Archive for May, 2021

Does my life reveal I am born anew?

Photo by Bob Montanaro, Subject created by God.

Isaiah 6:1-8
In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lofty; and the hem of his robe filled the temple. Seraphs were in attendance above him; each had six wings: with two they covered their faces, and with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.” The pivots on the thresholds shook at the voices of those who called, and the house filled with smoke. And I said: “Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!” Then one of the seraphs flew to me, holding a live coal that had been taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. The seraph touched my mouth with it and said: “Now that this has touched your lips, your guilt has departed and your sin is blotted out.” Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I; send me!”

Psalm 29
29:1 Ascribe to the LORD, O heavenly beings, ascribe to the LORD glory and strength. Ascribe to the LORD the glory of his name; worship the LORD in holy splendor. The voice of the LORD is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the LORD, over mighty waters. The voice of the LORD is powerful; the voice of the LORD is full of majesty. The voice of the LORD breaks the cedars; the LORD breaks the cedars of Lebanon. He makes Lebanon skip like a calf, and Sirion like a young wild ox. The voice of the LORD flashes forth flames of fire. The voice of the LORD shakes the wilderness; the LORD shakes the wilderness of Kadesh. The voice of the LORD causes the oaks to whirl, and strips the forest bare; and in his temple all say, “Glory!” The LORD sits enthroned over the flood; the LORD sits enthroned as king forever. May the LORD give strength to his people! May the LORD bless his people with peace! [NRSA]

Romans 8:12-17
8:12 So then, brothers and sisters, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh– for if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ–if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him. [NRSA]

John 3:1-17
3:1 Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. He came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.” Jesus answered him, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be astonished that I said to you, ‘You must be born from above.’ The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” Jesus answered him, “Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things? “Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. [NRSA]

Life in the Spirit.

One of our core beliefs is that we are created by God and that we have both a physical and a spiritual nature.  Regarding these two natures, we have two motivating factors, one is that our bodies will not last for eternity, these bodies will wear out, become diseased, infected, or not hold up to the conditions we experience, and we will all experience death in this body.

(Segway to Memorial Day– )

The second driving force is that our Spiritual nature is equally as real and in need of care as our physical body. Our Spiritual self is nurtured, fortified, and made whole by God’s Grace. This grace is most plainly seen and experienced in Jesus’s restorative work of dying for our sins, but we most often experience this grace through God’s Spirit guiding, inspiring, correcting, and calling us to practice our faith and trust.

The stuff that gets in the way of our bodies maturing, being nurtured, strengthened, and becoming whole, is directly affected by our making poor choices, apathetically taking no action, as well as those that impact our lives by no action of our own.

We eat well or we do not. We rest and exercise or we do not. We avoid risk or we run into it, or it runs into us. We know that we make personal choices about our physical health.

Think about our spiritual health in the same way. We believe or we do not. We follow or are ignored. We trust or we test. We rebel and reject, or we devote ourselves to nurture, exercise, fortify and care for the spiritual self.

Revisiting the Texts:

Throughout the scripture we see that this struggle to become spiritually whole, spiritually healthy, connected most fulling to God, comes from God’s help, God’s strength, God’s restoring and setting us up time and time again.

Isaiah shares a vision from heaven when God sends a holy divine being, a seraph, to touches Isaiah’s lips with a hot coal. This act of cleansing and redemptive sounds horrible, but it is a dramatic image of the to be made whole and clean is not the perfecting of our own thought and behavior, but an action of grace that God makes possible. Thank goodness, lip cleansing is not a ritual of the church. Maybe we would take more seriously our words and thoughts if we connected sin and restorative cleaning.

Psalm 29, the congregation celebrates the need we have to turn to God’s Spirit to complete our spiritual development.

In Jesus’s conversation with Nick, (John 3) is an honest awakening conversation to the dual nature that is core to our identity and reality. It is the mutual, maturity of both our physical and spiritual self that makes us whole, happy, connect, included, good, and righteous.

