Thursday, March 31, 2011

MLB 2011

Yes folks, this morning starts a glorious day in the year: the baseball season. And because I cannot sleep, I will now make my baseball predictions for the year. As always, we will check in after the regular season to see how I did. And this year, if I am terribly wrong, i can blame the lack of sleep. The hot pick this year is some version of the Red Sox and Phillies, which happen to be the teams my wife and I, respectively, root for. I predicted them last year to meet, and it didn't happen, so I hope the hot picks are correct this year. As for me, last year I picked the Sox, because I thought they had the deeper pitching staff. But can you say "Cliff Lee"? National League East Phils 96-66, pitching wins despite the offense aging Braves 92-70, just a notch below Mets 81-81, I don't think they are as bad as others do Marlins 81-81, They should be better than this, just a hunch Nats 70-92, They shouldn't be better than this, just a hunch Central Reds 89-73, nice nucleus of talent Brewers 88-74, a little unsure of pitching, unlike many Cards 84-78, sure, why not? Cubs 83-79, like I need an exciting division race to watch Baseball Tonight? Astros 66-96, not feeling it Pirates 63-99, not feeling it, then add a "really" before the sentence West Giants 90-72, champs until dethroned Rockies 89-73, i hope to not see them in September Dodgers 79-81, too much drama Padres 77-85, too little drama D-backs 68-94, too little talent Playoffs: Giants over Braves (again) Phils over Reds (again) Phils over Giants (I wish I could write, again) American League East Boston 92-70, East is more balanced this year, Don't see the extremes in records Yanks 89-73, will trade for a pitcher before deadline. Rays 85-77, good, solid season, despite losing free agents Jay 82-80, little weak in pitching Orioles 77-85, improving under Showalter, but how do they break into top 3? Central Twins 90-72, always seem solid Tigers 90-72, why not another Tigers/Twins epic finish? Sox 81-81, I really don't know Royals, 66-96, the LA CLippers of baseball Indians 64-98, I don't see the talent West Rangers 83-79, win by default A's 81-81, I'm not as excited as everyone else Angels 80-82, a second year of Angels struggling? wow! M's 75-87, a second year of M's struggling? { } ( don't put wow! in { } ) Playoffs Sox beat the Tigers (in a battle of my two favorite American League teams) Twins beat the Rangers (finally get past the first round) Sox beat the Twins World Series Phils beat Sox in 7. Because the World Series and 7 games go perfect together. Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Ezekiel: Seeing Things

Ezekiel: Seeing Things Ezekiel 33:1-20, 37:1-14, Matthew 5:1-12 What do you see? I asked this of the congregation as we gathered on Sunday. There were a variety of interesting responses. It is an interesting question that can be intepreted a few different ways? What do you see? Ezekiel was the prophet whose ministry was one of seeing things for God. He was a Prophet and priest, the only prophet to have both offices. He prophesied in part during the exile He used 4 modes: oracles, visions, symbolic actions and prophesy His visions included: the Opening chariot scene, a trip to Jerusalem, the valley of dry bones, a restored temple Ezekiel is famous for his Symbolic actions: Eating the scroll, shaving his head The book is divided into three sections: Judgment Upon Israel 1-24 Ezekiel called The Day of the Lord God’s glory departs the temple Judgment and how it looks Judgment Upon the World 25-32 Restoration of Israel 33-48 Hope for Israel A New Temple There are several Paradoxes, as identified by Bullock in Old Testament Prophetic Books: God turns his face from his people, he will not hide his face anymore (7:22, 39:29) God’s glory leaves the temple, a new temple is described Land will be judged, land will be reclaimed by people Israel breaks covenant, an everlasting covenant established Bad shepherds/the Good Shepherd Judgment Upon Israel: found in 33:1-20 Two things that stand out in this passage are the demand of God's call upon the watchmen, and the warning to not rest on your laurels. Hope for Israel: 37:1-14 “Yet when they could hear and when the prophet could speak, the word of salvation was as graciously astonishing as the word of judgment had been terrifyingly devastating” They shall know that I am the Lord. Matthew: Shows us How People Know the Lord through Christ's teaching. What did Jesus see? the beatitudes Ezekiel’s Message for You & I We need to be careful and remember Ezekiel's words: Judgment upon Israel, world and hope for Israel. This message should not be ignored by believers today. Definition of judgment: a formal opinion by careful weighing of matters and testing of premises. The Bible warns us against judging others. The definition helps us in this warning. Why are we not to judge? Because we don't have all the information to test the premises. Judging is basically an uncareful weighing of matters without testing of premises. But God is able to judge justly and correctly, because God knows everything. He is holy, powerful, and careful (as well as caring). What do you see? Today, I hope you see justice, peace and love. And if you see injustice, chaos and hate, that you work to overcome it in the power of Jesus.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Jeremiah: the Weeping Prophet

Jeremiah: The Weeping Prophet 3/20/11
1:4-19, Lamentations 3:13-33, John 3:1-17

We all know the power of words. A Prophet is one who speaks and proclaims the Word of God. Yes, they live and act out the parable of faith through their daily life, and their living becomes an illustration for the people of faith. But mostly, it is their words that are remembered. Their powerful words change us even today.

