fn=”#fen-NRSV-27819b” data-link=”[b]” style=”font-size: 0.625em; line-height: normal; position: relative; vertical-align: text-top; top: auto; display: inline;”>[<sup class=”footnote” data-fn=”#fen-NRSV-27819b” data-link=”[b]” style=”font-size: 0.625em; line-height: normal; position: relative; vertical-align: text-top; top: auto; display: inline;”>b<sup class=”footnote” data-fn=”#fen-NRSV-27819b” data-link=”[b]” style=”font-size: 0.625em; line-height: normal; position: relative; vertical-align: text-top; top: auto; display: inline;”>] 10 And that is what I did in Jerusalem; with authority received from the chief priests, I not only locked up many of the saints in prison, but I also cast my vote against them when they were being condemned to death. 11 By punishing them often in all the synagogues I tried to force them to blaspheme; and since I was so furiously enraged at them, I pursued them even to foreign cities.

Paul Tells of His Conversion

12 “With this in mind, I was traveling to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests, 13 when at midday along the road, your Excellency,<sup class=”footnote” data-fn=”#fen-NRSV-27823c” data-link=”[c]” style=”font-size: 0.625em; line-height: normal; position: relative; vertical-align: text-top; top: auto; display: inline;”>[<sup class=”footnote” data-fn=”#fen-NRSV-27823c” data-link=”[c]” style=”font-size: 0.625em; line-height: normal; position: relative; vertical-align: text-top; top: auto; display: inline;”>c<sup class=”footnote” data-fn=”#fen-NRSV-27823c” data-link=”[c]” style=”font-size: 0.625em; line-height: normal; position: relative; vertical-align: text-top; top: auto; display: inline;”>] I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining around me and my companions. 14 When we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew<sup class=”footnote” data-fn=”#fen-NRSV-27824d” data-link=”[d]” style=”font-size: 0.625em; line-height: normal; position: relative; vertical-align: text-top; top: auto; display: inline;”>[<sup class=”footnote” data-fn=”#fen-NRSV-27824d” data-link=”[d]” style=”font-size: 0.625em; line-height: normal; position: relative; vertical-align: text-top; top: auto; display: inline;”>d<sup class=”footnote” data-fn=”#fen-NRSV-27824d” data-link=”[d]” style=”font-size: 0.625em; line-height: normal; position: relative; vertical-align: text-top; top: auto; display: inline;”>] language, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It hurts you to kick against the goads.’ 15 I asked, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ The Lord answered, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. 16 But get up and stand on your feet; for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you to serve and testify to the things in which you have seen me<sup class=”footnote” data-fn=”#fen-NRSV-27826e” data-link=”[e]” style=”font-size: 0.625em; line-height: normal; position: relative; vertical-align: text-top; top: auto; display: inline;”>[<sup class=”footnote” data-fn=”#fen-NRSV-27826e” data-link=”[e]” style=”font-size: 0.625em; line-height: normal; position: relative; vertical-align: text-top; top: auto; display: inline;”>e<sup class=”footnote” data-fn=”#fen-NRSV-27826e” data-link=”[e]” style=”font-size: 0.625em; line-height: normal; position: relative; vertical-align: text-top; top: auto; display: inline;”>] and to those in which I will appear to you. 17 I will rescue you from your people and from the Gentiles—to whom I am sending you 18 to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’

Paul Tells of His Preaching

19 “After that, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, 20 but declared first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout the countryside of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God and do deeds consistent with repentance.


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Family Is As Family Does

Gospel Reading Mark 3:19b-35

3:19b Then he went home;

3:20 and the crowd came together again, so that they could not even eat.

3:21 When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, “He has gone out of his mind.”

3:22 And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, “He has Beelzebul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons.”

3:23 And he called them to him, and spoke to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan?

3:24 If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.

3:25 And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.

3:26 And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but his end has come.

3:27 But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his property without first tying up the strong man; then indeed the house can be plundered.

3:28 “Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter;

3:29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”-

3:30 for they had said, “He has an unclean spirit.”

3:31 Then his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him.

3:32 A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.”

3:33 And he replied, “Who are my mother and my brothers?”

3:34 And looking at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers!

3:35 Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”

SERMON: “Family Is As Family Does”

Right now I want you to use your imagination. I want you to visualize your older brother or a slightly older childhood friend. Think of somebody that you played hide and seek with. Someone that you caught lightening bugs with, went fishing with, climbed trees, fought imaginary battles with, and play board or video games with. Have you pictured that person in your mind?

