All posts by PastorSusan

PENTECOST 2019

Acts 2:1-21 Easy-to-Read Version (ERV)

2 When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a noise came from heaven. It sounded like a strong wind blowing. This noise filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw something that looked like flames of fire. The flames were separated and stood over each person there. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they began to speak different languages. The Holy Spirit was giving them the power to do this.

There were some godly Jews in Jerusalem at this time. They were from every country in the world. A large crowd came together because they heard the noise. They were surprised because, as the apostles were speaking, everyone heard in their own language.

They were all amazed at this. They did not understand how the apostles could do this. They said, “Look! These men we hear speaking are all from Galilee.[a] But we hear them in our own languages. How is this possible? We are from all these different places: Parthia, Media, Elam, Mesopotamia, Judea, Cappadocia, Pontus, Asia, 10 Phrygia, Pamphylia, Egypt, the areas of Libya near the city of Cyrene, Rome, 11 Crete, and Arabia. Some of us were born Jews, and others have changed their religion to worship God like Jews. We are from these different countries, but we can hear these men in our own languages! We can all understand the great things they are saying about God.”

12 The people were all amazed and confused. They asked each other, “What is happening?” 13 But others were laughing at the apostles, saying they were drunk from too much wine.

Peter Speaks to the People

14 Then Peter stood up with the other eleven apostles. He spoke loudly so that all the people could hear. He said, “My Jewish brothers and all of you who live in Jerusalem, listen to me. I will tell you something you need to know. Listen carefully. 15 These men are not drunk as you think; it’s only nine o’clock in the morning. 16 But Joel the prophet wrote about what you see happening here today. This is what he wrote:

17 ‘God says: In the last days
    I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy.
    Your young men will see visions.
    Your old men will have special dreams.
18 In those days I will pour out my Spirit
    on my servants, men and women,
    and they will prophesy.
19 I will work wonders in the sky above.
    I will cause miraculous signs on the earth below.
    There will be blood, fire, and thick smoke.
20 The sun will be changed into darkness,
    and the moon will be as red as blood.
    Then the great and glorious day of the Lord will come.
21 And everyone who trusts in the Lord[b] will be saved.’

HOMILY —–

Growing up, Timmy often heard his parents use the phrase,

EXCUSE MY FRENCH after using swear words…

So, when he began fourth grade and the teacher asked the class if anyone knew French….. Timmy raised his hand…

The rest is history.

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Elementary teacher – When I was 8 yrs old my third grade teacher was of Hispanic lineage, Carmelita Moore. She taught us the Pledge of Allegiance in Spanish.

Classically Trained Singer- as a singer, I sang in 6 languages, Latin, French, German, Italian, English, and Spanish.

I didn’t know what I was singing until I translated it word for word.

A Bone of contention/opera world when I was singing was that the Opera Snobs of America refused to perform operas in English, but only in the native language in which it was written. This prevented the audience from understanding the story withouta libretto.

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Frustration – listening to conversation in another language

Mani Pedi

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Language is certainly a dividing factor…like a wall.

At this Trauma center, we had 5 TRAUMAS from same accident, and only 1 spoke English. The lag time in giving care was crucial. The doctors had to wait for an interpreter in order to properly examine and care for the patients.

NOT ONLY CULTURAL LANGUAGE DIFFERENCES

VOCATIONAL LANGUAGE

Medical – Doctors often need interpreters because they speak in medical terms unfamiliar to the layperson.

Computer/Technology – bits, bytes, RAM, Programming, Router, Modem, splitter, …

Auto Repair – computer readouts, radio will not work after a car has a dead battery. The owner must go to a dealer an d have them obtain a four digit code to reactivate radio.

RELIGIOUS – Born again, saved, repent, righteousness, resurrection,, saved

21ST Century people who are not regular church goers can not connect with religious phrases and terms.

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Universal translators

Google Translator

-Not always word for word translations

-context affects interpretation

UN – incident

Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi delivered a rambling address to the United Nations   calling Barack Obama “our son”                                       and railing against the U.N.                 Security Council.

He spoke not in Arabic, Libya’s official language,

but a local Libyan dialect.

UN – no interpreter for every dialect

Speakers supposed to deliver their speeches in one of the       organization’s six official     languages:

English, French, Spanish,    Russian, Arabic, and Chinese.

For which there ARE interpreters

Anyone who travels outside the US knows the relief of hearing their own language, and feeling included again.

Old Testament. STORY OF TOWER OF BABEL presents the mixture of languages as a total breakdown in communication.

YET

PENTECOST –  The variety of languages is the setting for total communication.

Even if my WISH for Universal Translators — Comes a myriad of problem and road-blocks for accuracy –So many words in other languages do not have an exact word in English

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Toska (Russian)

“A sensation of great spiritual anguish, often without a specific cause; a longing with nothing to long for.”

It’s basically when you feel that something is missing and you know that something is missing, but you don’t know what exactly it is and it leaves you frustrated.

Duende (Spanish)

“A work of art’s mysterious power to deeply move a person.”

Duende is often connected to flamenco, but it generally describes one of the beauties of artistic performances of all kinds: they can make you feel things. In Spanish and Latin American mythology, the Duende is a goblin- and elf-like creature that makes sure small children behave.

Commuovere (Italian)

“A heartwarming story that moved you to tears.”

Basically, any movie that has a dog

Forelsket (Norwegian)

“The euphoria experienced as you begin to fall in love.”

This is probably one of the best feelings in the world: butterflies, smiles, and so much romantic oblivion on cloud number nine.

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There are many drawbacks to interpreting and translating – Not only the fact there are not words for a direct translation…

We also have the issue of dialect Slang

Different interpretations  same word.

