“Holy interruptions

“Holy interruptions”

December 20, 2020
(Minister – Rev. Caesar J. David | Union Park United Methodist Church)
Note: December 20th service is A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols. Please
see full service on Facebook or YouTube.
Scripture Lessons:
1. Genesis 3:8-15, 17-19
2. Genesis 22:15-18
3. Isaiah 9:2, 6-7
4. Micah 5:2-5a
5. Luke 1:26-35, 38
6. Luke 2:1-7
7. Luke 2:8-16
8. Matthew 2:1-11
9. John 1:1-14
One of the things to note as we heard the Christmas story (told to us through
selected Scripture lessons and carols in this service) is that the birth of Jesus Christ
was according to a beautiful plan of God. A long standing prophecy of a promised
Messiah to save us, came true. That was God’s plan for Salvation of mankind. Mary
was the chosen one to bear Jesus Christ in her womb as the Word was made flesh.
Mary, a young girl of 14 or 15 could not be expected to understand the theology
and the spirituality of all this. From her perspective, she was rightly ‘perplexed’
(Luke 1:29) because this was an INTERRUPTION in her otherwise normal life. She was pledged to be married and as a young girl she must have been looking forward
to all the usual things of a happy marriage and setting up her new home.
We look to the Christmas season to be a time of perfect peace, harmony, and joy.
The first Christmas was not that way. It could have been seen as an interruption.
We all know interruptions too: This year, our lives have been interrupted because of
this pandemic. When we think of the things we couldn’t do as a Church and also as
individuals, we tend to feel discouraged. Our plans sometimes get messed up and
that can confuse us. Right now, at Christmas, it’s supposed to be “the most
wonderful time of the year”, but for many it is very difficult because something has
interrupted the joy. It may be sickness, death of a loved one, financial setbacks,
divorce, or loneliness, or any of those things that thwart our plans.
What was Mary’s response to the interruption in her life when the angel announced
to her that she is the chosen one and she will bear a child who is the Messiah? At
first, naturally, she was perplexed. But the angel said to her: “Do not be
afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God”. The Angel also explains to Mary that
“No Word from God will ever fail” (Luke 1:37). It is then that Mary is able to accept
this as a Holy Interruption and say 38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered.
“May your word to me be fulfilled.” (Luke 1:38). She had a holy response to the
holy interruption in her life.

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Mary’s response is like this:
 I’m scared
 I’m confused
 I don’t know what will happen
 I don’t know how it will happen
 But it’s from God
 God’s Will be done
 I will submit
 I will obey
Mary submitted herself to be used to accomplish God’s purposes and as God’s plans
proceeded, we have Jesus Christ, the Messiah, the Savior of the world. There is
hope for all mankind (humankind). Mary accepted the Holy interruption and she
offered a Holy response to it.
As the theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes in “Life Together”: We must be ready
to allow ourselves to be interrupted by God.
That’s right. God may interrupt us to use those moments to fulfil His plan
 to bless other people,
 to put me on the path of more blessing,
 to teach me something special,
 to give me rest,
 to strengthen my faith,
 to help me see the beauty of His creation,
 to help me understand how His Grace works,
 to show me what’s around me – other people,
 to humble me,
 to break me,
 to shape me,
 to mold me,
 to use me.
Sometimes it is in those moments of interruptions, in those special instances that
we may perhaps not understand completely just then, God reveals Himself in ways
we may never be experience otherwise!
Let’s pray for wisdom to see and try to understand those special moments when
God may choose to interrupt our life and our plans. Let’s seek His Strength and
Grace so that we can submit to His Plan more eagerly / readily. Thank God for Holy
Interruptions!

