Mimbres First United Methodist Church

The Good News

This is the third Sunday of advent and traditionally this Sunday represents the joy of the coming of Christ. It is called “Gaudete Sunday” which means rejoice in Latin as we light the rose candle, we recite the” Song of Joy” and we rejoice and exult with all our heart that the Lord has taken away the judgement that was laid up against us. He will rejoice over us with gladness and He will renew His love of us. No longer will we fear disaster. Worry will have no power over our minds. He will change shame into praise and renown, among all the peoples of the earth as he restores the fortunes of His children that is Good News, but not the Good News. We celebrate Joy in today’s Psalm as we drink from the only water that will quench our thirst for it is the scripture and it is drawn from the wells of salvation for God is our salvation and we give thanks to the Lord as we call on His name and exalt it to the nations. It is joy that we proclaim this day. “Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. I remind you of the joy of this day because John starts off with a warning and when someone gives you a warning especially this one you have a tendency to forget the real meaning behind the word so don’t let John’s words temper the joy of this day rather give thought to them and ask yourself have I done all that I can as a servant of the Lord. Listen. John said to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruits worthy of repentance. What we need here is some context. We must remember where John was preaching.

This is not like in the movie in the middle of nowhere with a crowd of people next door to a river and he’s dunking them in the water singing hallelujah brother. This was not some tent revival. John’s ministry was on the I-40 of his day and remember also that travel was normally dusty and dirty and Jewish law required ritual washing. So, there would have been Pharisee and Sadducee as well as everyday rich and poor traveling to Jerusalem and it would have seemed like a good idea to stop and get some “insurance” just to be safe. John’s telling them don’t just come over here and get your fire insurance that won’t work if you don’t truly repent God will know that you’re wasting his time so be careful be watchful of your motives. Do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our ancestor’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” it was a very common assumption during this time that because they were children of Abraham and God had made a covenant with them that they were favored so no matter what they did God loved them so much that God would forgive them and save them no matter how evil they acted. Sort of like the doctrine of once saved always saved that states that no matter what you do once you’ve been saved you can never lose your salvation. That just isn’t so. If at some point you’d like me to preach on the differences and similarities of Calvinism and Wesleyan theology and exactly what it is, we believe I’ll be happy to but not today. To get back to the context though the average person of faith did believe that it was not only acceptable it was perfectly logical. John wasn’t average and if you remember he was to be filled with the Holy Spirit and ‘Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord: And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.’ even Jesus said that he was Elijah come again in the spirit. “Elias truly shall first come and restore all things. But I say unto you, that Elias is come already, and they knew him not, but have done unto him whatsoever they liked. Likewise, shall also the Son of man suffer of them.” John was telling them just because they were descended of Abraham and part of the covenant did not mean that they would not be judged individually on their own merit and not to rely on family ties. It’s not Grandpa Abraham that’s gonna judge you it’s God and he’s not gonna judge you on what your grandparents did He’s gonna judge you on your merits.

Now they’re worried, and the crowds asked him, “What then should we do?” In reply he said to them, “Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.” John tells him don’t be selfish help one another, give to those less fortunate than you, help those that are in need. This is a common theme in the bible and Jesus preaches this is well. We are always told as Christians not only to turn the other cheek but to give selflessly of ourselves, to love our neighbors as ourselves. We wouldn’t permit ourselves to freeze to death or starve to death why do we let our fellow brothers and sisters suffer. Where is the Good News in that? All are welcome at the Lords table, Even tax collectors came to be baptized, and they asked him, “Teacher, what should we do?” He said to them, “Collect no more than the amount prescribed for you.” You see in those days they had what’s known as tax farmers and that is how the Roman Empire collected their taxes by bidding out the tax bill for a region to the highest bidder. Now this individual who won the bid agreed to pay the taxes for that region to the governor. It was a set amount and the way that they made their money was everything that they could collect over and above that amount was their profit and they had to pay for such things as transportation and wages for the tax collectors themselves you see the individuals who were rich enough to bid for these positions never went and actually collected the tax they left that up to what were called publicans (tax collectors). The apostle Matthew if you recall was a tax collector and as such he was one of those that his boss would tell him to go to the town of Bethany and collect 300 drachma and Matthew would go and like any good businessman he would size up the area, determine what each individual household and farm could afford to pay he would do a risk analysis and adjust the amounts owed accordingly and the way they got extra money was to increase the amount owed and the government didn’t care because they had already been paid. The more the publicans were hated the more that they would try to squeeze out of the locals. Where’s the Good News in that? And because they were hated so much, they were forced to hire soldiers to protect themselves from the crowds which increased taxes further. These soldiers were not Roman soldiers who would not have cared less about the tax collectors or John instead they were likely Jewish temple guards and just as devout as their master’s and so the soldiers also asked him, “And we, what should we do?” He said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusation and be satisfied with your wages.” John tells them they have an honorable job they are paid good wages don’t be greedy be honest and do your job with integrity.