What does that mean and how would that happen?

Let’s put on our academic and contemporary hats, and realized that modern theology of missiology, our popular understanding of what it means to love our neighbor, invites us to not require people to give up their cultural or personal beliefs to become the culture that we have come to know as normal and acceptable. The danger is that we begin to believe that goodness, righteousness, and Godliness are a lowest common denominator of a sliver of truth that we can all agree about based on our expectations.

Isaiah is called to speak the truth that is make good, clean, true but the redemptive work of God’s spirit and grace.

Psalm 29 calls us to see God is the one who define what is holy, righteous, and good.

Romans 8, Paul is teaching the church that it is God’s Spirit that we follow and not the popularity of whatever the contemporary thought that is acceptable for the day.

John 3, Nick is trying to figure out a physical problem in the name of solving a spiritual crisis. And Jesus moves step by step, helping an open-minded, faith-seeking, leader in society look at life with more than a physical ‘eye’ and perspective. Look through the “eyes” of the spirit. Think of Yoda inviting master Luke in his training to use “the force” to control the physical world.

The So what is this:

We will never be able to solve hunger, disease, political division, the misuse of power, stop the forces of corruption, greed, abuse, and perversion of what is good and Godly, without God’s help.

We trying doing just the physical and expect the spiritual to follow.

It is the combination… We are physical and spiritual children of God and the task is to love those in the world, even as God loves, but to do so with the guidance, power, direction, equipping, and practice of God working through us.

What does this look like in my everyday life?

Our work as the church has two parts: We feed, clothe, comfort, make friends, and include people, FOR THE SPIRITUAL PURPOSE of helping each other follow the Holy Spirit.

  • Moses led the people but following God’s call
  • Isaiah called people to account for not following the Spirit
  • The congregation practices singing the reminders that God is able, faithful, and persistent in working through us.
  • Paul is teaching the church to share God’s righteousness
  • Jesus is teaching Nick to see the task is not about keeping the law, the rules, the commandments alone, it is keeping our faithfulness in God to guide us.

Our shared ministry is not to keep ourselves pretty, neat, clean, and separate from the world, rather it is fully live IN THE WORLD, with the purpose, mission, goal of bringing people to Spiritual awaking.

  • If you want to see people get along,
  • If you want to see an end to racism
  • If you want to see economic justice
  • If you want to see families grow together
  • If you want to see an end to poverty and hunger
  • If you want to see evil defeated,

The answer is to TRUST GOD’s SPIRIT to lead us and not expect the world, governments, organizations, wealth, or any worldly power to solve what only God can do!!

If you want things to continue to be out of control, then stead the current course and keep handing the responsibility to those who do NOT seek God’s Spirit to solve, and Chaos and Evil will continue to reign!

  • Who’s has the power of the Holy Spirit to transform the world? Those who follow the Spirit
  • Who’s holds the patent of what is Good, True, and Righteous? God Almighty, Alone!
  • Who’s task is to help they world find God’s Spirit as our collective hope and salvation?, Those who trust the Spirit
  • Who are those who trust the spirit? Those who are born again.

AM I BORN IN THE SPIRIT?

  • Am I aware of my spiritual nature?
  • Am I feeding the Spirit in me?
  • Am I nurturing and practicing the gifts of the Spirit
  • Am I praying, Studying, Teaching, healing, translating, interpreting, calling to accountability the world that is one-track minded and heading over the cliff?
  • Am I expecting someone else to do my job?
  • Am I going along for the ride afraid God is not able to overcome the evil and problems?
  • Am I going to keep quiet, keep to my family, and stay under the radar?

The context of John 3:16-17 is that you and I are able to transform the world when we follow God’s Spirit, Trust God’s Power, and allow our minds and bodies to be guided by the Spirit, FOR THE PURPOSE of revealing God’s heart and will.