Good!

Now imagine that he has just told you that he has superpowers. He claims that he can leap tall buildings in a single bound, is more powerful than a locomotive, and is faster than a speeding bullet. And he’s serious! He really believes it.

What do you do?

What if he’s brought home some friends that believe him. And they are telling you that they’ve witnessed these amazing feats. What do you do now?

What if he’s announced his abilities on the national news and now there are crowds of people following him everywhere? Some are following him hoping to see him perform some amazing feat. Some are follwing him because they truly believe he can do what he says. And some are following because they want to prove that he’s a fraud.

And now he has shown up at your door looking plumb tuckered out and hungry … but the crowds keep pressing in … wanting more and more from him.

Now what do you do?

This is a very intriguing passage of scripture in the Gospel of Mark.

It is not a long passage.

It does, however, introduce us to some characters and characteristics that are worth noting.

Here is the background.

Jesus was becoming well known as a teacher, a prophet and a healer and the crowds kept following him.

There were folks from other countries that came to hear his messages and to witness the miraculous things that he was doing.

He had tried getting in a boat and crossing the sea. Yet more crowds followed.

He’d climbed up a mountainside and they still came.

It appears that, just when he thought it safe to return to his home, more crowds gathered.

Most scholars believe that this was his home in Capernaum (see Mark 2:1) this is the same home where, at another time, some men tore the roof off so that they could lower their friend down to be healed.

He and his disciples are more than tired … they are nearly physically spent.

Many of us know that feeling. Amen?

As a young father, I was working two fulltime jobs, a daytime job and a nighttime job. At one point I had been awake for nearly one hundred hours before I could get home to sleep. I was so spent that I quite literally would fall asleep walking. I’d kind of slump and then catch myself before I hit the floor. Then I’d praise God for the nap.

At least I had a lunch break at both jobs. I could set an alarm and snooze for a little bit in a back room or break-room. And I had time to gulp down a sandwich and a cup of coffee.

The scriptures say that Jesus didn’t even have time to eat because of the demands of the people following him.

So, he has returned home and his earthly family were also there. And they were concerned. Some were concerned for his health and some were concerned for his sanity. In factI they went out to physically restrain him. Isn’t that amazing?

It reminded me of another family that is mentioned in the scriptures. Mark 9:17-29 tells us this story where Jesus comes upon an argument between a group of people and the Scribes. Jesus asks what is going on.

A man in the crowd answered, “Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of speech. Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground. He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth and becomes rigid. I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not.”

“You unbelieving generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.”

So they brought him. When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth.

Jesus asked the boy’s father, “How long has he been like this?”

“From childhood,” he answered. “It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him.

But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”

“‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.”

Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”

When Jesus saw that a crowd was running to the scene, he rebuked the impure spirit. “You deaf and mute spirit,” he said, “I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.”

The spirit shrieked, convulsed him violently and came out. The boy looked so much like a corpse that many said, “He’s dead.”

But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him to his feet, and he stood up.

This poor father had tried everything to protect his child. He had often had to restrain him to keep him from harming himself. That’s what families do … they try to protect each other. Amen?

Family is as family does.

Jesus’ family was attempting to do the same thing. Jesus was on the verge of collapse and yet the people demanded more from him. The family wanted to forcibly bring him into the house and away from the mob.

Again, use your imagination; put yourself in the role of one of Jesus’ brothers or sisters. You grew up in the same household. He was the older son and had learned the carpentry trade from his earthly father. At Joseph’s death, he would have inherited the family business and the responsibilities of the head of household. He was expected to care for his mother and siblings. But now … now he has become an itinerant preacher. And he’s not even ordained by the General Board of Clergy! He has no formal standing with the ruling religious authorities. In fact, the religious authorities are “out to get him.”

So, once again, what do you do about or for this brother who is acting so strangely?

Do you think that Jesus felt a little betrayed by his family … or was he glad that they cared enough to try and protect him? Because at this point, the family didn’t fully understand the extent of Jesus’ earthly mission. He was unable to turn away from doing what the Father had sent him to do.

We know that there is a large crowd that followed Jesus right up to the door of his house.

Among the crowd that had gathered were the religious leaders and teacher of the day, the Scribes.