As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, John answered all of them by saying, “I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. In those days only a slave, someone whom is not possible to degrade would remove your shoes and wash your feet not even a rabbis followers who are expected to perform all of the menial work that was too good for the master, even they would not perform this duty because they were too good for it. Johns telling us that the one who is to come is so far above us that we are not even worthy to be his slaves and even though Jesus came to serve not to be served still He is the Master and He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” John is telling us the Lord is bringing fire with him he brought fire the first time the fire of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost and it is that fire that burns the chaff away from us, for a Christian the fire is good thing (not the Good News but a good thing none the less) because it burns away the chaff and the dross for a Christian the fire tempers the steel within us. We are changed forever just as a simple clay pot won’t hold water, in fact turns back into mud, but firing that same pot transforms it into a substance that is waterproof and impervious to time. For those who are not in Christ the fire is a terrifying prospect because those who are not in Christ are the chaff and the dross. They are cast aside and forever lost, burned to nothing. Where’s the Good News in that? So, with many other exhortations, he proclaimed the good news to the people. You know I don’t think John is gonna proclaim the good news. At least not the good news that Christ proclaimed because for John the good news is the coming of Christ. Just as it is for us. So, repent for the kingdom of God is near. Amen!

Guide Our Way

I’m sure by now most of you have recognized but the gospel and the Psalm are the same or similar because they are both a gospel and a Psalm or song. What about told you over and over and over about context you cannot claim the Bible if you cannot put into context. It’s very hard sometimes to get at that context and open it up so that everyone can see it because if I can’t make this come alive for you if I can’t get you to understand the context of the situation then I’m failing to bring the word you. So, let’s go back to the beginning. if you recall both Mary and Elizabeth were pregnant at the same time even though Elizabeth was much older and despaired of ever having a child but Elizabeth husband was “Zechariah and he was a temple priest and as was the custom at the time they would choose lost to see who would offer the Lord incense and it fell to Zechariah and he prayed to God and an angel appeared and told Zechariah his prayers had been answered. The angel told him everything from his name to what he was to be permitted to do. John was to be filled with the Holy Spirit even before his birth. Zechariah new everything and still “Zechariah said to the Angel how will I know that this is so? For I am an old man, and my wife is getting on in years”.

Priest he might be, but he definitely was not going to win any awards for brains. So, the Angel replied “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news but now, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time, you will become mute unable to speak until the day these things occur.” Note to self, do not make Gabriel mad. To finally answer the question of why it’s both a Gospel and a Song is because it is found in a gospel, but it is called the Song of Zechariah or Zechariah’s Prophecy. “His song is called the Benedictus, based on the first word that came from his lips: “Praise be to the Lord” (1:68, italics added). Zechariah believed that the Messiah was about to emerge, that God had come and redeemed his people, and that his son was going to prepare the way. The redemption of Israel would be made possible because God had raised up a horn of salvation (1:69).” I know in none of our readings does this say the “horn of Salvation” that’s why the NRSV is not always the best translation. In the King James version, you know the one that the disciples used. Verse 68 and 69 reads ”Blessed be the Lord God of Israel for he has visited and redeemed his people, and hath raised up an horn of Salvation for us in the house of his servant David” You see when we change things even if it is for greater clarity it can lose it’s true meaning. “This is the only place in the New Testament where Jesus is referred to as the “horn of salvation.” The instruction from God for the construction of the altar in the Temple where the atonement for the sins of the people was to be made called for a horn at each of the four corners (Ex. 27:1–2). Blood was applied to the horns of the altars for atonement (Ex. 30:10). Adonijah, in fear of Solomon, fled to the altar and hung on to the horns as a place for refuge and salvation (1 Kings 1:50–53). Upon deliverance from his enemies, David sang, “The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation. He is my stronghold, my refuge, and my savior …” (2 Sam. 22:2–3, italics added). Zechariah was inspired to proclaim Jesus to be the one to whom humankind could flee for refuge—the one who would become the atonement for sin—the one who would become salvation for us and (Luke 1:69) the strength of our life.”

(Ps. 28:7–8) “The LORD is my strength and my shield; My heart trusted in him, and I am helped: Therefore, my heart greatly rejoiceth; And with my song will I praise him. The LORD is their strength, And he is the saving strength of his anointed”. “Zechariah’s words must be understood as the result of the Holy Spirit’s coming upon him. They are words of prophecy, words which express God’s revelation. The horn was a symbol of strength (as with the horn of a bull), so that a horn of salvation means ‘a mighty salvation’ or ‘a strong savior’ The reference to the house of his servant David shows that Zechariah is singing about the Messiah. The salvation the Messiah will bring is spoken of first as deliverance (71), then as mercy to the fathers and then in terms of the covenant. Now, there are several covenants in the Old Testament, but that with Abraham stands out. The oath was a significant part of any covenant, and here it is emphasized. God will not go back on what he has sworn. The covenant with Abraham will be brought to its consummation. Zechariah first words in nine months are not about his little boy but the Messiah whom God was about to send. That doesn’t mean Zechariah didn’t care about John rather in verse 76 he points out that he will be called the prophet of the Most High. There had been no prophet among the Jews for centuries, so those were fighting words, not exactly something that the people of the time would take calmly. John would represent a radical departure from what had become customary. And not only was he to be a prophet, but he was to prepare the Lord’s way. He would be forerunner to the Messiah. Specifically, he would tell people about the coming of salvation in the forgiveness of their sins. John would not save people. No man could. But he would call people to repentance and tell them about One who could save them. Our coming salvation will be through God’s tender mercy. The compassion of God is a constant theme of the New Testament. Zechariah goes on to speak of salvation as light “the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace”.”We opened with the prophecy Zechariah and one more time I want close with the coming of our Lord the Messiah but not as a guide for future generations but as the fulfillment of that prophecy as the coming conqueror and eternal ruler of both heaven and earth. “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has looked favorably on his people and redeemed them. He has raised up a mighty savior for us in the house of his servant David, as he spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old, that we would be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us. Thus he has shown the mercy promised to our ancestors, and has remembered his holy covenant, the oath that he swore to our ancestor Abraham, to grant us that we, being rescued from the hands of our enemies, might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all our days. And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people by the forgiveness of their sins. By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” The child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the wilderness until the day he appeared publicly to Israel. The voice of him that cries in the wilderness, Prepare you the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Amen!