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So what do we do with Pentecost

Ezekiel 37:1-14Psalm 104:24-35 Romans 8:22-27 Acts 2:1-21John 15:26-27, 16:4-15

50 days since Easter and we gather today to celebrate that Jesus continues to be live, with a physical presence, that has been entrusted into all of us, who place our faith and trust in Christ. God is using our physical and spiritual bodies, in this world, at this very time, to be the witness of the God’s will and heart, for the world to experience through us.

Traditionally we think of Pentecost as the birthday of the church. • But we do not typically have a cake, • there is no special meal, and we do not exchange presents or • send cards to one another. In 38 years of ministry, I have never once given, nor received, a Pentecost card, it is a Holy Day that Hallmark and the other card companies have under served. If the shelves at Walmart and the various drugs stories and shops could exploit the birthday of the church, as being filled, and guided by the Holy Spirit, • we should see little torches with flaming tongues, • there would be card that say: “He is Rise, Risen indeed, in a dozen different languages. • We could draw names and give one another gifts that would help us identify our spiritual gifts and develop our spiritual bodies. • It should be a great day to start bible studies, • being new churches, • travel to different places and share the Gospel with strangers where are in town from some other celebration, and • a day to learn new songs of praise and hymns of celebration.

? Why has Pentecost not caught on in the same way as others Special Days?

Celebrating Christmas has only been a thing for a thousand years. And most of our traditions are less than three hundred years old.

Easter, on the other hand, has been celebrated since the beginning, as timeof worship, praise, and going to compel others to know Jesus, as the one that is greater than sin, fear, evil, and even death. 

Pentecost is a time to celebrate the Holy Spirit. – What should we be celebrating?

[NRSA:  Genesis 1:1] In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, 2 the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. 3 Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light.

The Holy Spirit is not an afterthought. 

From the beginning of creating order out of chaos, a wind from God, swept over the face of the earth, the waters. The Holy Spirt is part of God that moves through our physical nature, at the direction of God, doing the work of God, for the good of the creation. Gn 1

The Prophet Ezekiel is lead the Holy Spirit in the Valley of the dry bones, and the Holy Spirit brings the dry bones to life and gives what was empty and lifeless meaning, power, and new life. Ez 37

The congregation sings of the Holy Spirit’s power to restore life in Ps 104“When you hide your face, they are dismayed; when you take away their breath, they die and return to their dust. When you send forth your spirit, they are created; and you renew the face of the ground.”

Jesus tells the disciples to look forward to learn from the Holy Spirit, “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you” JN 16

Paul instructs the early church concerning the Holy Spirit, Rm 8“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”

So What are we celebrating? 

Number 1 is Wisdom

Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit that is from God, so that we may understand the gifts bestowed on us by God. 13 And we speak of these things in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual things to those who are spiritual. 14 Those who are unspiritual do not receive the gifts of God’s Spirit, for they are foolishness to them, and they are unable to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 15 Those who are spiritual discern all things, and they are themselves subject to no one else’s scrutiny. 16 “For who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ. [NRSA: 1 Cor 2:14-16]

The wisdom of the Holy Spirit is the discernment and judgment to know the difference between what is God’s will and God’s heart and not what is just pleasing the world’s ever-changing values of what is true, good, and right.

Wisdom is God’s work in our individual and collective life as followers, to recognize God’s call and direction in our lives.

Number 2 is Council and Comfort

I have no idea if Carol King intended to be songwriting about the Holy Spirit, but her words are helpful for those who are: 

When you’re down and troubled, And you need some lovin’ care, And nothin’, nothin’ is goin’ right,  Close your eyes and think of me, And soon I will be there, To brighten up even your darkest night, You just call out my name, And you know, wherever I am, I’ll come runnin’, To see you again, Winter, spring, summer or fall; All you have to do is call, And I’ll be there, You’ve got a friend

