Zis-N-Zat From Pastor Asher

God is my conscience, Jesus lives in my heart… this blog is about what I see, what I think, what I do and how I serve God

Approximate Notes for Sunday’s Message; 25-September-2016; Luke 16:19-31

Scripture for this Sunday is 1 Timothy 6:6-19; Luke 16:19-31

You can find these Scriptures here: {NIV2010 and ESV}


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In the song Eleanor Rigby, the Beatles asked a question, “Look at all the lonely people, …Where do they all come from [and] where do they all belong?”

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That song paints a picture of a woman named Eleanor Rigby who picks up the rice in the church after a wedding. Is she a cleaning lady? Does she pick up the rice and scraps to survive? We don’t know.

And then we learn that Eleanor Rigby died in the church, she was buried (“along with her name”) and no one cared enough to come to the funeral.

I have no doubt that this Eleanor Rigby that the Beatles wrote about was based on a real person. There was a time in her life when she dreamt about meeting her Prince Charming, when she was in love, when she went to work every day, enjoyed parties, celebrated birthdays, spent time with friends. We don’t know whether she was ever married, whether she had children; maybe they all perished in a war. The point I am trying to make is that Eleanor Rigby was worthy of attention, worthy of love, worthy of extra care from the rest of society and especially from those who were doing well for themselves. And yet, she died in the church, she was buried (“along with her name”) and no one cared enough to come to her funeral.

We live with preconceived notions. We each have our own likes, dislikes, habits and rituals, and most of us do not spend much time thinking about it. We even have a name for that combination of likes, dislikes, habits and rituals: we call it “NORMAL.”

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The parable of the Rich Man (a.k.a. Dives; Dives means “Rich” in Latin; we don’t know his real name) and Lazarus is a story a two persons whose fortunes changed, and whose ideas of “NORMAL” were challenged. Although Jesus does not use the word “chasm” until after Dives and Lazarus were dead, during their lives they were separated by a chasm of likes, dislikes, habits and rituals. They were separated by a chasm of what was considered to be “NORMAL” in their day and age.

I think of Eleanor Rigby from the Beatles’ song as a modern day Lazarus.

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I used to think that Dives was kind of like Ebenezer Scrooge before he “saw the light.” When I looked closely at today’s Gospel reading, I was surprised to discover that Dives is not at all described as being miserly, stingy, gloomy or morose.

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Luke tells us nothing about this man’s attitude towards money; it is quite possible that he was generous, supporting all kinds of charities throughout his lifetime.

Luke tells us nothing about this man’s attitude towards life. We have no idea whether he was religious and we do not know any of his thoughts or emotions towards the poor while he enjoyed the blessings of life surrounded by his family and friends in his nice home.

Sometimes what is NOT said is as important as what IS said. By NOT telling us anything about this man’s attitude towards money or life, Luke makes the point that this story is not about our need to be generous, our need to depend on God, our need to be grateful to God for every blessing in our lives, or our emotions of sadness or guilt about having nice things. Though all these things are all important, this parable is not about any of that.

The point that Jesus makes has to do with the fact that we live in a world ravaged by poverty, sickness, and vulnerability (based on age, sex, race, ethnic identity, religious beliefs, and social status).

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The point that Jesus makes is that we tend to run away from or turn a blind eye to the suffering of others because suffering scares us and challenges our own ideas of normalcy.

Ah look at all the lonely people
Where do they all come from?
Where do they all belong?”


Although today’s sermon is not a candidate for the “Pastor Asher’s Feel Good Sermons” Hall of Fame there is Good News in today’s parable.

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The story of the Rich Man and Lazarus sheds a light on our abilities and how we translate them into our actions. Dives failed to recognize the chasm between himself and Lazarus until it was too late. And even then he did not do anything to repair that chasm. In Luke 16:23-31 Dives asks Abraham to send Lazarus to fetch some water and then to send Lazarus on an errand to warn his brothers and their families. We don’t see even a hint of remorse or understanding in Dives’ plea to Abraham. All he cares about is his own comfort and what happens to his extended family.

That extended family could be us: you and I. You and I are Dives’ sisters and brothers.

None of us are powerful enough to broker peace in a time of war. None of us are wealthy enough to end world hunger. We are not capable of ending homelessness. We cannot prevent earthquakes and we cannot stop hurricanes. As individuals we are helpless against tyranny. But we do have abilities and these abilities can translate into actions.

There are “Lazaruses” all around us. Some are hungry because they have nothing to eat; although we cannot fix all the problems of hunger and homelessness, we can work to rebuild this church community so our rich tradition of mission and outreach can continue long after we are dead and buried.

There are “Lazaruses” all around us. Some are spiritually hungry; they are frustrated, scared and feel disenfranchised by the society that all of us live in. They know who Jesus is, we can share with them the difference that our relationship with Jesus makes in our lives.

