Mimbres First United Methodist Church

Forgiven

This week has been one that I would sooner forget. It’s times like this that I wonder why I am devoting my life to the ministry. And it’s times like this that I remember that I am not devoting my life to the ministry but rather to the service of God and the kingdom. It’s days like today that I remember that I serve as Jesus instructed and not as I choose. And I realize that this is exactly what I was called to do. “But I say to you that listen, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. Do to others as you would have them do to you. Do to others as you would have them do to you. That’s as simple as it gets. Do to others as you would have them do to you. Does that mean if someone pokes you in the eye, you shoot them, No. Do we love our children one day and not the next? Never. Do we call for the death penalty if our neighbors dog gets into the trash? Maybe…No, of course not. God calls to us to be mindful of those who are unjust and lacking in mercy. Just because they are hateful and miserable to us is not a reason to turn away from them. It is not a reason to seek retribution for the Lord is the only one who can punish the guilty. Repay no one evil for evil but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. Romans chapter 12 verse 17 it warns us that we are not to do what is most desirable to us when we are hurt. It is in our very nature to lash out at those who have wronged us an make them feel the same pain that we do.

It is in the nature of our original sin when we were cast from the garden because we would not listen, because we were stubborn and only mindful of our own importance. We cursed ourselves when the Lord only had blessings for us. We were not content to have almost everything, instead we had to have everything, and in so doing we lost it all. Still the Lord had mercy on us, He could have scrapped us then and there and started over. Instead he gave us the world to rule as we saw fit. Now we always call this the original sin from which all others were born, our disobedience and pride, but let me offer an alternative. I see the original sin as deception followed by betrayal and then disobedience to the Word. The serpent deceived Eve and betrayed her trust, Eve deceived Adam and betrayed His trust and this led to rebellion against Gods word. Look at what their first born did. Cain deceived Abel into following him to the field where he betrayed his trust by murdering him. Time and time again you can see this pattern that Satan started in garden come to fruition elsewhere. Did the Lord kill Cain for murdering Abel? No, why? Because he was still a child of God. Instead he showed him mercy, repay no one evil for evil. No doubt you have heard by now about Mike. Maybe you are feeling deceived and betrayed right about now. I am sure we are all still a little bit in shock. I am. Maybe your angry and hurt because this happened and your confused because on one had you want to condemn him and on the other you remember he was a good friend and how he helped you. We want to discard him as an evil man and at the same time we want things to be like they were before, because we want to continue the old friendship. But what we really want to know is why? Why did it happen? Why did he feel the need to do this? Why didn’t God stop him? Why didn’t I know? Why couldn’t I see the evil within? Why? Why? Why? How do you stop loving someone, how do you just turn your emotions off? The short answer is you cannot. Because, “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. For even sinners do the same, it puts me in mind of Matthew chapter 5 verse 45, for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.

The just and the unjust receive an equal measure and we all have the same shot at salvation, just as we all have the same chance at temptation. There is nothing difficult or magical about this. Jesus tells us to be faithful to Him, to be merciful as He is merciful. We have all heard “but for the grace of God there goes I” but did you know there is a poem that goes with it. Many as a matter of fact. If you will permit me… But For The Grace Of God Go I – Poem by David Whalen…There, but for the grace of God go I…Is a thought I oft used to think As I cast a hasty, judgmental eye Roundabout the coffee shop And o’er the brim of my morning drink…I used to judge those so-called ‘sorry souls And ascribe to them sad histories In blissful ignorance that Some were likely looking back And doing the same to me…Yet with a superior sense of satisfaction Would I sip my McDonald’s morning brew Until some hapless soul would draw my attraction Ah yes…this sorry soul will do…I would focus in and build upon My narrative about this sorry soul Whose life seemed sad and almost gone Down into life’s rabbit hole…Oh the trials and ordeals That this man must daily feel The sting of outrageous misfortune That Fate of late has shared with him More than his fair portion…Alas my coffee is quaffed My imaginative narrative done I’ll likely see this man (my star) no more And I wonder who the morrow’s Protagonist will be As I walk out through the door…Tomorrow will dawn a brand new day I’ll sip my Senior brew and sigh Select a new star for my newest play (I think I shall title this one like all the others) …”There but for the grace of God go I…” We say it all the time, but do we really understand it. If we have received grace, then why is this other person denied that grace. And who are we to judge another’s life as graceless? Are we then the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end? Do we reserve judgement on others? Is it our place to look at another and say vengeance is mine? Are we committing the same sin that Adam and Eve were guilty of in the beginning? Are we trying to set ourselves up as God? Do we even give it a second thought? Probably not. I know I never did until today. I really thought I was saying this in humility as I imagine most people do, but then I saw the other side of the coin so to speak and I did not like what I saw. The way it was belittling and demeaning, presumptuous of me to think that I could understand another’s pain and loss, that I could say such a thing and think it was humility and not my own pride, I will never know. Ephesians chapter 2 verse 8 says, for by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, we can never know what drives another person to do the things that they do, what demons are clawing at there souls. I pray that I will never really understand the why?

