“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.

"Communicating Community

"Communicating Community

September 6,2020

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

Psalm 149

Praise the Lord! Sing to the Lord a new song, his praise in the assembly of the faithful. Let Israel be glad in its Maker; let the children of Zion rejoice in their King. Let them praise his name with dancing, making melody to him with tambourine and lyre.

For the Lord takes pleasure in his people; he adorns the humble with victory.

Let the faithful exult in glory; let them sing for joy on their couches. Let the high praises of God be in their throats and two-edged swords in their hands, to execute vengeance on the nations and punishment on the peoples, to bind their kings with fetters and their nobles with chains of iron, to execute on them the judgment decreed.

This is glory for all his faithful ones.

Praise the Lord!

Matthew 18:15-20

“If another member of the church[a] sins against you,[b] go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one.[c] But if you are not listened to, take one or two others along with you, so that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. 19 Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.”

"Communicating Community”

Our passage for meditation from the Gospel according to Matthew reads like the classic steps in a conflict resolution manual, but of course,we can take some of the principles it talks about and use it as a general directive for all times.

Before we begin,we have to acknowledge that this passage presents some difficulties. For example, the instructions and tone do not seem to be congruent with the ministry of Jesus that leans even more towards tenderness and forgiveness. But we must also bear in mind that Jesus did expel the merchants and the money changers from the Temple (as they sought to make it a place of business and material profit), and that did not mean that he hated them. He just hated what they were doing. Some scholars also feel that this passage sounds much more like the regulations of an ecclesiastical committee.

Talking of this, the words “Ecclesia”is translated asChurch” (NRSV), but the organized Church with a system of ecclesiastical discipline and a formal body as we have now, did not exist then, so it must refer to the Church in its functional sense of ‘assembly’, ‘gathering’ or’ community’ rather than an institutional sense.

In any case,we want to move beyond an exegesis of the passage to understand and learn some vital principles that come through very strongly in this instructive passage. It is especially good instruction today as many of us will partake of the Holy Communion, or at least join in faith and in spirit to be in communion with Jesus and with each other as we all make up the Body of Christ. The passage has definite pointers for us as a communicating community.

This reads a little like your typical Logical Framework Analysis (LFA) and can be broken down into Objective, Strategy, Method, Indicators, Outcome, Impact and so on. (In case that kind of thing appeals to you, you can read it like that).

Anyway, let’s simplify it to the essentials.

  1. The recommended method of resolving matters is communication.

Notice that the instructions are to first go and talk directly to the person who has wronged us. We are to do that privately so that it’s between the person who has done wrong and the one who feels has been wronged. What usually happens is that we talk about the person instead of to the person, and that can blow the issue out of proportion and out of our hands so that we may not be able to manage or contain it.

We’ve all had this experience when we run a whole scene in our own minds imagining responses and counter – responses. Sometimes we get agitated simply imagining a negative response and we haven’t even talked to the person yet!

The story is told about a man driving along at night and his car had a flat tire. He had a spare but no jack. He saw a light burning in a nearby house and started walking towards it. While walking toward the house he imagined asking to borrow a jack. Seeing it was night, this man imagined the house owner to be irritated at being disturbed. This was all

This was all playing out in his imagination: The man would ask him why he didn’t have a jack and scold him for being careless and disturbing other people for his mistake. By this time as the man had pressed the doorbell, he was convinced that the man inside is going to be rude, nasty and mean. That’s why, as soon as the door opened, even before the man inside could say anything, our man shouted at him” don’t want it! You can keep your jack!” and walked away.

We also do that sometimes. We start imagining things that may be far removed from reality and that can sometimes cause problems.

There are many things that can be said about communication. With our advances in communication technology it is possible to communicate in a wide variety of ways. While they offer many conveniences of speed and ease, there is no substitute for personal face-to-face communication in each others’ presence because of our capacity to communicate with more than our language and words. Our tone, eyes, touch, all of these are important for communication. There are times when we don’t say what we really mean and at other times we don’t mean what we say.

The way to keep honest but loving too brings us to the other point about this communication.

  1. The Objective is reconciliation and build, not criticize and tear down.

If we’re motivated by love and the desire to reconcile knowing that we’re a community, we will be careful of not tearing down or hurting the other person. So,our objective is to reconcile and build and strengthen the community, not to criticize,tear down or destroy.