If the sky above you Grows dark and full of clouds And that old north wind begins to blow Keep your head together, And call my name out loud, Soon you’ll hear me knockin’ at your door, You just call out my name, And you know, wherever I am, I’ll come runnin’, runnin’, yeah, yeah; To see you again, 

Now, ain’t it good to know that you’ve got a friend, When people can be so cold? They’ll hurt you, yes, and desert you, And take your soul if you let them, Oh, but don’t you let them, You just call out my name, And you know, wherever I am, I’ll come runnin’, runnin’, yeah, yeah, To see you again

You’ve got a friend, Ain’t it good to know you’ve got a friend

[Songwriter: Carole King, You’ve Got a Friend lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC]

Number three: Understanding and Knowledge..  

The ability to read scripture and understand the message across differing culture and periods of history. And to hear both the dependable truth, as well as the fresh expressions of that truth.

4th: the Spirit helps us appreciate and experience AWE and PIETY

Awe at the mystery of birth, new sprouts in Spring, the ability to know God’s presence that is something we enter into and not just something we create or cook up. The Knowing and not knowing at the same time..

And connected to that understanding of Piety is the practice of placing ourselves in awe of what God will reveal to us and through us. That means• we serve because we want to see God’s love manifest in our relationships. • we study the bible because we want to hear God speak to us.• We pray because we want God to hear us and us to hear God• We sing because we want to show our appreciate and devotion to God and thank Christ and connect with all those who call on God’s name.• We serve to make the connection of God’s love with the world: Piety

Piety is practicing the things that help us maintain our awe of God working through us.

If there is a take-away for Pentecost Sunday, • it needs to be the AWE the God wants to use you and me to show the presence of the kingdom to Rock Spring and the worlds where we reach out to each day. • The Wisdom that God is trustworthy,• The Knowledge that we are the heart of God’s messengers, those who bring hope and healing, those who care and connect, those who interpret and help others understand, … • The Comfort and Connection all the things that are the work of the Holy Spirit align perfectly with what you and I are called to do and be.

So• If you could use some more connection with God• If you see that more wisdom would help your daily life• If you know there are things you do not understand but would like to know• If you could use a friend and guide that will never leave you.• Today is the day to ask the Holy Spirit to move in, or move us closer to God. 

God is giving us knowledge, comfort, direction, understanding, awe and ways of staying spiritually strong and clearly connected and is giving us the power to do all these things. In the Holy Spirit, you and I have what we need, APART from the holy spirit, we wither, dry out, and die. 

Verses: for today

The hand of the LORD came upon me, and he brought me out by the spirit of the LORD and set me down in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me all around them; there were very many lying in the valley, and they were very dry. He said to me, “Mortal, can these bones live?” I answered, “O Lord GOD, you know.” Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD. Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. I will lay sinews on you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the LORD.” So I prophesied as I had been commanded; and as I prophesied, suddenly there was a noise, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. I looked, and there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them; but there was no breath in them. Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, mortal, and say to the breath: Thus says the Lord GOD: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.” I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude. Then he said to me, “Mortal, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are cut off completely.’ Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord GOD: I am going to open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people; and I will bring you back to the land of Israel. And you shall know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people. I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you on your own soil; then you shall know that I, the LORD, have spoken and will act,” says the LORD. [NRSA: Ezekiel 37:1-14]

O LORD, how manifold are your works! In wisdom you have made them all; the earth is full of your creatures. Yonder is the sea, great and wide, creeping things innumerable are there, living things both small and great. There go the ships, and Leviathan that you formed to sport in it. These all look to you to give them their food in due season; when you give to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are filled with good things. When you hide your face, they are dismayed; when you take away their breath, they die and return to their dust. When you send forth your spirit, they are created; and you renew the face of the ground. May the glory of the LORD endure forever; may the LORD rejoice in his works– who looks on the earth and it trembles, who touches the mountainsand they smoke. I will sing to the LORD as long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have being. May my meditation be pleasing to him, for I rejoice in the LORD. Bless the LORD, O my soul. Praise the LORD![NRSA: Psalm 104:24-34, 35b]

