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; August 9, 2015; Death and Renewal; Genesis 19:23-26; Luke 17:32-33; John 12:23-26

Scriptures for this Sunday: Genesis 19:23-26; Luke 17:32-33; Luke 9:57-62;   Luke 17:20-37; John 12:23-26

You can read these Scriptures here:  NIV // ESV

Hymns for Sunday:

UMH 303 – The Day of Resurrection

UMH 399 – Take My Life and Let It Be

UMH 569 – We Have A Story to Tell to the Nations

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We are in the middle of the series of messages titled The Basics of Faith. The reason I think it is important to revisit these concepts is because our church does not live in isolation. All of us have complex and nuanced reasons for why we have faith and how we live our faith and devotion to God. Unfortunately, because we live in a fallen world, we tend to focus our attention on the things that distract us [take our attention away] from God. As a result we are no longer challenged to think about our faith and our place in God’s creation. We have faith, we just don’t think about it much. Instead, we try to fit our infinite God into our finite brains.

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We live in a community, and the men and women outside the walls of this building have questions of faith and struggle with them just like we do. When our neighbors come through these doors they are looking for God. They are looking for answers to the tough questions of faith that they struggle with. That is why it is important for us to revisit the basic concepts of our faith from time to time so that we can better articulate our thoughts and experiences in today’s vernacular whenever the opportunity presents itself. Then, when someone asks us a difficult question of faith we are able to provide more than a simplistic answer; we are able to articulate our faith in contemporary and meaningful language, in a way that our nominally religious neighbors can relate to and understand.

So far in this series of messages we have looked at what it means that we live in a fallen world, what it means that we are created in the image of God, what it means that we have God’s Grace, and we have also talked about the Sacraments.

Today I want to talk about death and renewal.

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In the movie “Under the Tuscan Sun” the main heroine (her name is Frances) discovers that her life is falling apart around her. Her relationship with her husband is broken (they are getting divorced) and on top of that she has lost everything that she has ever loved and had in her life. The only memory that she gets to keep from her past life is a vase – a small blue vase that used to sit on the desk in her study. She found herself in a stupor and in a rut. Who among us has not been in her shoes at one time or another?

{Illustration: STUPOR = didn’t want to do anything; RUT = didn’t know how to do anything differently}

One day, two of her friends came for a visit and gave her a ticket for a two-week vacation in Italy. While in Italy, Frances gets off the tour bus and buys a dilapidated villa in the center of Tuscany. Was it a whim? Was it an impulse? Or was it a plea for a new start… Whatever the reason, this is what she did. You know how sometimes we read in the real estate section of the newspaper: charming house – handyman’s special. Well, the villa that Frances purchased was not a handyman’s special, IT WAS THE CONTRACTOR’S ASSURANCE OF FOOD ON THE TABLE FOR A VERY LONG TIME.

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In the middle of the movie there is an episode where Frances accidentally breaks her little blue vase, the only link that she had with her past. This episode, that broken vase, is a turning point in the story. That is when Frances turned around, and instead of continuing her efforts to restore a charming villa, she decided to make it into her home, to build a new life there [instead of building a museum she decided to make a home]. That is when Frances reached a new understanding of what had happened to her. It was sort of an epiphany, an understanding that her past was gone and that her future is what she would make out of it.

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Something inside of Frances died when the vase was broken; that “death” created open space in her soul and in her psyche for new life to take root. Renewal cannot happen without some sort of death. We can make space for new ideas by physically dying and with us out of the way the new life will come in. Or we can allow something to die emotionally and spiritually to allow new life, new ideas and new concepts to take root.

{Illustration}

The easiest example of this is pastoral moves. As I stand before you today I am grieving the loss of my previous church family. It has nothing to do with your hospitality and acceptance – which were great. That being understood, for over four years I cared about the congregation of Christ United Methodist Church, I held their hands when they were vulnerable, I challenged them when they got too complacent, we cried together, we laughed together, we broke bread together, we locked horns on many issues that our church family was facing, we tried new things together and we learned to love and to accept each other. Grief is the price of love. And now something inside of me has to die to Christ UMC so that I can develop new relationships here at Kingswood UMC, and catch your vision for your church.

{//Illustration}

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We see examples of this in the Scriptures. As Lot and his family were fleeing Sodom and Gomora with only the clothes on their backs, his wife could not bear the grief of losing her friends, her neighbors and all of her things, so she looked back (Genesis 19:26). We all have been in her shoes (break up of a relationship, loss of job, moving to a new city for work, graduation from school or college, retirement). Genesis tells us that Lot’s wife became a pillar of salt, frozen in her memories and in her past for eternity. That is what happens to us when we hold on to the past to the exclusion and barring of the future. We get bound in space and time unable to do anything because we are paralyzed by all the physical and emotional stuff that we have accumulated on our life’s journey. Without death there is no resurrection.

{Illustration: Emotional death vs physical death // yesterday’s heresies become tomorrow’s orthodoxies  // in Jesus’ day the establishment considered him to be a heretic.}

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That is why Jesus taught, “Remember Lot’s wife! Whoever tries to keep their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life will preserve it” (Luke 17:32-33). By not being willing to open herself to new opportunities, Lot’s wife became frozen in space and time and turned into a pillar of salt.

Something interesting happens when we open ourselves to new possibilities and make space for these possibilities in our hearts and minds. We call these possibilities “VISION,” and we know that where there is no vision, people perish (Proverbs 29:18); Lot’s wife turned into stone because she was not willing to let go of her past and to see beyond her present; she is a metaphor for the loss of vision.

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{Illustration: Talk about the chart. }

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In John 12:24-25 Jesus taught, “24 Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. 25 Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.

“Anyone who loves their life will lose it…” That is how Jesus described people who do not let go of things that are no longer useful or things that do not produce the results that they need or want. We lose our lives when we are in a rut and in a stupor. Life still goes on, it simply bypasses us and we become frozen in time and space like Lot’s wife was.

On the other hand, when we let go of things that have outlived their usefulness, we allow space for new possibilities and renewal in our lives. We become like a wheat stalk that bears many seeds. We allow new life and new possibilities to take root.

 

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