Preservatives

If you happen to find yourself browsing jams in France, be careful you don’t ask for help with the preservatives. Préservatifs is French for condom.

Brat

In the US and UK, we would say brat to mean a spoilt child. But in Russia, Poland, Ukraine and Croatia, brat means brother. Possibly sometimes interchanagle meanings. 

Chaps

In England, a jolly good chap is decent person. In America, it’s a decent pair of leather leggings worn by cowboys to protect their legs.

Cookie

In Britain and the US, we’re almost in agreement on what a cookie constitutes.

NOW –

In Hungarian, however, you will need to see me alone after the service to see what cookie means there….

Barf

The British slang for being sick means snow in Farsi, Urdu and Hindi.

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THEN WE HAVE TO REMEMBER—

Even communicating in our own language does not guarantee clear understanding…

Maybe this is why God didn’t see a need to make everyone miraculously speak the same language…

God did not send the Holy Spirit  into each of them and change   them all into the same thing…

God did not erase their differences…      but celebrated their differences –

God reminded us that our worth and     value are not measured by our     sameness or differences….

By meeting these many cultures and races where they were – God embraced the fact that God created us all wonderfully DIFFERENT.

REMEMBER the scripture said:

They were all amazed at this. They did not understand how the apostles could do this. They said, “Look! These men we hear speaking are all from Galilee.[a] But we hear them in our own languages. How is this possible? We are from all these different places: Parthia, Media, Elam, Mesopotamia, Judea, Cappadocia, Pontus, Asia, 10 Phrygia, Pamphylia, Egypt, the areas of Libya near the city of Cyrene, Rome, 11 Crete, and Arabia. Some of us were born Jews, and others have changed their religion to worship God like Jews. We are from these different countries, but we can hear these men in our own languages! We can all understand the great things they are saying about God.”

12 The people were all amazed and confused. They asked each other, “What is happening?” 13 But others were laughing at the apostles, saying they were drunk from too much wine.

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At Pentecost… for that moment—everyone was hearing the same message – just for them – in their own language

With their own context….

SOUNDS MIRACULOUS       Doesn’t it…?

But we actually experience Pentecost every time we receive what God has for us…

BIGGEST FEARS entering Ministry

Misguiding Misinforming Misinterpreting

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But, like the Apostles at PENTECOST –

I only provide the words –

God provides the interpretation —

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Remember the blue dress… gold dress on the internet in 2015?

Someone posted online a picture of themselves at a Scottish wedding and was confused when comments referred to different colors –

Blue and black     and gold and white.

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JIM’S CLASS

      Discussed the sermon after the service.

It was amazing how many different messages were received.

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EVERYONE HEARS A DIFFERENT MESSAGE….    according to our individual needs…. and that is GOOD NEWS!!!

Unanswered questions

John 18:33-38 (NIV)

33 Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”

34 “Is that your own idea,” Jesus asked, “or did others talk to you about me?”

35 “Am I a Jew?” Pilate replied. “Your own people and chief priests handed you over to me. What is it you have done?”

36 Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.”

37 “You are a king, then!” said Pilate.

Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”

38 “What is truth?” retorted Pilate. With this he went out again to the Jews gathered there and said, “I find no basis for a charge against him.

HOMILY – UNANSWERED QUESTIONS

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Easter was just two weeks ago, WHY are we reading John’s gospel about Jesus and Pilate?

Maybe because the topic of our discussion today is not about the coming crucifixion>>>

So, what is the topic?

HINT – I have already given you two hints —

The hints?

  1. Why are we reading John’s gospel about Jesus and Pilate?
  2.  So, what is the topic?

OK – the topic is QUESTIONS –

In the John Scripture there are SIX questions in SIX verses.

AND each question is deeper.;.

  • It turns out that Jesus asks lots of questions, but he doesn’t answer many. 
  •  
  • According to one source, [ii] Jesus asked 307 different questions in the gospels. 
  •  
  • And Jesus was asked 183 questions.  
  •  
  • But Jesus only directly answered 3.

Living the Questions: Answers Just Get in the Way

By calling ourselves progressive, we mean that we are Christians who find more grace in the search for meaning than in absolute certainty, in the questions than in the answers.

 

Recently, I saw a picture of a chimp hand on chin, seeming to have deep thoughts.  The picture’s caption read,

“Intelligence:

Not because you know everything without question,

but rather because you question everything you think you                         know.” [iii]

       Things We May Not Know….

  1.  What is Baked Scrod?

An acronym for “Select Catch Received on the Day” – it can be Cod, Pollack, Haddock – It was the LAST catch of the day and on top of the pile and the freshest.

  •  Why do some coins have ridges on the edges and some are smooth?

Originally coins made from precious metals had smooth edges. This made it possible for unscrupulous people to shave off some of the metals and then melt down the shavings to sell. Coins that have ridges contain precious metals; those that are smooth are usually copper and nickel.

3. Why is there a piece of fabric, often with an extra button attached, inside our new clothes?


The extra material and button that comes with your new clothes has long been thought of as additional cloth to patch up holes, and provide a spare button. In reality, the extra material is actually used to test out how different laundry detergents would react to your clothes!

  • Why do tailored shirts have a little fabric loop on the back, on level with the shoulder blades?

The little loop that is on the back         of most of your shirts is there for           a couple of reasons. Firstly, and             probably the most obvious, is to          hang your shirt on a hanger. In           the past, men would also cut this            loop off of the back of their shirts               if they began dating a girl to                   signal that they were in a                       relationship.

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Two year – three year old toddlers begin asking why. With every statement, they respond why.

 No matter how many times we offer answers, they come back with why.