We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. [NRSA: Romans 8:22-27]

When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability. Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language?Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs–in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.” All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” But others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.” But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel: ‘In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy. And I will show portents in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and smoky mist. The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day. Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’ [NRSA: Acts 2:1-21]

“When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father, he will testify on my behalf. You also are to testify because you have been with me from the beginning. [..] “I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you. But now I am going to him who sent me; yet none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your hearts. Nevertheless I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will prove the world wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: about sin, because they do not believe in me; about righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will see me no longer; about judgment, because the ruler of this world has been condemned. “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you. [John 15:26-27; 16:4b-15]

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Where is Matthias?

photo of woman looking at the mirror
Look in the Mirror to find the next disciple. Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

Psalm 1

Happy are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or take the path that sinners tread, or sit in the seat of scoffers; but their delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law, they meditate day and night. They are like trees planted by streams of water, which yield their fruit in its season, and their leaves do not wither. In all that they do, they prosper. The wicked are not so but are like chaff that the wind drives away. Therefore, the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; for the LORD watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish. [nrsa]

The first hymn of praise, Psalm 1, is a simple message. Those who trust God with their lives are happy, blessed, and nourished. Those who do not live trusting God may be happy in the moment, but will not pass the final exam, and will perish, the righteous will live eternally with the father.

1 John 5:9-13

If we receive human testimony, the testimony of God is greater; for this is the testimony of God that he has testified to his Son. Those who believe in the Son of God have the testimony in their hearts. Those who do not believe in God have made him a liar by not believing in the testimony that God has given concerning his Son. And this is the testimony: God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. 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. [nrsa]

In the New Testament, 1 John 5 summarizes this simple message in the promise of Christ. To make trusting God clear, Jesus came to prepare, redeem, and save us for eternal life.

John 17:15-19

I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one. They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sakes, I sanctify myself, so that they also may be sanctified in truth. [nrsa]

As simple as the message is, we do not always find it easy or automatic to trust God, so we need to know Jesus is working on our behalf, as God to help up. Jesus’s pray and blessing over the believers, followers, and disciples. We come to know God’s Holy Spirit as our guide, comfort, and power to continue trusting God.

So often, evil grabs our attention, and we respond to the brokenness rather than stand firm in the assurances.

The 11 O.Clock News, our Sunday message

Imagine if everyone tuned into their favorite source for news and information of the day, and instead of pointing to crime, corruption, despair, and brokenness of the world they spent 28 minutes reading the word of God, singing the hymns and songs of God’s faithfulness, and rallied the stories of how God has been, is, and will protect, bless, guide, and save us from all the evil of this world, and in the last 30 seconds they told one story where evil appeared to have a foot hold but God stepped in and filled the chasm for those who would trust, believe, and follow. That wouldn’t be news, we know all that, it would be boring, no business would sponsor the repetition of Good News.

We want to see the explosions, the gory details, the injustice, and the pain… (in honesty the majority tune in multiple times each day, and does it ever get better for the world’s answers? What problems have governments solved and cured? What products give us eternal hope? What sponsors offer the products that have already been purchased?

We have three scriptures that come before, from, and after Jesus that say the same message: for those who trust God, seek God’s heart, and live as God guides us, God has our back and our future. Those who do not, may look good in the moment, but will perish, are empty, and are not eternal.

Our mission is to be citizen-newscasters. Citizens of heaven, living in a sinful world, reminded, preparing, encouraging, and calling the world to know what is profoundly good, loving as God loves, genuine, beneficial, and lead to our eternal happiness and what it means to be whole.

