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; July 23, 2017; Hebrews 6:1-12, 10:19-25

Scriptures for this coming Sunday: Hebrews 6:1-12, 10:19-25

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

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We live in the age of 140-character tweets. Call it pop-psychology, pop-theology, pop-anything, but the reality remains that feel-good platitudes are somewhat important in our society.

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I often hear that optimism is an important quality for a leader. Intuitively it makes sense; nobody wants to hear Eeyore deliver Sunday’s message in church in 140-character increments.

Unfortunately, all that pop-theology and pop-psychology forces our pastors to project positivity.

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As I watch the news about armed conflicts around the world (Korea, Syria, Afghanistan), as I learn about climate change, and monitor the national debate about affordable health care, I struggle with my own sense of optimism.

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As I recognize that struggle with optimism within, I must make a choice:

  1. I can either stand in front of God and lie and pretend that everything is okay, or

  2. I can acknowledge these uncertainties and doubts and embrace the deep grief that I am feeling – “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.”

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The point that I am trying to make is that it would be dishonest of me to be perpetually optimistic, to preach that everything will work out when it comes to our world, our denomination and our individual church communities. We don’t know whether things will work out in our lives. “Happily ever after” is not guaranteed.

As the United Methodist Church, we face incredible institutional inertia. Our churches have faced and will have to face unending bureaucracy, raging poverty, drugs, children who are ignored and abused, fractured families.

That is why I am coming to the realization that optimism is not what any Christian (whether ordained or not), or any honest person for that matter, should model for their followers or neighbors. The fiscal and spiritual poverty will never go away. Tragedies will not stop happening. There will always be those among us who choose bureaucracy over community, status quo over change, individual power over love, and cynicism over hope.

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So far today’s message is a major downer, but it brings us to a couple of questions:

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  1. What do we have to offer to each other and to our neighbors? In other words, why would anybody in their right mind want to come to church?

  2. · How do we prepare for the inevitable emotional wounds and disappointments that we encounter on our journeys, while at the same time believing that the struggle is worthwhile and is glorious?

The answers to these questions lie in the differences between optimism and hope. Whether we are aware of these differences, they have sustained generations of Christians before us, they sustain us today, and they will sustain generations of Christians for years to come.

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NIV2010 Hebrews 6: 1Therefore let us move BEYOND the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, 2 instructions about cleansing rites, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. 3 And God permitting, we will do so.

Optimism claims that everything will be all right no matter what the realities of life are.

However, hope accepts {1} the realities, {2} the poverty of spirit that underlies fear and instigates tragedies, {3} bureaucracy, and {4} institutional inertia, etc…. Hope then takes the capacity of our hearts, the place where Jesus lives if we invite him there, and turns it into solutions. There is a saying that sacred cows make gourmet burgers; hope is the process that turn sacred cows into burgers.

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NIV2010 Hebrews 10: 23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

There is no reality that God shall not overcome. This is the foundation of our hope.

Optimism will get shattered by reality and come to a standstill because optimism is rooted in us.

Hope will go toe-to-toe with reality because Jesus never quits.

Optimism depends on external realities relenting and working themselves out; given to their own devices they will not. Hope, does not ignore external realities; it simply takes into consideration our hearts’ capacity to withstand those realities, and it trusts in the inexhaustible power of our Jesus-powered-hearts to choose love over fear, or bureaucracy, or inertia, or anything else for that matter.

As Christians, we are called to be filled with hope; we are not called to be purveyors of plastic smiles and platitudes offering a lame optimism. As Christians, we are called to take seriously the challenges of bringing Jesus to the world around us.

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Matthew 28: 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.

If you want to catch fish, go to the river. If I want to hide my head in the sand, I go to the movies and watch the musical “La La Land.” If I need hope, I look for the presence of the Holy in the world around me because only God can fill my heart with hope.

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NIV2010 Hebrews 6: 11 We want each of you to show {this same} diligence to the very end, so that what you hope for may be fully realized. 12 We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.

Hymn 368 – My Hope is Built verse 3 in our hymnal talks about this.

His oath, his covenant, his blood

supports me in the whelming flood.

When all around my soul gives way,

he then is all my hope and stay.

(Refrain)

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