Be On Guard

When Jesus foretold the destruction of the temple and the coming of the Messiah people freaked out and rightly so. Think about something that is central to your life, something that the destruction of would be unimaginable. Think about how you would react if someone told you that your whole way of life would cease to exist. The first thing that you will do is deny it and then you are going to want to know, “When will these things happen?” (Luke 21:7) It is only natural that you would want as much information as possible about an event that will affect your life so profoundly. You want to be on guard against it. You want to prepare, right. Well the Judeans were no different and they pestered Jesus to give them a sign, especially the Sadducee and Pharisee and do you remember His response to them. “An evil and adulterous generation asks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so for three days and three nights the Son of Man will be in the heart of the earth. But to His disciples He gave a few hints: Many will come in my name, claiming “I am he,” and, “The time is near” (Luke 21:8). There will be wars and revolutions (21:9). Nation will rise against nation (21:10). There will be great earthquakes, famines, and pestilences in various places (21:11). There will be fearful events and great signs from heaven (21:11). We are living in such times now. As a matter of fact, every generation throughout history has lived during similar times. Does anyone know who David Meade is? Do you know what April 23rd, of this year was supposed to be? The rapture. Yes, and that’s just one of a couple of hundred people and dates that have foretold the end of the world. The fact is Jesus told us not to fear or worry about the date because fear and lies are our greatest enemies and the enemy uses them to distract us. Wesleyan theologian Ken Heer put it like this, “We must be confident people of faith not in circumstances, but in God’s provision and care of His children. Fear is our enemy. Faith is our ally.” Paul is clear that we must always be on our guard, particularly in the last days. Paul writes to Timothy in Ephesus and advises him to watch for, “People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—having a form of godliness but denying its power” (2 Tim. 3:1–5). We were also told that the Lord would come as “a thief in the night” (1 Thess. 5:1–3), but that He would not come until “the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God” (2 Thess. 2:4). Peter went even farther and warned that “in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires” (2 Pet. 3:3); and “The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare” (3:10). George just read Luke to us and Jesus said, “There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.  Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in a cloud’ with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” The coming of the Lord will bring fear and tribulation to those who do not follow the Lord, but we are not to fear, we are to be on guard. We are His children and we have been redeemed, still we are not yet in His presence and cannot know the true gift of His grace until we are raised into the heavens just as Jesus ascended into the clouds. The angels have told us, “This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11). He will return in awesome glory and with unimaginable power to become the Lord of Lords and King of Kings. Still we must be on guard for that day because no one knows the day of His return, but everyone who follows Christ must be vigilant and discerning of the word of God and where He leads us. Jesus used the fig tree to illustrate that His return would follow as naturally as the procession of the seasons and that it would be obvious to us when it was going to happen.

When the leaves sprout, you can tell summer is near (21:30). As God’s people we too are expected to know that the kingdom of God is near just by being on guard and seeing the world as it is. There are few things in this life that have permanence. Most of us have lived long enough to see the world we were born into change so much that there are very few things that we have in common with the days of our youth. It’s just not there anymore. There are no guarantees in this life, Jesus said that even the heavens and the earth will pass away (21:33). Nothing will remain, nothing…with one exception Jesus said, “my words will never pass away” (21:33). In the end there will be nothing but the word of God, just as there was in the beginning. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last. (Rev. 22:13). But until that final season comes, we are to be on guard so that our hearts are not weighed down (21:34). We are to be on guard so that day does not catch you unexpectedly like a trap (21:34). We are always to be alert, praying (21:36). We are not expected to hide in fear. No, we are created to face the enemy with our eyes wide open, with the word of God on our lips and faith in our heart.  In prayer we remain confident in God’s faithfulness to us, as we remain faithful to Him and because of your faith in Christ they will arrest you and persecute you; they will hand you over to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors because of my name. This will give you an opportunity to testify.So, make up your minds not to prepare your defense in advance; for I will give you words and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict. Be on guard when we accept Christ into our lives, we are warned to count the cost, “and they will put some of you to death” (21:16). Jesus never promised us a rose garden, instead He told us “All men will hate you because of me” (21:17). Harsh words but not without promise for Jesus tells us that not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your souls. Be on guard we may lose our bodies they cannot kill the soul. We are eternal in spirit and we are only ever truly alive when we are within Christ because Crist has died; Christ is risen; Christ will come again. And all God’s children said? Amen.