In the final passage today, Peter looks at the gap of discipleship, the missing pieces of God’s work for the church, the gap was made by Judas, [ In summary, Judas’s story is about using the opportunities of God’s calling to serve ourselves or world’s mission OVER God’s mission, vision, and purpose. With Judas gone, the church sees the need to fill the gap, fortify the line, and return to full strength, in the leadership of being the church on God’s mission]

Acts 1:15-17, 21-26

In those days Peter stood up among the believers (together the crowd numbered about one hundred twenty persons) and said, “Friends, the scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit through David foretold concerning Judas, who became a guide for those who arrested Jesus — for he was numbered among us and was allotted his share in this ministry.” So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us–one of these must become a witness with us to his resurrection.” So they proposed two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also known as Justus, and Matthias. Then they prayed and said, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which one of these two you have chosen to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.” And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias, and he was added to the eleven apostles. [nrsa]

Responding to the gap, casting lots, following God’s heart.

It has always been a curiosity that Peter’s answer of deciding how to interpret who would fill this gap, and was agreed by all others, was to cast lots, throw dice, draw straws, flip a coin. On one hand, where there are two willing, capable, and blessed persons to do one job, the answer is win-win with either choice. On the other, I have always wondered if that is how to the bishops and superintendents made appointments. “Come on, Rock Spring needs a new pair of shoes…

However, we are called and sent, am I surely blessed to have come to be at Rock Spring these seven years and know God will bless Rock Spring for all who believe and trust God’s word and love.

Turn to your neighbor and say, the lot fell on Matthias. And turn to them again and say, “You are Matthias!”

This is where all these passage cross in our lives: The promises of the OT, the Gospel of the NT, the call upon the church, the Church in 2021 coming out of pandemic to face a world that is surely convinced that technology, science, politics, and ideologies of our own creation will save us, make us happy, and give us eternal life.

The Twelfth Man.

I draw more on the example from football rather than the 2017 movie of the same name, because we are not watching a movie, we are the ones involved in field. We are not just spectators, we are those called to step up, step in, and lead where we see the gaps, the loss, the sins, the division.

It is too easy to sit back and wait for the world to force us into action, thinking that that is our faithful part to be on-call. God’s promise to bless, to fill us with purpose, hope, joy, and life is open and calling us right now.

  • When we see a problem, and say: Someone should do something about this situation, vs stepping in to serve at that moment.
  • When would rather complain and blame, we are hearing our own calling to serve, lead, and follow.
  • When we experience fear, injustice, greed, pain, loss, and more, we know we have drawn the straw that calls us proclaim Jesus Christ.
  • While the world looks for the lowest common denominator we have the source, the answer, the power already in our tool box, purse, and backpack..

Yes, Lord, send Me. Yes, Lord, Send Me. Yes, I’m your person, You are my hope and strength. What’s next?

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John 15:1-8 Growing Watermelons

watermelon fruit
Watermelon by Brian van den Heuvel on Pexels.com

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples. [NRSA: John 15:1-8]

Who owns the vineyard?

God is the owner of the vineyard, the plants, the soil, pays the taxes, cares for the property, cares for the vine. We are called to be fruit of God’s labor.

Who is the Vine?

Jesus

Who are the branches that bear fruit?

Us, the church, the people of God, Christians, Disciples, folks in this room and watching this stream.

God’s Perspective:

When someone takes your hard work and uses you’re your idea, your product, our your effort to produce work for themselves? What if they not only use your labor, but do so in a way that brings harm to others? Even more so, they take credit that is yours, blame you for the harm and shame, and they become justified by the law of the land by discrediting your work but sticking you with the blame for their theft and abuse? How does that reflect on you? How is this different from God’s perspective when we claim what is our property, our ideas, our value, wealth, power, or the like?

To God belongs all things, all people, all the history and future.

We are the branches… we already established that, but our question is about fruit production.

Imagine you and I are watermelons in the field. We are connected to the vine, the source, of God’s love in Jesus Christ, fed the nutrients of the Holy Spirit, nurtured by those in the faith and body of Christ. Know, we are not of the seedless variety. We are connected to God, through Christ and the Holy Spirit and the church, to be more than a plump specimen of survival, we are to produce seed that become other vines and branches.