  1. The Outcome is true Communion when Jesus is present with us.

When we seek to communicate in love, we make space for a dialog and we create an opportunity for mutual understanding. We create a loving environment that communicates love and shows that we all care for each other and want the community whose members are loving, mutually accountable, responsible -for – each- other, and which is a disciplined body.

The last two verses in our passage say that ‘where two or three are gathered, there l will be’. It talks about unity, about reconciliation, about harmony because it is in that kind of ‘coming together’ and ‘being in agreement with each other’, that we’ll have the kind of environment that honors Christ and welcomes Him.

Let’s be thankful for the Church-for the community, for each other where we can openly communicate and have communion as a family of God.

God bless you.

Prayer

Heavenly Father,

Thank you for the opportunities to be a community to edify and protect each other.Teach us to communicate in such a way that we can experience the communion that you meant for us to have as your family and with you present.

Amen.

“God and You”

Guest Minister: Rev. Caesar J. David of Union Park United Methodist Church, Des Moines, Iowa

  • Scripture Lessons:
Genesis 22:1-14
After these things God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains that I shall show you.” So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac; he cut the wood for the burnt offering, and set out and went to the place in the distance that God had shown him. On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place far away. Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; the boy and I will go over there; we will worship, and then we will come back to you.” Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. So the two of them walked on together. Isaac said to his father Abraham, “Father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” He said, “The fire and the wood are here, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” Abraham said, “God himself will provide the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So the two of them walked on together.

When they came to the place that God had shown him, Abraham built an altar there and laid the wood in order. He bound his son Isaac, and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to kill his son. But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven, and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” And Abraham looked up and saw a ram, caught in a thicket by its horns. Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called that place “The Lord will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.”

Matthew 10:40-42
“Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous; and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple—truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.”
Sermon“God and You”

God provided for Abraham so that he didn’t need to sacrifice his son, lsaac. God provided a ram for the sacrifice instead. Abraham called that place “Jehovah Jireh” (The Lord will provide).

There are a just a couple of things to note as we understand God as our provider in a very personal way.
God knows what you need. Our God is a personal God.We have a personal relationship with God.Sure we can worship Him as a family, as a Church family or as a community, but God has you in sight as an individual too. Last week we read in the Scripture passage we read from Matthew about how intimately God knows you (Even the hairs on your head are numbered!).
And we each have our own sets of needs and individual circumstances. God knows exactly what they are.God knows your struggles, your disappointments, your fears, your secrets. God knows what you need. It may be different from what I need, or from what your spouse needs. God is aware of your individual, personal needs – physical, emotional, spiritual, etc.2. You must have faith. Because of the personal relationship we each have with God, we must seek to strengthen it by a personal effort. That would include adding personal meditation time to corporate worship, praying to have personal conversation with God and making time to listen to Him, making changes in behavior, priorities, attitudes and so on so that my life becomes pleasing to Him, and I can honor Him with my personal talents and resources. lt also means that I must exercise my faith.
In Matthew 9:20-22,we read about the woman who suffered with the ‘issue of blood’ who made her way through the crowds to Jesus with the thought, ‘if l could only touch the hem of His garment, I will be healed’, exhibited that kind of faith and connection that is needed. She was part of a crowd following Jesus,but she stood out from the rest of the crowd by reaching out to personally touch Jesus,and in that she received a personal blessing – she was healed.
Hebrews 11:6 says,”Without faith it is impossible to please God”. Faith is sort of, a precondition for blessing in the sense of being in preparation of and alignment with the outpouring of God’s blessings.
3. God’s provision is unique for you. We sometimes get disappointed because we look at how God has cared for or provided for someone we know, but God is not doing anything for us. God has made us each unique. His provision for each of us is also unique. We cannot compare our burdens with those of others, neither blessings. It can be such a comfort to know that no matter how strange our circumstances may be, how convoluted and entangled we feel, God has a perfect solution. We need to stay faithful and stay in faith to see God’s unique, timely, sufficient and awesome provision.
While God cares for our temporal needs and answers our prayers for these, His love for us is so great that it covers us for all eternity. God has made a provision for us to be saved from eternal death and have eternal life instead. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life”.
Gen. 22:2 He said, “Take your son,your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.
2 Chr.3:1 Then Solomon began to build the house of the LORD in Jerusalem on Mount Moriah, where the LORD had appeared to David his father, at the place that David had appointed, on the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite.
Scholars debate over if Moriah the same place – Golgotha, where Jesus was crucified as the sacrificial lamb after many centuries. Genesis mentions “land of Moriah” vs. “Mount Moriah.” in 2 Chronicles or the vicinity where the Jerusalem temple was built after hundreds of years. lt certainly is in the vicinity.
Leaving aside the history and geography of the debate aside,let’s note that Jehovah Jireh- The Lord provides – not only things we need in our earthly life, but Life for all eternity. It’s the same place where God provided for Abraham a ram to take the place of his son, lsaac as sacrifice so that he may not physically die,that,God provided his own Son, Jesus,to be the perfect and sinless sacrifice for our sins so that we may not die the eternal death that we deserve for our sins.
God knows what you need.
You must have faith.
God’s provision is unique for you. God has the ultimate provision for you – Eternal Life. God bless you to understand His Word and to respond to His Love for you so that, if you haven’t already, you must taste and see that the Lord is Good and His Mercy endures forever.
Also visit my other blogs