I think maybe it would be too much for me and I give thanks that the Lord has not given me to understand what drives people to such heinous acts against others, but I am thankful that it is not I that goes there. “Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.” We are not the judge of the quick and the dead. It is the Lord thy God who’s prerogative it is. I know it’s tempting to say by the grace of God there goes I and we aren’t really being judgmental right we are merely discerning. I know. But our job is not to judge, we are to love one another. We are to love God, and we are supposed to forgive others as we are forgiven and to show the light of Christ to others that we may bring them to the kingdom. We are to make disciples. Period. God has the rest of it. As we go forth today, I want to leave you with two scriptures that say it all. Proverbs 3:5-6 says, trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. And finally, Jesus’ words to us in John 15:4 Jesus says to us, Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. Amen!

ABBA! Father! Forgive us our pride, forgive us our judgment. Many are the times that we have come to you seeking answers Father. We have so many questions that want answers. But today Father, we come to you instead looking for a wordless understanding. Today we give thanks that you have not revealed your purpose to us rather we put our faith and trust in you Lord knowing that you will turn even this to good. We are content to be ignorant in the ways of evil and give thanks that you abide in us Lord and protect us with your love and mercy. In the name of your Holy Son Jesus, we pray. Amen.

Blessed Are We

You know when I was thinking about what to preach this week, I got the news that Michael had passed, and my first thought was how sad and my second was what did he do to get promoted? I thought how he would finally get to meet Jesus and give thanks for His sacrifice in person. To worship God before us and be in the presence of all that is holy and righteous. To know the defining moment in our lives and to finally find out what we are going to be doing for eternity. Because I cannot simply believe that we will spend eternity as a mindless megaphone of worship. With no purpose to fill or role to play. God tells us that we still have work to do. God wants us to know Him for He already knows all about us. In all this I thought how lucky Michael was and how blessed to take his place among the children of God. Frankly, I was a little jealous and when Jan asked me what book I was going to preach out of I looked them over, selfishly searching for something to make me feel better about life, but Jeremiah was harsh and chapter 17 verse 5 says “Thus says the Lord: Cursed are those who trust in mere mortals and make mere flesh their strength, whose hearts turn away from the Lord. And 1 Corinthians was not much better as it speaks of the resurrection, but it was more of a warning chapter 15 verse 19 says “If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.” So, I went to the good doctor and Luke had what I needed. I realized that you cannot have a blessing without woes. We cannot have eternal life without death. We cannot be forgiven if we have never sinned and we cannot be children of God if we fail to acknowledge the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit as One. And “He came down with them and stood on a level place, with a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea, Jerusalem, and the coast of Tyre and Sidon. They had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases; and those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured. And all in the crowd were trying to touch him, for power came out from him and healed all of them.” The power came out of Jesus. The blessings flow from Jesus. All that we have and do in this life are from Jesus. Blessed are we and we don’t even know it. We read this account and hear that people and unclean spirits were healed just by being in proximity to Jesus. The power radiates from Him like a bonfire and we are filled with that power. Yes, we are filled with that power, with the Holy Spirit and what’s more Jesus told us to go forth and make disciples and that we would do even greater things in His name. Blessed are we. “Then He looked up at his disciples and said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.  Please don’t confuse this with being actually poor it does not refer to your material wealth. It refers to your spiritual wealth and not how many dollars you make. many of the poor in spirit, those who don’t believe in God, who don’t believe that Jesus is the Son of God. They don’t know the Word, they have no relationship with the Lord and no place in the Kingdom of God, they are the poor in spirit. Now hold on a second and I’ll unpack it for you because you’re probably going well just because someone’s unchurched or never professed Jesus, maybe never read the bible, (and a lot of Christians have never read the bible by the way) but I am talking about people who maybe they say well I’m not a Christian but I’m very spiritual, I believe in God and I don’t need the church. You know how I know this? Because I was one. So, since their very spiritual it necessarily means that they’re not poor of spirit right. They believe in God so their saved right? Wrong. John chapter 14 verse 6 “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”  But I say if you have the Kingdom of God offered to you, if you have the good news spoken to you and if you read the word of God for the people of God and your Lord and savior is Jesus Christ you can be none of those other things. For the Lord is always with you and as such you are full of the Holy Spirit and if you’re full of the Holy Spirit how can you be poor in spirit. You cannot. Blessed are we. “Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled.  