What is the expectation of branches in the parable that do not produce fruit? Do they remain part of the vine system? Do they continue to thrive and mature? No, they are pruned. They are cut off. They are not helping to extend, reproduce, expand, and branch outward and they are no longer useful to God.

This is such a harsh statement? Where is the grace? Where is the loving God?

It’s in the call upon each disciples to use the spiritual seeds that you are designed, born, and already have in your spiritual DNA.

Reality of Fruitfulness

Frankly, we are in a season of pruning, no control over the global pandemic, no control over the decisions of our denomination, no reason to trust our political leaders, no reason to believe in justice when the system is broken. We are hopeless, depressed, and afraid. And in these times of uncertainly we tend to be withdrawn, hunker down, and retreat.

In these times we are not planting seeds and not sharing the faith, assurance, love, grace, truth, and power that has been given us through Christ, the Holy Spirit, nor the church.

We can busy ourselves with finding the appropriate person, system, institution, or corporation to blame, or we can recognize that none of these are charge with the same power, tools, gifts, blessings, and authority to scatter the seeds: some on the path, some in the poor soil, and some in the good soil. But the task is to be planting, sharing, and scattering the seed we already have been given.

Blame and Shame never plant seeds of life.

Where there is no fruit, there are no seeds, no future, no life, no hope. What is the reverse of that story? IF we have hope, we have faith, if we trust the life given to us, we see the future God has for us, and it begins in the tools, stories, adventures, suffering, and life God has already given us, and will give us.

The vine and branches are connected:

If, and only when, we are connected to God through Christ do we KNOW we are receiving life, Jesus’s question to disciples like us and the world, are you just getting plump or are to preparing seeds?

The power is conveyed through our connection with Christ, but our goal is not simple to live, rather we live to share God’s story. It is fruit we have been prepared and saved to share.

Two Months Ago

This returns us to our invitation, of now 8 weeks ago, 2 months, of responding to the call to bear fruit. We need to be checking to see how our seed supply is doing for reaching beyond ourselves to the world around us.

What are our Seeds to Share?

What are our seeds? From the Bible are both stories of faith, examples of love and forgiveness, rules and commandment of boundaries, examples of living connected to the vine of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

The seeds are

  • in the scripture we live,
  • songs we sing,
  • the stories we tell,
  • the lessons we study,
  • the sermons we preach,
  • the experiences we share,
  • the struggles we persevere.

Tell the person next to you: I already have the seeds for sharing my faith!

Where and When to plan the seeds?

  • Brothers fighting for approval.
  • Sisters working for appreciation.
  • Neighbors divided over politics, members splitting hairs over theology,
  • the sick, forgotten, and excluded long to be included and overcome their brokenness.
  • The weary seek rest,
  • Those grieving, seek hope and life.

Remember Zacheus: He is the tax collector who has oppressed everyone in town, no one welcomes him at their door, he is seeking Jesus and Jesus invited himself to the man’s home and table. Zach encounters Jesus, and leaves knowing that every evil deed can be mended through Christ. He new business is to work justly and personally makes right what he himself has done to harm others. Jesus does not give him a law or commandment, he plants love and grace in a sinner’s heart and the vine transforms the branches. He begins bearing fruit of grace. Zack, sees the power of his sin and selfishness, and forsakes that lifestyle for a life of restoring connections that once were broken and dead.

Hear the Good News

Did you know that God desires for us to be whole more than to be guilty? Confess our sins and be free and made new in Christ. Zach, already had the seeds to bring justice and to restore what was stolen and extorted.

Jesus knows our Struggle in this World

Did you know God gives us these bodies in this broken and sinful world so that it truly means something when we give away all that we could have to have everything we truly need in Christ.