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"Light for my path

Guest Minister-Rev.Caesar J.David|Union Park UMC, Des Moines, Iowa

Scripture Lessons:

Psalm 119:105-112

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.

106 I have sworn an oath and confirmed it, to observe your righteous ordinances.

107 I am severely afflicted; give me life, O Lord, according to your word.

108 Accept my offerings of praise, O Lord, and teach me your ordinances.

109 I hold my life in my hand continually, but I do not forget your law.

110 The wicked have laid a snare for me, but I do not stray from your precepts.

111 Your decrees are my heritage forever; they are the joy of my heart.

112 I incline my heart to perform your statutes forever, to the end.

Matthew 13:1-9,18-23

13 That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. 2 Such great crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat there, while the whole crowd stood on the beach. 3 And he told them many things in parables, saying: “Listen! A sower went out to sow. 4 And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up. 5 Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil. 6 But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away. 7 Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. 8 Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. 9 Let anyone with ears listen!”

18 “Hear then the parable of the sower. 19 When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in the heart; this is what was sown on the path. 20 As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; 21 yet such a person has no root, but endures only for a while, and when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, that person immediately falls away.[a] 22 As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing. 23 But as for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”

Light For My Path

Our Gospel reading is Jesus’ Parable of the Sower.The Parable of the sower is an ‘allegory’ about the Kingdom of God. The seed is used as a metaphor for the Word of God.And the parable goes on to describe the various kinds of soils that the Word of God can be received in, and depending on which,the result will be a crop being produced or not.

Our lectionary reading from Psalm 119 also tells about the Word of God.One of the conclusions we draw from Psalm 119 is that the Bible is more than “just another religious book”. It is not an academic textbook for learning about religion or even life.The Bible is a dynamic book.It is living. It speaks words that have power.

In v.105,the lamp and light is used as a metaphor for the Word of God. Other metaphors used for the Word of God are: sword, mirror, milk, hammer, fire, etc. Psalm 119:105 says,”Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path”.

Today’s message is a simple reminder about the Word of God as it lights up our path.

The first thing that the Word of God, as Light, does for us is:

1.It clearly shows us where we stand.

It clearly shows us if we’re standing in the danger spot of our own sin, bitterness, arrogance, stubbornness, unforgiveness, injustice, hard-heartedness, and idolatry.

We may be good, virtuous, righteous in our own sight, but the Word of God reveals us as sinners and as people prone to sin.We may look good in our own eyes,or even in the eyes of people around us,but the Word of God shines its light in the darkest corners of our hearts.

When we walk in ignorance, we may continue making mistakes,sometimes even being unaware of them, God’s Word lights up our path so that we can be sure that we’re walking in the right direction.

2.It is the absolute standard so that we need never doubt. We sometimes measure our steps and direction, right or wrong, according to our own ideas and framework of knowledge. At other times, we measure our steps and evaluate ourselves based on what people say, what society says.That can sometimes leave us feeling inadequate and deficient. The only sure way to know is The Word of God which is the absolute standard of Truth and makes everything clear.