Verse 22 reads: “And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, “He has Beelzebul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons.” These were leaders and they were in fear of loosing their positions of power and authority to this man who openly claimed to be the son of God and God the Son.

They came to catch Jesus in the act of some deceit or trickery. When they couldn’t find a way of discounting the miraculous things that Jesus did … they tried to say that he was using the power of the devil to cast out the demons.

Jesus makes fun of their argument by basically saying that the devil casting out the devil is just about the most stupid thing that these students of the scripture could say.

He then says in 3:28, “Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”- for they had said, “He has an unclean spirit.”

Over the years I have heard many interpretations about this “unpardonable sin”. But I found the following statement by >>>>>>>>> that seems to explain it within what we know of Jesus character and mission. He was sent, after all, to be the savior because God does not want to loose a single soul.

He (Jesus) warned them about the eternal consequences of failing to recognize His true identity (vv.28-30) That’s the only sin which cannot be forgiven… I want to make two brief statements about the verse 29 which says, “…but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”
o That statement needs to be understood within context of this larger passage…that Jesus was doing amazing, supernatural things the Jewish leaders could not deny…instead of denying His works, they questioned the power behind His works…they looked at obvious work of God and attributed it to Satan…through Jesus, using Holy Spirit as communicating agent, God was revealing Himself to the world… these people looked directly at the revelation of God and rejected it…that’s the unpardonable sin…rejecting God’s self-revelation in Jesus Christ…
o The reason that is unpardonable is self-evident…to say a person who rejects Jesus will not be forgiven is like saying a person who refused liquids will die of thirst…food /starvation…breath / asphyxiation…rejecting Jesus is rejecting our only avenue for forgiveness….as Scripture says, “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we might be saved.”…to reject Jesus means to die in our sins and that results in eternal separation from God…

The Scribes and Pharisees were the religious leaders of the day. And they should have been the first to embrace this Messiah for whom they had been praying. Over and over again Jesus had told them who he was and what his mission was. They were witnesses to the mighty works he was doing … works that would have been impossible without the power of God working through him. But as John says in his gospel, “He came to his own and his own knew him not.” They should have been acting like family, but they weren’t.

Family is as family does.

Other than the Scribes, who else were following him?

Among the crowd were also those who were just curious. I heard a saying once that nothing draws a crowd of people like a crowd of people. If you see a crowd of people someplace, don’t you stop to see what is going on? I’m sure that some of the people following Jesus around were like that. They were there because they wanted to see what had drawn the crowd in the first place.

Some were also following because of the wondrous signs that he would perform. I mean, really, it must have been a great “show”. Can’t you just see Him on “Israel Has Talent”?

First week he’d turn water into wine. John 2:1-11

Week 2 He’d fill two fishing boats so full of fish that they begin to sink. Luke 5:1-11

Week 3 Walk on water. Mark 6:48-51

Week 4 Heal ten lepers. Luke 17:11-19

Week 5 Raise people from the dead. Matthew 9:18-26, John 11:38-44

And in the semi finals: Raise himself from the dead. 24:5-7

The grand finally: Ascend into the clouds. Mark 16-19

Just try and top THAT!

However, these people were not family.

Some were following because they needed something from him, like the father of the child with a demon. He had come to Jesus just hoping that Jesus could do something. Some were following because they needed a physical healing for themselves or for their friends. When we are hurting, don’t we naturally turn to family for help?

Family is as family does.

Now at this point there were quite a few that he called his disciples.

In Luke chapter 10 verse 1 we read, “After this the Lord appointed 72 others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go.

So we know that these 72 plus the 12 apostles were following.

Very possibly there were hundreds that were following because they truly believed in him and his message.

It was of these folks that Jesus said in 3:35 “Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”

Family is as family does.

Now, I told you earlier that I am a preacher because I expect this message to change you in someway.

We have just heard Jesus say, “Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”

What does that mean to you? Can you claim your kinship with Jesus Christ and God the Father?

John 1:12 & 13 reads “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

To those that have received him I say, “Howdy brothers and sisters.” And ask, “Are following the leading of the Father as an obedient child of God?” If not, here is your chance to recommit yourselves to the family. Remember, family is as family does.

To those who have never received him as your Lord and Savior, I say, “The family awaits your arrival. It is a simple adoption process: Confess your sins to God, ask for His forgiveness, and seek to live a God filled … God directed life.” And we’ll see you at that great family reunion in heaven.