At the time it can make us want to pull our hair out… but, each WHY peels back  layer –

WHY – another layer

WHY – another layer

Scientific research works something like a three year old…

With each experiment – we ask WHY

Until we find a solution…

WHY DO WE ASK QUESTIONS?

Is it good or bad to ask questions?

What do we hope to gain from asking questions?

  • We hunger for absolutes.  
  • Inquiring Minds Want to Know….

We search for the ultimate explanation to our questions….

       Answers bring resolution –answers relieve tension and bring comfort.

Even wrong answers bring temporary relief…

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QUESTION –what is the first thing one does after a crisis/disaster/accident?

Rationalize WHY it happened… as if having the answer will lessen the pain

An answer supposedly provides resolution and relief—

       Even if the answer is wrong

OFTEN the go-to phrase is “IT WAS GOD’S WILL “so we avoid remaining in the question of WHY something happened.

And this answer always results in a weak resolution… AND causes MORE questions.

So, Are questions BAD?

       Is asking questions bad?

              Is it  bad to doubt?

Are Questions the problem…

      Or are Bad and incomplete answers are the problem??

What about UNANSWERED questions?

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Unanswered questions can be uncomfortable things to hang onto.

They beg for answers, and in living with the unknown we are asked to bear an aching tension

Can we endure unanswered questions?

       -Is the world flat?

-Are we the center of the universe?

-How can we use lightning to our advantage?     

–How deep is the ocean?

Unanswered questions =    action/momentum

Answers =        stop/end

UNANSWERED QUESTIONS is also called          LIVING IN THE QUESTIONS…_____

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Most of us – probably all of us – live with questions. 

 DAY TO DAY – what is bank balance?

                     Will I get to the market?

       When am I going to wash the car?

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We all have THEOLOGICAL questions –

      Although many won’t voice them                   for fear of being judged as Doubters, blasphemous

Poor Thomas   Doubting Thomas – Questioning Thomas

Wanted to know for himself Wasn’t going to accept what was told to him

And because of his questioning – he was labeled as an unbeliever – or less than the rest of the disciples.

But in a school setting  – questions are welcome  and expected…

Questions are necessary for leaning/..

Teachers do not view questions as a threat to their integrity or quality of teaching.

Questions mean someone is listening, trying and wanting to know more…

To go deeper…YET

Growing up and still in some churches today:

Questions considered unfaithful

have used questions against us –

questions mean we are not accepting  God’s word/Bible

Taught Bible was without ERROR –

      Taken at face value without understanding the context of time     and people of the time.     

Taught to never question the BIBLE.       _____________

Interesting that as ‘students’ in Sunday School – certain questions were taboo – Questions that the teacher could not answer —  — WE WERE TOLD TO take it on  FAITH. _____________________________

It was the default ANSWER – Take it on FAITH….

In regards to faith,    how much DO we know for   certain…

we use  FAITH to explain away something that no   longer makes sense – nor can be explained?

Faith was always the answer given to head off uncomfortable questions.

But it was often an unsatisfactory and hollow answer that only                                   instigated more questions.

We are told — WE MUST HAVE FAITH – but we need more information… in which to have faith…

When the idea of faith is used in this way, Christianity becomes more and more about accepting things that are less and less acceptable, And of believing things that are more and more unbelievable.  And this hurts Christianity.

IT’S A DOOR CLOSER!!!

Questions are important— and may even more important                                        than answers.  

Questions open possibilities     Answers close them…

Living the Questions: Answers Just Get in the Way

By calling ourselves progressive, we mean that we are Christians who find more grace in the search for meaning than in absolute certainty, in the questions than in the answers.

North Side Christian Church – IS A SAFE place to ask questions…to doubt… to wonder -It is a place where we can doubt and explore

Catholic author Richard Rohr writes,  “Jesus is not a giver of advice.  He doesn’t give us a neat list of ten ways to be closer to God. 

 He does not provide easy answers.  Instead he asks hard questions. 

 In that he is more like the Zen master who asks questions to take us beyond the obvious to something deeper.

           “Easy answers can give us a sense of finality.  By entertaining hard questions God has a chance to change us.”

All Means ALL

Luke 14:15-24  (NIV)

The Parable of the Great Banquet

15 When one of those at the table with him heard this, he said to Jesus, “Blessed is the one who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God.”

16 Jesus replied: “A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. 17 At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’

18 “But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, ‘I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.’

19 “Another said, ‘I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.’

20 “Still another said, ‘I just got married, so I can’t come.’

21 “The servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.’

22 “‘Sir,’ the servant said, ‘what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.’

23 “Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full. 24 I tell you, not one of those who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.’”

Matthew 14:13-21  (NIV)

Jesus Feeds the Five Thousand

13 When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns. 14 When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.

15 As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.”

16 Jesus replied, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.”

17 “We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish,” they answered.

18 “Bring them here to me,” he said. 19 And he directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. 20 They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. 21 The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children.

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Homily     “ALL means ALL”

By calling ourselves progressive, we mean that we are Christians who understand the sharing of bread and wine in Jesus’ name to be a realization of the vision of God’s feast for all peoples.

On the slip of paper –

Please list the 11 people you would invite to your last meal –

Living or Dead – (and not in this room)

Eleven people who you would want to spend the last hours of your life with at a meal.

Then

Add the name of the person you would NEVER invite  — you can just put initials if you fear someone seeing your response.

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Now, hold onto that paper and look at it again later –

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As Disciples of Christ… our identity statement says:

DOC IDENTITY

We are Disciples of Christ, a movement for wholeness in a fragmented world.

