Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Story of Scripture: Do I Have a Story for You!

The Story of Scripture: Do I Have a Story for You! 5/27/11
II Peter 1:16-21, Matthew 13:1-23, Matthew 20:1-16

Rod Stewart sang that Every picture tells a story.
Stories are all around us.
--the shirt you have on your back has a story. It was made, it came from somewhere, the person that made it has a story, there was a story involved with you buying it…it might not be memorable, but there is a story.
--I went to a website called great Admittedly, I am not sure if they were great stories or not, but I will read to the congregation one that I found interesting.

God says to us: Do I have a story for you!!!
God has a story for us: It is the gospel story: which means, Good news. The way the gospel story makes its way into our story is called the journey of discipleship. It is filled with grace.

We are a story ourselves: our lives tell a story. They are lived and interact alongside other stories.

We often tell stories, they capture the imagination.

There are true stories, and made up stories. Some stories are filled with intricate details, and in other stories, details are negotiable, and can be stretched.

Faith, though, is not a made up story and doesn’t need any details to be stretched. Peter writes, “When we told you about Jesus, we didn’t make up a clever story…we saw it ourselves…and we told it to you.

This story that he and the other disciples saw, he advises his readers: You will do well to pay attention to it! If you saw a light in a dark place, you would pay attention, right? If you saw a bright star on your journey in the black of night, you would pay attention!

In our year long story of Scripture, the Easter season marked the arrival of Jesus in the story. We have focused on him during the 7 weeks of Easter.
Jesus: Fully God and human, teacher, healer, miracle worker, story teller.

Matthew 20:1-16
We have all heard of the Roman Catholic idea of the 7 Deadly Sins:
Lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy, pride
This story presents 7 Graceless Errors
Assumption: “they expected to receive more” v10
Complaint “When they received it they began to grumble” v11
Comparison “You have made them equal to us who have borne” v12
Forgetting one’s agreement “Friend, I am not being unfair to you” v13
Inappropriate Meddling “Don’t I have the right” v14
Jealousy “Are you envious because I am generous?” v15
Entitlement “So the last will be first and the first last” v16

Fascinating thing about stories: we identify with characters…when Jesus tells parables, it is to stretch our imaginations. We are not the worker hired in the first hour, we are 11th hour workers. In the prodigal son, we are not the elder son who has been diligent, we are the younger son who has wasted.

Matthew 13:1-23
In Jesus Christ, we have the image of the God of grace.

· The knowledge of the kingdom of heaven secrets has been given v11
· Whoever has will be given more (the context is knowledge) v12
· Left to ourselves, we are hearing, but not understanding, seeing, but not perceiving, hardened hearts, closed off to God v14-15
· We are blessed by God, for our eyes can see and our ears can hear the gospel v16
· Generations before Christ had longed to experience the Messiah, to see and know, and we that live after his coming, we can have eyes of faith and grace to know. V17
· TODAY: sown seed doesn’t have to fall on rocky soil, shallow soil, weed-filled soil. Our hearts today can be good soil. Crops 100, 60, 30 fold can grow. We can be fruitful.

All of these things speak to the grace of God. We don’t deserve them. With honor, dignity and integrity, we live before God and experience the grace that has been given to us.

Memorial Day Weekend
We are Christians, that is our most important title. We are also spouses, Fathers, mothers, siblings, nieces/nephews, friends and neighbors. These are incredibly important titles. This weekend, we also remember that another name we call ourselves is American.

In the midst of celebrations tomorrow, what can you do to honor the intent of Memorial day?
Prayer for leadership
Peace with Neighbor
Priorities as citizens

God speaks to each one of us today, and proclaims, Do I have a story for you!
The question is: Am I open to being a character in that story?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Do You Believe in Miracles?

The Story of Scripture: Do You Believe in Miracles? 5/22/11
II Kings 4:1-7, John 14:1-14, Hebrews 2:1-4

Last week, my daughter saw me heating up a hot cross bun in the microwave. What is that Daddy? She asked. When I told her what it was, she then shared that 'she didn't like that'. For the record, she had never seen a hot cross bun in her life.

Upon opening the microwave door, she decided that maybe the basic equivalent to a warm doughnut would be a likeable proposition. "Can I have one Daddy?", that was the next question.

Upon answering in the affirmative, I was invited to sit next to her on the dining room bench.

Ah, the miracle happened. I was invited into the inner circle.

