Thursday, January 27, 2011

Kings & More Kings

The Story of Scripture: Kings & More Kings 1/23/11
I Kings 15:1-8, II Kings 18:1-8, Luke 4:14-30

You may have heard the phrase: Jumping Jehosaphat. Have any of you used that phrase before? Euphemism for Jehovah and a way to avoid taking the Lord's name in vain. It is one of the American colloquialism's similar to egad (o God, and Jeez, for Jesus). Jumping is found in American literature in 1850’s.

But Jehosaphat was a real person, one of the Kings of Israel. Last week, we talked about the first three kings: Saul, David and Solomon. They are the most famous, and the most is written about them in the Bible.

It seems clear from the Bible that God never wanted Israel to have a king. God wanted to be their king…so that they could be provided for, and be a blessing for the world.

A King, by definition, would have his interests, as well as his people’s protection in mind. The king wouldn’t be concerned with the world, but rather, his land and his people.

But God had brought about the existence of Israel for a whole other reason: By you all nations of the world will be blessed. In the nation of Israel, there were twelve tribes, and one of them was the tribe of priests who would pray and sacrifice on behalf of the whole nation. Well, the nation of Israel was to be, from God’s perspective, priests for the whole world. They were to bring blessing and honor the name of God, so that all nations might walk in light. Having a king was a direct contradiction to what God had wanted.

Today, we highlight that the nation of Israel has other kings in addition to the main three we highlighted last week. In fact, there are kings for about 700 hundred years before the world empires such as the Greeks and the Romans rule Israel.
During those hundreds of years, there are good kings and bad kings. And there are prophets who confront kings when their behavior is bad. In our Bibles, prophets like Isaiah, Jeremiah, Hosea, Joel confront kings for their wrongdoing. So much of the literature of the Hebrew Scripture was written about and during the era of the kings.

Our two readings today provide an example of a good and bad king. The structure of the records is pretty common to the Bible. There are four books that highlight the kings after Solomon: I & II Kings and I & II Chronicles. Each Kings important contributions are recorded in the annals of the Kings of Judah or the annals of the kings of Israel. For after Solomon, Israel has a civil war, and breaks into the north (called Israel) and south (called Judah).

In our readings about Abijah and Hezekiah, we see how large a figure King David was. Generations after David had died, he is still the measuring stick for all the other kings.

Abijah provides a good example of what happens during many of the reigns.
--He continues the sins of his father
--His heart is not devoted to God.
--God is patient during the wicked reigns because of his promise to David.
--that kings reign in the midst of forces beyond their control.
--you can’t reign forever.

Hezekiah provides a good example of how a reign can bring hope and help.
--he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord.
--he remembered what David had done.
--he removed idols from the land.
--he even parted with something significant in Israel’s history that had started to have a negative life of its own: the bronze snake.
--he trusted in the Lord.
--he keeps on the right path and does not give up.
--he keeps the commands of the law, given to Moses.
--he does not bow to other kings but bows to his king, the Lord.

And for the ways he honored God,
--his name is remembered and honored among the generations
--the Lord was with him.
--and he was successful in all that he undertook.

Jesus: God’s Good Reign

Deep reverence in worship and respect for tradition
The Spirit of the Lord, and being anointed by the Spirit for service
The preaching of good news (for the poor)
The proclamation of liberty (for the imprisoned)
The recovery of sight (for the blind)
The release of oppression
The proclamation of the year of the Lord’s favor.

The surprise element in the message of Jesus:
Bold to proclaim: I am he.
Reminding Israel, the chosen people, that ultimately God is the one choosing, and he will surprise the comfortable in his choices.
Wanting to throw him off a cliff, he walks through them, and scorns their little perception of power.

God’s surprise and judgment is always directed at those who thought they were on the inside.
Are we insiders today: familiar with the message, comfortable with our perception.

Our call is to do the work of Jesus in this world. We are to be a blessing to the nations. The blessing we share is the message of Jesus. The message will surprise the world, and surprise those who proclaim the message.

To whom do we bring the message of Jesus: the poor, the prisoner, the blind, the oppressed.

When we listen to that: is that someone else? Or is it me?

Because Jesus said that is who he was coming for. And I want to be someone Jesus comes for.