“Prepare ye the Way of the Lord

“Prepare ye the Way of the Lord” | December 6, 2020
(Minister – Rev. Caesar J. David | Union Park United Methodist Church)
Scripture Lessons: Isaiah 40:1-11; Mark 1:1-8
From our Scripture reading which tells us to “Prepare the Way of the Lord”, we know that there
is work to be done in preparation of the coming of Christ. Although Jesus was born and lived
2000 years ago and we’re just commemorating that day, the preparation that is needed is still
significant; it is still needed.
Let’s spend some time on meditating on the Preparation that John the Baptist is talking about
here. It is one thing to notice that there is work to be done. It is quite another one to realize that
you are the one who needs to do that work!
So, as we reflect on this, let’s make it personal. Let us understand this as the preparation that
we’re asked to make. What is that preparation?
When we think about preparation in the context of Christmas there’s a lot to be done. We are
usually quite ahead in our preparation of other kinds: for our parties, dinners, decorating the
house, presents and other fun stuff. In fact we prepare so much in advance for Christmas that
when Christmas finally rolls around you’re not that excited about it. Maybe.
Anyway, the preparation that we’re told about is for us as forerunners of Christ to prepare the
way in the sense of making it smooth and free from impediments, and also to inaugurate His
Reign and His Kingdom. Let’s focus on that for a bit as we talk of these two kinds of preparation
we’re called to make as we move forward in this Advent season seeking to celebrate the coming
of Christ in our world.
1. Preparation of our hearts
Some of the biggest impediments to witness, to growth and to blessings in general are not in the
path ahead of us, in the people around us, or even the circumstances surrounding us. It is
difficult, but important for us to realize and accept that sometimes they are not somewhere
outside but within us! And therefore John the Baptist is preaching a message of repentance as a
first step of that preparation. He proclaimed a ‘baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of
sins’. We have to actively deal with sin in our life. It is like cleaning: The kind of cleaning we do
when we’re expecting company at home to make them feel welcome because we’re excited and
happy to have them. If we’re happy this Christmas about the coming of Jesus then we’ll be
happy to undertake all that cleaning in preparation to welcome in our hearts. We have to repent
of our sins and feel the kind of remorse and sadness about it that stops us from walking further
away from God and instead, return to His loving, forgiving arms.
2. Preparation to inaugurate His Kingdom
The Kingdom of God is characterized by Love, Peace, Truth and Justice among other values
and principles. Every opportunity we have to show love, build peace, seek the truth and support
Justice is an opportunity in the direction of inaugurating and preparing the path (making the path
smooth) for consolidating the Reign of Christ on earth.
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One of the hardest things this year has been being able to come together for in-person Worship
services. We miss the hanging of the greens in the Church. May be some of us haven’t been in
the mood to even decorate our houses as usual since no one’s going anywhere or coming to
visit. It’s tough. We don’t have all the things this year that make it “Christmasy” and fun.
But think of it this way: we are stripped of all that is not really as important after all as Jesus
himself. As we think of John the Baptist in the wilderness wearing nothing but something
Camel’s hair clothes with a leather belt around his waist, and eating locusts and honey! Talk of
stripping down and bare essentials. It seems like this year as we’re being called to be the
forerunners of Christ, we’re stripped too in another sense. We’re stripped of our parties and get￾togethers and all the glitter and noise of Christmas that usually the world defines as ‘celebrating
Christmas’, and so we have an opportunity this year to quieten ourselves, retreat from the noise
and glitter, to be by ourselves perhaps, and bring our focus back to what’s really important.
We are forerunners of God’s Grace and Love and forgiveness. We’re the ones that prepare the
way for God’s Kingdom by being people of Love and Peace and Truth and Justice. We these
important gemstones of love, peace, truth, justice and so on. This year we’ve not been able to
do a lot of decorating but let’s think differently. Let’s think about decorating, not our Churches or
homes, but the world around us with God’s Goodness and Grace and Love. And it will dazzle
with the Glory of our King.
Let’s think about the opportunities we have for Inaugurating the Kingdom of God. It all begins by
looking inwardly and seeing if there’s some work to be done there. If there is, let’s get started.
Let’s prepare to receive the King of kings and Lord of lords. Let’s prepare to be the forerunners
to prepare the way for the Lord to inaugurate his kingdom of righteousness, of love and peace
and truth and justice.
God bless you.
Prayer
Gracious God, as we come in your presence in this season of advent and preparation, we
realize that there are so many things that we are not able to do that we did in the previous
years. But thank you for the unique opportunity we have in being stripped to the bare essentials
to understand what you really want us to do. Lord, as we understand the true significance and
the message of Christmas, and as we understand your expectation for us to be forerunners to
prepare the way for you, we ask that you would give us the eyes to see opportunities around us
to do that. Give us the strength and determination so that we may place ourselves as
instruments in your hands so that your Kingdom may come. Amen.