Again, Jesus isn’t talking about La Tienda here.Luke chapter 4 verse 4 “And Jesus answered him, saying, it is written, that man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.”  Blessed are we. How can you be hungry when you’re filled with the word of God? You cannot go hungry when you are in relationship with Jesus because you are always filled with the Holy Spirit you are always filled with the word, you will never hunger. “Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. How selfish of me of us to weep and to grieve for the passing of another into the kingdom of God. Because it is not there passing that fills us with grief, what fills us with grief is that we are left behind to face this world and to continue this fight until we are called home to solace and we should rejoice for those that the Lord calls home because one day we to will seek that reward and who would deny us our reward. Amen. We are blessed. “Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets.” Our reward is great in heaven and we should be looking forward to that day when we can finally go home cast our crowns and hear these words ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. Thou hast been faithful over a few things; I will make thee ruler over many things. Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.’ [KJV21 Matthew 25:23] Blessed are we. But wait there’s even more, remember when I said every blessing has a curse. Every coin, every story has two sides and Jesus said “But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. Again, Jesus isn’t warning us about being rich there’s many good Christians out there that the Lord has blessed, and they are not ruled by their wealth but by the Lord. No rather it’s the same “wealth” that Jesus spoke about as a blessing it’s the other side of the coin. You cannot claim the richness of the Lord and yet still be destitute in the spirit. If you do, then you have received your consolation and your consolation is nothing, you will be destitute, the last shall be first and the first shall be last. Blessed are we. And, “Woe to you who are full now, for you will be hungry. That prime rib isn’t going to take the place of the word of God. If you don’t have the word of God your soul will starve to death and you will never know what it’s like to be content, to be full. Blessed are we. And “Woe to you who are laughing now, for you will mourn and weep.  This one is pretty simple all those who scoff at the Lord, at us, all those who persecute us the children of the Lord, are doomed. Like I said before, this life is not for everyone and not everyone will be saved. That’s a tough thing for a pastor to get through their heads.

But it’s also a valuable lesson that we all have to learn, not everyone can be saved or should be, which is why the Lord calls to us, not the other way around. The Lord doesn’t want everyone saved. If He did Pharaoh would have let the Israelites go, Judas would not have betrayed Jesus. For there to be winners there must also be losers, for every blessing a woe. Blessed are we. And, “Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets. Be careful, when you see everyone put somebody or something on a pedestal, they are guilty of idolatry. This is one of those that you really need to listen to “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. [Matthew 7:15] Blessed are we. Because we are the children of God and we have the Kingdom of God and the People of God with us. Blessed are we and blessed is Michael as he enjoys his well-earned rewards and one day, we to will hear those words “well done good and faithful servant”. Amen.

Gone Fishing

Last week I said Christianity wasn’t for everyone that only the perfect didn’t need to worry about sin and death. That Jesus only came for the sinners, for the broken and the lost. I see that most of you returned this week so I can safely say that none of us are Saints, but sinners, and truly that’s good. Because the Lord came for us and died for us. And while I said Christianity is tough it’s also a blessing to those of us who accept it. True it’s hard and there’s rules and things like love your neighbor and that one can be tough, believe me. And I mean love God with all your heart and mind and soul, how tough is that? I mean this Christian stuff has got to be the toughest job on the planet. So, I’ve decided that from now on we’re going fishing. Now I know that some of your going awesome we’re going fishing. Cool water, cold beer, and a fish fry that sounds good right. Maybe your thinking too good to be true your thinking there’s a catch to this there’s gotta be right. Because there’s always a catch, and you would be right there is. Jesus told us so many times, there’s always a catch. Do you want to be first? Well then you have to be last. Do you want to gain the world? Ok, but you’ll lose your soul. Do you want to live forever well first you have to die? Let me ask you a question and then we’ll go fishing. I want you to think about something you really enjoy. Something you would rather be doing right now. If it’s fishing great or hunting, gardening, painting, reading, whatever it is you fill in the blank. It has to be something that you pursue relentlessly, passionately, that you absolutely love to do. OK, now you’ve got that picture in your mind…right. It’s there, you can see it, you can feel it, you can taste it. Now tell me; what is the mission of the United Methodist Church? Not exactly what you were expecting. “The mission of the Church is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.” But pastor, we don’t know how to make disciples.

I know, I’ve heard it a thousand times and said myself a thousand times. But, listen this if you would. The Process for Carrying Out Our Mission—We make disciples as we:

—proclaim the gospel, seek, welcome and gather persons into the body of Christ;

—lead persons to commit their lives to God through baptism by water and the spirit and profession of faith in Jesus Christ;

—nurture persons in Christian living through worship, the sacraments, spiritual disciplines, and other means of grace, such as Wesley’s Christian conferencing;

—send persons into the world to live lovingly and justly as servants of Christ by healing the sick, feeding the hungry, caring for the stranger, freeing the oppressed, being and becoming a compassionate, caring presence, and working to develop social structures that are consistent with the gospel; and

—continue the mission of seeking, welcoming and gathering persons into the community of the body of Christ. That is straight from the Book of Discipline Section 122. You know I used to think that the Methodist mission was crazy, because everyone I ever asked. Did not know how to make a disciple. Oh! They were clever in their answers. Like, what exactly is a disciple? Or, define what a disciple is and then I’ll give you a process for making one. I should have known better, how to do what Jesus told us to do is in the bible. How to make disciples is in the bible, in Luke as a matter of fact, Luke chapter 10 verses 1-16, don’t worry we’ll get there because this is a subject that is near and dear to my heart. We have known all along how to make disciples and John Wesley certainly knew how to make disciples, the Methodist church knows how to make disciples, why is it that the people who call themselves disciples of Christ don’t know how to make disciples for Christ? Discipleship…what is it? Once while Jesus was standing beside the lake of Gennesaret, and the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, he saw two boats there at the shore of the lake; the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little way from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat. Do you remember when Jesus came to Peter and told him do you love me Peter, do you? And Peter said of course Lord. I love you, why would you ask such a thing of me? And Jesus said to him feed my sheep. Feed my sheep. And what do you think Jesus is doing sitting in a boat on a lake with a couple of fishermen who don’t know Him. He is Feeding His sheep He is teaching them.