3.The Word of God,as light, directs our steps and keeps us headed in the right direction. It enables us to see mot only dangers,but also the opportunities ahead of us Without the Word of God to enlighten us of the kind of obstacles that are in our way, we would trip and fall. Without the Word of God shining on our path to tell us which is the right path to take and which is the one to avoid, we may end up going the way of complete destruction. It is the Word of God that lights up our way and keeps us on the path of blessing,the path of peace, protection and prosperity.

If we have been neglecting to read the Word of God, let’s begin today. Open your Bible and start reading. The Word of God is dynamic. The Bible is alive and active. It will speak to you and your particular situation. You will discover for yourself how it will be like a lamp directing your steps and illuminating your path so that you will find yourself in alignment with God’s plan for your life. There are blessings to be discovered.

The Bible: banned, bumed, beloved. More widely read, more frequently attacked than any other book in history. Generations of intellectuals have attempted to discredit it; dictators of every age have outlawed it and executed those who read it. Yet soldiers carry it into battle believing it more powerful than their weapons. Fragments of it smuggled into solitary prison cells have transformed ruthless killers into gentle saints.” -Charles Colson

That power of the Word of God is available to you and me today.

Let the Word of God light your path, and light up your life. God bless you.

Also visit my other blogs

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“Be yoked”

Guest Minister – Rev, Caesar J. David, Union Park United Methodist Church, Des Moines, Iowa

Scripture Lessons:

Psalm 45:10-17
Listen, daughter, and pay careful attention:

Forget your people and your father’s house.
Let the king be enthralled by your beauty; honor him, for he is your lord.
The city of Tyre will come with a gift,people of wealth will seek your favor.
All glorious is the princess within her chamber; her gown is interwoven with gold.
In embroidered garments she is led to the king;
her virgin companions follow her—those brought to be with her.
Led in with joy and gladness,
they enter the palace of the king. Your sons will take the place of your fathers;

you will make them princes throughout the land. I will perpetuate your memory through all generations;

therefore the nations will praise you for ever and ever.

Matthew 11:25-30

At that time Jesus said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Be yoked”

As we celebrate Independence day (USA). It’s the day when we thank God for having the freedom as a country and also as individuals. What’s the difference? We must realize that there are countries in the world that are independent, but that does not automatically translate to freedom for its people.

If we think about our freedom and privileges against the backdrop of what’s happening in other countries around the world, maybe we will realize how precious this freedom is. We may have been taking it for granted or even feeling entitled. It is indeed our privilege; we’re just blessed to have it. We must ponder over a few things as we think about our freedom. For example, we must ask if our exercise of freedom is getting in the way of other people s experience of freedom that they’re also entitled to. Do I care? May be not. But what happens when someone else’s idea of freedom gets in my face? I hope we’re grappling with those kind of questions as we think of our freedom on this occasion of Independence day.

  • Am I abusing the freedom I have?

  • Am I misusing the freedom I have?

  • Am I under-using the freedom I have?

There may not be clear-cut answers, but we do have certain directions that we can think in. And that direction comes from the Word of God which alone is the path of blessing.

So, we cherish our freedom. God made us free. God gives freedom and our national constitution ensures it. With the kind of fierce independence that is our very soul, it might be hard to read a passage such as in Matthew 11:25-30 which talks about a Yoke. First of all, what’s a yoke? The dictionary says: a wooden crosspiece that is fastened over the necks of two animals and attached to the plow or cart that they are to pull.

Lets talk about this yoke and what it may mean for as especially as we re thinking about this great land of America, freedom and the current context.

1. Yoke signifies partnership.

First of all there is the concept of partnership. It s a move away from being alone. The concept of partnership is strongly recommended in the Bible. Right from creating man and woman as a couple, to the pairs of animals in Noah’s ark, to Jesus sending out the apostles two by two, and later the promise of the Holy Spirit to comfort, guide and accompany us, we know that God wants us to have help and not struggle in our own strength.

So, being yoked would also mean having Jesus as a partner, He’s there to help and lighten your burden. His yoke, His way, is the lighter load to bear in this world in which there are forces that work to destroy us. Praise God for Jesus is with us. He struggles with us. He shares our burden and makes it light. He takes upon Himself the biggest burden which is the burden of sin and its resultant punishment. And that is why we’re free – from the burden of sin and eternal death.