Those are just some of the “Lazaruses” that we can help. We can offer them a sympathetic ear that is willing to listen and a place where they can belong. We can offer to them the opportunity to be part of something bigger than themselves, something that will infuse their lives with meaning and a sense of purpose, something that will give them hope.

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In Exodus 34 we learned that after spending one-on-one time with God, Moses’ face was glowing.

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I saw a similar glow on some of your faces during the silent auction. That glow came from experiencing and feeling the presence of the Holy Spirit in our midst, and we have that to offer and we are capable of doing that.

So far we have had three round-robin dinners. I observed something interesting at every one of these dinners. I could not find an English word to describe it but there is a Spanish word that describes what I observed: “Sobremesa.” Sobremesa roughly translates as “after dinner conversation,” but if you really want to know what it means, find a Latino/Latina person and ask them to explain it to you. It is so much more than just an after dinner conversation. I saw that same glow on your faces during the three sobremesas that I was a part of.

Not every Bible Study on Tuesday results in this glow on our faces, and not every Bible Study is emotion rich, but we have had a couple of afternoons when I saw that same glow around the table in the Bible Study room.

The glow that I am talking about comes from experiencing God’s presence.

Evangelism and outreach is about being intentional about having events where we ourselves can experience God’s presence, as well as inviting our neighbors in and offering them a place to experience that glow and that feeling for themselves. We invite others to demonstrate how our lives are changed and transformed by our relationship with Jesus; we do that to offer a safe place for our neighbors to experience the same renewal and transformation.

We don’t know what our church will look like in five, ten, twenty and sixty years from now, but we do have a lot of influence towards what it will be like. This church may become a pile of rubble or it may still be a vibrant community of Christian sisters and brothers serving God by serving the world around us.

In Memoriam: Carol Stiffler

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In Memoriam

Carol Stiffler

 

We live in the hearts of those we leave behind.

Every human life is a story told by God

Thinking Towards Sunday; September 28, 2016

Scripture for this Sunday is 1 Timothy 6:6-19; Luke 16:19-31

You can find these Scriptures here: {NIV2010 and ESV}

Approximate notes for Sunday’s Message; September 18, 2016; Luke 16:1-13

Scripture for this Sunday is Luke 16:1-13

You can read these Scriptures here: {NIV2010 and ESV}

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Bishop Peter Weaver who led Peninsula-Delaware Conference from 1996 to 2004 was fond of telling this story. I’ve heard it several times at Bishop’s Days Apart and at the Annual Conference.

{Illustration: Bishop Weaver’s Story}

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The church was turned around because six ladies relied on their strengths (they knew how to make cookies and they knew how to do it well), and they also were willing to think outside the box and use the resources available to them in effective and productive ways. I think that these six ladies asked themselves a question, “What can we do that has a chance of bearing tangible results?”

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The parable we have heard today … {Illustration}

There is little artwork available to illustrate this parable. By contrast, the Parable of the Good Samaritan and the Parable of the Prodigal Son will have dozens (plural) high-definition illustrations available.

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The parable of the Shrewd Manager that we heard today is a story of a man who asked himself the same question, “What can I do in my present circumstances that will bear tangible results?”

This parable does not do anything to dispel the dishonesty of the manager or to ridicule the master. Instead the parable turns on the steward’s shrewd response to the urgency of the situation and invites us to reflect and to recognize that likewise we are in the middle of a crisis that demands thinking outside of the box for the disaster to be avoided.

We can learn a great deal from this parable. This parable is about the value of the community. This parable illustrates to us what can happen when we strive to find workable solutions to the problems we face as a community.

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Just like the Shrewd Manager, all of us can be accused of squandering our master’s wealth. I am not talking about a pen or a pencil from your workplace that found its way to your desk at home. How many of us squander our gifts, talents and resources by refusing to use them to the glory of God; have you ever refused to do something in the church knowing full-well that you are doing it because it would inconvenience you? Have you ever skipped church because you wanted to go to a football game or some other secular [completely church un-related] event?

How many of us squander God’s love given to us in fellowship with each other when we make a decision to skip church and miss an opportunity to spend time with each other?

How many of us have squandered God’s gifts to us by refusing to tithe, spending our money on toys instead; flat screen TVs, computers, cars, etc. By the way, the Bible DOES NOT say it’s wrong to have toys, but it does say that we must honor God with the first ten percent of what God has given to us.

In today’s parable, the Rich Man heard some gossip about the Shrewd Manager; Luke does not tell us whether the rumors were true or not. Just like the Rich Man, all of us occasionally get engrossed in delicious gossip that fuels our imaginations and we run with it.