This miracle provided me with great satisfaction. In life, I do not need miracles like the
parting waters, sun standing still, fire devouring false prophets, being rescued from lions...
but that is part of our story of faith.

the definition of a miracle: the extraordinary entering human history, with its laws & consequences, cause and effects.

Latin: marvelous event that causes wonder
An event that causes people to think beyond natural forces, to the supernatural, to a superhuman power.

The natural, ‘everyday miracles’, is really called the providence of God. These miracles, they are simply God’s goodness displayed. For believers, they are a daily reminder of the glory of God.

part of the story of Scripture:
Jesus as God/human, teacher, healer, miracle worker

what not to do with a miracle?
explain it: it is not natural or rational
justify it: only God has to answer for it, and God doesn’t answer to anyone
compare it: it is God’s answer to a particular event

what to do?
enjoy it. glory and amaze in it.

Hebrews: God’s gifts to the church
Passage: to pay careful attention to what we have heard, and to not drift away
Consequences of the Law, given by angels…how much more, so great a salvation

· Salvation, announced by the Lord, confirmed by his followers
· Signs
· Wonders
· Various miracles
· Gifts of the Holy Spirit, distributed according to God’s will

Do you believe in miracles?
(al Michaels, famous phrase)

Yes? no? Maybe? Not sure?

The answer doesn't matter.
It is more important, do you believe in the one who can do miracles?

John: Jesus is the Miracle
The one who is preparing a place: to not gloss over this, preparing a place for you, many rooms. We can be where Jesus is. That is a miracle.
The One who is the way: how do we get there? A universal question we wonder about, "follow me, I am the way", that we even have an answer, that is a miracle
The One who is the image of God: what I am doing, God the Father is doing, we are working together. Do you believe that I am in, and my father is in me? If you do, that is a miracle.
The One who showed the image of God to people: believe, and if you can't believe, at least look at the miracles. That deed accompanied word, that is a miracle.

The One who says 'ask anything'.

What would you ask of God?
Money, fame, other shallowness of requests.
How would you like to bring glory to God this day?

If you really need a miracle today, then ask for it. but statistically speaking, we probably don't. Yes, we might think we do,

Sophie: I wouldn't have thought to ask God for a great big laugh regarding a hot cross wasn't in my creative radar...but I am sure glad God thought of it...and that my friends, is a miracle.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Be Healed

The Story of Scripture: Be Healed 5/15/11
Jeremiah 8:15-22, Mark 2:1-12, Mark 7:24-30

Healing is difficult topic:
1. There is a randomness to healing/not being healed.
2. God is God, and moves in his ways
3. In a purely human sense, all of us are mortal, and we go to the grave.
4. Technological advancements that blur quality of life dynamics.

Great faith/receive requests Great faith/do not receive request

Little faith/receive requests Little faith/do not receive requests

Different Types of Healing
Physical Healing:
Mental Healing: peace of mind
Emotional Healing: from bitterness, anger
Relational Healing: from conflict, from distance
Spiritual Healing: with God, in one’s spirit

Jeremiah: Sometimes, there is no healing.
We had hoped for peace and healing, but it did not come
--the imminent judgment from Babylon
Isn’t the Lord in Zion? Is her king on the throne?
Summer is past, and we are not saved
Isn’t there a balm in Gilead? Why is there no healing for my people?

Mark 2: Sometimes, Jesus heals.
Give ourselves a moment to imagine this stunning scene
--the sounds of the men climbing on the roof
--ceiling falling around as they dug…people looking up
--Jesus must have had a smile on his face: What he was seeing from
the fully God/fully human perspective.
--did the people help the man on the mat as he was closer to ground?
--I don’t think the religious leaders lifted a finger.
--what was their look when Jesus read through their soul & thought?
--imagine the man, lying on the floor, helpless, when Jesus is discussing with the religious leaders: So that you might know that the Son of Man has authority to forgive sin, I tell you…
--get up, take your mat, and go home…AND HE DID JUST THAT
--ultimately, Jesus is interested in the healing of spirit. For that is how we live forever.

Mark 7: Sometimes, we give reason for healing.
A shepherd to the lost sheep of Israel
Impressed by the logic and wisdom of the woman

Always wonder about the people who hear Jesus saying go, it is done. They have to leave, believing, they have to wonder as they go home, they have to have sweaty palms as they open the door to their home, to look at their loved one, to see if what this holy man had said came true.

Paul: II Corinthians 12: God’s strength is made complete in our dependence and weakness.