Take my yoke upon you.,. and you will find rest for your souls’. Yoke signifies control.

The idea of ‘being controlled’ can be repulsive at first blush. But let s think a little deeper about the whole idea of control. Is all control bad? Is it helpful in some way?

For example, is it helpful in the sense of having a direction, purpose and becoming a blessing. The yoke is part of the instrument and process that is used to plough the land, to make it fertile and productive. Taking that yoke means giving a degree of control to God for us to be used as a blessing in that land. President Kennedy spoke these famous words “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country”. And I’m sure that we all find that inspiring and we seek to do everything in our power to make our country great.

This Independence day, let’s think about the ways in which I am a blessing to this land.

Being yoked also removes the focus from ourselves and we know that ifs not all about me Freedom and Responsibility are just two sides of the same coin. Sometimes we take more seriously our freedom and not seriously enough our responsibility and what we owe. When we are able to look beyond ourselves well know that it s also about the land that I belong to, the people of this land; it’s about us all.

When we re yoked with Christ, our lives are in tandem with the values of Christ. These values and principles include 一

love and forgiveness,

unity, peace and justice,

serving and being the least

putting ourselves last

forbearance and kindness

equality

etc.

May God bless us to understand His Word and to accept His offer of Salvation, His offer of unburdening ourselves and becoming an instrument of blessing to people and the land that we co-habit.

-Prayer

Heavenly Father,

Thank you for blessing us to have the privileges of this land and its people. Forgive our arrogance, ignorance and negligence. Teach us to be sensitive, grateful and eager to be a blessing. Help us find rest within so that we will have peace around us.

Amen.

“ March forward”

Guest Minister -Rev. Caesar J. David, Pastor, Union Park United Methodist Church, Des Moines, Iowa

Video of service

Scripture Lessons:

Psalm 116

I love the Lord, because he has heard my voice and my supplications. Because he inclined his ear to me, therefore I will call on him as long as I live. What shall I return to the Lord for all his bounty to me?

I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord, I will pay my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people.
Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his faithful ones. O Lord, I am your servant; I am your servant, the child of your serving girl. You have loosed my bonds. I will offer to you a thanksgiving sacrifice and call on the name of the Lord.
I will pay my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people, in the courts of the house of the Lord, in your midst, O Jerusalem.
Praise the Lord!

Matthew 9:35-10:8

Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” Then Jesus summoned his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to cure every disease and every sickness. These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon, also known as Peter, and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed him.

These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. As you go, proclaim the good news, ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. You received without payment; give without payment.