Do you know anyone who is in debt up to his or her eyeballs? Would that person be happy if someone said to them, “don’t worry, be happy, your debts are cut in half?” There are days when I’d love someone to come to me and say, “Hey, have a hug, here is a large Tobleron[1], and to sweeten the deal, here is $6,000,000. Go pig out!” That is what happened to the Farmers in today’s reading. They were elated; they probably saw the Shrewd Manager as a “Robin Hood” type.

We can see ourselves in every character in today’s parable. There is a little bit of the manager in us, there is a little bit of the rich man, and there is a little bit of the farmers.

Today’s parable describes a small universe that was out of balance and found healing. Today’s parable has many parallels with our lives, because our lives and our universe also need healing.

Our universe is out of balance as well.

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As a Church (big “C”) we are torn by conflict and disagreements. We argue amongst ourselves about human sexuality instead of spending our energy making disciples. We argue whether Global Warming is real instead of acknowledging that the climate is changing for whatever reason, and we need to find new crops to grow if we want to survive as a human race.

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Jesus’ recommendation? It is right there in verse nine. Luke 16:9 “I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.” Focus on relationships, focus on each other, spend time with each other, help each other as much as you can, spend time learning about God together, laugh together, break bread together.

None of us are wealthy enough or powerful enough to resolve all the problems plaguing our country at this time. We cannot fix the economy, we cannot fix the plight of those who lost their jobs, we cannot provide medical insurance for those who don’t have it, and all of us are struggling under the weight of the national debt. That is scary and depressing stuff, AND it is not the whole story.

The other side of that story, our HOPE and our Good News lies in the fact that we are not helpless. We can fix some problems in our community. If we want our young people to have good jobs in the future, we need to make sure that they get a good education; as parents and grandparents we can take MORE than a superficial interest in that area. We can keep each other accountable and help each other to work towards being debt free.

Today’s Gospel reading gives us a glimpse of what we can do if we make a conscious decision to work together and recognize our strengths and weaknesses.

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NIV Luke 16:10Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. 11So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? 12And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own?

Our question is: what are we doing with what is entrusted in our care today? When it is all said and done, what is the legacy that we are going to leave behind? The six ladies of Chester made a decision to make cookies. What are our “cookies?” Notice the {“} quotes.

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NIV 1 Timothy 2:1 I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone— 2 for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 3 This is good, and pleases God our Savior, 4who wants all men [and women] to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.

[1] Toblerone is a brand of Swiss chocolate.

Thinking Towards Sunday, September 18, 2016

Scripture for this Sunday is Luke 16:1-13

You can read these Scriptures here: {NIV2010 and ESV}

Approximate notes for Sunday’s Message; September 11, 2016; Romans 14:5-12

Our Scripture this Sunday will be Romans 14:5-12

You can read this Scripture here: {NIV2010 and ESV}

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Where were you on Tuesday, September 11, 2001 when you heard the news?

It was a few minutes before 9 am. I walked into the office and saw someone running towards me, cell phone in hand. She said, “A plane just hit the World Trade Center. Can you do some magic and get to the CNN website?”

I went into the computer closet, logged into the router and reconfigured it so that everyone could get to the internet. It was 2001, practically the stone age; we didn’t have streaming news yet. The latest news story that we read on the CNN website was that a small plane had crashed into one of the towers.

A few minutes later, as we were frantically pressing the refresh buttons on our browsers, a new report came in saying a second plane hit the other tower.

I remember thinking that maybe the first plane was not as “small” as we were hoping. Something just didn’t seem right.

Everything seemed to happen in slow motion. News came in bits and pieces: The Pentagon, another plane going down in Pennsylvania, air traffic grounded indefinitely. I remember feeling numb and worried at the same time, calling my wife and then trying to contact my extended family in New York and in Pennsylvania.

I did not see the videos of the buildings collapsing until I got home that afternoon. I did not really know how to feel. The emotions at the prayer service that evening ranged from that of shock and fear to anger and grief.

In the next few days as the news poured in, we saw images of courage and selflessness. There were stories of ordinary people who sacrificed everything to save lives. There were accounts of fire fighters, police officers and rescue workers who were able to conquer their own fears, and were climbing into the burning buildings trying to save lives.

Those of us who were alive on that day will never forget it.

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Today, fifteen years later, there is another question to ask, “How has your perspective and understanding of the world changed? How is it different than it was fifteen years ago as a result of living with the memories of that day?”

How are YOU different?

What have we learned in the last fifteen years?

How have the events of that day shaped our community?

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The meaning of any event is determined by the outcomes, by how this event changes us.

In tragic moments it may be tempting to discard the notion that life has any meaning, to give in to despair, and build a wall around ourselves; we minimize the chance of getting hurt that way. On the other hand, events like these can challenge us to draw closer to God, to explore the breadth and the depth of life’s meaning, and to cherish every moment with friends and loved ones.