In Jesus Christ, God has announced to the world that his favor will rest on humankind.

Those who oppose that message will ultimately be silenced. Even if it’s a bunch of kings. And to those ‘foolish’ enough to accept God’s kingdom, they will someday reign, as sons and daughters of the living God.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Three (Wise) Guys

The Story of Scripture: The Three (Wise) Guys 1/16/11
I Samuel 8, II Samuel 7:1-17, Luke 11:29-32

Let me get this straight:
God’s covenant (agreement) was that:
· A land would be given to you
· You would live in cities that you did not build
· You would eat from vineyards and olive groves
· The people would have life and prosperity.
· The people would increase in number.
· God would be Israel’s king
· God would lead Israel to victory when battle occurred.
· Joshua testified that every promise given by God had been fulfilled.

Yet the people wanted a human king.

Samuel tells them what would happen:
· The king will take the sons and make them serve in the armies, on the front lines.
· The king will make other plow the kings ground and reap his harvest.
· The king will make others manufacture weapons and chariots for the king.
· The king will put everyone to work.
· The king will take 10% of the grain harvested (remember another 10% was already committed to keeping the priesthood provided for)
· The king will take the best of the fields, vineyards and olive groves and give it to his workers.
· The king will take the best of the servants, cattle and donkey for his own use.
· The king will take 10% of your flocks.
· You will become the king’s slaves
· When you cry about it, God will not answer you.

You are willing to accept these conditions because you want to be like the other nations around you…even though God has promised to make you better and more prosperous than the other nations and you would be his treasured possession from throughout the earth.

What exactly am I missing here?

The Story of Scripture:
Genesis: the creation of Israel
Exodus: the redemption of Israel
Lev-Deuteronomy: the sanctification of Israel
Joshua: taking up God’s promise
Judges: falling away from order.
Samuel: a special prophet for unique times.

God would be their King. The Law was given for their society and order was to be provided by the priests.

And the people wanted a king.

Today, in our year long story of Scripture: the people get what they want.
And sometimes, once you open the door, you can’t reverse your decision.
We look at the big three, the first three kings of Israel: Saul, David and Solomon.

(I thought about going down the road that I perceive a parallel with first 3 U.S. Presidents. Saul and Washington were Generals, David and Adams were diplomats, and Solomon and Jefferson were thinkers/philosophers.)

Oh, the books that we could fill with Israel’s first kings…and generally speaking, they were the good ones.

In a sentence: Impressive in appearance but generally speaking, a psychopath.

General story line: respectful and humble before the prophet Samuel when they meet, he is secretly anointed King. He experiences a conversion shortly afterwards and is seen partaking in a procession of prophets. When Samuel is ready to publicaly anoint him King, Saul is hiding. He comes out to the cry of the people: Long live the king. His reign lasted 42 years, and was (mostly) successful as a military leader against the Philistines, but gains God’s anger and rejection for not following commands against the Amalekites. God declares that he is grieved that Saul was made king.
After David is anointed by Samuel, Saul lives the rest of his time as King incredibly insecure and angry. He is troubled in his spirit and actively seeks to kill David (several attempts). He is infuriated when a song compares him unfavorably to David. He ultimately commits suicide rather than fall at the hands of the Philistines.

Relationship to the (real) King:
Mixed. A good start with a bad finish. God changed Saul’s heart. Saul danced when the Spirit of the Lord came upon him in public celebration. Saul sought comfort in the music of the Lord by a young musician named David. But Saul also ignored God’s commands. He sought mediums instead of God. His anger and insecurity drove him from God.

In a sentence: Israel’s golden standard.

General story line: You want murder, intrigue, close calls, adultery…the story of David has it all. There really should be a motion picture made of this guys life…it would be rated R. And yet the contributions of David as King and poet are remembered forever. Perhaps you have heard the words: The Lord is my Shepherd.