Acorn Anxieties

Acorn Anxieties – Rev. Doug Cue

Friends, I’m Doug Cue, Superintendent for the Southwest Region. I’m honored to bring you the word for the celebration.

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change … though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea … though its waters roar and foam … though the mountains tremble with its tumult. The nations are in an uproar … the kingdoms totter.

God’s voice resounds, the earth melts. The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Come, behold the works of the Lord. He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; he breaks the bow, and shatters the spear; he burns the shields with fire.

‘Be still, and know that I am God! I am exalted among the nations, I am exalted in the earth.’
The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. –Psalm 46:1-3,6-11

From the letter to the church at Philippi. Philippians 4:4-7

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. –Philippians 4:4-7

Friends, this is the word of God for we the people of God. Thanks be to God.

Folks both these passages will find expression in what we share here, but there’s also a third passage that I’d like to lift up as we begin. And it may be somewhat obscure for some of us. May have been some time since your last hearing of it. Quite possible that you’re not at all familiar with it. Familiarize yourself with it now. And I want to start with chapter one, verse one of the Book of Chicken Little.

Chicken Little liked to walk in the woods. One day as you are acorn fell from a tree, hit her in the head and Chicken Little exclaimed, “BOOOOOOCK” (Doug pulls on string of his chicken friend to create the noise)

Because that’s what chickens do, they, “BOOOOOCK”

But thank goodness the text translates it for us. Chicken Little exclaimed, “The sky is falling! I must run and tell the king!”

As she runs, she meets Henny Penny.

“Where are you going?” says Henny Penny.

“Oh Henny Penny the sky is falling! I’m going to tell king.”

“How do you know this guy is falling?”

And Chicken Little says, “Well I saw with my little eyes heard it with my own little ears and a piece of it fell on my poor little head.”

“Well,” Henny Penny says, “We must run and tell the king at once.

As you know, as they’re running, they meet, Lucy Goosey. Lucy Goosey, asked them, “Where y’all going?”

“This sky’s falling and we’re running to tell the king,” says Henny Penny.

“Well, how do you know the sky is falling?” asked Lucy Goosey.

“Chicken Little told me,” said Henny Penny.

Chicken Little said, “True. I saw with my own little eyes and a piece of it fell on my own little head.”

Lucy Goosey says, “We must run and tell the king at once.”

As they was a running they meet, Turkey Lurkey, who asked them, “Where y’all going?”

“Sky is falling we’re running tell the King,” says, Lucy Goosey.

“Well, how do you know the sky is falling?” asked Turkey Lurkey.

“Henny Penny told me,” said Lucy Goosey.

“Chicken Little told me,” said Henny Penny.

Chicken Little said, “True. I saw with my own little eyes, heard it with my own little ears and a piece of it fell on my poor little head.”

“Well, we must run until the king at once,” says Turkey Lurkey.

As they’re running, wouldn’t you know it, they meet Ducky Lucky, who asks them “Where y’all going?”

“Sky is falling and we’re going to tell the king,” says Turkey Lurkey.

“Well how do you know the sky’s falling?” asks Ducky Lucky?

“Lucy Goosey told me,” said Turkey Lurkey.

“Henny Penny told me,” said Lucy Goosey.

“Chicken Little told me,” said Henny Penny.