Amen.

Also visit my other blogs

  • Tom and Ella’s Daily Journal of Our Lives

http://TomAndEllaJournal.com

  • Visit my devotions blog new devotions every day (nearly)

©2020 Thomas E. Williams

“Looking out for each other”

“Looking out for each other” | September 27, 2020

( Guest Minister – Rev. Caesar J. David | Union Park United Methodist Church)Scripture Lesson:Psalm 78:1-4, 12-16;
Give ear, O my people, to my teaching;
incline your ears to the words of my mouth.
2 I will open my mouth in a parable;
I will utter dark sayings from of old,
3 things that we have heard and known,
that our ancestors have told us.
4 We will not hide them from their children;
we will tell to the coming generation
the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might,
and the wonders that he has done.
In the sight of their ancestors he worked marvels
in the land of Egypt, in the fields of Zoan.
13 He divided the sea and let them pass through it,
and made the waters stand like a heap.
14 In the daytime he led them with a cloud,
and all night long with a fiery light.
15 He split rocks open in the wilderness,
and gave them drink abundantly as from the deep.
16 He made streams come out of the rock,
and caused waters to flow down like rivers.Philippians 2:1-13

2 If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, 2 make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. 5 Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,

6 who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited,
7 but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
8 he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death—
even death on a cross.

9 Therefore God also highly exalted him
and gave him the name
that is above every name,
10 so that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue should confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

12 Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

“Looking out for each other”Let’s begin with a story. (This is from the Panchatantra – a collection of Ancient Indian fables).One hot afternoon, a lion was fast asleep in his den. A mouse entered the lion’s den and jumped all around the lion, and thus woke him up. The lion caught him and was about to kill him. But the little mouse pleaded with the lion to let him go.“I will help you in return some day”. The lion was rather amused to hear this, thinking, “What good can he do me. . .” but he let him go.A few days later, the lion was trapped in a net that was cast by some hunters. He struggled hard to set himself free but, he soon realized he was trapped. He roared with anger.The little mouse heard the lion’s roar, and seeing the lion caught in the net, he started gnawing away at the net at once. The mouse had sharp teeth and he soon freed the lion.Here’s another (this one’s attributed to Rabbi Haim of Romshishok).[Please note that these are NOT stories from the Holy Bible. This is imagination told in the form of a story to illustrate a point.]A man was having a conversation with God one day and said, ‘God , I would like to know what Heaven and Hell are like.’ God led the holy man to two doors. He opened one of the doors and the man looked in. In the middle of the room was a large round table. In the middle of the table was a large pot of stew, which smelled delicious.
The people sitting around the table were thin and sickly. They appeared to be famished. They were holding spoons with very long handles, that were strapped to their arms and each found it possible to reach into the pot of stew and take a spoonful. But because the handle was longer than their arms, they could not get the spoons back into their mouths. The man shuddered at the sight of their misery and suffering. God said, ‘You have seen Hell.’
They went to the next room and opened the door. It was exactly the same as the first one. There was the large round table with the large pot of stew which made the man’s mouth water. The people were equipped with the same long-handled spoons, but here the people were well nourished and happy, laughing and talking.
The man said, ‘I don’t understand. How is that possible? They have the same conditions. What makes the difference?’
‘It is simple,’ said God. ‘You see they have learned to feed each other!’
Against the background of those two stories, let me read one key verse from Paul’s letter to the Philippians. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. (Philippians 2:4)This Scripture requires us to look beyond ourselves. We seem hard-wired to not do that. Self-preservation is an instinct, and sometimes in order to do that we do quite the opposite of what’s in the interest of others. As Christians, however, we have been seeing that Godly principles to which we must subscribe as His children and saved people, and our values run contrary to what seems to be the ‘proper way’ according to the principles learned and taught in the world.The highest call in a relationship is to give of ourselves to the other, even if there is a cost. It’s in this way that we follow the pattern of Jesus. The United Methodist Church is committed to looking after the interests of others locally as well as globally. In fact, as United Methodists, you are all part of global outreach and service through our apportionments. Our Church also sends its share as apportioned to us, to the United Methodist Church through which it gets sent for many ministries covering outreach, education, disaster relief, rehabilitation, revitalizing congregations, community development, youth ministries, ecumenism, discipleship and many others. Through the apportionment, you are part of global solutions. Our dollar goes where we perhaps cannot go, and makes a difference.The United Methodist Church is called a connectional church because it shares its resources across all levels of the denomination to improve the lives of many through mission and justice work. So, we undertake responsibility not only for maintaining our church and taking care of local community needs in our neighborhood, but we also help alleviate hunger, create jobs and contribute towards helping transform the world to look more like God’s kingdom here on earth.ConclusionApart from being a Christian principle that we are committed to as disciples of Christ, we must also note that it’s becoming even clearer now that the only way we’re going to survive and be blessed is by looking after each other. That is what networking is all about, that’s what collaboration and synergy is all about. But we’re looking at it not from the perspective of material profit, but a spiritual profit of sharing the joy of being human, being the family of God in which we give some, we receive some and either way, keep winning all the time as we’re part of God’s plan used according to His purposes to accomplish His Will. God blesses us when we seek to do His Will.Let’s recommit ourselves to being the arms of Jesus to love and bless others, and let’s receive the joy of being a channel of blessing.Let us pray.Here’s this famous prayer of Francis of Assisi. Let’s pray together -Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:
where there is hatred, let me sow love;where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy.O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console, to be understood as to understand, to be loved as to love.For it is in giving that we receive, it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.Amen.