“ March forward”This passage from Matthew contains the account of Jesus calling and sending out the Twelve Apostles. When we read further in the passage (v. 16ff), Jesus lets them know that it is not an easy task that they have been given. They will have to face persecutions and hardships.
It is like soldiers being sent out to battle. And talking of battles an d soldiers, we have a very beautiful Hymn that you will be singing in this service. It’s called “Onward Christian Soldiers”. It’s a sort of controversial hymn.
The hymn began as no more than a simple processional song, something for children to sing as they crossed the village of Horbury Bridge to the parish church (Yorkshire, England). The author, Sabine Baring-Gould (1834–1924) who was a school master, later became a Pastor, in writing this hymn set the scene for the spiritual conflict between Jesus and the devil. It became controversial because of the perceived militarism in text and music (“St. Gertrude” which is the second tune used in an arrangement by George Sullivan in 1871). Now, we won’t get into the details of the Anglican / Roman Catholic ecclesial understanding of the states of Church – the Church Militant, Church Penitent and Church Triumphant, but let’s just say that history had some chapters like the Crusades, holy wars and other wars and so on. And it wasn’t easy to ignore the nationalistic and militaristic overtones of this Hymn.
It comes as little surprise, then, to learn that “Onward, Christian Soldiers” was initially to be excluded from The United Methodist Hymnal (1989). The decision was picked up by local newspapers and national broadcasters, unleashing a wave of protest from across The United Methodist Church (some eleven thousand pieces of mail were sent to the hymnal committee).
The restoration of the hymn resulted from a course of healthy debate over the use of military imagery, and recognizing its biblical and early Christian origins. People still thought that it may be dangerous in perpetuating the acceptability of religious warfare — metaphorical or otherwise.
Professor of Preaching Emeritus Thomas Long’s 2012 article in The Christian Century, “The absurd in worship,” suggests another meaning to the hymn — not in viewing the church as an entity able to militaristically destroy its enemies, but as one that “makes no advance except that of love, and has no enemy but that which undermines God’s hope for human flourishing.”
Today, if we are to consider ourselves as soldiers – Christian soldiers that are at war, it would not be incorrect, for we are indeed at war. Of what kind? Let’s see. The theme of spiritual warfare is deep in the Bible. Many Christian denominations still speak of “The Church Militant”. The Methodists define it as those “engaged in constant warfare against the world, the flesh and the devil…Ephesians 6 talks about the battle gear! It says ‘put on the whole armor of God’ and it goes on to mention (Ephesians 6:10-20):
 Belt of Truth.  Breastplate of Righteousness.
 Feet fitted with readiness to proclaim the Gospel of Peace.
 Shield of Faith.
 Helmet of Salvation.
 Sword of the Spirit — The Word of God.
Notice who we’re fighting. Eph 6:12 says: For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.Coming back to our text (I want to focus on Matthew 10:8), Jesus sent out his Apostles with very specific instructions:
Mat t 10:8a – Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons.
No doubt, Jesus also healed physical ailments and expects those He sends on His behalf to do the same, but there’s a deeper spiritual dimension to this and we need to understand that in the larger, scheme of Jesus’ teaching and ministry about justice, gender-justice, peace, equality, affirmative action, call to faith and service, affirmation of the Reign of God, socio-economic sensitivity and so on – what these might further mean.1. Cure the sick.
One of the main signs of being sick is being weak. And it works both ways: weakness can lead to sickness, and sickness can lead to weakness. In any case, there is a close connection for us to know that the people who are weak are sick or close to being sick. Going beyond the physical affliction and understanding it metaphorically as well, we can see that people can be weakened in the sense of being disempowered and disenfranchised. People can be divested of their power to make choices, weakened to the point of subsistence or even substandard living, or forced by circumstances to not have the strength or opportunity to make changes to lift themselves out of those circumstances.The Gospel of Jesus Christ is a great comfort in seeking to address these struggles. The Good news is that God is interested in our affairs and struggles with us for justice and peace.As people ‘called out’ and ‘sent’ to heal and cure the sick, we need to l ook at how we may bring healing to the lives of the people afflicted in every way, not only physical, but spiritual, social and economic too. Our efforts to do that may take us into the area of charity, social justice, advocacy and focusing on people in the margins of our society. It’s not easy and we may find ourselves indeed contending with the ‘powers and principalities’ of this world.2. Raise the dead
There is the obvious message for people ‘dead’ in sin – so mired in sin that this condition has removed people far from the source of life and light. If we are in that state, we can rejoice in the hope we have in the Gospel message of Jesus Christ that gives life.When we see others in this condition, we need to reflect and shine the light of Christ in a way that they are brought to the saving and life-giving knowledge of the love of our Savior Jesus Christ.We may also be dead in the sense that we don’t feel anything – nothing moves us. We lose our sensitivity, our conscious is dead. If we find people around us in that state, may be, our efforts could be towards building awareness so that we would all be alive and alert to what ails us as a society and what our responsibility should be to contribute to the health of our society and world.
If we have become dispassionate or come across apathy, let’s make efforts to reignite the passion for the kind of life that God meant for us all to have as His created beings. The Good News of Jesus Christ includes abundant life for all.3. Cleanse the lepers
We know that lepers were considered unclean. They had to live on the outskirts of the town. They were not allowed to use the same resources as other people. Today, we may or may not have people around us that are afflicted with the disease of leprosy, but in our social treatment of some people we certainly have ‘social lepers’ – people that we keep far from us. And we’re not talking only about the redlining of neighborhoods. This can perhaps educate us about those that are ostracized, marginalized and relegated to live in shame or fear on the periphery of our mainstream society. Who could these people be? May be those that are of a different orientation, or people with a different skin color, or a certain race / nationality, may be disabled, may be those that hold a different ideology, and so on. When we observe systems and people that discriminate and exclude some people from mainstream activity, we must counter that with actively building up inclusive, democratic and participatory processes towards a more egalitarian society. That will cleanse the leprosy and there won’t be lepers. Can we understand that as as we do a social reading of the Gospel message?4. Cast out demons
A demon-possessed person was a person in the grip of an evil power; he or she was no longer in control of himself/herself and of their actions. The various manifestations of evil can be seen in the diabolical crimes and atrocities we see committed. For example, there are crimes against women and children, violence and injustice that are really demonic and represent forces of evil, death and destruction. When we make efforts to root out these evils, we’re participating in building up the Kingdom of God, because then we’re replacing these dark things with the Reign of God – replacing hatred with love, revenge with tolerance, selfishness with compassion, suspicion with trust, greed with caring and so on. We can bring faith, hope and love to counter the demons of our society.I hope that we are able to see what an important task we have in taking the Gospel of Jesus Christ to a broken world that really needs it. As we understand our responsibilities as followers of Jesus and as His apostles, we will have a sense of being at war. It indeed is! We have been given authority. We have been equipped. Let’s march in faith. Let’s march in His love and His strength. Onward Christian soldiers!God bless you.