Chicken Little said, “True, saw it with my own little eyes, heard it with my own little ears and a piece of it fell on my poor little head.”

“Well, we must run until the king at once,” said Ducky Lucky.

As they’re running, they meet Foxy Loxy. Asks them, “Where y’all going,”

“Sky is falling we’re going to tell the king,” says Ducky Lucky.

And this is where the litany changes folks. Notice how Foxy Loxy responds here.

“Well, do you know where the king is?” Foxy Loxy asks.

“Well, I do not,” said Ducky Lucky.

“I do not,” said Turkey Lurkey.

“I do not,” said Lucy Goosey.

“I do not,” said Henny Penny.

Chicken Little said, “All I know is I saw it with my own little eyes, I heard with my own little ears, and a piece of it fell on my poor little head, and I do not know where the king is.”

“Well, I do,” said Foxy Loxy. He says, “Come with me and I’ll show you the way.”

And they run on and on until they come to Foxy Loxy’s den and “Run right in,” Foxy Loxy, he says, and they all ran in, but they never ever never came out again.

Folks there are three morals to this story. First is, be brave and do not panic when the acorns of life, take you under your poor little head. Second is always be careful that we don’t get caught up in other people’s hysteria when the acorns hit them in the head. And the third is that whenever we do tend to get collectively hysterical, there is always gonna be a Foxy Loxy around taking advantage of us.

In the fourth chapter of Philippians, Paul writes these words, be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God, and the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds who praise Jesus. Don’t you think that’s some information that Chicken Little could have used?

Now I don’t know what got stirred up when that acorn hit Chicken Little in the head. Maybe
Chicken Little had a boring little life, and he wanted to spice it up a little bit. Maybe Chicken
Little had little control over anything and worried about every little thing. Then again, maybe Chicken Little was a little less of a chicken than she thought, and a little more human than she appears. But my hunch is there’s some Chicken Little in and all of us.

Y’all remember that passage to the church in Philipi: Be anxious for nothing. Y’all got anything that’s kind of escalating your anxiety right now?

Largest wildfires that the state of California has ever seen going on right now. Historic wildfires raging in Colorado, right now. Hurricanes hammering the Gulf Coast, the number of them being so high this year that the World Meteorological Organization has had to resort to the Greek alphabet for the names. And the last two that hit the Gulf goes made landfall within 13 miles of one another. Y’all got anything else that’s kind of escalating your anxiety right now. Oh, that’s right, a global pandemic.

Folks it’s a brutal season. Our anxieties have escalated, it is almost as if they are in each of us, all of us in the midst of doing the best we can.

It’s not that we are unfamiliar with anxiety, we have mechanisms to deal with it, tools to address it. We weathered anxiety, but it’s the rapid escalation coupled with the inability to see the far horizon that drives our reaction. And I hope you all heard that. It’s the rapid escalation of our anxiety that drives not our response, but our reaction to it. And that’s when it becomes toxic. When we move from response to reaction. And all of a sudden that anxiety, much like a virus, don’t know if y’all have heard that word lately, much like a virus sets in.

Y’all remember Chicken Little. And y’all remember chicken littles friends? Unchecked, escalating anxiety, and it became infectious and they all caught it, and it became a pandemic. And their hysteria leads to their own undoing.

There’s more than just a little bit of Chicken Little in all of us.

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God, and the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, it’s going to guard your hearts and your minds, through Christ Jesus.

So, how is that working for you?

Is the peace of God, guarding your heart and your mind over the long haul in the better part of a year? What does this even look like for us?

Maybe, just maybe, it looks something like this, and we turn to Psalm 46, that God is our refuge and strength, very present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear. Though the earth should change, and there’s a word for you: change. Where I’m from, that’s a word that will get the choirs, clucking in the Southeast District I’ll tell you. Though the mountain shakes in the heart of the sea, those waters roar and foam, those mountains tremble, more nations in an uproar, kingdoms totter.

All this anxiousness.