Story of Scripture:
Last week, the prophets and their books are introduced: there are 17 prophetic books. Isaiah: Works Back to the Future.
Jeremiah: The past gives birth to the present.

God’s Call:
--Chosen before created
--Set apart before birth
--Prophet to the Nations

Jeremiah’s Response:
--I do not know how to speak
--I am only a boy

God’s Answer:
--Don’t say “I am only a boy” (if your going to give God and excuse, at least come up with a good one)
--Go where I say and say what I command
--Don’t be afraid of people
--I will protect you

God’s Action:
--touches Jeremiah’s mouth: I am putting words into you
--You are in charge of nations
--Pull up, tear down, destroy, overthrow, build up and plant
God’s Picture:
--Almond Tree: a sign of spring, especially in the dark days of winter
--Boiling Water: as impending judgment

How Judgment Looks:
--foreign thrones established around the city
--walls, gates and cities torn down
--evil was turning away from God
--evil was offering sacrifices to other gods

End of the Conversation Brings Us Back to God’s Call

God’s Call:
1. Get Ready
2. Stand up and tell everything God says
3. Don’t be afraid of people (or God will make you afraid of people)
4. I will make you strong
5. You will stand before everyone
6. They will fight you but not defeat you
7. Because I am with you.

Is this not also our call?


--great faithfulness of God emerges out of great difficulty
--good to work out your salvation: quietly, diligently, alone at times, and with humility

John: What Would Jesus Say?
· New Birth for a New Kingdom
· New Birth is a spiritual act (of the Holy Spirit)
· Faith and believe for what: everlasting life
· Encounter the great love of God shown in Jesus Christ

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Isaiah: Back to the Future

Isaiah: Back to the Future
Isaiah 35, Isaiah 65:17-25, Matthew 4:12-17

America was witness to a prophetic voice and figure within its past fifty years: Martin Luther King. He spoke to the powers of the United States when there was momentum on his side (the Civil Rights movement), and after he had gotten power and leverage, gave it up to speak against the Vietnam War.

He believed so strongly that what he represented was right, that he believed those who opposed him, knew deep down, they were wrong. What power!

Story of Scripture: Israel called to birth the Messiah. Rescued from slavery in Egypt, cross through the Red Sea, wander wilderness, establish law and enter promised land. They want a king, when God does not want that for them. After a series of bad kings, and the people not turning from their ways to follow the Lord, the people are exiled, and then return to the Land 70 years later.

Today, we transition to highlight a religious office in Israel that held the powers that be in balance: The prophet.

Common perception of a prophet is a future-teller. And parts of the prophetic books of the Bible, do tell about the future, and about specific events that would unfold, such as the destruction of the Babylonian empire, or the suffering that would come upon the Messiah. But generally speaking, a prophet is a messenger of the Lord, called to speak the Word of God.

Prophets would speak to kings. Prophets would speak to the religious establishment. Prophets would speak to everyday people.

Prophets would talk about the past. Prophets would talk about the present. Prophets would talk about the future.

Prophets would speak God’s message. Prophets would act out God’s message, through living parables. Prophets would take on a way of life, to model God’s message.

Donald Leggett in Loving God and Disturbing Men
1. keep God as central
2. portray evil realistically
3. call for change
4. give a hope-filled perspective on history
5. are socially relevant (speak to social order)

A prophet wakes us up from our sleepy complacency so that we see the great and stunning drama that is our existence, and then pushes us onto the stage playing our parts whether we think we are ready or not.
–E. Pederson, Run with Horses

Isaiah: Back to the Future

730-681 BC, Northern Israel falls during his prophesying.
Isaiah encounters the presence of God: chapter 6

General themes of Isaiah’s teachings (Bullock)
--Ruin and rebirth
--Divine Judgment
--Oracles against the nations
--suffering and salvation
--faithfulness and unfaithfulness
--the wicked and the righteous

The future as the End.
Looking at the End through the eyes of faith.
In message of salvation, the future is the beginning.
Looking at the End (goal) as to move from where you are to where you should be or where you would like to be. In doing this, you work your way back to the future.

