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 Message; Face2Faith– Tradition; 21-July-2013

This Sunday the community of Christ United Methodist Church will rededicate our restored Chancel Bible. The Chancel Bible was restored in Loving Memory of Franklin Davis.

Scriptures this Sunday: Phil 4:10-13; Psalm 42:1-2; Psalm 139: 1-6, 13-18, 23-24; 1 Corinthians 13:1-13

You can read these Scriptures here: RSV (the translation we will use this week)  //  NIV2010

 

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Last week we talked about prayer. {Here is the link to last week’s message}. We said that prayer can be a series of discrete acts, it can be an attitude and it can also be a lifestyle.

When we pray, we send positive energy towards the person we are praying for. It is kindda-sorta like a cell phone communication. The energy expelled by the person who is praying travels towards God, God amplifies these prayers with God’s Agape Love, and God redirects this energy towards the person we are praying for. That is how we feel the prayers and thoughts of those who pray for us. That is how our prayers help our neighbors to receive physical cure or emotional and spiritual healing when their bodies are worn out.

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Someone sent an interesting question to me through the blog; he or she asked, “Does God pray?” I had a chance to think about it and this is what I think – prayer is a form of energy that flows from us to God and back. Allow me to explain.

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We heard Jesus pray, “Father, take this cup away from me.” During the last Supper, Jesus took a loaf of bread, said a prayer, broke the loaf and gave it to the Disciples. Then Jesus took a cup of wine, said a prayer and gave it to the Disciples.

Who among us has not asked God to sustain them physically and emotionally. In those times we ask God to send God’s energy and courage to sustain us and to help us to deal with whatever we are facing. From that perspective, God sends God’s prayers towards us. When we learn what God’s prayers for us feel like, we learn to recognize God’s hopes and God’s vision for each of our lives and for our community. That process is called a process of discernment.

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Today I want to talk about tradition.

Our lives are embedded in a story. These days we are not challenged to think about our stories or how our stories shape us because the fast pace of our lives is not conducive to quiet time. But that does not change the fact that we dream in stories, we hope in stories, we imagine our future in stories, we tell and re-tell our past in stories.

Our present is shaped by our past dreams of the future, our present is shaped by stories that we heard and told, our present is shaped by traditions that we espoused as our own.

A tradition is a belief or behavior with symbolic meaning or special significance with origins in the past. This tradition is usually passed down within a group or society. Today some common examples include holidays or socially meaningful clothes (like lawyer wigs, graduation gowns, clergy vestments). While it is commonly assumed that traditions have ancient history, many traditions have been invented on purpose for political or cultural reasons, over short periods of time.

Many things that we call “traditions” are simply habits and routine. Today I do not want to talk about habits and routines. Today I want to talk about tradition.

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Our Christian tradition is a tradition of the loving God who watches over us, making adjustments in response to our interaction with God’s world. That is what we mean when we use Affirmation 883, and say “God has created and is creating… .” Since we live in a fallen world, most of our actions cause some sort of imbalance somewhere. Just like God cared about Adam and Eve, God cares about you and me, God cares about us.

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A few weeks back we looked at the story of the Fall, when our common ancestors were expelled from the Garden of Eden. God, however, did not leave them unprotected and vulnerable. Let’s look at Genesis 3:21-24:

21 And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins, and clothed them.

22 Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil; and now, lest he put forth his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever”— 23 therefore the Lord God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from which he was taken. 24 He [God] drove out the man; and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life.

In response to the first humans disobeying God, {1} God gave them a means of fending for themselves, {2} gave them clothes for their protection and {3} only then – ONLY THEN – let them go.

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In the story of Noah we learned that the world became an exceedingly brutal and cruel place to be. Let us look at Genesis 6:5-6.

5 The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. 6 And the Lord was sorry that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart.

So there was a flood, and still, in spite of our actions, God preserved mankind through the family of Noah, and preserved the rest of life on Earth by providing an Ark. Noah and his family had quite a bit of time to think about why they were inside the Ark, why God chose them, and to look back at their lives as they considered what a responsibility it was to inherit God’s Creation. Who among us has not spent our own personal time “in the Ark?” Who among us has not had to stop and think about how we got to a certain junction in our lives? Who among us has not felt bad for someone else who was left behind? Who among us has not asked God to search and to know our hearts; who among us has not asked God to calm our anxieties at one time or another; who among us has not said “I have sinned against the Lord” (2 Samuel 12:13) and asked God to break our offensive ways and to guide us to the path of holiness (Psalm 139: 23-24). Who among us has not experienced God’s healing Grace and Love in response, even if the answer received was not what we expected.

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There are many similar examples of God’s love towards us in the Old Testament; I simply used the two of the most known to illustrate my point. We could look at the life of Abraham; we could look at the transformation of Jacob from a conniving cheater to becoming a father of the nation; we could look at the times of Exodus, we could look at the times of Judges; we could look at the times of the Exile and rebuilding. God constantly takes time to meet us where we are because we live in a fallen world and as we cope with things that are beyond our control we cause other problems and God cares about us. The Good News is that when we reach out to God, God reaches back. This is our Christian tradition, or at least a part of it.

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Eventually an angel appeared to Mary and to Joseph. Eventually Jesus was born. God determined it was time to do something different. The Earthly life of Jesus gives us an example of how we can usher in a better world, of how we can be the change that we want in the world.

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In the collection of Jesus’ teachings that we traditionally call the Sermon on the Mount, we hear something like “you have heard … but I tell you…” Our story is the story of God waking us up when we lose our way, meeting us where we are and being available to us when we are lost and when we call on God. That is our hope, that is our good news, that is our Christian tradition.

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In Matthew 5:17-20, Jesus affirmed that he came not to abolish the Torah, but to fulfill every letter. Immediately following that, Matthew records a series of teachings (Matthew 5:21 – 7:28) each of which is rooted in a certain portion of Scripture that had become comfortable and meaningless, that had become just words on paper. Saying these words had become a habit.

Illustration: You’ve heard, “do not murder.” AND I AM TELLING YOU, do not harbor anger because in your anger you do stupid things. (Matthew 5:21-26, Asher’s paraphrase)

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Towards the end of Jesus’ ministry, his contemporaries expected Jesus to enter Jerusalem as a conqueror and a military leader and to establish the Kingdom of Heaven in the Promised Land. And again, God surprised everyone by dying on the Cross instead of conquering the land by force.

To meet everyone’s need for grace, to demonstrate God’s love for all of God’s children, God did not claim the throne room in Jerusalem. Instead God chose to die on the Cross. As a result, instead of being known as the God of the Jews, He revealed himself to all people as the God of the Universe. Instead of conquering only the Promised Land (small corner of the world) by force, God revealed God-self to the whole world by Grace and Love.

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Ours is a story of loving and caring God meeting us where we are, accepting us as we are, adjusting in response to our actions (“who has created and is creating UMH883”).

Ours is a tradition of a loving and caring God who understands that the world is changing as we interact with it (that happens BECAUSE we live in an imperfect world).

Ours is a story of finding God in surprising places.

That is our tradition, that is what our Christian identity is built on.

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{Open the Altar}

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2 responses to “Approximate Notes for Sunday Message; Face2Faith– Tradition; 21-July-2013

  1. Pingback: Approximate Notes for Sunday Message; 22-September-2013 | Zis-N-Zat From Pastor Asher

  2. Pingback: Approximate Notes for Sunday Message; 22-September-2013 | Christ United Methodist Church in Chestertown, MD

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