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Sermon 6/10/12 “Family Values”

June 10th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

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Jesus Accused by His Family and by Teachers of the Law

 20 Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat. 21 When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.”

 22 And the teachers of the law who came down from Jerusalem said, “He is possessed by Beelzebul! By the prince of demons he is driving out demons.”

 23 So Jesus called them over to him and began to speak to them in parables: “How can Satan drive out Satan? 24 If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25 If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. 26 And if Satan opposes himself and is divided, he cannot stand; his end has come. 27 In fact, no one can enter a strong man’s house without first tying him up. Then he can plunder the strong man’s house. 28 Truly I tell you, people can be forgiven all their sins and every slander they utter, 29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; they are guilty of an eternal sin.”

 30 He said this because they were saying, “He has an impure spirit.”

 31 Then Jesus’ mother and brothers arrived. Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him. 32 A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him, “Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.”

   33 “Who are my mother and my brothers?” he asked.

 34 Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.” (Mark 3:20-35, New International Version)

Sermon 6/3/12 “An Interpersonal God”

June 3rd, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

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 12 Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation—but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it. 13 For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.

 14 For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. 15 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. (Romans 8:12-17, New International Version)

Sermon 5/27/12 “Continuing to Learn”

May 27th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

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4 I have told you this, so that when their time comes you will remember that I warned you about them. I did not tell you this from the beginning because I was with you, 5 but now I am going to him who sent me. None of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ 6 Rather, you are filled with grief because I have said these things. 7 But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. 8 When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 about sin, because people do not believe in me; 10 about righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; 11 and about judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.

   12 “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. 13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. 14 He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. 15 All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.” (John 16:4-15, New International Version)

Meditation 5/22/12 Turn off, tune out, retreat

May 22nd, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

Pico Iyer is a writer who I first found writing about travel, but he has gone deeper than that. Here is an article that I just had to include in my emails. It’s called “The Joy of Quiet” and it comes from the New York Times Sunday Review of Jan. 1, 2012.

I like his examples of people turning off, tuning out and retreating for just a while. My personal disciplines in this direction have been to try not to turn on my computer for anything but fun and games from Sunday after church until Tuesday morning. Rare is the week however, that I can stick to that discipline. I was struck by Iyer’s noting the selfishness of such behavior. That is true for me too, but I rationalize it as a beneficial selfishness (sanctified selfishness??).

How and where do you find your Sabbath time?

Sermon 5/20/12 “Giving Our Testimony”

May 20th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

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Jesus Prays for His Disciples

    6 “I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word. 7 Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. 8 For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me. 9 I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours. 10 All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them. 11 I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one. 12 While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled.

   13 “I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. 14 I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. 15 My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. 17 Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. (John 17:6-17, New International Version)

9 We accept human testimony, but God’s testimony is greater because it is the testimony of God, which he has given about his Son. 10 Whoever believes in the Son of God accepts this testimony. Whoever does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because they have not believed the testimony God has given about his Son. 11 And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.

Concluding Affirmations

 13 I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. (1 John 5:9-13, New International Version)

Meditation 5/18/12 Christian Unity

May 18th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

I enjoy the “Century marks” section of Christian Century magazine. It is full of pithy little notes, such as the following. This comes from the book “Postliberal Theology and the Catholic Church” The Century gives it the byline: “Modest Proposal.”

“Stanley Hauerwas ways he wasn’t interested in the ecumenical movement when he graduated from seminary because is seemed to be about “denominational executives…trying to see how they could join their denominational headquarters under diminishing resources to discover how unity could occur without anyone losing a job.” But he cared about the unity of the church. The kind of Christian unity he advocates is found on a poster on his office door: “A modest proposal for peace: let the Christians of the world resolve not to kill each other.”

What a novel idea! Perhaps we could add to that not bearing false witness and some of the other Ten Commandments. The Christian Church is undergoing hard times these days, much of those hard times self-generated. Hauerwas’ suggestion would be a good place to start reforming.

What do you do with your anger against or disgust with other Christians?

Meditation 5/15/12 Stretching Our Viewpoint

May 15th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

Here’s another reflection on reading the Bible from material we used last fall in our “How We Read the Bible.” This is from Miles Coverdale, Bishop of Exeter, England, 1488-1569, from his “A Prologue to the Bible.” I found it in “Nearer to the Heart of God” compiled and edited by Bernard Bangley, Paraclete Press, 2005.