As part of the one body of Christ,

we welcome all to the Lord’s Table

as God has welcomed us.

Each week when I offer a communion meditation and invitation – it is not I who is inviting, I am merely passing along the message that we are ALL invited by God.

It is up to us to answer – we have a choice to accept or decline —

But ALL are invited.

Frederick Buechner

 “The place where God calls you is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” 

CLOSED COMMUNION

conclusion

The Orthodox Christian Church, like Her Lord, is not an imaginary and invisible abstraction.

The tradition of any church is concrete and visible, expressed throughout history by real people in a tangible continuum of faith and practice (whether for 2,000 years or two years).

Like the Holy Trinity, the Church is a community, a real communion expressed and embodied by a shared faith and way of life.

ORTHODOX

The maintenance of real communion necessitates borders and boundaries, both doctrinal and disciplinary.

If a church is to be faithful to its own tradition, the door will be opened to some things and closed to others.

But it is how we understand CLOSED and OPEN –

practice of CLOSED communion –

is believed by that tradition to ACTUALLY be OPEN to ALL –

but the ALL actually means those who formally embrace the traditions beliefs and unite themselves to it.

OPEN to those who conform…

CLOSED to those who do not…

A door that is always open is not a door any more.

Certainly true of the Orthodox Church.

Some idea that limiting entrance enhances the significance –

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Illustration:

A pastor once shared this story…

He said:

He told of going                                        to his mother’s hair dresser for a hair cut.

After talking to her he             thought she had some interest in knowing more about God.

He told his             mother that he thought she               wanted to know about God.   

                 His mother responded:                         

“No way! She is on her fifth   husband and is living in sin.”              

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John said: “Mom the next                      time you get your hair done                    at the beauty salon ask her                   if she is interested in                     spiritual things?

The next time she went to                   have her hair done she prayed            in her heart as she was taking            a seat in the beauty shop chair.  

        “God you know I don’t want to talk to her about her faith because she’s not the kind of person I want to associate with.                                       If you want me to talk to her then have her ask me first.”

The first thing the beauty operator said when she approached was,

“I understand you and your  husband have a Bible study.               Do you mind if I come sometime?”

She said that her mother was Jewish and her father a Roman Catholic.

Her mother made her go to the synagogue on Saturday and when she came home her dad made her take the rosary and make confession of her sin.

She grew up confused and turned to alcohol for comfort and she could drink with the best of them.

To get help she went to AA meetings but could not think of her “higher power” as God so she called her “higher power” Ralph.

At one of the AA meetings a guy came in half drunk. He stood up and said; “My name is Ralph and I’m an alcoholic.”

The hair dresser said at that point in her life she wanted to know            the true God.

She and her husband started attending the bible study of John’s parents.

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ILLUSTRATIONS

The Pharisees could not understand why the common people, outcasts of society followed Jesus who claimed to be a Rabbi and Teacher. The kind of people Jesus ate with and fellowshipped with would not be tolerated in their homes.

Jesus did not go along with the Jewish customs of His day.

He invited all to His Table. There is room for all at God’s Table.

When feeding the 5000, Jesus did hot single out who could or could not share in the meal.

This was in direct contrast to the Pharisees who believed that only certain people are welcome at God’s Table.

That is how most traditions viewed communion until recently –

Only children of members of a tradition would be baptized –

Only those who were members could partake in the meal –

Everyone was welcome… as long as they had joined the family…

In my childhood tradition, we celebrated Communion only 4 times a year…

Prior to serving – the minister made it clear that this table was for members of our church ONLY… baptized into the faith, and members of our particular church.

Last fall the Chaplain Residents were participating in a Celebration Mass, and before the Eucharist, each was told NOT to participate in the bread and wine unless they were Catholic.

Not only were they not invited… they were individually excluded…

Does this fulfill our understanding of God’s mission for t he world…

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Tony Campolo Throws a Party for a Prostitute

In his book The Kingdom of God Is a Party, Tony Campolo relates an experience he had late one night in Hawaii.

Up a side street I found a little place that was still open. I went in, took a seat on one of the stools at the counter, and waited to be served. This was one of those sleazy places that deserves the name, “greasy spoon.” I did not even touch the menu. I was afraid that if I opened the thing something gruesome would crawl out. But it was the only place I could find.

The fat guy behind the counter came over and asked me, “What d’ya want?”

I said I wanted a cup of coffee and a donut.

He poured a cup of coffee, wiped his grimy hand on his smudged apron, and then he grabbed a donut off the shelf behind him. I’m a realist. I know that in the back room of that restaurant, donuts are probably dropped on the floor and kicked around. But when everything is out front where I could see it, I really would have appreciated it if he had used a pair of tongs and placed the donut on some wax paper.

As I sat there munching on my donut and sipping my coffee at 3:30 in the morning, the door of the diner suddenly swung open and, to my discomfort, in marched eight or nine provocative and boisterous prostitutes.

It was a small place, and they sat on either side of me.

Their talk was loud and crude. I felt completely out of place and was just about to make my getaway when I overheard the woman beside me say, “Tomorrow’s my birthday. I’m going to be 39.”

Her “friend” responded in a nasty tone, “So what do you want from me? A birthday party? What do you want? Ya want me to get you a cake and sing ‘Happy Birthday’?”

“Come on,” said the woman sitting next to me. “Why do you have to be so mean? I was just telling you, that’s all. Why do you have to put me down? I was just telling you it was my birthday. I don’t want anything from you. I mean, why should you give me a birthday party? I’ve never had a birthday party in my whole life. Why should I have one now?”

When I heard that, I made a decision. I sat and waited until the women had left. Then I called over the fat guy behind the counter, and I asked him, “Do they come in here every night?”