Two Shall Become One

This week I’m gonna preach about something near and dear to every Man’s heart the most important thing in his life the one thing that the Lord our God intended so that we may be made whole and complete as children of God. I am of course speaking of woman. 18 Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; In all of creation up to this point in time God has declared everything that he has created as good, every animal, every plant, the stars, the moon, the sun, the sky, all of creation, the entire universe God, has declared as good until he creates man. God does not say that man is not good, rather he says it is not good that man should be alone. I see the women going yeah leave it a man to cause the first problem in the cosmos. There is a reason that Adam was created first and it’s not the reason that most people think it is. The reasoning that chauvinist use to beat their wives over the head with, we all know the scriptures. Ephesians 5:22-23 Wives submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Or my personal favorite, 1 Timothy 2:11-14 Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. I refuse to get into the blame game.

Whose fault it was that humanity was thrown out of the garden or who caused the fall of mankind, there is enough blame to go around for everyone. At some point Adam has to take responsibility for his own decision at some point Eve has to take responsibility for hers as well. Adam and Eve are not separate, they are one, they were meant to be one, the fall of one is the fall of the other the deceiving of one is the deceiving of the other. We’ll see that in a minute, first though the Lord said, “I will make him a helper as his partner.” Of which the literal translation is “a help as opposite him or corresponding to him”, equal to him. But man is stubborn, and the Lord knew his child was incomplete but how do you teach that lesson to him. How do you get Adam to see that it’s not good to be alone, that he must have support? 19 So out of the ground the Lord God formed every animal of the field and every bird of the air and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. 20 The man gave names to all cattle, and to the birds of the air, and to every animal of the field; but for the man there was not found a helper as his partner. You’re probably wondering how this relates to being a lesson for Adam. How will this teach Adam that he must have support. The first lesson that Adam learns is appreciation for his wife. I know you’re thinking how in the world is naming all these critters going to give Adam any appreciation for the wife that he doesn’t even have yet. I’m glad you asked. As Adam names every creature it would have become very apparent to Adam that there was no other creature on the face of the earth, in all creation that was like unto him. There was not one thing that was created in the image of God, except for Adam, of all of creation only Adam was created in the image of God and that would have become obvious rather quickly. So, if there was nothing on the face of the planet other than Adam that was created in the image of God how could Adam relate to creation, how could he learn to appreciate creation? The great historian Arnold Toynbee sums it up very well indeed using the relationship between a dog and its owner as an example,

“He says that it is possible for a man and a dog to have great fellowship. They can spend many enjoyable hours. They can play games. They can show and share affection. But, says Toynbee, the fellowship must be on the dog’s level because the dog can only communicate on that level.” In all of creation there are many, many, many, other creatures that we can have relationships with, science says that we are all evolved from apes. But I challenge you to have a meaningful relationship with a chimpanzee, like a dog they can show great affection, they can even learn sign language. But any relationship that you can have with them must be at their level they cannot raise themselves to our level. To my thinking that alone disproves evolution because if my ancestor my flesh and bone, my nearest relative has nothing in common with me but some genetic material that connects us, they have no understanding, they have no empathy, they have no ability to communicate meaningfully with me then there is no way that they can be related to me. Adam was created in the image of God. As such he would no doubt have been extremely intelligent we’re talking genius level intelligence here Adam was not stupid and by extension neither was Eve. Stop and think about this for a moment. God would have created perfection. Adam would have put the greatest athletes to shame, the handsomest movie star would have been plain, Einstein’s intelligence would have been childish in comparison. And if Adam was so much more than we are today can you imagine what kind of woman Eve was. Think about that for a minute, let it sink in. Eve would have been just as beautiful, just as strong, and just as intelligent as Adam. But Adam doesn’t know that yet, he only knows that there is no one like him in creation and he has no one to support or that will support him. God could have created Eve first or Adam and Eve at the same time, but it was necessary that Adam realize his uniqueness and experience loneliness to experience the need for companionship. Adam needed to experience love.

21 So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then he took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. 22 And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. 23 Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; this one shall be called Woman, for out of Man this one was taken.” Immediately Adam recognizes Eve as flesh of my flesh, bone of my bone, he recognizes their kinship instantly. Adam realizes straightaway that like him, Eve is created in the image of God and right away acknowledges her. Adam was created from dust and all the creatures on the face of the earth were created from dust but not so woman. Woman was created from Adam, from man, we are an extension of each other, we are meant to be together. God separates us by His will and gives us life by his breath. Adam was created by God and then prepared by Him for Eve. Eve was created out of Adam she was not created of the dust as the other animals were as Adam was rather she was unique she was the spiritual counterpart to Adam. In fact, the literal rendering of the Hebrew text read that God formed Adam of the dust of the ground but when the text refers to Eve it says that God “built” Eve, not formed. While Adam and all the rest of creation was formed by God as a Potter forms clay vessels, Eve was built. She was constructed, designed, she was not an experiment. God put extra effort into his creation of woman, Eve was not an afterthought, Eve was a deliberate extension of god’s will, Eve is literally the other half of Adam. 24 Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh. The way this is worded here is very powerful and very true a man will leave his father and his mother we all do it is the inevitability of life. It is god’s plan for us and the powerful part of this statement is not that the man will leave his father and mother we all know that’ll happen but that he clings to his wife and they become one flesh. They become one, indistinguishable, inseparable…one. This is God’s plan for us, it is not society’s plan for us, but it is God’s plan for us. We are meant to be man and woman we are meant to cleave to one another and we are meant to be one flesh. Man and woman, husband, and wife.