The way we respond is a witness to God and we have a choice to make. We can witness to emptiness and despair or we can witness to hope, resurrection, resilience of the human spirit, and the presence of God in our lives.

It has been fifteen years since the events of 9/11 took place. It is important to know where we are emotionally and spiritually as a result of the changes that have happened since that day. Are we more fearful and suspicious? Do we want to isolate ourselves from people who are different from us and whom we perceive as a threat? Have we given in to hateful rhetoric, become less tolerant, more inclined to violence? Do we feel robbed of hope and find it difficult to accept God’s unconditional love? If so, that would make the events of 9/11 a victory for despair, emptiness, and death. That would mean that the terrorists won.

On the other hand, maybe the aftermath of 9/11 caused us to seek a deeper understanding of what it means to live in a global community; to rethink the meaning of what it means to be free, to be a child of God and a follower of Jesus, to be empowered with responsibility and rights of citizenship. Were you challenged to rethink how you connect to your family, your community, your neighbors?

Did our response to the aftermath of 9/11 become a triumph of our community’s resilience, and an affirmation that although the thread of our individual lives is fragile, the fabric of life in Christ is eternal?

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The truth is that the Church that Jesus established has been here before. I am NOT trying to minimize the gravity and pain of what happened on 9/11, but I want to remind all of us that following Jesus’ death on the Cross, his followers lived through a period of anguish trying to understand and make sense of what had just happened. Out of the depth of their despair they were able to discern that Jesus’ death was not evidence of the victory of death, despair, and violence; rather, in his resurrection they experienced a new life and a renewed relationship with God.

Our Christian story affirms that hope is more persistent than despair, that love is more powerful than hate, that life is victorious over death. For the last 2,000 years, countless generations of Christians of different persuasions embodied that hope that is at the core of being a follower of Christ:

  • life is worth living, even when there are times of extraordinary loss;

  • people are worth loving, even when they can be taken from us so unexpectedly; and

  • God is worth trusting, even when we cannot wrap our heads around what we see in front of us.

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That is why Paul wrote, One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind. 6 Whoever regards one day as special does so to the Lord. … 7 For none of us lives for ourselves alone, and none of us dies for ourselves alone. 8 If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord” (Romans 14: 5-8).

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In the same epistle to Romans (chapter 8:35-39), Paul also wrote, “Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Shall hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

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I started this message by asking you a question, “Where were you on 9/11?” I want to finish this message by asking you a different question, “Where are you today? How has the journey of the last fifteen years changed you and brought you closer to God?”

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In the Epistle to Philippians (chapter 2), Paul wrote, 12 Therefore, my dear friends, … work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.”

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Thinking Towards Sunday; September 11, 2016

Our Scripture this Sunday will be Romans 14:5-12

You can read this Scripture here: {NIV2010 and ESV}

Approximate Notes for Sunday’s Message; Luke 14:25-33

Scripture for this Sunday: Luke 14:25-33

You can read these Scriptures here: {NIV2010 and ESV}

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Who among us has not crammed at one time or another: cleaning the house before company arrives, studying for exams the night before, packing for vacation 20 minutes before it’s time to leave for the airport, ironing a pair slacks as our spouse says, “vámonos, we are going to be late,” working on a report that was due yesterday…

I remember especially vividly when I was cramming for the spelling bee the night before.

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Dentalcram – vigorous brushing of one’s teeth prior to a visit to their dentist.

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In today’s Gospel reading we heard Jesus say, “…whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.”

A picture is worth a thousand words and to illustrate that sentence, “…whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple,” I would like to show you some images.

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In today’s Gospel reading we learned that Jesus preached a sermon, and the gist, the essence of that sermon was “Be prepared! Think things through! If you do something, think of the consequences…” The sermon that Jesus preached that day was about overextending ourselves.

There are some words and phrases that we use in our daily conversations that sound so familiar, so intuitive, and so right. More often than not, that familiarity robs otherwise meaningful statements of their initial intent, and makes them into platitudes. The language of cross-bearing is one of those phrases.

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The sermon that Jesus preached that day, the sermon that became today’s Gospel reading, was preached not to his disciples or those that had already made a commitment to follow Jesus. In verse 25 we hear, “Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said…”

The sermon that introduces the concept of bearing one’s cross was originally preached to those who were curious, those who came to hear Jesus the way we would go to a concert or an appearance by a celebrity.

Jesus was warning the curious to make sure that they understood the consequences of following him before they made a commitment. Being Jesus’ follower is about being adaptable, flexible and patient with the changing time, and Jesus knew that times were about to drastically change with his crucifixion. The language of cross-bearing is about building a personal relationship with Jesus. It is about learning to think differently with every new stage of life, in response to the way that God interacts with us differently at each of those stages.