“The Family of God”

The Family of God” | June 7, 2020

(Minister – Rev. Caesar J. David) Union Park UMC, Des Moines, Iowa

Scripture Lessons:

Psalms 8

Unto the end. For the oil and wine presses. A Psalm of David. O Lord, our Lord, how admirable is your name throughout all the earth! For your magnificence is elevated above the heavens. Out of the mouths of babes and infants, you have perfected praise, because of your enemies, so that you may destroy the enemy and the revenger. For I will behold your heavens, the works of your fingers: the moon and the stars, which you have founded. What is man, that you are mindful of him, or the son of man, that you visit him? You reduced him to a little less than the Angels; you have crowned him with glory and honor, and you have set him over the works of your hands. You have subjected all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen, and in addition: the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, which pass through the paths of the sea. O Lord, our Lord, how admirable is your name throughout all the earth!

O Lord, our Lord, how admirable is your name throughout all the earth! For your magnificence is elevated above the heavens. Out of the mouths of babes and infants, you have perfected praise, because of your enemies, so that you may destroy the enemy and the revenger. For I will behold your heavens, the works of your fingers: the moon and the stars, which you have founded. What is man, that you are mindful of him, or the son of man, that you visit him? You reduced him to a little less than the Angels; you have crowned him with glory and honor, and you have set him over the works of your hands. You have subjected all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen, and in addition: the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, which pass through the paths of the sea. O Lord, our Lord, how admirable is your name throughout all the earth!

Matthew 28:16-20

Now the eleven disciples went on to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had appointed them. And, seeing him, they worshipped him, but certain ones doubted. And Jesus, drawing near, spoke to them, saying: “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go forth and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have ever commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, even to the consummation of the age.”

Today is Trinity Sunday. It brings us face to face with a mystery of God which makes us realize really how finite our understanding is. We have stretched our minds to the fullest to understand the Trinity. We have several examples and analogies, but they all fall short of explaining exactly how the Three Persons of the Trinity – Father, Son and Holy Spirit are one God. Three in One and One in Three – The One Triune God.

“To meditate on the three Persons of the Godhead is to walk in thought through the garden eastward in Eden and to tread on holy ground. Our sincerest effort to grasp the incomprehensible mystery of the Trinity must remain forever futile, and only by deepest reverence can it be saved from actual presumption.” –A.W. Tozer.

Indeed, we must realize that, with our finite little understanding, we cannot understand all things. That is where faith comes in. Like Augustine said, “The limits of our reason make faith a necessity”. If we presume to know or understand all the mysteries of God, it may be almost arrogant of us as human beings – too presumptuous for our own good. We have to be humble enough to realize and accept that we are too small to understand God and His vastness – the vastness and depth of His Love, His Mind, His Plans, His Ways. We have to let God be God. (Read Romans 9:13ff). We have already read Psalm 8 as one of our Scripture lessons. Verse 4 says, “What is man (human being) that you are mindful of him?”. We are nothing in front of the vastness and beauty of God’s awesome creation.

While we may not have a clear understanding of some doctrines, we must not despair because we can know, and do know, what is sufficient for us to understand His Love, to respond to His Love, to care for His creation which includes us all, and so on.