We are meant from the very beginning to be joined one man one woman as one flesh. There is no doubt in this there is no confusion about this. The words are there in black and white they translate from the Hebrew, the Greek, English, Spanish, French, Italian, Russian, in any language you care to name there is no ambiguity it says what it says. It’s when we listen to the serpent. It is when we go against god’s nature, it is when we strive with the Lord that we find ourselves struggling. When Adam and Eve were first created in the garden when they were first joined as man and wife they knew no shame. 25 And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed. And when we are joined as man and wife and we are naked with one another we still know no shame for it is as God intends us to be. We only know shame when we are living contrary to god’s will. I am not just speaking about sexual relations between men and women but all relations outside of marriage, I’m saying that if we are living together outside of god’s plan if we are in pre-marital relationships and having sex, if we are not married, if we are not one flesh, then we are defiling the sanctity of God’s plan for us regardless of how we as society validate it. The mutual respect, the support, the love, and companionship of marriage as intended by God is the literal foundation of our creation. The strength that we find therein joined as one flesh is God’s gift to us in our trials and tribulation, it is what gives us the ability to master this world as our Lord instructed us to do, to go forth as conquerors in faith, with certainty as descendants of Adam and Eve, as children of God. Amen.

Can I Get a Second Opinion?

Now, some of you may never have heard of the wisdom of Solomon, but it’s one of the original Deuterocanon’s that was included in the bible and still is in the in the Roman Catholic bible more specifically in what is known as the apocrypha or simply “unknown authors”’ that were included in the Latin vulgate or the vulgar or common Latin but not in the Hebrew bible. Before you start saying I’m not Catholic and we’re Methodists, you need new glasses pastor. Yes, we are, we are Catholic as defined by the dictionary, our catholicity is the fact that we are United we are one under God, one church. But you are correct in saying that we are not Roman Catholic but if you know your history or if you stop and think about it, john Wesley was an Anglican priest. If you recall how the Anglican church came about it’s also known as the C of E or the Church of England and it came about because of a certain king, Henry the VIII, he wanted “a second opinion” he wanted to marry Anne Boleyn instead of staying married to his wife Catherine of Aragon. So, he petitions the papacy for a divorce and as you know divorce is illegal for any good Catholic. Henry failed to get his second opinion, so he got rid of the Pope and decided to become the head of the Church of England thereby kicking the Protestant Reformation into high gear. The Anglican church is the Roman Catholic church without the pope and it still keeps the alternative readings, therefore so does the Methodist church. And that’s how we got today’s scripture, so ends the rest of the story as Paul Harvey would say. Have you ever wanted a second opinion, like Henry did? I mean seriously, I think we have all been there, maybe not for divorce, but, something, somewhere, sometime called for a second opinion. The answer we received for whatever question was just not connecting with our brains. You were like what? What you say? It just did not register, and when it finally does you start looking for ways to dismiss it, deny it, ignore it, until you say…I think I’ll get a second opinion. I don’t like this one, so I’ll get another one. Eventually someone will tell me what I want to hear, and we’ll forget about the other one. And I promise you if you search hard enough, heck half the time you don’t even have to search, second opinions come to you, knock on your door, and invite themselves in for coffee. And that’s how I see today’s scripture. These people were looking for a second opinion, and they got what second opinions almost always get you, nowhere.

[Wisdom of Solomon 1:16 – 2:1; 2:12 – 22] 16But the ungodly by their words and deeds summoned death; considering him a friend, they pined away and made a covenant with him, because they are fit to belong to his company. 2 For they reasoned unsoundly, saying to themselves, “Short and sorrowful is our life, and there is no remedy when a life comes to its end, and no one has been known to return from Hades. There is no remedy, isn’t that when we start looking for a second opinion. That’s exactly when we start looking for a second opinion when we feel there is no remedy when your life is at an end and we feel that we have no choice we will look for a second opinion. Indeed, we will search long and hard for that second opinion will do everything in our power to deny that terrible power that death has over us. You see the unchurched, unbelievers, the agnostic, and quite a few Christians, actually believe that life is short and sorrowful. They actually believe that there is no eternity and they just give lip service to God or no service. There’s no heaven, there’s no hell just a short miserable life and we die. It’s that kind of thinking that get us in trouble, wanting a second opinion. When you turn to the second opinion you do indeed summon death you make friends with him, you make a deal with him when you reject the Lord and you exchange a short happy life for a long sorrowfully eternity with your new master death. We reason that no one has returned, so there is no proof. We say:  12“Let us lie in wait for the righteous man, because he is inconvenient to us and opposes our actions; he reproaches us for sins against the law and accuses us of sins against our training. 13 He professes to have knowledge of God and calls himself a child of the Lord. 14 He became to us a reproof of our thoughts; 15the very sight of him is a burden to us, because his manner of life is unlike that of others, and his ways are strange. 16We are considered by him as something base, and he avoids our ways as unclean; he calls the last end of the righteous happy, and boasts that God is his father. As righteous people we are an inconvenient truth to those that stand against the law of God. If you want to know why Christians are persecuted so harshly around the world, that’s your answer right there, we are the light, we are the opinion that no one wants, we are not the second opinion, we have the true knowledge of God and we call ourselves His children. We oppose the actions of those others who would seek out death and would consider him a friend, who would make a covenant with him. The very sight of us is a burden to them, they fear our lifestyle, our honesty our cleanliness, the things that make us as Christians who we are.