The language of cross-bearing and the illustrations that Jesus used have nothing to do with chronic illnesses, painful chronic conditions, trying family relationships or stoic perseverance facing unsurmountable odds. It does have a lot to do with how we live our lives.

I wish I could say that our lives will be a bed of roses and everything will go exactly the way we want it to. But that would be a lie. We can count on frustrations being a part of our lives because we live in a fallen world.

Frustrations do not have to be of epic proportions: every morning someone burns their toast, somebody else loses a sock, and someone spills a huge mug of coffee on their brand new carpet. Our cross-bearing is in the way we deal with those frustrations, because in learning to deal with little things, we learn to rely on God in all things – big or small.

And when we invest ourselves, our time, our efforts and our energy in building a relationship with Jesus, when we are truly following Jesus, all things are possible.

(Illustration: Possible does not equal Easy).

And that is what the sermon that Jesus preached that day long ago was about.

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Ann Landers paraphrased this quote from Jesus the best when she said, “It is not what you do for your children, but what you have taught them to do for themselves that will make them successful human beings.”

Just like our parents help us to become great human beings with an unlimited potential, God is working in us teaching us to be the best version of what we were created to be. Cross-bearing has a lot to do with that.

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Here are some questions to ponder:

  • What did you learn from Jesus last week?

  • What is God teaching you in this period of your life?

  • What kind of questions are you asking God? What are you hoping to learn?

One of the ways to bear the cross of Jesus is to be excited for what God is doing in the world around us and to be a tool in God’s hands. Who did you help to build up? Who did you encourage? When people spend time with you, how does it leave them feel? Are you on fire for Jesus?

I want to leave you with this short poem (it is also printed in the front of the bulletin):

If my heart is not on fire,
And your heart is not on fire,
If we are not filled with the Spirit,
Who will then disperse the dark?


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Celebrating the Sacrament of the Holy Communion

Thinking Towards Sunday; September 4, 2016

Scripture for this Sunday: Luke 14:25-33

You can read these Scriptures here: {NIV2010 and ESV}

Approximate notes for the Sunday’s Message; Sunday, August 28, 2016

Scripture for this Sunday is Luke 14:1, 7-14

You can read this pericope here: {NIV2010 and ESV}

 

Do you want to be respected?

Do you want to be liked and have a lot of friends?

When you go out to an event (dinner, movies, baseball game) do you want the best seat in the house?

 

It is our human condition to want to be liked. It is part of our human nature to want the best for ourselves. At sporting events we want the best seats with the best view; those seats usually carry the highest price. They also carry the greatest bragging potential – it impresses people when we tell them that WE HAVE THOSE SEATS. We also like the best parking spots. Just watch people at the store. The best parking spots are the ones closest to the front door. Nobody wants the parking spaces out in the far end of the lot.

In Mark 10 we read that James and John (two of Jesus’ disciples) tried to get a “best seat” as well… “Grant that we may sit in Your glory, one on Your right and one on Your left … You see Jesus, WE WANT THE BEST SEATS in the kingdom, places of prestige and power…”

That is the natural response – all of us want the best…

Many of us have had a quiet chuckle as we observed people at banquets or office parties, weddings and even funerals trying to sit next to people they consider their social equals. We chuckle under our breath when we hear someone complaining that he or she was assigned a seat that we consider “bad” at some social function.

We laugh because we recognize that people can be so insecure that they actually measure their self-worth and self-esteem by where they plant their behind for an hour or two. We laugh until we realize that at times every one of us is just as insecure; and then we thank God that we have enough common sense to try to hide our insecurity or at least smooth it over.

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Today’s parable was given to Pharisees. Pharisees were what we would call today “church-going people.” They spent a lot of time in their “church” – synagogue. Pharisees were NOT what we would call the “upper class.” Just like most of us here they were the “lower to middle class.” They did not inherit their wealth, they earned it through hard work and they were proud of that fact. They were also proud of their moral status in society at the time; they knew the scriptures inside and out, their children were well educated and they were mission oriented. They knew there were people who did not know who God is, and they went after those gentiles with gusto and perseverance. They also took care of those in need. All-in-all, the Pharisees were not the villains that many Christians imagine them to be. But on that day 2000 years ago, as Jesus was observing some of the Pharisees maneuvering to get as close to the head of the table as they could, Jesus plainly saw the poison of pride in their lives.

Because of their education, Pharisees would recognize today’s parable as a reflection on the text from Proverbs 25:6-7:

6 Do not exalt yourself in the king’s presence, and do not claim a place among great men; 7 it is better for him to say to you, “Come up here,” than for him to humiliate you before a nobleman…”

By giving us today’s parable, Jesus reminds us that honor and respect is not gained by seizing prominence; honor and respect must be earned by each of us and given by others.