“Yeah!” he answered.

“The one right next to me, does she come here every night?”

“Yeah!” he said. “That’s Agnes.     Yeah, she comes in here every     night. Why d’ya wanta know?”

“Because I heard her say that tomorrow is her birthday,” I told him. “What do you say you and I do something about that?       What do you think about us throwing a      birthday party for her—right here—     tomorrow night?”

A cute smile slowly crossed his chubby cheeks, and he answered with measured delight, “That’s great! I like it! That’s a great idea!”

Calling to his wife, who did the cooking in the back room, he shouted,                        “Hey! Come out here! This guy’s got a great idea. Tomorrow’s Agnes’s birthday.

This guy wants us to go in with him and throw a birthday party for her—right here—tomorrow night!”

His wife came out of the back room all bright and smiley. She said, “That’s wonderful! You know Agnes is one of those people who is really nice and kind, and nobody does anything nice and kind for her.”

“Look,” I told them, “if it’s okay with you, I’ll get back here tomorrow morning about 2:30 and decorate the place. I’ll even get a birthday cake!”

“No way,” said Harry (that was his name). “The birthday cake’s my thing. I’ll make the cake.”

At 2:30 the next morning, I was back      at the diner. I had picked up some    crepe-paper decorations at the store and had made a sign out of big pieces of    cardboard that read, “Happy Birthday, Agnes!”

I decorated the diner from one end to the other. I had that diner looking good.

The woman who did the cooking must have gotten the word out on the street, because by 3:15 every prostitute in Honolulu was in the place.

It was wall-to-wall prostitutes…and me!

At 3:30 on the dot, the door of the diner swung open, and in came Agnes and her friend.

I had everybody ready (after all, I was kind of the M.C. of the affair) and when they came in we all screamed, “Happy birthday!”

Never have I seen a person so flabbergasted…so stunned…so shaken. Her mouth fell open. Her legs seemed to buckle a bit. Her friend grabbed her arm to steady her.

As she was led to sit on one of the stools along the counter, we all sang “Happy Birthday”‘ to her.

As we came to the end of our singing with “happy birthday, dear Agnes, happy birthday to you,” her eyes moistened. Then, when the birthday cake with all the candles on it was carried out, she lost it and just openly cried.

Harry gruffly mumbled, “Blow out the candles, Agnes! Come on! Blow out the candles! If you don’t blow out the candles, I’m gonna hafta blow out the candles.”

 And, after an endless few seconds,      he did.

Then he handed her a knife and told her,

“Cut the cake, Agnes. Yo, Agnes,   we all want some cake.”

Agnes looked down at the cake. Then without taking her eyes off it, she slowly and softly said,

 “Look, Harry, is it all right with you if I…I mean is it okay if I kind of…

what I want to ask you is…is it O.K. if I keep the cake a little while?

 I mean, is it all right if we don’t eat it    right away?”

Harry shrugged and answered,

“Sure! It’s O.K. If you want to keep the cake, keep the cake.

Take it home, if you want to.”

“Can I?” she asked. Then, looking at me, she said, “I live just down the street a couple of doors. I want to take the cake home, okay?       I’ll be right back. Honest!”

She got off the stool, picked up the cake, and carrying it like it was the Holy Grail, walked slowly toward the door.

As we all just stood there motionless, she left.

When the door closed, there was a stunned silence in the place. Not knowing what else to do, I broke the silence by saying,

“What do you say we pray?”

Looking back on it now, it seems more than strange for a sociologist to be leading a prayer meeting with a bunch of prostitutes in a diner in Honolulu at 3:30 in the morning.

But then it just felt like the right thing to do. I prayed for Agnes. I prayed for her salvation. I prayed that her life would be changed and that God would be good to her.

When I finished, Harry leaned over the counter and with a trace of hostility in his voice, he said,

 “Hey! You never told me you were a preacher. What kind of church do you belong to?”

In one of those moments when just the right words came, I answered,

 “I belong to a church that throws birthday parties for whores at 3:30 in the morning.”

Harry waited a moment and then almost sneered as he answered, “No you don’t. There’s no church like that.

If there was, I’d join it. I’d join a church like that!”

Wouldn’t we all? Wouldn’t we all like to join a church that throws birthday parties for whores at 3:30 in the morning?

Well, that’s the kind of church that Jesus came to create!

Jesus changed the game –

He did not fall in line – and follow the status quo  —

He came to remind us of God’s vision for the world… unity – love — equality — harmony — peace —

At his table – he had 12 disciples to share the meal….. but none of them qualified to be called faithful…

1 betrayed him

1 denied him three times

The rest ran away and abandoned him

But he invited them to dine with him any way. They were welcome in spite of how much or how little faith they had.

They didn’t meet the standards – but were welcome anyway…

We can’t claim to be worthy to sit at this table… but we are invited and welcome.

Scholars like Borg and Crossan consider the stories of Jesus’ open tables to be the most powerful and influential examples of God’s love for ALL people.

Jesus dined with Zacchaeus – a tax collector

He dined with Levi – another tax collector  and invited him to come and follow him.

Jesus dined with Simon – of elite social status, when a woman of lowly status crashed the dinner and anointed his feet. He welcomed her, when his host wanted her removed.

Feeding the 5000 was not his responsibility – these were people from ALL backgrounds – women and childrens who had no status

His tables had no seat of honor…no hierarchy – and no limit. All were invited and all were welcome.

WE are not just celebrating the last meal when we come to the table – we are celebrating ALL the meals…

because Jesus as Borg says, “One of Jesus’ most characteristic activities was an OPEN and INCLUSIVE table.”