This lifestyle that is most often not tried because it is found too difficult for those who would seek a second opinion. It casts fear into the hearts of those who would covenant with death, we are a constant reminder their live are meaningless, the things they place so much pride and joy in, money, sex, partying, the hedonistic and decadent lifestyle that society pushes on us constantly, tells our children that the just do it lifestyle is what they really want. That tells them they must be just like this other person, rich and powerful and sexy, that it’s the only way they will be truly happy. It bothers them that we take comfort in the end of this life that we are ready and willing to shed the shackles and burdens that this life places on us so that we may be with our God. It bothers them that we do not fear death, it bothers them that we don’t seek a second opinion, it bothers them that we boast, that God is our father and we are happy and willing to die because we know our reward is in eternity not in mortality, we have the promise of God, they have a second opinion. And it’s a worthless opinion, because it’s the opinion of the father of lies. And they know it, so they seek to test us. 17 Let us see if his words are true and let us test what will happen at the end of his life; 18for if the righteous man is God’s child, he will help him, and will deliver him from the hand of his adversaries. 19 Let us test him with insult and torture, so that we may find out how gentle he is and make trial of his forbearance. 20Let us condemn him to a shameful death, for, according to what he says, he will be protected.” 21 Thus they reasoned, but they were led astray, for their wickedness blinded them, 22 and they did not know the secret purposes of God, nor hoped for the wages of holiness, nor discerned the prize for blameless souls; They say trials and tribulations are the wages of Christianity. But these trials and tribulations are not the works of the Lord rather God permits our adversary to test us just as he permitted job’s trials and tribulations so we are tested as well, for it is our gentle forbearance that delivers us from the hand of the adversary, it is our willingness to follow where Christ leads, to forgive others that trespass against us, that is what sets us apart from those who are led astray. And that is something that we forever have to remember they as well are led astray. They have been seduced by their wickedness and it has blinded them but, that does not mean they are lost forever. God created us, gave us purpose and that purpose is to go forth and make disciples of all those on the face of the earth. We are not as they are, we do not seek a second opinion we know the purpose of God, we no his purpose for us. we know he has a plan for us because he tells us he has a plan for us.

11 For surely, I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. 12 Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you. 13 When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart, 14 I will let you find me, says the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes [Jeremiah 29:11 – 14] The wages of sin is death, but the wages of holiness is eternal life. Thomas Chalmers said it best: “The death that comes after sin comes as the wages of sin. Everlasting life, coming though it must do after holiness, comes not as the wages of holiness. It is a gift. On this footing must it be received at the last and on this footing must it now be looked forward to by the expectancy of immortality”. In other words, while death is the wages of sin, everlasting life is like grace, even though everlasting life is the wages of holiness, it is still a gift from the most high and not something that can be earned or set aside. So remember these things when you go looking for that second opinion, when you ask God for a second opinion remember you are His child [Genesis 1:26-27] Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.” 27 So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. Why would you want a second opinion? When you are first among His thoughts. Amen.

How Much Does it Cost?

What does it cost to follow Jesus? Everyone has been asking that question for thousands of years. Like there is not any answer, it is a big secret, when in fact Jesus told us straight out what it would take. All right maybe not straight out, but certainly for those with the ears to hear. 25 Now large crowds were traveling with him; and he turned and said to them, 26 “Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple. 27 Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. I heard nothing in that statement that I did not understand, that was not plainly spoken, whoever comes to me, whoever, there is no qualification to the invitation. He does not say that if you’re a man its one way or if you are a woman it’s another way. He says whoever comes. He doesn’t say only if you’re fat or if you’re skinny, an adult, or a child. He doesn’t say only if you’re black or white, gay, or straight, He says whoever comes to me. It doesn’t matter if you’re a gang banger, a junkie, a drunk, a whore or even a murderer, it doesn’t matter if you have tattoos all over your body or bits and pieces out of a junk stuck in your nose, it doesn’t matter. And you can be sure that in that crowd there would have been all those people and many more which your average person would find objectionable, would be horrified that Jesus included them into the whoever club. Because we know that what Jesus really meant was only me and you should be allowed in this club, right and I’m not too sure about you. Right, because whoever doesn’t mean whoever, it means only the ones we choose to be in the club are allowed, yes. Yeah, I think this is another one where we fail, (epically fail) we don’t get to choose who gets into the whoever club.