What is it that we’re supposed to do as disciples? Teach by example, lead as examples. Feed the sheep. The book of discipline says proclaim the gospel, seek, welcome and gather persons into the body of Christ. And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.” Simon answered, “Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets.” You know of all the disciples many people always wondered why Jesus picked Peter to build his church on. I think it was because Peter was a stubborn pain in the butt. I mean he is obviously being condescending here. Sure, you’re a great Rabbi with all these people following you. It’s not like I’m a master fisherman, who hasn’t caught anything, it’s not like I’ve been up all-night fishing and want to go home and get some sleep. But, because you said so, I guess we’ll do this. Just this once. Now if Jesus can use a pain in the butt like Peter as a disciple there’s no reason why He can’t use your neighbor or you, or anyone else you encounter in this world. The Lord built his church on that stubborn pain in the butt. I’m pretty sure he can do even more miraculous things with whatever it is you have to work with. When they had done this, they caught so many fish that their nets were beginning to break. So, they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both boats, so that they began to sink. The miraculous, sometimes we forget just how big God really is. It’s like we can’t believe that he can do these things. But let me ask you this. If they don’t believe this and I have to assume that many Christians don’t believe this, why do they pretend? Because if they did, if they truly believed in their hearts that Christ was the Lord and savior of the universe. That we will live forever through grace and faith in Jesus. Wouldn’t you tell everybody? I mean how can you keep it to yourself? How much of a spiteful hypocrite can you be to keep this good news all for yourself? How utterly selfish and hateful Christians must be. No wonder people don’t like us. But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!” For he and all who were with him were amazed at the catch of fish that they had taken; and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon.  Go away from me Lord, For I am a sinful man. Did Jesus leave him?  No, He did not. Jesus never abandons us. Look at it this way. Do you know why you were made a disciple? Because you were made a disciple by Christ. You were chosen by Christ. You may have thought you were making the decision, but you did not. Jesus made that decision. Jesus brought you to Him. Jesus sought you out, not the other way around.

So, why do you think you were made a disciple at that particular time and under those circumstances. You know I think it’s because the Lord seeks us at the lowest points in our lives. Peter said it, Lord I have fished all night and caught nothing. Peter, Andrew, James, and John were on the verge. They were getting ready to call it quits because they had nothing and it’s so much easier to give up and go home, call it a day, forget about all the hard work you put into it and just give up. But the Lord came into their lives. Jesus came into their lives he commandeered their boat. He commandeered their livelihood, their very lives …for just a moment and that moment became a lifetime. Because just when they were at the bottom at the very bottom. God came into their lives and said no, I am going to turn this around for you. Give me a moment of your time and I will change your life forever. I will make you a disciple and you will go forth and you will make disciples for me and you will transform the world as I have transformed your world. Then Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people.” When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him.  That is what we are called to do. Baptist, Catholic, Methodist, Lutheran, Pentecostal, Presbyterian, Protestant…Christian. We are called to Make disciples. Jesus tells us to not be afraid He says I’m gonna send you into the world to fish for people. And it’s time that we left everything else behind except for our poles because if we are truly going to follow him. Then were gonna go fishing. Amen! Now normally I would say a prayer and we would sing the final hymn and sending forth and go to lunch. And we will. But first I ask that you take the insert that is in your bulletin and recite with me the covenant of the worldwide united Methodist church.

A Companion Litany to Our Covenant for the Worldwide United Methodist Church

Leader: In covenant with God and each other, we affirm our unity in Christ.

People: We will take faithful steps to live as a worldwide church in our mission to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

Leader: In covenant with God and each other, we commit ourselves to be in ministry with all people.

People: In faithfulness to the gospel, we will cross boundaries of language, culture, social or economic status as we grow in mutual love and trust.

Leader: In covenant with God and each other, we participate in God’s mission as partners in ministry.

People: We share our God-given gifts, experiences, and resources recognizing that they are of equal value, whether spiritual, financial, or missional.

Leader: In covenant with God and each other, we commit ourselves to full equality.

People: We uphold equity and accountability in our relationships, structures, and responsibilities for the denomination.

Leader: In covenant with God and each other, we enter afresh into a relationship of mutuality.

People: With God’s grace, we joyfully live out our worldwide connection in our mission to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

It’s Not For Everyone

I don’t usually preach sin. I don’t preach consequences. This is an adult congregation and we have no youth. I know that each of us are aware of the wages of sin. Romans 6:23 tells us everything we need to know: For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. I don’t have to tell you these things because even if you’ve never read the bible and have no idea that Romans is a book in it. Even if right now your going “Oh yeah! I know all about Romans, I watched Spartacus on HBO.” It doesn’t matter because Christian, Muslim, Jewish, or atheist we all know when we don’t hit the mark. Are you following me here. No matter how much you believe or don’t in sin we all have a moral and ethical compass that points us in the right direction. I’m also not going to stand here and insult your intelligence and define what is and what isn’t sin. I don’t think it’s up to me and I won’t pretend that I am capable to make judgement on another person, because I too have missed the mark. As Paul said to the Romans in chapter 3 verse 23 “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”  and I am no exception and if you are then this message is for you, because this message is about those who have no sin and those who are perfect and those who don’t need Jesus. Luke tells us in the next chapter that the disciples were complaining because He was not establishing his ministry with good people but rather tax collectors and prostitutes. In verse 32 Jesus tells them  “I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners and need to repent.” You see the Word, It’s not for everyone.