Isaiah’s picture words for how the future looks…
Chapter 35:
v.1 parched land and wildnerness blooming: JOY and GLADNESS
v.2 beautiful spots will see the glory of God.
v.3-6 broken body parts will work again with new life.
v. 7 water will gush in the desert, burning sands will become pools,
thirsty ground becomes bubbling springs.
v.8 a highway of holiness that is safe and purposeful
v.10 entrance into the holy city with everlasting joy crowning their
heads, singing. Sorrow and sighing fleeing away.

Chapter 65:
God’s promise: I will create new heavens and new earth.
The former not remembered, nor come to mind.
Be glad and rejoice forever in what God creates.

Life at length.
Houses enjoyed
Fruit eaten that is grown
Pleasure in work
The real animal kingdom
The Holy Mountain overlooking
The people will be a people blessed by the Lord.

Jesus: Coming Back for the Future
From the smallest areas comes the biggest light.
Jesus is aware of what the prophet had seen for the future.
Jesus is the light for a dark world.
The people will see this light.
The light will shine on the people.
Jesus’ message: repent, for the kingdom of heaven has arrived (or, is near)

Lent: Repenting
Listening to and obeying the Word of God.
Being close to God and Jesus

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Story of Scripture: Here is the Matter

Here is the Matter
Proverbs 3, Ecclesiastes 12, John 6:60-69

The title of my sermon is “Here is the Matter”. But first, we must talk about a recent phenomenon of cosmic proportions. A force so omnipresent and powerful it has been part of us the past two weeks almost non-stop: What force is this?
Charlie Sheen:

I saw him on the Piers Morgan show, gave it 5 minutes of viewing time, because I had heard of recent struggles and tv postponement.

Then I heard of 2 other national TV appearances and I wondered to myself, why the campaign?

Then I saw an article on Yahoo which was entitled, very loosely, “Why all the sudden Charlie Sheen appearances”.

And then I read two things that interested me greatly in an article I read. First, the article stated that Charlie Sheen was living in his “L.A. manse”. I thought, wow, Charlie Sheen lives in a manse.
And then I saw that he joined twitter and got a million followers in 15 hours.

My personal opinion: the last time I saw him, he looked old. I hope for him to find his way and to find lasting happiness and fulfillment, deep joy and peace.

Old combined with folly is not a good combination.

As we get older, the ideal is that we will mature.

Today’s theme in the story of Scripture is Wisdom. There are books of the Bible called Wisdom books. They address universal human issues, not just Israel’s covenant with God. There is
Job: suffering
Proverbs: wisdom
Ecclesiastes: purpose and meaning (& meaninglessness)
Song of Solomon: Human sexuality and love

Wisdom is defined as the ability to discern inner qualities and relationships. It is insight, good sense and sound judgment.

Ecclesiastes: Here is the matter--Fear God and keep his commandments.

Ecclesiastes: Remember your Creator in the days of your youth. Because aging, and the physical struggles in the passage come to people. To have a foundation built upon God, that is the important matter.

Here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments. This is the conclusion of the individual history generally attributes as one of the smartest people ever.

Background of Ecclesiastes
Story line: The author starts with a statement, ‘meaningless, meaningless’, everything is meaningless. And then he starts to hash out the truth of this statement.
Wisdom, pleasure, folly, work, time, friendship, riches. They all at some point, feel empty.
The writer looks at the end of these endeavors, and sees a common destiny for all, and earthly end visits everyone.
But does that mean hopelessness?

The author in our morning passage has bookends to the chapter:
Remember your creator in the days of your youth.
Fear God and keep his commandments.

Proverbs: Here is the matter—Trust in the Lord’s wisdom.
Trust in the Lord and do not lean on your own understanding.
What does God require? Wisdom.

Background of proverbs
Proverbs are sayings, contrast and comparison statements, or questions on morality. In Biblical literature, they were mostly written by Solomon, though others authored the proverbs found in the scripture. There are over 3,000 proverbs in the Bible.

Two highlights from Proverbs 3 include:
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge God, and he will make your paths straight.


Do not withhold good when it is in your power to act.

John: Here is the matter--Jesus had the words of eternal life.
Where would we go? You have the words of eternal life.
The verse before today’s passage begins: I am the bread that will let you live forever.