And yet, he gathers us with his voice, and the God of Jacob is a refuge. Come behold the works of the Lord. He makes war cease to the end of the earth, he breaks the bow. He shatters the spear, he burns the shields with fire.

One of the tragic twists of the Chicken Little story is that it, it took so long for Chicken Little and his friends to travel to the king. They had confidence in the king’s ability to do something about the falling sky, they just had trouble finding the king.

In that Psalm 46 God says, Be still and know that I am God. I’m exalted among the nations, I’m exalted in the earth.

Where’s the king?

Well, the Lord of hosts is with us. God of Jacob is our refuge. God is our refuge and strength, very present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear as a people of faith. That is what we are called to remember. That we are not driven by our fear. And we are not called to overreact to our anxiety. But do hear the disclaimer here, to not be driven by our fear, and to not react to our anxiety is not a license for selfishness, or poor decision.

Don’t go running off into Foxy Loxy’s den, which is to say, don’t plan a vacation in a wildfire area. Don’t go swimming during a hurricane, and for goodness sake if you go out, were a mask, social distance, wash your hands, and do no harm.

But don’t be driven by your fear and anxiety.

Lord of Hosts is with us. Got to Jacob is our refuge. God is our refuge in strength a very present help in trouble. We don’t have to go looking for the king. God is close. God is at hand. God is very present. Sometimes we forget that.

There is a video clip that went viral several years back and I was unable to secure the permission for its use, but I do want to describe it for you. My hunch is that many of you are already familiar with it. It’s a video of two people stuck on an escalator. And if you were to Google search it, it would be one of the top results you would you would receive. Check it out.

Two people are waiting on an escalator. And it breaks down, a man and a woman stuck on an escalator. Man says out loud, “Oh that’s not good.” The woman comments, “Wouldn’t you know it, I forgot my phone.” They look around, and they finally begin to yell. “Hello! There are two people stuck on an escalator!” And the scene pans out and fades away as you see the two standing right on the escalator.

And as the scene fades back in a repairman with tools is coming to their aid. He gets on an adjacent escalator to right to the top. Everyone is relieved. They’re happy until the repair man’s escalator breaks down, and the video fades out to black

Folks, y’all want to know how to get off of a broken escalator? Pretty simple thing. Take a step. Y’all want to know what to do when lifes acorns keep falling on your head? Look up. If you’re under the oak tree, take a step. In the book of Jeremiah, God says you will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. All your heart, not just some half-hearted seeking where we keep one eye on our fear and the source of anxiety, and the other eye on God, no seeking God with all our heart. By moving from anxiousness to a less anxious place by taking a step toward God who is close, who is in hand, who is very present.

You know, several years back, I took a continuing ed class with Bill Selby, and it had to do with systems theory and anxiety and being a non-anxious presence. But as he ramped up that track one experience, I don’t know if he does this with every class, but we gathered around and he began to tell the story of Julian of Norwich. In the Norwich church in England, she was a Christian mystic, and was an anchoress, which is to say she lived her life in a cell with a window and was taken care of, but was devoted to prayer and contemplation and spent her life in that cell in the church in Norwich.

He had shared how he would often wonder how it might have been when she was sitting in the cell those days and looking out the window and she looked down upon the congregational setting and the sanctuary of the Norwich church. And the things she would have seen and what she would have done. Julian of Norwich was is widely known for her prayer, which is namely All Will Be Well. And my hunch is as she looked out that cell she probably started praying.

And she probably prayed,

(Doug singing and playing guitar)

All will be well,
All will be well,
All manner of things shall be well, All will be well.

I have a hunch every day she looked at the cell of that window and looked into the sanctuary and maybe, maybe got a glimpse of a room perhaps beyond that sanctuary. If there was a window or a door that happened to be open, or a curtain that was pulled, and if she was taken to another place within the church and seeing the things that folks were burdened with and in their place. The anxieties that they had and as they would jockey for position, and they would have their routines and their agendas and they would play their games.