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Law Of Sin

First scripture reading:

Psalm 65:(1-8), 9-13

Praise is due to you, O God, in Zion; and to you shall vows be performed,

O you who answer prayer! To you all flesh shall come.

When deeds of iniquity overwhelm us, you forgive our transgressions.

Happy are those whom you choose and bring near to live in your courts. We shall be satisfied with the goodness of your house, your holy temple.

By awesome deeds you answer us with deliverance, O God of our salvation; you are the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas.

By your strength you established the mountains; you are girded with might.

You silence the roaring of the seas, the roaring of their waves, the tumult of the peoples.

Those who live at earth’s farthest bounds are awed by your signs; you make the gateways of the morning and the evening shout for joy.

You visit the earth and water it, you greatly enrich it; the river of God is full of water; you provide the people with grain, for so you have prepared it.

You water its furrows abundantly, settling its ridges, softening it with showers, and blessing its growth.

You crown the year with your bounty; your wagon tracks overflow with richness.

The pastures of the wilderness overflow, the hills gird themselves with joy,

the meadows clothe themselves with flocks, the valleys deck themselves with grain, they shout and sing together for joy.

Romans 7:1, 4-6, 8:1-11
Do you not know, brothers and sisters—for I am speaking to those who know the law—that the law is binding on a person only during that person’s lifetime?
In the same way, my friends, you have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead in order that we may bear fruit for God. While we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. But now we are discharged from the law, dead to that which held us captive, so that we are slaves not under the old written code but in the new life of the Spirit.

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and to deal with sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, so that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.

To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.

For this reason the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law–indeed it cannot, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness.

If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you.

SERMONPaul began this section of his letter, starting in charter 7, by identifying his readers. “I am speaking to those who know the law.” Who were those who knew the law? Right, Jews and Jewish Christians. It was important to Paul that his readers knew the Law because he was, metaphorically, about to pull the rug from under their feet.For around fifteen hundred years, the Jews had relied on the Law of Moses to guide them to lives acceptable to God. And now …Well now I’m going to leave Paul and the Roman Jews story hanging for a moment. I am going to give you a very brief synopses of what I believe, my theology of freewill.God created humans to be in a close working relationship with Himself. And so he gave the gift of freewill.Freewill means that we can truly love God by choosing to obey. It also means we humans have the ability to disobey God. I strongly believe that freewill is the only thing which we can truly call our own. And It is the most important gift we can give back to God.Now let’s get back to Paul’s letter.The Law, all 613 laws, was, and is, the center of devout Jewish life. It was how to judge their own actions, the actions of others, and even the desires of God.There were laws covering every aspect of life. The law was the guidebook on how to live a life pleasing to the Lord. If you could put a checkmark next to every law, then you were good-to-go. If not, you knew where to improve. Simple, right?Paul earlier in his letter to the church at Rome wrote, “As it is written:There is no one who is righteous, not even one.'” That is the truth of the human condition. Even if a person were able to cheek off all 613 of the laws on the list, it was not sustainable. We are constantly stumbling and falling off the path that God places before us. So, if even for a second the light of the Lord were to shine upon us, the cloud of our sin would soon overtake us. That is the Law of sin.Sounds hopeless, doesn’t it? If we try you live by the law, it is hopeless. Period.Ah, but hear the good news: when we accept Jesus as Lord and saviour, we also accept that our old sinful nature died. The Law of Moses ceased to have control over us, because we have become something new. (2 Cor. 5:17) “You are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you. Though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness.Therefore, brothers and sisters I Christ, we must live as the Spirit directs us. What we are not to do is to live as our self-directed nature guides us. If you live the way your self-directed nature directs, we will surely be eternally separated from God. But if by the power of God’s Spirit we quit doing the sinful things that your bodies desire, we will live eternally. We who allow the Spirit of God to guide us are God’s children. God’s children are not subject to the Law of Sin but the Law of Life Eternal.Go and sin no more. Amen.