Now do not take that to mean that the Lord does not welcome all to His table, He does and as I have noted He seems to be particularly fond of us sinners praise God. It’s not so much that, It’s not for everyone as not everyone is for it. I know it make my brain hurt too. Which is why Jesus spoke mostly in parables. However, on this occasion He was very clear. “Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” O course He was reading from the book of Moses and Isaiah’s prophecies for the children of Israel.  And Jesus said “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Jesus has just declared that He is the long-awaited Messiah and people are not too happy about this. It’s not even something that I can give a proper analogy for. You see in that time and place there would have been no one who did not know exactly what Jesus was referring to. Think of how David and Goliath have become the example of the right over might or the little guy triumphing over huge adversity. This scripture would have been immediately recognizable as a messianic proclamation. Here I am, The Messiah. Relax I got this. See “all spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?” They were amazed and you think wow how wonderful, but I read something a little more different in this verse (isn’t it wonderful how the gospels are so alike yet different) Because none of the four relate this episode the same. And, I don’t read it as they showed great wonder, but rather surprise. In other words, they were being just a little patronizing. Kind of like when your five year old comes back with some off the wall statement and then you suddenly realize that it wasn’t, that it was in fact beyond their capabilities and you want to immediately know where did you get that from, whose authority are you borrowing, because it cannot have come from a five year old. And it didn’t, in this case it came from God and “He said to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘Doctor, cure yourself!’ And you will say, ‘Do here also in your hometown the things that we have heard you did at Capernaum.’ ” And he said, “Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s hometown. And how can He be, they were not being deliberately patronizing or nasty, remember this is Jesus’ home town and he had lived there for years, both as a child and an adult with an occupation.

Which is part of the problem, we all have with our children, it’s always hardest to see the man or women a person becomes, because you can never forget the child that they were. But the truth is our children often surpass us. So, when Jesus came back to His hometown as a famous Rabbi with disciple, that was great and everyone wanted to hear how a carpenter with no formal training could possibly be the great healer and teacher that all Judea was talking about. They just could not conceive of it, and no matter what He said, or did they would be skeptical. Much like people are today when you witness  to them. Even when they see a miracle, they rationalize it away or simple don’t believe. And that’s ok. The way isn’t for everyone. And not everyone is called as Elijah proved in 1st and 2nd Kings when He was the sole priest of Yahweh and he defeated the entire priesthood of Baal. He is right up there with Moses as one of the most revered prophets of Israel and Jesus uses Elijah and his protégé Elisha’s struggles with Jezebel and a newly reborn Israel as an example of why His words are not always for everyone. Jesus points out that “the truth is, there were many widows in Israel in the time of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was a severe famine over all the land; yet Elijah was sent to none of them except to a widow at Zarephath in Sidon. There were also many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.” Salvation is not for everyone. Matthew 22:14 Jesus tells us point blank  “For many are called, but few are chosen.” This life isn’t for everyone and there’s no shame in it. There is no need to be angry or like the Galileans were. When they heard this, all in the “synagogue were filled with rage. You see we are a fast food society and for the most part the things that really anger us are petty. Like, someone taking our parking space or any of a dozen things that really aren’t any great inconvenience. We save our hatred for people who are mean to puppy’s and politics, really important things like that. This is not the case in Jesus time, there was nothing more important to these people than God and they were more than willing to kill someone whom they believed was mocking them or irreverent to Yahweh; and they got up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff. This is how mad they were at Him, this is how seriously they believe in God and they still do too this day.

If you have an opportunity to go to the middle east, please remember that it has been continually occupied by people for millennium for thousands of years, not just a few hundred years and this is an old argument for them. Still, Jesus was one of them and loved by them and I am sure that He too loved them just as much, even though they were perfectly willing to sacrifice him, still He is not for everyone and “he passed through the midst of them and went on his way.” Has He passed through your life? Is he just one of the guys in the neighborhood? Here today and gone tomorrow. Is Jesus the most important thing in your life? Because this life is not for everyone. Jesus is “The Spirit of the Lord and he has been anointed and He brought the good news to the poor. He has proclaimed release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, He has let the oppressed go free, and proclaimed the year of the Lord’s favor.” Still if you’re perfect and have no sin it’s OK. If you have no need of forgiveness and repentance is something only the guilty do, don’t worry, it’s not mandatory. Christianity isn’t for everyone and if we reject the Lord, He will simple pass through our midst and go on His way and we will never realize how close salvation was. It’s ok. It’s not for everyone.