Some things however, have been clearly revealed and spelled out for us. Like the Great Commission that we’re studying this morning. As we focus on this passage, I want to look at 2 important principles or concepts that emerge from here that are important to understand as we seek to ‘do mission’.

1. Disciple -making presumes love for God and love for people. This is basic. Disciple making is helping people to trust and follow Jesus. Why would we want people to have the benefit of God’s Love if we didn’t care for them and also want them to be saved? If you didn’t love God, why would you want His Kingdom to grow? These are indicative of our love for God and for people that is at the very root of disciple-making.

The imperative command of Jesus is “Make disciples”. How we do it is by going, baptizing (joining the family of God) and teaching (not just academic or intellectual instruction, but taught to the point of responding to God in obedience).

Sometimes, an ‘empire’ or ‘colonial’ mindset that has shaped our environment and us, or continues to influence us, gives us an understanding of doing things by way of an ‘imperial conquest’.

History bears evidence of the failures of such wrong understanding of disciple making. Such efforts can result in people becoming Christians by religion, but not by relationship with Christ. And that would be proselytizing, not disciple-making.

That is why it is important to understand that disciple-making has within it the objective and method of love.

Before the Great Commission, Jesus gave his disciples (us) the Great Commandment “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27).

Love needs to be expressed through helping, caring, sharing, encouraging, protecting, forgiving, sacrificing, trusting and so on.

As we focus on the growth of God’s Kingdom, we could start with these simple acts of love and kindness that prepare the way for disciples to be made.

2. We are called to reach all people. The Great Commission clearly tells us to “Make disciples of all nations” (Italics mine).

We have already clarified what ‘making disciples’ entails. It is chiefly loving people and leading them to respond to God whereby they become part of God’s family (leading to other things in that relationship like discipleship, obedience, and so on).

The word translated ‘nations’ in Matthew 28:19 comes from the word ‘ethnos’ which means “a race (as of the same habit), that is, a tribe; specifically a foreign (non-Jewish) one (usually by implication pagan): – Gentile, heathen, nation, people”.

Scholars say that, perhaps ‘people groups’ comes closest to describing what ‘nations’ is trying to convey. It means every people group, language group and so on.

The crux of the concept is inclusivity. Sometimes we tend to become exclusive, in -grown, cliquish, and unloving. We forget that we’re not alone, that there are other people around us who have needs too, sometimes greater than our own. And perhaps we shy away because we are afraid or just plain uncomfortable. We need to become intentional about reaching out to others.

There are always going to be differences amongst people – race, color, ethnicity, language and so on. We can keep slicing our society on the basis of differences and find that we have slices that are so thin that they cannot stand by themselves. We have to reach out across our differences – reaching out to share, to help, to love, to make disciples.

Have you heard the Disneyland song It’s a small world (listen to it on YouTube)? It was created for the 1964 New York World’s Fair. The composer of the song, Richard Sherman composed this just after the Cuban missile crisis. It focuses on tolerance, empathy and kindness.

1. It’s a world of laughter A world of tears It’s a world of hopes And a world of fears

There’s so much that we share That it’s time we’re aware It’s a small world after all It’s a small world after all It’s a small world after all It’s a small world after all It’s a small, small world

2. T here is just one moon And one golden sun And a smile means Friendship to ev’ryone Though the mountains divide And the oceans are wide It’s a small world after all.

( Source: Musixmatch, Songwriters: Richard Sherman / Robert Sherman
Musixmatch, Songwriters: Richard Sherman / Robert Sherman
It’s a Small World (It’s a Small World) lyrics © Wonderland Music Co. Inc., Wonderland Music Co. Inc., Wonderland Music Company Inc., Wonderland Music Company Inc, Wonderland Music Co., Inc., Kobalt Music Pub America I Obo Hardmonic Music)

Yes, it’s a small world after all. And I might add, it’s a short life after all!

Have we been guilty of writing some people off? Do we presume for some people to not deserve God’s love? We’re given the Great Commission and the Great Commandment. We’re called to reach out, not in our own strength and authority but that of our Triune God. As we uphold and honor the mystery of God’s Being, let’s continue to do faithfully what we’re called to do – to go, to preach, to teach, to love, to bless and be blessed.

May God help us to see the opportunities we have in front of us for the growth of His Kingdom. May God strengthen us to reach out and touch the lives of all who come our way.