(Doug singing and playing guitar)

All will be well,
All will be well,
All manner of things shall be well, All will be well.

Maybe there were even days where she looked out that cell window and looked through the doors of that sanctuary and look through the doors the gathering area and got a glimpse of the wider world and saw folks were busy about.

Hurricanes in the Gulf. Wildfires out west. Pandemics and finances and jobs and loss and grief. Isolation.

And I have prayed.

(Doug singing and playing guitar)

All will be well,
All will be well,
All manner of things shall be well, All will be well.

Take a step.

Take a step from the fear that drives you into a piece that embraces you. Take a step from anxiety that escalates to a presence that is not anxious. Take a step from isolation and step into the God who is close, who is at hand, and who is very present.

All will be well.

Thanks be the God. 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

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http://TomAndEllaJournal.com

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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.


https://www.facebook.com/crosstrackschurch/videos/381761519651221/?sfnsn=mo&amp;extid=a

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.

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©2020 Thomas E. Williams

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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“Encounter with God”

Encounter with God”

August 30, 2020
(Minister – Rev. Caesar J. David | Union Park United Methodist Church)

Scripture Lessons:

Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian; he led his flock beyond the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed. Then Moses said, “I must turn aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not burned up.” When the Lord saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.Then he said, “Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.”

Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” No, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Introduction.

Today we have a beautiful passage from Genesis that talks about Moses’ encounter with God. We’re all familiar with Moses and the Burning Bush. The word “encounter” has a lot of theological significance that goes beyond what the word denotes. The denotative meaning from the dictionary is: an unexpected or casual meeting with someone or something. It basically means ‘to run into’. And Moses, while taking care of his father-in-law’s flocks, quite literally ‘ran into’ God. And yet, this meeting, as we discover later, was more than a casual encounter because it had ramifications for
Moses’ life purpose and destiny, and in fact for the destiny of an entire nation, or nations. That is what we want to focus on as we talk a little bit about ‘Encounter with God’.

An Encounter with God is more than a distant admiration or an emotional 5 minutes in our life. It’s a ‘moment’ in our history, not just a moment of chronological time. It’s not a moment of emotional or spiritual high. It’s a life-transforming all-pervading and allpermeating experience.

Let’s see a few things that Moses learned from his Encounter with God. It tells about how God is like. When we encounter God or seek to draw closer to Him, we must know that it is the same God we meet today as Moses did that day.

1. Abundance of God

When you look carefully at the passage you will notice that Moses was not surprised that the bush was on fire. Some say that it just appeared that it was on fire. If there was fire then it’s really strange, but then many scholars tell us that in that location mountain fires, trees or bushes on fire was not such a strange phenomenon after all. What was strange, and what Moses went close to find out was why it didn’t get burned up, or consumed.

We know that, for the bush to keep burning it must have a continuous supply of fuel to keep the flames alive. That talks of the abundance of God, the unending supply of his Grace and Love. Our God is the God of abundance.

• Look at the example of Jesus providing for a crowd of more than 5000 people out of five loaves and two fish. The Bible tells us that all the people ate and were satisfied: They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. (Matthew 14:20).
• We also have the example of God’s provision of Manna in the wilderness as His people were on the way to the Promised land.
• Jesus said “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly”. (John 10:10). And while that can include material blessings also, those are secondary. What we’re seeking is Kingdom and His Righteousness. Matthew 6:33 says,
“Seek first the Kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added unto you”.

Coming back to Moses, The Lord passed before him, and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, (Exodus 34:6). What else do we need?

Why is it so important to know about God’s abundance? Why is it so precious? Let’s try to understand.
When we think of the Prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32), where younger son takes his share of wealth from his father and leaves home. He squanders all that wealth and then finding himself all alone and without means, remembers his fathers who he has wronged. He realizes his mistake and goes back home where he finds that his father had been waiting to welcome him with open arms with everything forgiven. We have often taken comfort from realizing that when we, like the prodigal son, repent and return to our heavenly Father, we are forgiven and welcomed.