One Please

Just one please. You ever get the feeling that you and the rest of the world just aren’t in sync. And not just the rest of the world but even at home, at church, everybody has a different opinion, everybody has an agenda, everybody seems to be going in a different direction and it’s not the direction you want to go. There is no consensus. I mean look at our own denomination within the next month we’re basically going to vote to split the denomination in half. Personally, I don’t think god’s will let that happen but that is my opinion and I do not know the mind of God. But I do know what God said through His servant Paul. He said, for just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. One spirit, the Holy Spirit. One body, no matter who we are, we are one body collectively. I know that we are indeed individuals. In fact, each of us has certain gifts and abilities that others don’t. We often don’t feel that we are appreciated for what we do or give to the body of Christ. We may feel left out, rejected, or maybe we feel underappreciated or that we’re being taken advantage of.

Perhaps it’s the other way around maybe we feel that we’re the only ones who know the true direction of the church and perhaps we’re frustrated that no one else can see what we see. Regardless of which portion of the body you see yourself in, please remember that it’s God that is in control of the body of Christ and not us. There are many parts to the human body, and we share many similar traits as a Christian body to a real body. While our strength in unity is undeniable it is our unity in diversity that is truly remarkable. Just like the real body the Christian body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot would say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear would say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose.  As He chose. That’s the key. He chose He designed, and we are designed to be who and what we are. And none of us are insignificant, none of us are worthless, and certainly there are none of us that have the right or the ability, to determine who should or should not be called a member of the body of Christ. That is solely up to the creator. I am going to assume that everyone here is not familiar with genetics, even though we have several people here whom I know are more than a little familiar with genetics. Still I’m going to err on the side of caution and give a simple explanation. Simply put genetics is the study of heredity, or how the characteristics of living things are transmitted from one generation to the next. Every living thing contains the genetic material that makes up DNA molecules. This material is passed on when we reproduce. So, the basic unit of heredity is the gene and all the gene’s together make up our Walmart. No wait they make up our DNA and every cell in your body has the DNA blueprint to reproduce you completely and identically, down to the last hair on your head. In fact, I just read a story that says scientists can use stem cells (which are essentially blank cells that act like sticky note) and you can write whatever you want on them and stick it onto a bad spot in the blueprint and correct it, any part of the blueprint, it doesn’t matter. Stem cells can be programmed to be any type of cell.

Well scientists are programming them to regrow new teeth. Adult teeth. Pop in some stem cells and poof you have a brand-new smile, no more dentures. Amazing right! And they still think we are descended from apes and God doesn’t exist. I didn’t need to see the awesome complexity of life through genetics or stem cells, to know that God exists, I already had that faith, but I don’t see how a scientist, particularly a geneticists can look at the perfection that is life and not believe in the Creator. It just boggles the mind. But I digress. All of this is to make a very simple point. Each of us as a member of the body of Christ carry the DNA so to speak that allows anyone of us or just one of us to recreate the church universal. And whether we know genetics or not, we are aware of this fact within ourselves, even if we have never given it a thought it’s always there. We sometimes say things like God is everywhere, so the church is everywhere. Or my personal favorite, I don’t need the church because I am the church, so everywhere I go so does the church. And there is truth in these statements, but they are also misleading because it was Jesus who embodied the Church not us alone. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many members, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and those members of the body that we think less honorable we clothe with greater honor, and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect; whereas our more respectable members do not need this. But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior member, that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it. Folks we can’t do this alone. It takes all of us to be the body of Christ. Let be specific, we need the poor, the rich, married, the singles. We need the broken and the whole. We need the Democrat and the Republican, the entrepreneur, and the blue-collar worker. The sinner and the saved. We cannot exist in a vacuum or as an island within the church. We can no longer afford to deny the existence of others within the body of Christ simply because we don’t agree with them. We must except each other for who we are and deal with it.

Because each of us is precious to God. Not just the hands or just the feet, but the whole body of Christ is precious to the Lord. And because we are precious to the Lord, he has given us great gifts with the expectation that we will use them for the betterment of the Kingdom rather than ourselves. As members of the body of Christ we are expected to love our neighbors as much as we love God. We are expected to follow His will faithfully and joyously. We are gifted with the power and majesty of Christ through our baptism and acceptance into the Kingdom of Christ.  So that now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers; then deeds of power, then gifts of healing, forms of assistance, forms of leadership, various kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? Theanswer is no, and it’s always been no and no matter how great we think we are. No matter how wise, or pious, how strong, or intelligent we think we are. We can never be more than God, but strive for the greater gifts… He tells us, put forth the effort and show the world what we can do together as the body of Christ and not individually as parts of the body but together as a whole, and I will show you a still more excellent way. Amen!