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“Managing differences,

“Managing differences,

September 13, 2020

(Minister – Rev, Caesar J. David | Union Park United Methodist Church)

Scripture Lesson:

Psalm 122;

I was glad when they said to me,

“Let us go to the house of the Lord!”

2 Our feet are standing

within your gates, O Jerusalem.

3 Jerusalem—built as a city

that is bound firmly together.

4 To it the tribes go up,

the tribes of the Lord,

as was decreed for Israel,

to give thanks to the name of the Lord.

5 For there the thrones for judgment were set up,

the thrones of the house of David.

6 Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:

“May they prosper who love you.

7 Peace be within your walls,

and security within your towers.”

8 For the sake of my relatives and friends

I will say, “Peace be within you.”

9 For the sake of the house of the Lord our God,

I will seek your good.

Romans 14:1-12

Welcome those who are weak in faith,[a] but not for the purpose of quarreling over opinions. 2 Some believe in eating anything, while the weak eat only vegetables. 3 Those who eat must not despise those who abstain, and those who abstain must not pass judgment on those who eat; for God has welcomed them. 4 Who are you to pass judgment on servants of another? It is before their own lord that they stand or fall. And they will be upheld, for the Lord[b] is able to make them stand.

5 Some judge one day to be better than another, while others judge all days to be alike. Let all be fully convinced in their own minds. 6 Those who observe the day, observe it in honor of the Lord. Also those who eat, eat in honor of the Lord, since they give thanks to God; while those who abstain, abstain in honor of the Lord and give thanks to God.

7 We do not live to ourselves, and we do not die to ourselves. 8 If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. 9 For to this end Christ died and lived again, so that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living.

10 Why do you pass judgment on your brother or sister? Or you, why do you despise your brother or sister?[d] For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. 11 For it is written,

“As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me,

and every tongue shall give praise to God.”

12 So then, each of us will be accountable to God.

Managing Differences

We all have our differences. Our meditation today leads us in the direction of understanding that differences should not be feared or avoided but accepted and handled with love.

In the early church also, sometimes Christians disagreed with each other and created problems for one another. In Romans 14:1—15:13, Paul addresses this issue. First, he deals with differences of opinion regarding rules about food and days (14:1-12). He then asks Christians not to cause one another to stumble (14:13-23). He then tells them to focus on pleasing the other person instead of themselves (15:1-6). Finally, he makes it clear that the Gospel is for Jews and Gentiles alike (15:7-13).

Paul is more concerned about the manner in which we deal with differences than about the fact that we have differences. That is very significant especially as we know that we are not expected to agree on every issue, but we are called to love one another.

Paul begins by saying that we are to welcome the ‘weak in faith’. Paul is talking about the person whose faith in Christ requires additions—observance of dietary restrictions or other rules.

There are basically two reasons why we may be considered 4weak in faith’.

  • We have not yet discovered the meaning of Christian freedom; we are at heart still legalists, and see Christianity as a thing of rules and regulations. Paul addresses this in Gal 5:1-6 –

  • For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. Listen! I, Paul, am telling you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no benefit to you. Once again I testify to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obliged to obey the entire law. You w/io want to be justified by the law have cut yourselves off from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit, by faith, we eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything; the only thing that counts is faith working through love.

  • We may believe that we can gain God’s favour by doing certain things and abstaining from others. Basically we may still be trying to earn a right relationship with God, and have not yet accepted the way of grace.

Of course, that is not to say that we can use our freedom wrongly.

See Gal 5:13a For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence…

Does that mean that we shouldn’t care about how we live and what we do? Certainly not. Ifs just that the good things we try to do should actually be a response to His Grace and Gift of Salvation rather than a way to earn it.