Today’s parable is about hubris and humility. Hubris is easy to spot and all of us can spot it from a mile away. Humility, on the other hand, is a tough quality to describe. The moment we think that we’ve got humility, it is gone.

Humility has nothing to do with self-deprecation; humility has nothing to do with thinking that each one of us is a worthless wimp.

Humility is about an honest evaluation of who we are as individuals; who we are as the Bible describes us, as God sees us and as the Holy Spirit guides us. On one hand each one of us is a sinner who deserves eternal separation from God; on the other hand, God valued each one of us so much that He shed God’s own essence to pay for our sins so that we would have a chance and a place to spend eternity with Him.

Humility is found in the tension and the balance between these two realities.

Jesus came to seek the lost… When we think of Jesus coming to seek and save “the lost,” we disdainfully envision drug addicts, prostitutes, convicts, and the like.  But on a closer look, who could possibly be more lost than one who assumes, by virtue of his or her own righteousness, his or her own education, perhaps his or her own lifestyle, that he doesn’t need to be found?

Humility reminds us that it is us who need to be found. Humility reminds us that it is us who could be lost, humility reminds us that it is we, each one of us, who are standing in the need of prayer. Humility reminds us that it is us, each one of us, who needs God’s grace and love.

Paul writes in Romans 7 about what a wretched creature he is; a man who cannot refrain from sin. He says that he does not do the good things that he wants to do, but instead he does things that make him despise himself… What a picture of an internal struggle, a battle in the soul of a man torn by conflicting values!

But the story that Paul tells us does not stop there… In the very next chapter Paul writes about how we are deeply loved as children of God – heirs of God with Christ. Paul understood the balance and Paul lived in that balance. He wrote, “I know that nothing good lives in me…those who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.” (Romans 7:18; 8:14) Another way to look at it is to remember Jesus said, “Without me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5) To echo that Paul wrote “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13 NIV)

That balance and that tension – THAT HUMILITY – keeps you and me from being an emotional wreck who never attempts anything great for God.

The Christian writer A.W. Tozer wrote: “The humble man is not a human mouse afflicted with a sense of inferiority. He may be as bold as a lion and as strong as Samson; but he has stopped being fooled about himself. He has accepted God’s estimate of his own life. He knows he is as weak and helpless as God declared him to be, but paradoxically, he knows at the same time that in God’s eyes he is more precious and important than angels. In himself, nothing; in God, everything. That is the motto of the humble man.”

Kingswood United Methodist Church will host a block party on Saturday, September 10, 2016

Kingswood United Methodist Church will host a block party on Saturday, September 10, 2016.

Date: Saturday, September 10, 2016

Time: 11-2

Location: 300 Marrows Rd Newark, De 19713

At the Block party a Hot Lunch and Bake Table will provide food while a local praise band will be performing. There will also be a Silent Auction. A variety of items will be auctioned off including local restaurant gift cards, and products from local businesses. All funds raised will go to support our ministries here in the Brookside and Newark area. By supporting us, you are supporting the Hope Dining Room and the Kingswood Food Closet to name a few of our missions. Free events include fingerprinting kits, a K-9 demonstration, the Mounted Police, face painting and a cake walk. Come out and have a good time! Proceeds Benefit: Kingswood United Methodist Church. For more information, contact our church office at 302-738-4478

Thinking Towards Sunday; August 28, 2016

Scripture for this Sunday is Luke 14:1, 7-14

You can read this pericope here: {NIV2010 and ESV}

Approximate Notes for Sunday’s Message; August 21, 2016; Luke 13:10-17

Scriptures for this Sunday: Luke 13:10-17

You can read this Scripture here: {NIV2010 & ESV}

Today’s readings challenge us to think about what church is, and what the church could be. When I talk about the “church,” I am not talking about some theoretical community in a land FAR-FAR-AWAY. I am talking about this church – Kingswood United Methodist Church. I am talking about you and I, Christian sisters and brothers who gather regularly to ask the Lord’s blessings upon our lives and our endeavors. I am talking about Christian brothers and sisters touched and changed by the holy presence of God in our lives.

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In today’s Gospel lesson we heard about two people who were “bent out of shape.” One was a woman who was physically bent out of shape by a crippling spirit.


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If we look in the Greek text of today’s Gospel reading, we discover that Luke used a word that means “sickness caused by weakness” (word – asthenia), as opposed to a word that means “sickness caused by disease” (these words would be malkia or nosos). {Information derived from Friberg Lexicon from BibleWorks Version 6}


The other person that was “bent out of shape” was the synagogue ruler and he was driven by his desire to be in charge and in control. Luke tells us that his desire resulted in anger, fear, bitterness, and legalism. We know that the woman was healed; we do not know the fate of the ruler but we can hope that eventually he found healing and reconciliation in his life.