Let me stretch the story of the prodigal son a little. What if, the prodigal son, after returning to his father’s house, stays meekly and obediently, and then after a while, for whatever reason, again fights with his father, takes his money and leaves on a second round of merry-making.

• Would you call him foolish to not have learned from his mistakes?
• Would you call him insensitive to hurt his loving father again?
• Would you call him ‘truly undeserving’ because he’s wasted even his second chance?
• Would you say that he hadn’t really repented in the first place if he made that mistake again?
• Would you say that he is a candidate for even more mercy and forgiveness?

Let’s look at ourselves. Have we perhaps done this? Have we stumbled and strayed even after we’ve tasted God’s Goodness and forgiveness? But in our stretched out ‘prodigal son’ story, let’s say that the son really realizes his mistakes, truly repents again, and comes back to his father’s house, what should the father do?

Here’s what our Heavenly Father would do: He would take you back. He would welcome you back, rejoice at your returning and forgive you again! You would bear the natural consequences of your choices, but when you want to come back to His arms, you’ll always find Him eagerly waiting! The caveat is that the repentance and remorse must be genuine. God would know if we’re trying to find loopholes to exploit His Grace!

That’s the heart of our Father God. That’s the limitless Grace and love of our abundant
God – abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness. We have other examples in the
Bible like the prophet Hosea who was asked by God to marry a prostitute. Hosea married Gomer who slept with other men. Very crass imagery, but that’s about as real as it happens. God was demonstrating His love for His people although the people were unfaithful to Him (How unfaithful? Hosea 4:12 says that the people of Israel
‘prostituted’ themselves to other gods).

If you’ve made mistakes and strayed away from God a second or a third time and feeling foolish or doubtful if you deserve God’s love, have no worry, if you’re really sorry and repenting of your sins, God’s Grace is abundant. 1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” God really loves you!

2. A communicating God

That brings us to a second aspect of this encounter that we must appreciate. God called out to Moses by name. God calls out to you and me today. We may not be able to hear it above the din that is around us.

We can be sure that our God is not a concept or an academic construct. Our God is a Personal God who watches over us, cares for us, and longs for fellowship with us.
When we pray to Him, we can be sure that God listens, understands and answers.

3. Simple but profound

Moses was doing his business of grazing the flock on an ordinary day in an ordinary way. This encounter of Moses with God completely changed him and his life. What seemed like a simple encounter and a chance meeting had such a profound impact on all nations and history. We don’t often pay attention to the little, simple and ordinary things in life because we don’t expect to find anything significant in them. But it is possible that the little moments of quietness, simple thoughts that compel little actions, the simple plans made by sincere minds, all these may glorify God. Not every revival begins in a dramatic way. Small changes, little acts of love, small beginnings, small dreams, small, unsteady steps, all these don’t seem like much but can all have a big impact. We must learn to recognize God’s Hand in our day-to-day affairs and acknowledge the little miracles that surround us.

One of my favorite poems is William Blake’s “Auguries of innocence”. I like the way he starts by drawing attention to the profound in the seemingly simple:

To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour…

And it continues.

Conclusion.

Here are some questions I want to leave with you –

• Where might you encounter (or have encountered) God? It could be an unlikely place.
• Do you realize His abundance of love and faithfulness?
• Does that fill you with joy and hope for yourself and your loved ones?
• Do we take the time to talk to Him and also listen to what He has to say?
• Moses was used by God to free His people from slavery in Egypt. Can we make ourselves available to be used by God to liberate people from slavery to fears, defeat and hopelessness.

Prayer.

Heavenly Father,
Thank you for your Love, forgiveness, Grace and restoration. Make us eager to heed your voice and to walk in obedience to your Will and plan for our lives. Help us to see and acknowledge your Greatness in everything so that we may honor you in everything.
In Jesus’ precious name we pray, Amen.