Need

Need…I know you’re probably going pastor did you forget your meds today? But stay with me. I know that no where in that passage is there even the word need. Not in English, Hebrew, Greek, or Aramaic is the word need in this passage. Yet it’s every word a whisper of necessity, every sentence a conversation about the essentials and the whole passage an impassioned cry for the needs of the world. On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” (NRSV John 2:1-3) The needs of the world seem a bit extravagant when it’s obvious all they really need is some more wine. I know it’s hard to see the needs of the entire world in a beer run. Excuse me wine run. But I see more than just a need for something to drink. The first thing that comes to my mind is the wedding, a joyous time for all. It’s a party. I know we’re Christians and…we never party. Right? Why not? As a child of God, do we not have a right to be happy? You know I’m taking a class in personal relationships this semester and happiness is not only something that everyone desires. In fact, it is not just a desire but a requirement for a long and healthy life. So why does your average Christian go around like he’s attending a funeral when he’s pronouncing the word of God. People don’t like to go to funerals, they do like to go to weddings. The great theologian “Charles Spurgeon once wrote to his students: “Sepulchral tones may fit a man to be an undertaker, but Lazarus is not called out of his grave by hollow moans. … I commend cheerfulness to all who would win souls.”. Happiness is needed in our lives and not just at weddings because they aren’t very common and even then, as today weddings were very expensive.

So, I see a lot of needs here, I see a need for good weather, for food, for health, and of course wealth to pay for all of the food and the wine. I see a need for family and friends to help celebrate. I see a lot more need than just some wine. We all need more than what is apparent on the surface, we need more than others realize and it often feels that God is not giving us what we need. And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.” (NRSV John 2:4) This may seem a little callous even disrespectful. However, woman is a common way to address someone at this time in this context and it’s correct, much like we would address someone as lady or madame. You see even Mary had a need. The need that every mother has. The desire to see her child fulfill their destiny. Do not do like some and put Mary on a pedestal of holiness. She was first and foremost a woman and a mother. She had needs and desires the same as you and I. The need for the love and respect, for the understanding of her child and the community. Everything that you want and need that is important to you spiritually and physically on a personal level would have been just as important to Mary. Maybe Jesus senses this or perhaps like any good son when your mother tells you it’s time to go to work you get up and you go to work. Whatever the reason Mary didn’t take no for an answer. Instead she “said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” Now standing there were six stone water jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to them, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. He said to them, “Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.” So, they took it.” (NRSV John 2:5-8) Tell me did you think that Jesus had no needs. The difference is that Jesus has different needs than we do, that makes sense after all he is the living God, the Messiah come to earth to save us from ourselves. Jesus is asking us for our obedience and our faith just as he asked the servants and the steward. When I say Jesus has different needs, I don’t mean for you to take that to mean obedience and faith are a requirement for Jesus to operate in our lives, it’s not. If we have no faith or even if we fail to obey Him. Our sins are paid. We are forgiven. But Jesus does not need our authority to operate in our lives. Indeed, His needs are not our needs and yet our needs are his. Doesn’t make much sense does its Jesus does not need us. God does not need us. Still He desires us and came to us as one of us with those same needs and wants, to experience our need because Jesus said “No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me; and I will raise that person up on the last day. (NRSV John 6:44)

God desires us, we are drawn to Jesus, and we need Jesus. And we have to be drawn by the father to be saved by the Son. Fortunately, he desires a relationship with us, and it is our needs that draw us closer to him. Because we have found that we cannot satisfy our own needs. When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now.” (NRSV John 2:9-11) Everybody has a need. The steward needed to prevent his boss from becoming a disgrace. You see in those times parties would go on for days which is one reason they cost so much. But in the beginning when everybody’s sober they would bring out the good wine so that you could praise the host and tell him how wonderful he is and how generous he is with his wealth for buying such good wine to commemorate the occasion. Now the more you drink and the longer that you drink the more taste buds you kill and by the second day I would think that no one would have known the difference between a fine wine and mad dog 20/20. So, it was the custom in those days to do exactly that towards the end of the feast you were not bringing out those expensive bottles of wine you were bringing out wine coolers. And this was acceptable it was expected. What was not acceptable was to run out of wine completely. The host would have been shamed and lost face and probably position in the community. It was the job of the steward to make sure that that did not happen. So, when the wedding party ran out of wine it was a serious thing indeed and while I may have made a little bit of a joke about making a beer run it was far more serious than that. I won’t say that people’s lives would have been ruined but certainly their reputation and standing in the community would have been damaged which would have translated into even greater problems and possibly financial loss down the line so you see it was not just the guests that needed Jesus it was everyone at the wedding feast. Even his disciples had a need. Their need was to have faith in Jesus. Which is why “Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.” (NRSV John 2:12) So now you see why I see the need of the world in a wedding party that does not have the word need in it. Because everything at that party everyone at that party needed Jesus to fulfill their purpose. And we are no different.

Our lives are no different than that wedding party and no matter where you wanna be in that wedding party as a guest, the steward, the host, the servants, or the disciples none could serve their purpose until unknown to most of them Jesus had transformed the water to wine and their entire lives at the same time. At that very instant in time nothing would ever be the same as Jesus transformed the wine, he would soon transform the world. So, as you leave here today ask yourself what is it that you need from Jesus and are you sure that he has not already provided it for you. Be patient you won’t always see the miracle. You may never know how close you come to disaster and it may seem that your needs are being neglected. But remember when we receive our inheritance it won’t be just a cup of wine it’ll be a 30-gallon jar filled to the brim and we won’t have any more needs, because all we really need, is Jesus. Amen!