The seeds of faith that are already part of who we are, are NOT ours alone

The Alternative to growing, spreading, sharing, and bearing fruit, is simply existing, biding our time, or even more harmful, using God’s connects for our power, our success, our glory, our prize, our will.

Lord Have Mercy on Me a Sinner.

This the best prayer to start and finish the day… The context is that as long as we are in this world, with the temptations and freedom to choose our life is an ongoing choice to stay connected AND bear fruit.

Are we bearing fruit? If not, then wake up people.

We are preparing for fruit we might never see: But if we never see any fruitfulness then we are dying on the vine, in the heat of the day. Question from the parable: What happens to the melons that are beginning to rot, or have stopped growing before they mature? They are removed to make room for the branches that will bear fruit.

The Seeds in our Pocket.

One of the early sermon illustrations from 37 years ago came from William Barclay’s commentaries, and he recalled an old English rhymn: “It’s not what I would do if millions were my lot, its what I WILL do with the pence I’ve got. “What are the seeds. Seeds are the miracles of potential. Given the opportunity seeds, as pieces of God’s work, planted through out hands, become the new generation of livelihood for the vineyard.

Just about the same time I started preaching the GA Satellites wrote a song:

https://genius.com/The-georgia-satellites-keep-your-hands-to-yourself-lyrics

Georgia Satellites: “Keep Your Hands to Yourself

[Verse 1] I got a little change in my pocket going jing-a-ling-a-ling; Wanna call you on the telephone, baby, I give you a ring; But each time we talk, I get the same old thing; Always, “No huggee, no kissee until I get a wedding ring”  [Chorus] My honey, my baby; Don’t put my love upon no shelf, She said,”Don’t hand me no lines and keep your hands to yourself”

[Verse 2] Ooh, baby, baby, baby; Why you gonna treat me this way? You know I’m still your loverboy I still feel the same way; That’s when she told me a story ’bout free milk and a cow; And said “No huggee, no kissee until I get a wedding vow”  [Chorus].

Verse 3] You see, I wanted her real bad and I was about to give in; That’s when she started talking about true love; Started talking about sin; I said, “Honey, I’ll live with you for the rest of my life”; She said, No huggee, no kissee until you make me a wife”

There is much talk about loving our neighbor, but it is a combination of loving our neighbor who happens difficult to love. This is the work to which we are called and connected to Christ to live.

How do we plant seeds when someone eats them for their dinner?

Watermelon is not on my list of food to reach my healthy weight, but once I reach that goal, it will be choice on my plate, what is already on all our plates, is to get access to the seeds that are within us and put them to work.

I chose the watermelon as the image for today because we tend to forget that its not just about our own sweetness, and goodness, it is the seeds that are produced in our lives that enable and empower others to be connected to Christ.

A Hands on Opportunity

If you don’t know where to start sharing your faith, start with a seed or small tomato plant or other fruit bearing plant and go and offer it to a neighbor, help them plant it in their yard, for find a place to keep the pot on their porch, deck or patio, and show them how and when to water and nurture, advise them on what problems to anticipate and how you might avoid them, and check back in when it time to see the fruit. And you have the model of what to share with someone about their faith…

The Journey of Discipleship is like that of gardening:

  • We share what we have known as a gift to others,
  • We invite them to work in northing faith in their own life,
  • We give them tools, knowledge, and experience of what it good and evil,
  • We hold them accountable and celebrate the journey with them.

The Power of a Lawn Mower

God gives each of us the details to fill in the blanks… but if we secretly planted a watermelon seed in someone’s backyard, and it happen to spring up, they might cut it down with the mower thinking it was a weed. And the effort is wasted.

  • Share what you know, God will fill in the rest.
  • Stay with the growth and God will give you words and build the relationship.
  • Hold accountable as support, just as God holds us accountable in judgement!
  • And the vine will thrive through us, and through others, and others, and more until Christ returns for the harvest.

Are you ready to plant seeds of faith, love, grace, hope, joy and life? Then let’s get busy!

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