Jesus: Fully God/Fully Human

Today, if we need healing, and we find it praise God.
If we need healing, and we do not find it, pray to God.
In all situations trust God.
In Jesus, we see the healer was also the teacher.
God is teaching the world through us about his grace. We are part of the story, therefore, let us never travel far from the master storyteller. He is the way, the truth, and the life.

Christ is Risen!
He has risen indeed!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Story of Scripture: Just Like I Said
Deuteronomy 6:1-9, I John 1:5-2:14, John 6:60-69

Parenting brings a completely new and different self-understanding regarding our relationship with God.

Sometimes, and possibly for some of you, I am conjecturing here, might say to yourself, when the screams are loud and the tears are flowing and the legs are kicking and the body is quivering over such audacious requests as ‘time to come to the table’ or ‘we’ll finish watching the tv show later’…in those moments, we might, just might, ask God…

Could we really be this stubborn? This self-focused? Could we really have this short of an attention span? This close to falling off the spiritual equivalent of steps and beds and couches?

At the same time, there are also multiple moments when we also look at children and think of God and wonder…

Could we really be this loved? Could we really bring this much joy and delight to God? Are we really this beautiful?

In short, the answer is yes.

Because we are fully loved by God, and because we can be clueless, we need Jesus to be our teacher. We need him to show us the way.

Jesus is fully God and fully human. He is perfectly qualified to be our teacher. He came to speak and live God’s righteousness and goodness.

In Christ, we find the a heaven-sent teacher, whose substance speaks to the very source of everlasting life.

Teaching the Greatest Commandment: Deuteronomy
In our first passage, Moses is preparing the people to finally enter the land that was promised a generation before. Remember, the people disobey God after the Exodus and have the equivalent of a 40 year time-out. But now they are ready. Moses has gathered them and gotten them ready for their new set of rules for their new home. These rules came from God, for the people. They are rules to be taught, for they are God’s commandments, to be applied in the nation’s daily life.

Why be taught?
--you, your children and grandchildren may fear the Lord God
by keeping the commandments
--and so that you may enjoy long life.

What is God’s commandment?
HEAR: Israel, God is One. Hear that. Listen and embrace that.
OBEY: be careful to obey. Don’t be stubborn, if you follow, there
is a lot of blessing to be had.
LOVE: the greatest commandment in the Bible: Love. Love God
with all your heart, soul and strength.

What do we do with the commandments?
IMPRESS: Impress them upon your children TALK: when you sit at home and walk along the road.

(If I may interject one thought for how this verse applies to our modern living, I would like to say this, which is my personal opinion. It is good to use your eating and travel time to talk together as a family. I know there are a plethora of entertainment options. I’m not saying it is wrong to have a special night where you eat pizza in front of the TV watching a family movie, or that you blare the radio while driving. But, there is a lot of time in meal and travel time that can be used for talk, and important talk, and, from a parental perspective, teaching talk. It is a discipline of time. It is an investment of time, energy and focus. But, it is also an investment with biblical support.)

TIE/BIND/WRITE: There were specific Jewish traditions that
emerge out of this verse. But there are also spiritual value in our day
to having a meaningful verse or saying near you, or displayed for
people to see what your values are.

Teaching the Difficult Commandment: John
This Easter season, we will focus on the Story of Scripture’s central figure: Jesus Christ. Last week, we learned of Jesus as fully God and fully human. This week, we are focusing on Jesus as teacher. The Gospels tell of Jesus’ first teaching: Repent for the kingdom of heaven is near. They also speak of Jesus gathering large crowds and amazing his audiences with wisdom, insight and his power of words. Today’s reading sheds light on a different side of Jesus’ teaching: his words can be difficult to hear and obey.

Jesus was giving a discourse on being the bread of God. The bread from God, not unlike human bread, was to be eaten, and digested.
Jesus told his disciples that ‘He is the body and blood of God, and
the one who wants to live must take his body and blood’

The reaction to this teaching is that many of the disciples grumble. There were more than 12 disciples who followed Jesus. At this point in his ministry, he was wildly popular, and many followed him. But upon hearing a difficult concept, one that stretched and challenged the hearers, the people react much like we might expect. The reaction to a difficult teaching is to recoil, for it challenges our comfortable standard of living we have created for ourselves. This is hard, who can accept this?

It is the end of the first week of training camp
It is the final few days of an extended business trip.
It is the third week of a diet.
This is hard, is it worth it? The disciples ask themselves.