John Dominic Crossan writes that Jesus’ open table fellowship is a core teaching component and symbol of his life.

It is a view of absolute equality of people that denies the validity of any discrimination between them.

When we come to the table, we are living out an expression of God’s love –

In sharing the bread and cup unconditionally – as God’s love is shared unconditionally –

And for ALL  —

“All Means ALL”

Luke 14:15-24  (NIV)

The Parable of the Great Banquet

15 When one of those at the table with him heard this, he said to Jesus, “Blessed is the one who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God.”

16 Jesus replied: “A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. 17 At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’

18 “But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, ‘I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.’

19 “Another said, ‘I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.’

20 “Still another said, ‘I just got married, so I can’t come.’

21 “The servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.’

22 “‘Sir,’ the servant said, ‘what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.’

23 “Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full. 24 I tell you, not one of those who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.’”

Matthew 14:13-21  (NIV)

Jesus Feeds the Five Thousand

13 When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns. 14 When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.

15 As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.”

16 Jesus replied, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.”

17 “We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish,” they answered.

18 “Bring them here to me,” he said. 19 And he directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. 20 They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. 21 The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children.

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Homily     “ALL means ALL”

By calling ourselves progressive, we mean that we are Christians who understand the sharing of bread and wine in Jesus’ name to be a realization of the vision of God’s feast for all peoples.

On the slip of paper –

Please list the 11 people you would invite to your last meal –

Living or Dead – (and not in this room)

Eleven people who you would want to spend the last hours of your life with at a meal.

Then

Add the name of the person you would NEVER invite  — you can just put initials if you fear someone seeing your response.

______________________

Now, hold onto that paper and look at it again later –

__________________________

____________________________

As Disciples of Christ… our identity statement says:

DOC IDENTITY

We are Disciples of Christ, a movement for wholeness in a fragmented world.

As part of the one body of Christ,

we welcome all to the Lord’s Table

as God has welcomed us.

Each week when I offer a communion meditation and invitation – it is not I who is inviting, I am merely passing along the message that we are ALL invited by God.

It is up to us to answer – we have a choice to accept or decline —

But ALL are invited.

Frederick Buechner

 “The place where God calls you is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” 

CLOSED COMMUNION

conclusion

The Orthodox Christian Church, like Her Lord, is not an imaginary and invisible abstraction.

The tradition of any church is concrete and visible, expressed throughout history by real people in a tangible continuum of faith and practice (whether for 2,000 years or two years).

Like the Holy Trinity, the Church is a community, a real communion expressed and embodied by a shared faith and way of life.

ORTHODOX

The maintenance of real communion necessitates borders and boundaries, both doctrinal and disciplinary.

If a church is to be faithful to its own tradition, the door will be opened to some things and closed to others.

But it is how we understand CLOSED and OPEN –

practice of CLOSED communion –

is believed by that tradition to ACTUALLY be OPEN to ALL –

but the ALL actually means those who formally embrace the traditions beliefs and unite themselves to it.

OPEN to those who conform…

CLOSED to those who do not…

A door that is always open is not a door any more.

Certainly true of the Orthodox Church.

Some idea that limiting entrance enhances the significance –

_________________

Illustration:

A pastor once shared this story…

He said:

He told of going                                        to his mother’s hair dresser for a hair cut.

After talking to her he             thought she had some interest in knowing more about God.

He told his             mother that he thought she               wanted to know about God.   

                 His mother responded:                         

“No way! She is on her fifth   husband and is living in sin.”              

______________

John said: “Mom the next                      time you get your hair done                    at the beauty salon ask her                   if she is interested in                     spiritual things?

The next time she went to                   have her hair done she prayed            in her heart as she was taking            a seat in the beauty shop chair.  

        “God you know I don’t want to talk to her about her faith because she’s not the kind of person I want to associate with.                                       If you want me to talk to her then have her ask me first.”

The first thing the beauty operator said when she approached was,

“I understand you and your  husband have a Bible study.               Do you mind if I come sometime?”

She said that her mother was Jewish and her father a Roman Catholic.

Her mother made her go to the synagogue on Saturday and when she came home her dad made her take the rosary and make confession of her sin.

She grew up confused and turned to alcohol for comfort and she could drink with the best of them.

To get help she went to AA meetings but could not think of her “higher power” as God so she called her “higher power” Ralph.

At one of the AA meetings a guy came in half drunk. He stood up and said; “My name is Ralph and I’m an alcoholic.”

The hair dresser said at that point in her life she wanted to know            the true God.

She and her husband started attending the bible study of John’s parents.

_______________________________

ILLUSTRATIONS

The Pharisees could not understand why the common people, outcasts of society followed Jesus who claimed to be a Rabbi and Teacher. The kind of people Jesus ate with and fellowshipped with would not be tolerated in their homes.

Jesus did not go along with the Jewish customs of His day.

He invited all to His Table. There is room for all at God’s Table.

When feeding the 5000, Jesus did hot single out who could or could not share in the meal.

This was in direct contrast to the Pharisees who believed that only certain people are welcome at God’s Table.

That is how most traditions viewed communion until recently –

Only children of members of a tradition would be baptized –

Only those who were members could partake in the meal –

Everyone was welcome… as long as they had joined the family…

In my childhood tradition, we celebrated Communion only 4 times a year…

Prior to serving – the minister made it clear that this table was for members of our church ONLY… baptized into the faith, and members of our particular church.

Last fall the Chaplain Residents were participating in a Celebration Mass, and before the Eucharist, each was told NOT to participate in the bread and wine unless they were Catholic.