David is close friends with Saul’s son Jonathon. David is one of the few people that Scripture records “Loved his neighbor as he loved himself”, a wonderful spiritual legacy. He is anointed king by Samuel despite being in the fields as a shepherd and the youngest of his brothers. He attempts great things for the cause of God, including slaying Goliath. David’s youth is spent being on the run from Saul. Yet after Saul dies, David is grieved in his spirit. While running from Saul, He ends us making partnerships with radical fringe groups and enemies of Saul, having multiple wives. He becomes king and secures his kingship through assassination of his political threats. He becomes successful in his military endeavors and is promised that his throne will be established forever by God. Yet because he is a warrior, he would not build a temple for God. David succumbs to his power in the story of Bathsheba, which includes assassinating his friend Uriah. Eventually David’s sons seek to take the throne from him and seek to take his life. After more running, he eventually returns to Jerusalem to end his days, and, in an intense moment toward the end of his life, anoints his son Solomon as heir to the throne. By the way, Solomon is the son of Bathsheba.

Relationship to the (real) King:
Do you like Roller coasters? Then you’d enjoy David’s spiritual life. The lasting contributions include about half of the Psalms that we have today. David is the central figure in the heritage of Jesus Christ. His name endures forever as a historic figure in faith and Israel’s heritage. Some pretty amazing statements are made about David, including the “he loved his neighbor as himself line”. David reminds us that our pride creates obstacles to our relationship with God, but that God’s forgiveness and grace allows us to have quite a story. At the end of the day, David loved God.

In a sentence
: most world renown King of Israel.

General story line: Solomon is made king hastily before David’s death. David gives him the plans and charge to build a temple for God. Solomon, in an encounter with God where God offers one wish to Solomon, asks for wisdom. We see this wisdom in the famous ruling of the two mothers claiming a child as their own, and in the Queen of Sheba visiting Solomon for his wisdom. Solomon obtains political and economic partnerships and builds multiple palaces as well as the temple. (See Solomon’s splendor 10:14-29). His sons rebel against him in an attempt to dethrone him and after 40 years of reign, he died.

Relationship to the (real) King:
Do you remember the story of the tortoise and the hare? Good starts don’t always lead to good finishes.

“Solomon showed his love for the LORD by walking according to the statutes of his father David except that he offered sacrifices and burned incense on the high places.” (I Ki 3:3)

Because of his political alliances, Solomon has over a 1000 wives, and the idols of the nations that he had partnership with.

Yet he also wrote Song of Solomon, Proverbs and a list of other important historical documents for Israel. And he was wise because of the blessing of God.

What does this mean for us:

1. The People always looked for a King.
2. They had one if only they recognized it.
3. The struggle between Divine fulfillment and human legacy.
4. The pursuit of a good life is filled with obstacles of our own making.
5. Our main story line is commitment to God as King, the kingdom of

The benefits of the kingdom of God are the easiest and toughest sell in the world.
We have met one greater than the Solomon.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Called to Service

The Story of Scripture: Called to Service 1/9/11
I Samuel 3, Matthew 3:12-4:11, Acts 10:34-48

Today is baptism of the Lord Sunday, a day we remember Jesus being called to service. We read three stories about call, each with a different twist.
The uniqueness of Samuel and Jesus’ call stories, the Call of the Gentiles

Yet, the true uniqueness is that there are as many call stories as people who follow. The commonality is the one who calls. God the Creator creating call stories.

My friends, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before God. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.” --I Corinthians 1:26-30

Samuel is about being: Called Before We Knew It

Jesus: Living Out the Theme of Scripture

This story revisits the 3 P's as identified by Brueggeman.
Promise: We do not live by bread alone, but by the Word of God
Prohibition: Do not put the Lord your God to the test
Permission: Worship the Lord your God and serve him only

The Acts story is about the inclusion of the Nations into the people of faith.
The Gentiles: Called Even When Others Didn’t Think So

A Generation That Did Not Know God

A Generation That Did Not Know God 1/2/11
Judges 2:6-23, Isaiah 60:1-9, Matthew 2

Whenever we talk about the downfall of society, I think about these quotes that were attributed to those of long ago...

Attibuted to Socrates, by PlatoThe children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. Theycontradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their teachers

Attributed to Peter the Hermit, 1274 ADThe world is passing through troublous times. The young people of today think of nothing but themselves. They have no reverence for parents or old age. They are impatient of all restraint. They talk as if they knew everything, and what passes for wisdom with us isfoolishness with them. As for the girls, they are forward, immodest and unladylike in speech, behavior and dress

G. K. Chesterton: "I believe what really happens in history is this: the old man is always wrong; and the young people are always wrong about what is wrong with him. The practical form it takes is this: that, while theold man may stand by some stupid custom, the young man always attacks it with some theory that turns out to be equally stupid."