In addition, Jesus hears the complaint, “Are you offended?”
It is Just as I said, “no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him..

What is the reaction? Many disciples leave. They turn their back on Jesus and no longer follow him.

What a tragic end to a story. This is more than giving up the corner office or fast track career, or benefits of club membership. This is being face to face with the One sent by God. This is eating and listening and working alongside the Son of God, and then saying, NO THANKS. This is a big deal.

Out of this shocking turn in the story, Jesus turns to the twelve. With an astounding confidence, devotion to his mission, and self-awareness, Jesus says: how about you? Are you in or are you out?

Peter, the one who often would put his foot in his mouth, he got it. Where else would we go? Seriously, there is no other place on earth that I’d rather be than the road that leads to heaven (SCC). Jesus, I’m in. You have the words of eternal life. They may be difficult, they may challenge every fiber of my being. But I can’t stay away. I can’t stay away from you.

We like to tame Jesus, keep him in a cage and bring him out at our convenience, showing him off like something we own. But the Scripture describes Jesus in a different light. Some descriptions include the Lion from Judah. He is the bread that gives eternal life. He is the bright morning star. He shines in darkness. I am the beginning and the end. I am A through Z. I am the great shepherd who kills the wolves that seek my sheep. I am the one who speaks to demons and commands them to be quiet. Jesus is our teacher. And he is God’s teacher, saying what God wanted to be said. Convenient or not.

Jesus is not neutral. His teachings are not neutral. Sometimes, his teachings are difficult. But they are always good and for our good, and they lead to everlasting life.

Teaching the New Commandment: I John
John, one of those twelve disciples, who would later write to the larger church, includes amazingly profound but simple sayings in his first letter to the church.

--God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all
--If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is
not in us
--If we walk in the light, we have fellowship with one another
--We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands
--Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.

These are beautiful and true sayings. In our grey world, they sort of shock our system. There must be some wiggle room in these verses, we rationalize. But in many of John’s words, it is exactly what he says it is.

In the rules of interpretion, rule number one is that the plain and simple reading is correct.

There is a new commandment:

You can’t hate your brother (or sister)
When you love your brother (or sister), you live in the light, and nothing is going to make you stumble.

John includes a poem that has been open to some debate, especially when you look at the greek words that he used. In Koine Greek, there was often multiple ways to say what modern languages have one word for. But generally speaking, this is a poem that speaks to the life cycle, and to spiritual phases that we all go through.

If I may bring a scripture from another part of the Bible, the Apostle Paul is reviewing his life in his letter to Timothy, he tells his disciple: I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (II Tim. 4:7)

--Your sins have been forgiven
--You have known the Father

Young Adults:
--You have overcome the evil one
--You are strong, and the word of God lives in you

--You have known him who is from the beginning

Today, on Mother’s Day, we have a family stand up for baptism. In fact, a father and his son both receive the sacrament this day. This child's parents will learn to teach, to teach the truth and to teach what is just and right. And believe it or not, as he grows older, the child might question you. (I know, I know, this is shocking). But you stick to your message. You teach. You teach about one who is greater than you or I. And when he gets it, and when God stands by his promise, you get to say something very gratifying to your child: It is just like I said.

And the reason it is gratifying is not because you win in that moment. It is not because you have emerged for one moment, triumphant in the long game we call parenthood. It is because in that moment, we understand a little bit about what God is like: For God has taught us, and when we have listened, we look to God, like a child looks to his or her parent, looking for that approval, and God’s response is the same: Just like I said.

Today, let us be taught, let us teach, and let us learn from the One whose promise is good, whose performance is faithful and whose perfection brings us to glory.

Whoever claims to live in Christ must walk as Jesus did. And when you obey Christ’s word, God’s love is truly made complete in you.

Just as he said.

Christ is Risen.
He is risen indeed.

Monday, May 2, 2011

The Story of Scripture

The Story of Scripture: Leaving It All With All You Have 5/1/11
Isaiah 9:6-7, John 1:1-18, Philippians 2:1-11

Once upon a time, there was a king who ruled the most successful kingdom in the whole wide world. He drank out of golden goblets, the finest chefs prepared the tastiest and healthiest meals imaginable, what he said was law, in fact, he was the law and the rule. He lived in the finest palace and was well liked by everyone. The people thought he could do no wrong, hard for a someone in government to accomplish. Oh yeah, did I mention the weather was always 70 degrees and sunny?

