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; Sunday, August 7, 2016; Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16

Scriptures for this Sunday: Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16

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

 

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Sometimes I wonder whether we make Christianity too much about Jesus and too little about us. I know that the previous sentence makes a strong statement, so before you start boiling tar and sharpening pitchforks, allow me to explain what I mean by that. Think about it this way: Jesus came to dwell among us and to give us a new understanding of God’s Creation. Jesus showed us a new way of living our lives and inspired us with a new vision. To complete His mission here on Earth, Jesus died on the Cross, was resurrected three days later, ascended to Heaven and sent the Holy Spirit to guide us in our mission of making disciples for the transformation of the world.

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We should always and in all circumstances give thanks and praise for what Jesus did and is still doing for us.

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When I say that we make being a Christian too much about Jesus and too little about us, what I mean is this: At the first Pentecost the responsibility for making the Kingdom of God a reality shifted from Jesus to you and me. Christianity is about what we do to make disciples for Jesus for the transformation of the world. To paraphrase President John F. Kennedy, “ask not what Jesus can do for you; instead ask what you can do for Jesus; ask what you can do to be the hands and feet of Jesus in the world in which we live.”

The truth is that many of us want to do as little as possible for God; we want a “magician” God who snaps God’s fingers and make things happen by magic.

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In October 2014, The Holy Father Francis said, “when we read about Creation in Genesis, we run the risk of imagining God as a magician, with a magic wand able to do everything. But that is not so.”

Understanding how things happen in the natural world gives us a glimpse of how God works among us. Figuring things out has served our society well: medicine, sciences, communication, art, etc.

Holy Father continued, “God created human beings and let them develop according to the internal laws that he gave to each one so they would reach their fulfillment.” I understand this to mean that we are created to strive to become the best version of what we are created to be.

That is why, the Holy Father continued, “[God] gave autonomy to the beings of the universe at the same time at which he assured them of his continuous presence, giving being to every reality, and so creation continued for centuries and centuries, millennia and millennia, until it became which we know today, precisely because God is not a demiurge or a magician – (What is a demiurge you ask? See explanation below), but the Creator who gives being to all things.”

Boring Theo-Philosophical Jibber-Jabber (a.k.a. an Explanation): In the Platonic, Neopythagorean, and Neoplatonic schools of philosophy, the demiurge is an artisan creature responsible for the fashioning and maintenance of the physical universe. The term was adopted by the Gnostics. Although a fashioner, the demiurge is not the same as the creator figure in the monotheistic sense, because both the demiurge itself plus the material from which the demiurge fashions the universe are created and are a product of efforts and imagination of some other being.

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The Apostle Paul said it this way, “…And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter {sic} of [our] faith. … he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1-2 NIV2010).

Every generation stands on the shoulders of those who came before them. Every generation builds on the accomplishments of those who came before them. Every person and every generation is defined by the stories we tell ourselves and how we interpret these stories. We become who we think we are. To give an example, instead of being a middle-aged man with a shiny head, a bit of extra “padding” and a great sense of humor, I could think of myself as an overweight behemoth/senior citizen unable to run in a Boston marathon. Both definitions {} are {} correct. My future life depends on what story I tell myself and which story I believe about myself. Similar to that, our future as Kingswood United Methodist Church depends on what story we tell ourselves.

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We have a story to share with the world. Sometimes when I need to center my mind on God, I just sit quietly. It is my way of saying, “Speak Lord, for your servant is listening” (1 Samuel 3:10). I invite the presence of the Holy Spirit to give me direction and to fill me with vision. Now, Lily Tomlin said once that when we tell others that we talk to God, they think that we are praying and that we are deeply spiritual. On the other hand, when we tell others that God talks to us, they want to lock us in a loony bin. My sitting quietly and listening to God is not anything like that.

This physical building was a spiritual home for Christians who worshiped here before us; they are a part of what Paul described as a “great cloud of witnesses” (Hebrew 11:1 NIV2010). Paul gives us an awesome example of who the “cloud of witnesses” were in his time. We have our own examples today: one of the voices in the “cloud” is the voice of Jane whose life we celebrated a few weeks ago. The voices of your loved ones who are with God are also in that “cloud” of witnesses.

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On my journey as a Christian, I have learned that the cloud of witnesses that Paul is talking about, are those who made the Kingdom of God a reality during their lifetime. It is up to us to be involved in God’s world today, and it is up to us to make the Kingdom of God a reality during our lifetime.

When we strive to do that, we stay ready for action. That is how we keep our “lamps” (Luke 12) filled with oil and burning. That is how we wait for Jesus to return (Luke 12). That is how we stay prepared to open the door for Jesus when he knocks and asks to enter into our hearts.

“Speak Lord, for your servants are listening.”

{Transition to the Holy Communion}

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