Today, we talk about a generation that did not know God. This quote is taken from the Book of Judges, a unique time in the history of Israel.

The Story of Scripture: 2010 Review
September/October: Genesis
(Creation, Fall, Dysfunction Spreads, Noah, Abraham &
Covenant, Isaac the child of promise, Jacob, Joseph)
November: Exodus
(slavery, the birth of Moses, salvation, wilderness)
December: Leviticus-Joshua:
(Law & Order, Entering the Land, Joshua as Moses’ successor)

In short, a nation is created (Genesis), redeemed (Exodus) and sanctified (Leviticus-Joshua). God is their king and has given them the land to live in, find God’s blessing and keep its covenant. Unfortunately, the nation ultimately chooses another direction.

Israel’s Encyclical Behavior:
Sin, Judgment, Deliverance
The people fall from God, receiving the previously promised judgment from God for falling, which leads to cries for deliverance, which God sends by way of Judges.

Judges should not be perceived in the same role we have today. They were, rather, warrior/kings, and in the case of Deborah, warrior/queen.

After the death of the leader, the people revert back to their ways and repeat the cycle.

Forgetting the Covenant From God:
The Covenant was that Israel would be God’s people and God would be Israel’s God, with which came the benefits of protection and provision.

There was also land, the blessings of it, and the relationship with the Creator. God would be their God and King. The people did not need to look to political leadership.

But the people looked around them, and wanted what everyone else had.

Judges Isaiah Matthew

Reality: Judges
--A generation that did not know God.
--Everyone did what was right in their own eyes

Judges is about A Nation Falling Apart: (G. Campbell Morgan)
1. Religious Apostasy (leading to blindness)
2. Political disorganization (leading to folly)
3. Social Chaos (leading to immorality)

Vision: Isaiah
The sons and daughters return. The wealth of nations comes. Israel does receive its promise, eventually.

Pt. A to Pt. B: Matthew
· the light of the star gives joy as we follow it.
· Gifts come to the home, sometimes in surprising ways.
· Sometimes you hear a voice sent from above.
· Sometimes you have to get up and go.
· Sometimes you have to wait and live in an unfamiliar place.
· Sometimes we see the madness and horror of godlessness.
· Sometimes you get to come home.
· Sometimes you have to make a decision.

Spiritual formation occurs in the midst of these life circumstances, not apart from it.

One More Thing:
Ruth, is a book during the time of the Judges, out of which the Messianic Line is traced.

A little bit early, actually the 13th day after Xmas. Today is the 9th day of Xmas.
See the light of Jesus Christ for your soul.
Be the light of Jesus Christ for the world.

The Day the Sun Stood Still

The Day the Sun Stood Still
Joshua 10:1-15, John 1:1-18, Colossians 3:12-17

Part of my year long the Story of Scripture sermon series

The movie Magnolia is about 9 stories woven together, all of whom have quirkly and struggling lives. Toward the end of the movie, there is a scene where frogs start falling from the sky: thousands and thousands of frogs. The scene leaves your head scratching, until a picture on the wall appears of the Exodus, with the words: But it did happen. But it did happen answers the thought process that most viewers were experiencing, “But that can’t happen”. But it did happen.

Today’s story of Joshua offers doubters and believers the ultimate chance to spar.

Traditional theories espoused by biblical commentators…
Don Stewart offers the following possibilities for what happened in the Joshua story of commanding the sun to stand still. What Happened? 1. The passage is poetical and not to be understood literally. 2. The sun "standing still" refers to an eclipse of the sun. 3. The earth actually stopped its rotation around the sun for almost twenty-four hours per Joshuas request. 4. The earths rotation was slowed down, not stopped. This lengthened the day by almost twenty-four hours. 5. The sun and moon appeared to be out of their regular place by a supernaturally given mirage. 6. Rather than the day being prolonged, God prolonged the previous night.

Interestingly enough, there are
Similar myths throughout other cultures throughout world, though differing time periods.

At the end of the day: I don’t know, and I’m not sure I need to care.