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Something convinced that poor woman that she could not stand up straight. Today we know that there are such things as psychosomatic illnesses – those are real diseases that are caused by mental and emotional problems – and they can be healed by addressing spiritual roots of the disease.

In 1963 Bill and Gloria Gather wrote a song titled Shackled by a Heavy Burden. It is # 367 in our pew hymnals.

Shackled by a heavy burden,

‘Neath a load of guilt and shame.

Then the hand of Jesus touched me,

And now I am no longer the same.

I wonder how many of us gathered here today in this sanctuary are chained, hand-cuffed, shackled by a heavy burden, imprisoned and trapped, or otherwise chronically bound and immobilized by something that happened eons ago, by something that we had no control over, by something that we choose to hold on to for our dear life because in our heads that something has become the definition of who we are, and armed with that conviction we have internalized it in our souls.

{Illustration}

That something becomes so much a part of who we are that we have a hard time seeing past it.

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Is there something that you’ve been struggling with in your life? Do you find yourself saying things like: “I would like to do something but {1} I do not know where to start… {2} or …. but what about what I already have – I have responsibilities, {3} or … I do not have the skills or personality…”? How many of us are going through life allowing our past to limit who we are today and define who we could be in the future, thus preventing God from using us and our talents. And if you think it is too late for you, think about the lessons that you are teaching your children and grandchildren by placing these limitations on yourselves…

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If we want to escape from these self-imposed prisons in our lives, we must learn to put ourselves in a place where we allow God to get to us and where we are willing to work with God.

{Illustration}

The woman from today’s Gospel was ready and prepared to let go of her limitations when Jesus said: “Woman you are set free from your infirmity”; she let go, and she let God set her free.

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And what about the ruler? Lest we feel morally superior to him, let me gently and compassionately remind all of us that at one time or another we have all said something like, “it is NOT how we do things around here” or “We’ve never done it that way!” or “I just want to do everything by the book.” I know that I’ve said those words at least once or twice in my life. Whenever we say these words, we become spiritual descendants of that “bent out of shape” man. How do we know that when we say these words, or do these things, we are not getting in the way of something God is trying to do?

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Allow me to illustrate: Has anyone told you something about God that challenged your faith and made you angry with that person? I believe that all of us know what I am talking about. That is what happened to the ruler… He saw a miracle but instead of saying “Praise Be to God!” he said “In my synagogue/church we do everything by the book and that is not how we do things around here!” I’ve been there and I’ve done that. If that has ever happened to you, then you know how that man felt on that day…

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Jesus observed, “8 You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men … 13 …you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that” (Mark 7:8,13).

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In the series of sermons that came to us in the form of the Letter to Hebrews we read “See to it that you do not refuse him who speaks” (Heb12:25). In the letter to the church of Philippi 2:12-13 Paul taught, ” 12 …work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.”

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If we want to breach the limitations of our lives, if we want to break our internal barriers, if we want to become the person God has created us to be, we must learn to put ourselves in a place where we allow God to get to us and then be willing to work with God.

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There are many reasons why we gather in church on Sunday mornings. There are many valid explanations of what a church is. There are many reasons why we gather for worship as a community. We gather as a church because God calls us to fellowship together. We enjoy each other’s company. We are here because we like to sing familiar hymns and explore the wisdom of the songs we may not have heard before. We are here to catch up on news and to see our friends and neighbors. We are here because we feel obligated to be in church. Some of us are here because we feel that someone is pressuring or influencing us to be here.

But there is another, more important, reason. We are gathered here this morning because somewhere deep inside of each of us there is a thirst for God. We are here because all of us are “bent out of shape” in one form or another and because we long for the healing, for the love, for the acceptance, and for the peace that comes from being in God’s presence. We are here because we know that there are “wrongs” in the world and that we cannot fix these “wrongs” on our own. We are here because deep down we know that we cannot provide for ourselves on our own and that we are under God’s mercy. We are here because deep down we know that our only real choice is to turn to God and to each other for what we need and long for. We are here because we can help each other to put ourselves in a place where God can get to us, where we can allow God to breach our walls and limitations, where we can help each other to allow God to be God of all aspects of our lives.

On Thursday, MSNBC had an article on it’s Money Page that there are 7 million men between the ages of 24 and 56 that are out of work, and are so demoralized that they no longer looking for work (Steinmetz). Huffington Post had an article that asserts that there are millions of men and women struggling with depression and futility that robs us of our sense of life satisfaction and happiness. These men and women are grappling with the process of aging, a life not fully validated with continuing engagement, enrichment and purpose (Green). We are talking about a lot of people who are in “that same” place for despair and frustration.

Shackled by a heavy burden,

‘Neath a load of guilt and shame.

Then the hand of Jesus touched me,

And now I am no longer the same.