Today, at the Lord’s Table: we meet the same Jesus Christ.
--He is the bread of life that gives eternal life.
--He does challenge his followers with hard teachings.
--The one whose word is spirit and life.
--The One who has the audacity to say come to God through me.
--The One who doesn’t deny he is the holy one with the words of

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Songbook of Faith

The Story of Scripture: The Songbook of Faith
Psalm 42, Psalm 126, Matthew 27:32-50

Songs stay with us and become part of our story. How is it that you can go years without hearing a song, and then you hear it once, and you remember every word?

For me, some songs that have that type of power:

--Lee Andrews & the Hearts, bringing me back to returning in the family car from grandma's house, listening to WOGL, the Sunday night doo wop show.

--Grover Washington: Just the Two of Us, remembering the first concert my dad took me to.
And even when I hear the inferior Will Smith version, it points me back to the original.

--Just the Way You Are, if Aurie and I have a song, this would be it.

--I’ll Stand By You: Sophie loved this song when she was two, and would be the only song on the CD she would 'allow' to be played.

There are songs that tell of pain, songs that tell of triumph, there are songs that make the hands clap, the feet stomp, the fists pump, the body dance. And there are also songs that make the body sway, the eyes cry, the back slouch and the hands go over our mouths.

There is song and music for every emotion

Is this also true for the songs of our faith? In the Bible, the Psalms are the songbook of faith.
What is in the songbook of Faith?

Thinking about our first Psalm, Sad Songs (Say So Much), by Elton John, came into my mind. It led me down a 30 minute rabbit trail about other Elton John songs that describe the types of Psalms.

For example,
The Psalms about affliction: Don’t go breaking my heart
The Psalms that are Penitential: sorry seems to be the hardest word
The Psalms that are Imprecatory: Saturday Nights All right (for fighting)

There are other types of Psalms:
Didactic Historical Intercessional
Messianic Praise Prophetic
Thanksgiving Ascent (pilgrimage) Royal
Enthronement wisdom

These songs address the experience of being human. Like a romance, there are two faces that turn to each other to speak. In this songbook of faith, God speaks to us, and we speak to God. God’s words strengthen us. Past human words to God are shared by all on the journey of faith.

Psalm 42: The heartfelt song for God
A modern example of a sad song would be “nobody knows the trouble’s I’ve seen”

Where can I go to meet with God?
--when taunts surround “men say all day where is your God”
--when tears abound “tears are my food”
--when life gets you down “Why are you downcast? Why are you
so disturbed within me?”

What comes from meeting with God?
--Remembering one’s joy “I used to go with the group, leading the
procession into the house of God. There were shouts of joy and thanksgiving among the festive throng”

--Affirming one’s goal “Put your hope in God for I will yet still
praise him”

--Observing from the heights “I will remember from the heights of hermon,
Mt. Mizar”

--The call of the deep “deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls, all your waves and breakers have swept over me”

--Day and night “The Lord directs his love by day and his
song is with me at night”

Psalm 126
Elton John would entitle this psalm: I’m Still Standing

A Song of Ascents: Approaching the Temple & God in worship.
If Psalm 42 was written in Exile, Psalm 126 is written on the other side.
It is written after the struggle was endured, and completed. We made it. And not only did we make it, we are thriving.

We have dreamed.
We have laughed.
We have sung song of joy.
We have born witness to the nations.
We have been restored.
We have sown and reaped with songs of joy.
We have gone out and returned carrying sheaves of joy.

We are still standing. All praise to God.

The Crucifixion: The Psalms Speak Throughout the Story

If the Exodus is the central event for the Israelites where God breaks into history and rescues a people, the Cross is that history-breaking event for the world. And Jesus, in the midst of his ultimate sacrifice, remembers the songbook of faith.

· I am worn out calling for help, my throat is parched. Ps 69:1
· They put gall in my food and gave me vinegar for my thirst. Ps 69:21
· I can count all my bones Psalm 22:17
· They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing Psalm 22:18
· A band of evil men has encircled me, they have pierced my hands and my feet. Ps 22:16
· All who see me mock me, they hurl insults, sharking their heads: ‘He trusts in the LORD; let the LORD rescue him. Let him deliver him, since he delights in him.’ Ps 22:7-8
· My God, My God, why have you forsaken me. Ps 22:1

The Songbook told God’s story to the people. Jesus lived the songbook. He lived the faith perfectly. And in doing so, has become the songbook of our faith.

What are we to do with the Songbook of faith?
1. Shape our worship. (the Psalter)
2. Help us identify our spiritual journey.
3. Help us connect with the larger family of God.

Sad songs say so much. The Songbook reminds us: We are still standing. And we stand because of our Lord Jesus Christ. He came to live and be the one whom we believe in. He is our song and our story.