The best evidence would be the accounts from the people who saw it: the story of Scripture, and that is what we have.

Whether it happened or not, it was told to have happened, and in that sense, it is important.

Why this story today, the day after Christmas? Why read today about the story of Joshua commanding the sun to stand still?

1. Part of the Story of Scripture passed down to us, for our faith.
2. continues the idea that God had promised the land to Israel, and now Israel was taking the land.
3. That God is on the side of Israel in reaching this goal.
4. That God’s hand accompanies the humanness of taking the land.
5. Miracles are a part of our faith.
6. Wanting to know is not faithless.
7. Because Christmas, the original story of Christ’s birth, that is another miracle story

We had a miracle story this week in the life of our congregation: Gracie. Gracie is the family dog of one of our members, and after being lost for several days, returned home this week! Was there a rational explanation of where Gracie was during this time? Of course, if we were privvy to that information. But that doesn't take away for to us, a miracle.

our understanding of miracles in everyday life, and trying to explain them, could be placed into one of 4 quadrants:
No data or faith no faith, but yes to data
Yes to faith and data yes to faith, no to data.

Christmas is about the greatest miracle: God in human flesh.

--Jesus, full of grace and truth. God’s picture of data and faith.
--to all who believed in this miracle, this person, this baby and child, would be given the right to become children of God.

How do we respond to the Miraculous God, who invaded human history with hailstorms, and ultimately, through Jesus?

--we who have believed have received one blessing after another.
(grace in the place of grace)
How do we respond? By living out Paul’s words to the Colossians:
And Mary wrapped the baby who was lying in the manger.
And we wrap ourselves with Christ’s clothing:
Compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, tolerance, forgiveness, love, peace, thankfulness.

Paul also encourages us to have the Word of Christ dwelling in us.
The WORD: John, the Logos, the Word. God spoke, and Jesus was the Word we could see and hear and understand and believe in. He was full of grace and truth.

There is a tremendous liberty in following the Colossian words. They provide a new template for living life.
Whatever you do, whether word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

And if you do that, who knows, even the sun might stand still for you.

Monday, January 3, 2011

NFL Playoffs

Predictions to laugh at come February:

Wild Card Weekend
Saints 20, Seahawks 17
Colts 34, Jets 21
Ravens 20, Chiefs 14
Eagles 38, Packers 34

Divisional Weekend
Patriots 38, Ravens 14
Saints 17, Falcons 13
Eagles 28, Bears 21
Steelers 13, Colts 10

Championships Weekend
Eagles 31, Saints 27
Patriots 34, Steelers 28

Patriots 24, Eagles 21

Its 2004 all over again.

2010 NFL in Review

A review of my 2010 NFL regular season predictions:

TEAM Predicted Record Final Record Off By:
Jets 9-7 11-5 2
Patriots 9-7 14-2 5
Dolphins 9-7 7-9 2
Bills 6-10 4-12 2

Ravens 10-6 12-4 2
Bengals 9-7 4-12 5
Steelers 8-8 12-4 4
Browns 7-9 5-11 2

Colts 11-5 10-6 1
Titans 9-7 6-10 3
Texans 8-8 6-10 2
Jaguars 5-11 8-8 3

Chargers 10-6 9-7 1
Chiefs 8-8 10-6 2
Raiders 8-8 8-8 0
Broncos 6-10 4-12 2

Cowboys 10-6 6-10 4
Eagles 9-7 10-6 1
Giants 8-8 10-6 2
Redskins 8-8 6-10 2

Packers 10-6 10-6 0
Vikings 9-7 6-10 3
Lions 7-9 6-10 1
Bears 5-11 11-5 6

Saints 10-6 11-5 1
Panthers 8-8 2-14 6
Falcons 7-9 13-3 4
Buccaneers 4-12 10-6 6

49ers 10-6 6-10 4
Seahawks 8-8 7-9 1
Cardinals 8-8 5-11 3
Rams 3-13 7-9 4

Well, there you have it. Within Divisions, I was collectively off by...
AFC East 11 games
AFC North 13 games
AFC South 9 games
AFC West 5 games

NFC East 9 games
NFC North 10 games
NFC South 17 games
NFC West 12 games

So, basically, I had some sense of the AFC west, where I picked the most parity related records.