Accepted

Accepted…the common definition for accepted is as follows “generally believed or recognized to be valid or correct.” “Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them.” (NRSV Acts 8:14) Accepted… “generally believed or recognized to be valid or correct.” You know I don’t believe that we actually know what accepted means in this day and age since we use it so much for so many things. You can’t turn your computer on or download a program or watch a movie without clicking on an agreement. And this agreement is usually so long and so complicated that no one reads them, but we still click yes, I understand or yes, I agree. Never really knowing what it is we are agreeing to, but we still agree to it. Why is that? And we all do it, it has become the norm. I mean we don’t even look at it anymore. It used to be that we actually read the first paragraph and then we would go…this is a complete waste of time…then we skipped to the end and signed it. Now we just go straight to the end and say I accept…sign me up. But that’s a dangerous practice. Accept is a dangerous word and we need to be aware of that. So, let’s take a closer look at the word accept. Accept is a verb, an action word and although it has multiple meanings it has a single form. Now the definitions for accept are many and we are going to look at all of them and put them into the context with your life and Gods word. The first of these is the “Consent to receive (a thing offered).” To accept…To receive, agree to receive, welcome, take, take receipt of, get, gain, obtain, acquire, or come by. “The two went down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit (for as yet the Spirit had not come upon any of them; they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus).” (NRSV Acts 8:15-16) Have you accepted Christ? Have you accepted the word of God? For the Lord offered his son to us.

That if we agreed to receive Him to welcome Him, to follow Him, to accept Him, we would have eternal life. Another definition for accept is too “Give an affirmative answer to (an offer or proposal);” say yes to. Take on, take up, undertake, tackle, take on oneself, shoulder, bear, assume, manage, take responsibility for, be responsible for, engage in, become involved in, take part in, participate in, devote oneself to, concentrate on, address oneself to, go about, set about, approach, handle, get down to, deal with, and get to grips with. Wow! That is a lot. Give an affirmative answer. All of those words just say yes. Yes, is easier to say and more to the point but it doesn’t have as much meaning as the word accept. Yes, doesn’t bear the same meaning it doesn’t have the same responsibility, it doesn’t engage us, it doesn’t involve us. Yes, does not allow us to devote ourselves to or concentrate on the word of God. Yes, is too easy to say. It’s too easy to forget that you said yes. But it’s not the same when you say Lord, I accept you, I accept the gifts that you have for me. I accept the trials and the tribulation that will make me stronger so that your gifts will not overwhelm me. I accept the limitation that you place before me. The pace that you set for me from Lord because I know that you have plans for me and that only good can come from them. And then there’s one of my favorite definitions which is to “Say yes to a proposal of marriage. And I don’t want you to have any doubt in your mind, when you accept the Lord, you are excepting a proposal of marriage. It is the union of the Holy Spirit to us as our eternal counselor, confidante, friend, protector, and light in the dark. Once you receive the Lord you’re bound for eternity. Never to be abandoned or forgotten but “Regarded favorably or with approval;” we are to be welcome, greeted, let in, received, received favorably, embraced, offered friendship to, and adopted. When we accept Christ and we start to follow where God leads, we are regarded favorably with approval by God. Did Jesus have to accept being baptized? What did John say, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” In other words, to do as God instructed. Then John consented. As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” (NIV Matthew 3:13-17) Just as Jesus followed where God lead so it should be with us. We should desire nothing more than to please the Lord. “God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.” (NLT Ephesians 1:5) It is our purpose in life, to give pleasure to God. We were designed for that sole purpose and part of that design is also a definition of what it means to accept “(of a thing) be designed to allow (something) to be inserted or applied.” “Then Peter and John laid their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.” (NRSV Acts 8:17) We were made to receive the Holy Spirit to be in union with Christ and through that union to abide in the presence of the Lord. Because we have accepted the Word of God, we accept “believe or come to recognize (an opinion, explanation, etc.) as valid or correct.” Believe, trust, give credence to, credit, give credit to, put confidence in, be convinced of, have faith in, count on, rely on, depend on; Jesus as our Lord and savior. And through all of these definitions of the word accept and what it is that we agree to and what we expect of God we skip over the fine print and go straight to the end without ever really knowing what it is that he did for us. There are two more definitions of the word except. These are the ones that we should know the best, the ones that are so self-evident, but they don’t really need a definition but still we forget that’s the original meaning of accept is to “Take upon oneself (a responsibility or liability); acknowledge.” “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” (NIV 1 Peter 2:24) Christ alone excepted our sin the sins that we are so could not bear. He took them upon himself and died for us. Which brings us to the final definition of accept which is to “Tolerate or submit to (something unpleasant or undesired).” To endure, put up with, suffer, bear, take, stand, support, submit to, stomach, undergo, swallow. The only person ever to be born without sin, eternal. Still Christ submitted himself, humbled himself and came to us not as an eternal God but rather as one of us with the same hopes and dreams, the same love and compassion that we all share. He came and tolerated our sins and allowed us to nail him to a cross, to suffer and die in agony that we may live joyously free from pain for eternity. Praise his name above all the heavenly host. Praise his name in the highest. Give thanks that he loves us and protects us as His children. Amen!