A good thing too …considering what you have to do to get in. You have to hate everyone else, your family, even yourself, nothing can come between or before the Lord in your life. This is one of those literal passages that people like to use as an axe over your head and beat you to death with it. So, let’s take a moment to place things into context, I assure you that Jesus does not mean you have to hate your wife, your parents, or children, and especially not yourself or your family. Jesus’ entire ministry was about the kingdom of God and love for one another, not hate. Jesus told us from the very first that He would not speak to the crowds except in parable, indeed Jesus said in [Matthew 13:34] 34 All this Jesus said to the crowds in parables; indeed, he said nothing to them without a parable. Jesus does not want our hatred, but neither will He tolerate our halfhearted participation. Love your wife, love your children, your parents, and love your neighbor but do not put them before the Lord, do not allow them to come between you and Jesus. Jesus should always be our number one focus, spreading the “good news”, making disciples, and glorifying God. Amen. Jesus wants our undivided attention, all the time, not just when I feel like it, not just in church for an hour. No, we are told to pray without ceasing, it says in [1 Thessalonians 5:16-18] 16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. We are to Pray for guidance because Jesus doesn’t want just anyone. He doesn’t want anyone that isn’t willing to first sit down and count the cost, because there’s a price that we have to pay, that all people have to pay if they’re gonna take up the cross and follow Christ and it’s not as easy as, or cheap as, you think it will be. 28 For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it? 29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it will begin to ridicule him, 30 saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’ Jesus wants us to stop and to first consider what the price is, because let me tell you, once you pay the price, there are no refunds. You may think that you can walk away but I’m here to tell you that once you decide either way, once you pay the price, that’s it… there is no going back. That is why Jesus wants you to stop and consider what you are doing this is serious business, it’s not a game. There are consequences to your decision and eternal life is the least of them, your eternal soul hangs in the balance, that is what you are considering, so don’t be foolish, don’t rush into anything, take the time, and estimate the cost. Do you have enough?

The foundation has been paid for with the blood of Christ, the stones that you need to secure that foundation are in the words of God, the bible will provide you the stone to build with. But the furnishings and the mortar must be paid for with our blood and sweat, we must pay to build our home on that foundation with those stones, we must provide the mortar that binds it together, that provides cohesion to the whole, we must sacrifice ourselves to the service of Christ, we must die to ourselves and accept Jesus as our Lord and Saviour before we can place so much as a pebble on the foundation that we inherit through the grace of God, as His children we are entitled to this, but you still have to pay the inheritance tax. So, tell me are you willing to pay that much, or will you start and then not be able to finish? Will you find yourself being ridiculed? Be careful. Jesus does not want half-finished buildings in the kingdom of God or people who rush into the next best thing, foolish people who fail to count the cost, people who refuse to pay the price. 31 Or what king, going out to wage war against another king, will not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to oppose the one who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32 If he cannot, then, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for the terms of peace. 33 So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions. Once again Jesus is plainly telling us what the cost of discipleship is. None of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions. Jesus doesn’t say a few, or some, or most of, but all of your possessions. Again, we need to put things into context. Context, context, context, the Bible, your life, everything is about context. In this parable Jesus is not telling you that you have to throw your clothes away and give every last dime to the poor and go live on the street. Jesus wants you to consider the cost, it is not a minimal cost, it will cost you everything to follow Christ, not only will it cost you everything that you own, eventually it will cost you your life. Following Jesus is not for the faint of heart. Following the Lord is not for the foolish or the prideful.  [Proverbs 16:18]18 Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. And make no mistake others will wage war against you so as to hasten that fall and in your pride will you disregard the power of the Lord, will your foolish pride cause you to dismiss your only ally. In the parable the other king is being attacked by an overwhelming force and must decide if he will fight to the death or ask for peace. Will you compromise with the devil and have peace, or will you fight for God, even if it means your destruction. Hard decisions. But when has God ever failed us, never.

Yet we have the responsibility to choose, one or the other. If we are to follow Christ we must count the cost, we must be aware that there is a cost, we cannot go into discipleship without a clear understanding of the price that is being asked of us. And that price is plain, there is no deception here. Jesus is asking us… God is asking us for everything. He is not asking for just a little. He is asking for all that we have… all that we are, and you must decide if discipleship is worth it. We must ask ourselves what is the cost? Can we afford to pay it? Can we afford not to?