And one day, the king got up from his elaborate bedroom, ready for another day of policy-making and luxury living. He looked outside his palace and decided that he should give it all up. And he did. He got dressed, and walked out the door. He found a humble dwelling near the edge of town, and asked to stay there in exchange for his 12 hours a day of hard manual labor. The king went on to live like this for the next three decades, and then he died.

Quite a story, isn’t it?

It is a story not unlike the story of our King: The King of kings.

During Lent, we focused on the prophets, and their message of repentance and return to the Lord. During Easter, as part of our year long study of the story of Scripture, we will look at Jesus Christ.

Our focus will be on Jesus and the roles he filled during his time in Israel: Jesus was God and human, Teacher, healer, miracle worker, story teller, Lord and Savior.

What Jesus did was like an episode of Undercover Boss, only his reward was to bring the sons and daughters back into the presence of God and grant everlasting life. Jesus said, “Here I am, and the children God has given me”.

Jesus: Left it all
Jesus: with all he was, continued in God’s service.

Jesus becomes the mystery: God and human.

I was trying to think of a way for us to wrap our minds around this concept. And I think I found one in the ballpark. I’ll give you three clues to whom I am referencing:

1. Faster than a speeding bullet
2. more powerful than a locomotive
3. able to leap tall buildings in a single bound.

Is it a bird? A Plane? No, it’s Ubermensch!

Came from a far away place to earth (Kansas)
Taken in and raised by human parents
He was human and super-human (Clark Kent and Superman)
Strong morality for the purpose of bettering humanity
Man of Steel and Man of Tomorrow are nicknames that could fit Jesus.
Sought to right wrongs of the era’s they lived
Ubermensch is coined by Frederick Nietzsche, who envisioned a
perfect man beyond moral codes, where Superman and Jesus, live
within morality and culture.
Fought social injustice, tyranny, racism
Emerge out of Great Depressions as Hero’s to the masses
Yet as immigrants, they seek to balance living between two cultures
Men of Peace (original Superman wasn’t, but he takes a vow not to kill)
Superman’s Kryptonite name: Kal-El (Hebrew, voice of God)
Powers caused loneliness on earth
Die and later come back to life

Superman a fictional character
Superman’s appearance is distinctive
Extraordinary feats of strength that break the laws of nature
Batman: admonished Superman for being too human
Commentary: “Only a man with superpowers can survive in this world”

No longer an American citizen, he joined citizen non-violent protestors in Iran, urging for a change in the government, the Iranian government viewed this as an act of war, and the United States National Security Advisor sits Superman down to talk, upon which Superman decides it is better to fight injustice from a global perspective.

(I’m not making this up—

Ultimately, Superman gets our imagination working, and our minds exercising, so that we can pursue a deeper knowledge of Jesus. But like all human examples, it does fall short. Scripture provides our best guide.

The Prophet Isaiah, 800 years before Christ is born, is predicting what the future Messiah will be. What does he say about the Messiah embracing deity and humanity?
Wonderful Counselor: with wisdom and knowledge straight from God
Mighty God: remember, the Jewish perception was the Messiah would be a human, and yet here, for the first time, is also referenced as deity
Everlasting Father: eternal
Prince of Peace over David’s Throne, ruling with justice and righteousness

With God, was God, was with God in the beginning
In the world, but the world didn’t recognize him
Word became flesh, and dwelt among us
Embodied grace and truth
God has made him known

Being in the very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped
Made himself nothing, and took on the nature of a servant
Made in human likeness and appearance as a man

For you and I: we are called to follow this Christ with all of our heart, strength, soul, spirit and heart.

We are called to leave all that hinders us from Christ behind, and to follow the Lord with all we have.

We are not God, but Scripture does provide descriptions of how we should become: godly, Christ-like, Spirit-filled. We are not to be like the world, we are to leave that behind. We are to be like Christ, going after that with all of our might.

And we do not do this alone: alongside others we become like-minded, having one love, being one in spirit and purpose. We do not live out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but we take on humility. We consider others better than ourselves. We look out for other people and their interests. We take the attitude of Jesus Christ.

The end goal of being Christ-like is eternal life. In Christ is light, the light that shines before all. We all will bow, but it is better to bow with Christ’s life within us, rather than the forces of darkness.

God exalted Christ to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every other name. That at the name of Jesus, every knee should bow in heaven, and earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Christ is Risen! He has risen indeed.