Not only were they not invited… they were individually excluded…

Does this fulfill our understanding of God’s mission for t he world…

________________________________________

Tony Campolo Throws a Party for a Prostitute

In his book The Kingdom of God Is a Party, Tony Campolo relates an experience he had late one night in Hawaii.

Up a side street I found a little place that was still open. I went in, took a seat on one of the stools at the counter, and waited to be served. This was one of those sleazy places that deserves the name, “greasy spoon.” I did not even touch the menu. I was afraid that if I opened the thing something gruesome would crawl out. But it was the only place I could find.

The fat guy behind the counter came over and asked me, “What d’ya want?”

I said I wanted a cup of coffee and a donut.

He poured a cup of coffee, wiped his grimy hand on his smudged apron, and then he grabbed a donut off the shelf behind him. I’m a realist. I know that in the back room of that restaurant, donuts are probably dropped on the floor and kicked around. But when everything is out front where I could see it, I really would have appreciated it if he had used a pair of tongs and placed the donut on some wax paper.

As I sat there munching on my donut and sipping my coffee at 3:30 in the morning, the door of the diner suddenly swung open and, to my discomfort, in marched eight or nine provocative and boisterous prostitutes.

It was a small place, and they sat on either side of me.

Their talk was loud and crude. I felt completely out of place and was just about to make my getaway when I overheard the woman beside me say, “Tomorrow’s my birthday. I’m going to be 39.”

Her “friend” responded in a nasty tone, “So what do you want from me? A birthday party? What do you want? Ya want me to get you a cake and sing ‘Happy Birthday’?”

“Come on,” said the woman sitting next to me. “Why do you have to be so mean? I was just telling you, that’s all. Why do you have to put me down? I was just telling you it was my birthday. I don’t want anything from you. I mean, why should you give me a birthday party? I’ve never had a birthday party in my whole life. Why should I have one now?”

When I heard that, I made a decision. I sat and waited until the women had left. Then I called over the fat guy behind the counter, and I asked him, “Do they come in here every night?”

“Yeah!” he answered.

“The one right next to me, does she come here every night?”

“Yeah!” he said. “That’s Agnes.     Yeah, she comes in here every     night. Why d’ya wanta know?”

“Because I heard her say that tomorrow is her birthday,” I told him. “What do you say you and I do something about that?       What do you think about us throwing a      birthday party for her—right here—     tomorrow night?”

A cute smile slowly crossed his chubby cheeks, and he answered with measured delight, “That’s great! I like it! That’s a great idea!”

Calling to his wife, who did the cooking in the back room, he shouted,                        “Hey! Come out here! This guy’s got a great idea. Tomorrow’s Agnes’s birthday.

This guy wants us to go in with him and throw a birthday party for her—right here—tomorrow night!”

His wife came out of the back room all bright and smiley. She said, “That’s wonderful! You know Agnes is one of those people who is really nice and kind, and nobody does anything nice and kind for her.”

“Look,” I told them, “if it’s okay with you, I’ll get back here tomorrow morning about 2:30 and decorate the place. I’ll even get a birthday cake!”

“No way,” said Harry (that was his name). “The birthday cake’s my thing. I’ll make the cake.”

At 2:30 the next morning, I was back      at the diner. I had picked up some    crepe-paper decorations at the store and had made a sign out of big pieces of    cardboard that read, “Happy Birthday, Agnes!”

I decorated the diner from one end to the other. I had that diner looking good.

The woman who did the cooking must have gotten the word out on the street, because by 3:15 every prostitute in Honolulu was in the place.

It was wall-to-wall prostitutes…and me!

At 3:30 on the dot, the door of the diner swung open, and in came Agnes and her friend.

I had everybody ready (after all, I was kind of the M.C. of the affair) and when they came in we all screamed, “Happy birthday!”

Never have I seen a person so flabbergasted…so stunned…so shaken. Her mouth fell open. Her legs seemed to buckle a bit. Her friend grabbed her arm to steady her.

As she was led to sit on one of the stools along the counter, we all sang “Happy Birthday”‘ to her.

As we came to the end of our singing with “happy birthday, dear Agnes, happy birthday to you,” her eyes moistened. Then, when the birthday cake with all the candles on it was carried out, she lost it and just openly cried.

Harry gruffly mumbled, “Blow out the candles, Agnes! Come on! Blow out the candles! If you don’t blow out the candles, I’m gonna hafta blow out the candles.”

 And, after an endless few seconds,      he did.

Then he handed her a knife and told her,

“Cut the cake, Agnes. Yo, Agnes,   we all want some cake.”

Agnes looked down at the cake. Then without taking her eyes off it, she slowly and softly said,

 “Look, Harry, is it all right with you if I…I mean is it okay if I kind of…

what I want to ask you is…is it O.K. if I keep the cake a little while?

 I mean, is it all right if we don’t eat it    right away?”

Harry shrugged and answered,

“Sure! It’s O.K. If you want to keep the cake, keep the cake.

Take it home, if you want to.”

“Can I?” she asked. Then, looking at me, she said, “I live just down the street a couple of doors. I want to take the cake home, okay?       I’ll be right back. Honest!”

She got off the stool, picked up the cake, and carrying it like it was the Holy Grail, walked slowly toward the door.

As we all just stood there motionless, she left.

When the door closed, there was a stunned silence in the place. Not knowing what else to do, I broke the silence by saying,

“What do you say we pray?”

Looking back on it now, it seems more than strange for a sociologist to be leading a prayer meeting with a bunch of prostitutes in a diner in Honolulu at 3:30 in the morning.

But then it just felt like the right thing to do. I prayed for Agnes. I prayed for her salvation. I prayed that her life would be changed and that God would be good to her.