Tradition

Good morning and welcome. Today we’re going to look at tradition, in fact the title of the scripture is “The Tradition of the Elders”. Everything in the Bible is about context. That is also true about everything in our lives. Everything past, present, or future must be examined within its own context. Context is the circumstances that form the setting for an event, statement, or idea, and in terms of which it can be fully understood and assessed. Put simply context is something that is either written or spoken immediately after or before a passage that clarifies its meaning. To unpack it further, context provides clarity to our lives. For most of us we take refuge in tradition because its safe. Tradition does not change, occasionally tradition is added to but very rarely is it altered to remove something. That’s the beauty of tradition, it’s immovable, inflexible, it can be refined and held up as an example to later generations. It’s comforting because we can rely on it to not surprise us. But tradition can set us at odds with the rest of the  world and occasionally assume ridiculous proportions. Stop me if you heard this one A Priest, A Minister, A Rabbi and A Bear: A priest, a minister, and a rabbi want to see who’s best at his job. So, each one goes into the woods, finds a bear, and attempts to convert it. Later, they all get together. The priest begins: “When I found the bear, I read to him from the catechism and sprinkled him with holy water. Next week is his first Communion.” “I found a bear by the stream,” says the minister, “and preached God’s holy Word. The bear was so mesmerized that he let me baptize him.” They both look down at the rabbi, who is lying on a gurney in a body cast. “Looking back,” he says, “maybe I shouldn’t have started with the circumcision.” Author Unknown. Silly, yes. Tradition can become comical if it’s carried to far. 7 Now when the Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around him, they noticed that some of his disciples were eating with defiled hands, that is, without washing them. (For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, do not eat unless they thoroughly wash their hands, thus observing the tradition of the elders; and they do not eat anything from the market unless they wash it; and there are also many other traditions that they observe, the washing of cups, pots, and bronze kettles.) So the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?” Let’s stop right there. This is where we get into context, when we read this the first thing that pops into our minds is Oh no they didn’t wash their hands what filthy little disciples they are. No, the Pharisees main concern is the ritual washing of hands. If your interested you can see a quick explanation on YouTube just search Jewish ritual handwashing, I found it quite interesting. Anyway, back to context, this was something that had become a ritualistic requirement not of mosaic law but of tradition. It’s not a law it is a tradition that has become so ingrained in Jewish society that it has taken on the patina of law and you risked excommunication at that time, even today you could find yourself in trouble with the modern Pharisee for not doing this. As tradition takes on the form of law it supplants the actual laws of God, it puts us back where we constantly seek to be, trying  to be God. How many times have you heard this from someone, I’m not religious. Well neither am I. Today’s religion is taking on the same patina as hand washing did in Jesus day. When I think of religion, I see Joel Osteen, Creflo dollar, Kenneth Copeland, and Oral Roberts. I see churches built on tradition, built on sand, and not on the firm foundation that is the word of God. The pharisee did not go away when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem in 70 A.D.The Pharisee are alive and well and living in the United States, the Pharisee have become the religious establishment.

I don’t say this to be mean or judgmental. I’m simply observing a fact, today’s religion is no longer really based on the word of God , rather it is based on feelings, and tradition is being used to hide the true word of God. Tradition is subtly twisting the word of God to achieve the other guys design and not God’s. More and more often the word of God is given nothing more than lip service, listen… He said to them, “Isaiah prophesied rightly about you hypocrites, as it is written, ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; 7in vain do they worship me, teaching human precepts as doctrines.’ You abandon the commandment of God and hold to human tradition.” I don’t want to be a part of a religion that simply gives lip service to God, I don’t want to be a part of a religion that says the Lord’s prayer by rote with no meaning and I don’t want to be a part of a religion that affirms their belief in God the same way they would read a laundry list. I don’t want to be religious, I want to be Godly, I want to be filled with the Holy Spirit, I want to live my life in Sanctifying Grace. I want to live my life as a child of God and servant of our Lord Jesus. Amen. Tradition is fine for keeping old memories alive but the Word of God is the living word, it has no need for tradition to keep it alive, for it is renewed constantly, it’s renewed every time we read it, Every time I read the Bible I get something different the Holy Spirit opens up something new and it’s not just me He’s been doing it all over the world for ages. The word of God is alive and well within us and it is renewed and renews us every time we read it. Every time we worship the Lord with our hearts, our minds and all of our strength we are not worshiping in vain, we are worshiping as the Father commanded through the Son. When we partake of communion we are not performing some tradition, we are partaking of the Holy Sacrament of Communion, we are doing as our Lord and Saviour commanded us to do before He paid for our sins. Communion is not a tradition it’s a Holy and Sacred covenant with God. Baptism is not a tradition, it a Holy and Sacred covenant with God, which we do to be cleansed of sin and to rise as a new creation in Christ. They are necessary because we are not Holy. Understand this,

14 Then he called the crowd again and said to them, “Listen to me, all of you, and understand: 15 there is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile.” 21 For it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come: fornication, theft, murder, 22 adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly. 23 All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” I’m going to pull a 180 from my normal preaching, instead of telling you it’s not about us, this time it is. This time we are responsible, we are the source of the evil in this world, the enemy does not make us evil, he does not corrupt us, he only shows us the possibilities that we have within ourselves. What’s that misquoted saying by Pogo “We have met the enemy and he is us.” Remember he cannot create, he can only distort what God has created. Yet, humanity, of all the creatures in the universe, we are gifted with free will, or cursed, depending on your perspective. We took it upon ourselves to eat of the tree of knowledge. We opened ourselves to the evil that God had locked away from us. Tradition is how the serpent keeps us static, complacent, fat and happy. God did not say to us stay at home and watch TV, NO, He said go forth and multiply, He said go into the world and make disciples, 19 For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. 22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. [Romans 8:19-23] Praise God from whom all blessings flow. Amen.