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; 19-January-2014

Titus 2 NIV2010 Doing Good for the Sake of the Gospel

1 You, however, must teach what is appropriate to sound doctrine. 2 Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance.

3 Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. 4 Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, 5 to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.

6 Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled. 7 In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness 8 and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.

9 Teach slaves to be subject to their masters in everything, to try to please them, not to talk back to them, 10 and not to steal from them, but to show that they can be fully trusted, so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive.

11 For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. 12 It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 13 while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.

15 These, then, are the things you should teach. Encourage and rebuke with all authority. Do not let anyone despise you.

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Today’s Scripture is what we sometimes refer to as a “difficult” passage in the Bible.

If we do not read it carefully and if we do not take the time to unpack what it really says, we can very easily misuse and abuse this text.

“Teach … young women … to be subject to their husbands…. Teach slaves to be subject to their masters….” There is a peanuts cartoon which ends with Lucy saying to Charlie Brown, “You just don’t know what you are saying… That is a bad theology.” When we read this text literally, when we read it as if it was written in 21st century United States of America, then it is a “bad theology.”

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    First of all let me make it clear:

  • I am NOT proposing subjugation of women, nor am I proposing that women should be treated as second class citizens…

  • I am NOT condoning or excusing slavery or human trafficking

With all that, a reasonable question to ask is, why in the world did I choose this Reading for today?

Let’s unpack it.

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Earlier in 2013 we talked about the beginnings of Methodism. We looked at the life of John Wesley, at the socio-political environment in England that led to the birth of the Methodist movement, and why the Methodist movement took such a strong hold on the fledgling democracy that became the United States of America that all of us know and love. John Wesley did not see himself as a founder of Methodism; he lived and died a devout Anglican priest.

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Then we spent some time looking at the Early Christian Writings, namely epistles to Galatians and James, and we heard two distinct voices in the stream of Judaism that later split from Judaism and became Christianity. Paul, Peter, James and the rest of the apostles did not think of themselves as Christians; they thought of themselves as devout Jews.

We saw that Paul understood salvation/redemption in terms of faith. If Paul was a Beatle, he would write a song titled, “All you need is faith…” Everything that we do, our actions and the way we live our lives, are indicative of our faith and our personal relationship with God.

We saw that Peter,  understood salvation/redemption in terms of Rabbinical Judaism. If you want to become a follower of Jesus, you must be a Jew first (that is kind of simplistic, Peter oscillated in his thinking as his understanding of the subject matter evolved). Eventually Peter “saw the light,” and figured out that God is bigger than any one person or any one group of people.

The way I understand the epistle of James is that James saw the common ground between Peter and Paul when he penned, “Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds” (James 2:18). Our faith is reflected in our actions, and our lives are a lens through which we understand God.

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That brought us to Christmas, and we talked about Santa Claus… Actually we talked about Saint Nicolas of Myra in Greece, the real man who became the prototype for what we today call Santa Claus. We saw how the idea of who Saint Nicolas of Myra really was became diluted through the years, and how the modern Santa Claus has nothing in common with who Saint Nicolas was.

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And the last time that I stood before you, we talked about the Wise Men who came to worship Jesus. What was revealed to me this year, the message that I felt God giving me was that the Wise Men were willing to leave Jerusalem and go to Bethlehem, although it did not make any sense nor seem probable at the time. All that they knew was something important happened out there somewhere, in some hole in the wall known as “Bethlehem,” and they needed to get there if they wanted to be a part of whatever it was that God was doing.

And then we come to today’s reading. I understand today’s reading through the lens of other teachings of Paul found elsewhere in the Bible.

Let us look at Ephesians 5:21-33. I chose the NRSV version, instead of our usual NIV2010 translation, because of its use of the word “subject.”

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Ephesians 5:21-28, 31-33 NRSV The Christian Household

21 Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ.

22 Wives, be subject to your husbands as you are to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife just as Christ is the head of the church, the body of which he is the Savior. 24 Just as the church is subject to Christ, so also wives ought to be, in everything, to their husbands.

25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 in order to make her holy by cleansing her with the washing of water by the word, 27 so as to present the church to himself in splendor, without a spot or wrinkle or anything of the kind—yes, so that she may be holy and without blemish. 28 In the same way, husbands should love their wives as they do their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.

32 This is a great mystery, and I am applying it to Christ and the church. 33 Each of you, however, should love his wife as himself, and a wife should respect her husband.

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Paul begins this passage, “Be subject to one another out of reverence to Christ.”

“Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ.”

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Be subject to one another when you have lost your leader and you have no idea how to be a church. What a great line to bring Paul, Peter and James to the same page.

“Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ.”

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Be subject to one another when there is turmoil and confusion in your land. John Wesley heard this admonition as “strive to understand each other and stop cutting each other throats. Instead of killing each other, let us help each other and break bread together.”

“Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ.”

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The Wise Men understood this, and for the sake of their joint mission they left “Jerusalem” and they went to “Bethlehem” to revere Christ and to help each other bring their vision to life, to be part of what God was doing.

“Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ.”

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Saint Nicolas of Myra understood this as help my neighbors in need, address their needs so that they can live productive lives because that is what Jesus called him to.

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Let us hear today’s reading (RE-SEQUENCED) through the lens of that admonition, “Be subject to one another”

Titus 2 NIV2010 Doing Good for the Sake of the Gospel

1 You, however, must teach what is appropriate to sound doctrine. 2 Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance.

6 Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled. 7 In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness 8 and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.

3 Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. 4 Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, 5 to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.

9 Teach slaves to be subject to their masters in everything, to try to please them, not to talk back to them, 10 and not to steal from them, but to show that they can be fully trusted, so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive.

11 For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. 12 It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 13 while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.

15 These, then, are the things you should teach. Encourage and rebuke with all authority. Do not let anyone despise you.

The world that we live in changes with the times. We reach new understandings, we test different theories, different problems arise, our understanding of what is right, true and beautiful changes with every generation. That happens because God is active in our world, God is always doing something new, God is always somewhere in “Bethlehem.” We, on the other hand, have a tendency to stay in “Jerusalem.”

Today’s reading is about being community in dialogue. Today’s reading is about being a community that is purposeful and ready to meet the challenges of the times. Today’s reading is about being a church fellowship. Today’s reading is about a church fellowship listening for God’s direction and being on a journey from “Jerusalem” to “Bethlehem.”

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Realizing that, today I want to leave all of us with this question, “How can we be subject to one another out of reverence for Jesus?” and “How can we be subject to our neighbors out of reverence for Jesus?” knowing that God is active in our world.

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