“Some think that many different translations of the Scriptures make divisions in the faith and in the people of God. This is not true. The best possible thing for the people of God is for every church to have various translations of the bible. … Therefore it need not be evil that people who have a knowledge of language should express the text of the Bible in their native tongue. They should work hard at it, translating out of one language into another. Instead of taking offense at such labor, we should thank God for their willingness and for the inspiration of his Spirit!”

When we do a Bible study class we try to use many translations. Though that annoys some folks, it enriches the whole class, as we find that some translations speak to us better than others. Coverdale knew this 500 years ago, just at a time when new and different English translations were being created. To hear someone else’s viewpoint can stretch our own. It can lead to tolerance and respect of others. Those are good things. We are getting geared up for our third series of classes of “How We Read the Bible” and ever seeking for fresh ways to read and hear God’s Word.

May all your hearing and reading be inspired by the varieties of life around you.

Sermon 5/13/12 “The Benefit of Love”

May 13th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

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   9 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. 17 This is my command: Love each other. (John 15:9-17, New International Version)

1 John 5

Faith in the Incarnate Son of God

 1 Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well. 2 This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. 3 In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, 4 for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. 5 Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.

 6 This is the one who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ. He did not come by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. (1 John 5:1-6, New International Version)

Meditation 5/11/12 Possibility beyond the probable

May 11th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

As many of you may be aware, the scriptures for the Easter season focus on the resurrection. Here are some words of reflection on Luke 24:36-48 by Stephen A. Cooper, Associate Professor of Religious Studies, Franklin and Marshall College, Lancaster, Pennsylvania. These words are found in the commentary series “Feasting on the Word, Year B, vol. 2, from Westminster John Knox Press, 2008.

“The insistence on the reality of Christ’s body, both before and after the resurrection, corresponded to a central aspect of the faith, namely, that something new had occurred in Christ. This “something new” was not to be contained or comprehended by current modes of thinking about nature … as a fixed order of things. (This included…) The rejection of the Greek sense of cosmos as a stable and enduring order… The theological significance of this lies not so much in a matter of fact (which is historically unverifiable and therefore historically unknowable) about the nature of the resurrection body, but as a characterization of Christian hope and a rejection of totalistic systems of thought—scientific or otherwise—that limit the vision of the future to the shape of what seems probable according to current conceptions. Possibility beyond the probable is the nature of religious hope, a hope also symbolized as the kingdom of God, for which we pray regularly that it come.”

“Possibility beyond the probable…” is the phrase I used in my sermon for that Sunday. That short phrase summarized for me the rather complex thinking that this excerpt covers. The “probable” is what most of us base our lives upon. The probable is what is most likely to happen tomorrow based upon what has happened on all the days up to today. The “possible” is what might happen if we look at the world differently. The possible is how God might look at the world around us. Can our faith and our faith practices open us up more to the possible that God holds for us?

May you find possibility above and beyond the probable all around you.

Meditation 5/8/12 Soothing, healing, lifting, loving, helping and caring

May 8th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

Here is another quote from “The Rule of Benedict; A Spirituality for the 21st Century” by Joan Chittister, Crossroad Publishing, 1992, 2010. I must admit that Chittister’s comments speak to me more directly than the words of Benedict themselves. Here is part of her reflection on chapter 27 of the Rule.

“The idea that the spiritual life is only for the strong, for those who don’t need it anyway, is completely dispelled in the Rule of Benedict. Here spiritual athletes need not apply. Monasticism is for human beings only. The abbot and prioress are told quite clearly that they are to see themselves as physicians and shepherds tending the weak and carrying the lost not as drill sergeants, not as impresarios. What we have in monasteries and parishes and all fine social movements and devoted rectories and most families are just people, simple people who never meet their own ideals and often, for want of confidence and the energy that continuing commitment takes, abandon them completely. Then, our role, the Rule of Benedict insists, is simply to try to soothe what hurts them, heal what weakens them, lift what burdens them and wait. The spiritual life is a process, not an event. It takes time and love and help and care. It takes our patient presence. Just like everything else.

Soothing, healing, lifting, loving, helping and caring. Those describe not only the work inside monasteries, but in the world as well. It is to such action that Christ calls us no matter where we live. Did you catch the “waiting” part? That is sometime the most difficult part of our faith. We do what we think is right and good, then wait for some results. My guess is that many of us spend more time waiting than we’d like. Teaches us patience, doesn’t it?

May you continue to be patient with God and with yourself, as you move through this process of spiritual life.

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