That was to get a clearer understanding about Paul s perspective on the differences he saw in people then which stemmed from this basic understanding. Today, some issues have changed in form, other have been added to the list that cause differences in us.

As I see, basically our responses to these differences are on this scale (this is just my way of scaling it, there may be others, but this gives us a general idea of the variety of responses and how we position ourselves):

Intolerance: The dictionary defines it as “unwillingness to accept views, beliefs, or behavior that differ from one’s own.” This is obviously an actively negative response of intolerance that leads to more problems than solve any. We have an important pointer to why we should be tolerant (cut slack for people or be more lenient) as we look at the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant in Matthew 18:21-35. It talks about the King having pity and forgiving his slave his dues because he couldn*t pay. The forgiven slave however did not forgive the dues owed to him by a fellow slave. When the king came to know of this what happened? Read from Matthew 18:32 Then his lord summoned him and said to him, You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you? And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he would pay his entire debt.

The expectation is to pass on that mercy and grace and love and forgiveness and all that we ve received and benefited from (even though we were unworthy) to others. It’s so important that it s part of the crux (and one of the basic tenets) of Christianity: Love God and Love people which is the greatest commandment.

Indifference: Moving up the scale, we have a response of indifference where we actively or passively try to dissociate from the person and situation of potential disagreement.

Tolerance: Moving further up the scale we have a step of positive response that is tolerance where we are passively accepting of another view and we open the possibilities for coexisting. Ifs better than intolerance and indifference, but we*re still not there yet as God’s people.

Love: Moving even further we have a response that is actively positive. That is love. It is in having this kind of attitude and response of love and acceptance that we are actively trying to seek to understand another point of view, extending ourselves in love and acceptance that clearly shows a focus on the other person. This can include dialog, communication, studying together, creating safe spaces, collaboration and so on. That is where Paul wants to take us in our understanding as mature, fruit-bearing Christians that bring honor to God.

There is another parameter that we must have as we are learning to deal with the differences we come up against. We need to understand the difference we have can be put in categories of what is essential and what is not essential.

In his book “Don’t sweat the small stuff’, Dr. Richard Carlson’s premise is that: Often we allow ourselves to get all worked up about things that, upon closer examination, aren’t really that big a deal. We focus on little problems and concerns and blow them way out of proportion… So many people spend so much of their life energy “sweating the small stuff” that they completely lose touch with the magic and beauty of life.

The same thing can happen in our Christian walk too. We may miss the joy of God’s presence, fellowship with others, growth and even opportunities to honor God when we sometimes expend So, our energies in non-essential confrontations and in pursuing something that may not be so fruitful after all.

Making that differentiation between the essential and the non-essential can also help us to know that a different response is needed for different cases. “In essentials, unity; in nonessentials, liberty; in all things, charity!” (This quote is often attributed to Augustine from the fourth century, or it may be from the writings of German Lutheran theologian, Rupertus Meldenius, of the early seventeenth century.) It sums up how we need to process the differences we’re faced with.

The essentials are doctrines and convictions. And the heart of the gospel: Salvation by Grace through faith in Jesus Christ, the exclusivity of the Gospel, All-sufficiency of the Work of Christ for salvation, love and forgiveness, and so on. We must be united on these essential things.

The non-essentials are all other things: Opinions on food and drink and special days; views on schooling our children: home school, public school, Christian school; The type of car or house we own; How to find a spouse: Should we date or court? What about arranged marriages? Ways and practices of worship: cover the head while praying or not, raise hands or not, etc.

There are matters of practice, culture, local awareness and sensibilities, or even indigenous theologies and so on that would be in this category. We should have an attitude of liberty, freedom and mutual respect.

And then in all things, essentials and non-essentials, we should have charity. We should Love. If we have love, then we won t condemn or criticize. On the contrary, we would welcome and accept one another, seeking to understand and love.

“ln essentials, unity; in nonessentials, liberty; in all things, charity!”

This is easier said than done. Sometimes we are faced with very difficult questions, differences, and divisive issues. We have to keep trying to do what honors God and brings glory to His name. The bottom line is: We need to be guided always by Love and Grace.

There s a beautiful hymn that we’ll be singing today. It says:

Help us accept each other as Christ accepted us…

God bless us with wisdom and love to respond always with grace and humility. Amen.