We – the church – are here to challenge each other and to help each other be “no longer the same.”

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Are you still the same? Have you allowed Jesus to touch you? Have you ever looked straight into His eyes? Have you ever invited Jesus to become your personal Lord and Savior?

If NOT — Will you allow Jesus to touch you today? Will you put your burdens at His feet? Will you let His healing presence into your life? Your life will never be the same…

 

References:

Green, Brent. “Why Post 50 Males Must Resist Becoming “Standardized Old Men”.” 07 03 2012. Huffington Post 50. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/brent-green/how-baby-boomer-males-wil_b_1326714.html. 18 08 2016.

Steinmetz, Krystal. “Why 7 Million American Men Aren’t Working .” 18 08 2016. MSN Money. http://www.msn.com/en-us/money/markets/why-7-million-american-men-aren%e2%80%99t-working/ar-BBvKWEy?li=BBnb7Kz. 18 08 2016.

Thinking Towards Sunday; August 21, 2016

Scriptures for this Sunday: Luke 13:10-17

You can read this Scripture here: {NIV2010 & ESV}

Approximate Notes for Sunday’s Message; August 14, 2016

Scriptures for this Sunday are Luke 12:49-56

You can read these Scriptures here: {NIV2010 and ESV}

We live in times of division and hostility. These days it is easy to find or to instigate a heated argument between friends, colleagues, and even family. The easiest way to start an argument is to mention religion or politics.

There are also other points of contention in our lives: parenting, major life changes like marriage or divorce and remarriage, the birth of a child, the death of a loved one and resulting discussions about inheritance and how the family will heal the wounds and reinvent itself. These events put a strain on our psyche and challenge the very essence and limits of who we are. These events illumine differences that have always caused tension among humans; in times of stress and anxiety, when our emotions run high, these differences come to the surface and boil over. These events bring up to the surface the emotions that at other times we are able to control.

Today’s Gospel reading demonstrates that religion and politics have been points of contention as far back as the days when Jesus walked the earth. Today’s reading gives us a glimpse and a witness of that particular human condition.

Today’s reading gives us a glimpse of what it meant to the first followers of Jesus to believe that he was the Messiah. For most of them, that meant that they had to leave their family and friends behind to embrace an itinerate lifestyle. To make things worse, family and friends who were left behind thought that Jesus’ followers were either crazy or criminal. Who in their right mind would give up the safety and security of a steady occupation and life with family, to travel around arid Galilee with strangers begging for their daily bread. It was thought to be blasphemous to believe that you did not have to travel to the Temple on High Holidays to worship God. It was unthinkable that there was another way to worship God, and that God would come to dwell among us.

We live in a fallen world. That fallenness permeates every aspect of our lives to the point that we are distrustful and suspicious of people who follow their heart and their search for truth. We question those who are secure in their beliefs, and we assume that they do not see the BIG picture. We challenge those who are willing to take risks and we call them “dreamers.” We demonize and belittle those who choose to live and vote by different values.

We do all that – (act distrustful and suspicious, challenge other points of view, demonize and belittle those who espouse values different from ours) – because these differences play on our fears, they cause us to question our own commitments and beliefs. And none of us like to face our fears or be challenged in our beliefs.

{Illustration: Sign of Christian Education and maturity of faith is ability to consider and evaluate other points of view without espousing them as our own.}

When we focus on differences, we forget that life is not a competition. We forget that faith is not a contest.

Yes, we are fallen and sinful creatures, but God did not create us to grovel in the grime of our sin. God made us to live abundant lives (John 10:10) and to strive to be the best version of what we are created to be.

I may be naïve, but I think that the process of life is about being faithful to your understanding of God, while also making a commitment to learning how others see the Holy in the world around them. Faith is knowing what matters to you when it comes to God and being willing to hear what matters to others (Lewis). I think that we infuse our lives, faith, politics, and interpersonal interactions with who is right and who is wrong, at the cost of losing ideas and concepts that matter and the reasons why they matter. Were it not so, I think that our lives would be very different.

The words of Jesus that we heard today name our human condition: our propensity toward suspicion and discord, toward calling every person’s values and motives into question, toward doubt and distrust. Because we anticipate discord, we lose the will to work towards finding an agreement.

Today’s reading is calling us to look at the roots of what we believe to be right, true and beautiful. Jesus is naming the human tendency toward disagreement, and reminds us that building a Christian community relies on our commitment to listening. Today’s Scripture calls all the followers of Christ towards a different vision of what a world could be; a world where civil dialogue is expected and leads towards mutual understanding.

 

Works Cited

Lewis, Karoline M. “Division Matters.”  07 08 2016. Dear Working Preacher. http://www.workingpreacher.org/craft.aspx?m=4377&post=4698.  10 08 2016.

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