When I finished, Harry leaned over the counter and with a trace of hostility in his voice, he said,

 “Hey! You never told me you were a preacher. What kind of church do you belong to?”

In one of those moments when just the right words came, I answered,

 “I belong to a church that throws birthday parties for whores at 3:30 in the morning.”

Harry waited a moment and then almost sneered as he answered, “No you don’t. There’s no church like that.

If there was, I’d join it. I’d join a church like that!”

Wouldn’t we all? Wouldn’t we all like to join a church that throws birthday parties for whores at 3:30 in the morning?

Well, that’s the kind of church that Jesus came to create!

Jesus changed the game –

He did not fall in line – and follow the status quo  —

He came to remind us of God’s vision for the world… unity – love — equality — harmony — peace —

At his table – he had 12 disciples to share the meal….. but none of them qualified to be called faithful…

1 betrayed him

1 denied him three times

The rest ran away and abandoned him

But he invited them to dine with him any way. They were welcome in spite of how much or how little faith they had.

They didn’t meet the standards – but were welcome anyway…

We can’t claim to be worthy to sit at this table… but we are invited and welcome.

Scholars like Borg and Crossan consider the stories of Jesus’ open tables to be the most powerful and influential examples of God’s love for ALL people.

Jesus dined with Zacchaeus – a tax collector

He dined with Levi – another tax collector  and invited him to come and follow him.

Jesus dined with Simon – of elite social status, when a woman of lowly status crashed the dinner and anointed his feet. He welcomed her, when his host wanted her removed.

Feeding the 5000 was not his responsibility – these were people from ALL backgrounds – women and childrens who had no status

His tables had no seat of honor…no hierarchy – and no limit. All were invited and all were welcome.

WE are not just celebrating the last meal when we come to the table – we are celebrating ALL the meals…

because Jesus as Borg says, “One of Jesus’ most characteristic activities was an OPEN and INCLUSIVE table.”

John Dominic Crossan writes that Jesus’ open table fellowship is a core teaching component and symbol of his life.

It is a view of absolute equality of people that denies the validity of any discrimination between them.

When we come to the table, we are living out an expression of God’s love –

In sharing the bread and cup unconditionally – as God’s love is shared unconditionally –

And for ALL  —

Not, Wrong or right, just different

“Acts 17:22-28 New International Version (NIV)

22 Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you.

24 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. 26 From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. 27 God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. 28 ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’[a] As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’[b]

Different Religions

Different goals

Different problems

Different approaches

Different understandings

Different filters

Different fears

Different loves

Renditions of Songs

Who likes liver and onions?

Who eats oysters on half shell?

Who likes the color pink?

Who would live in an underground home?

Bigotry —-        Intolerance toward those who                         hold different opinions from oneself. 

Stronger than prejudice —     Meanspirited

Racism —- Prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against  someone of a different race based on the belief that                    one’s own race is superior.

Prejudice— preconceived opinion that is not based on reason or                             actual experience.

______________________________________________

Bible Belt – The Story of My original tradition —

      John Wesley, a Methodist elder had died and was walking up to the pearly gates –

      St. Peter asked his name and went about checking his BOOK of LIFE to see if the elder’s name was written there.

Upon finding his name,  St. Peter welcomed John Wesley, and went about showing him through the gates and into the heavenly mansion.

Walking down the hall, St. Peter pointed out the football field size library, the room filled with thousands of Musical recordings, and the banquet hall with a table of food so long, John could not see the end of it…

As they went on, they passed by open rooms of Native Americans, sitting and pounding drums –

They passed by a room of Catholics playing  Bingo and drinking wine.

Soon they walked by a room of Jews who were eating Matza Ball soup and Challa Bread –

As they continued through the mansion, the cacophony of sound began to fade…  until they were walking in silence.

They turned down another hall and John noticed the doors on all of the rooms were closed.

He started to ask St. Peter about the doors, and St. Peter quickly covered John’s mouth and shhhushed him….

St. Peter took John’s hand and quickly walked him to the end of the hallway and out a side door.

John looked at St. Peter in confusion – and St. Peter apologized for his abrupt behavior, but if they had made any noise,

The Baptists would have discovered they weren’t the only ones here.

Catholic  vs   Southern Baptist  

      Catholic –  Not Christian but Catholic

                  Idol worshipers

                  Put Mary above Jesus

                  Said Mary Mother of God

            Pope comes before God

            Infant Baptism is meritless-                   not scriptural

      SB – Not Christian but Protestant

                  Believer’s baptism – baptism, which was seen as an attack               on the “salvation by works” theology widely taught by the                  Roman Catholic Church

Families split over inter-faith marriages

Om 2008, Hindus attacked more than 20 Christian churches in southern India.

Christians waged crusades under the banner    of the cross. Not only did they kill Muslims,

they also murdered other Christians over   doctrinal matters and unleashed     centuries of systematic anti-Semitism. 

ISIS militants have tortured, raped, kidnapped, and executed Christians in       Iraq and Syria, despite claiming that Christians who pay a special tax (jizya) would receive ISIS’s protection.

According to a July 2016 report by the      Hudson Institute, ISIS’s jizya option   is a deceptive propaganda ploy used to extort Christians with no regard for their     protection or religious freedom. The group urges attacks on Christians outside of its territorial strongholds. (Source: Hudson Institute)

THE THIRD RISE of KKK in 50s and 60s

Restricting membership to white Christians,    the Klan wore white robes to symbolize “purity,” burned crosses to signify “the Light of Christ” and picked selective scriptures from the Bible to preach white supremacy.

Perhaps what’s wrong with Christianity  —is we have LEFT – the original WAY  —

what people called the movement of the first followers of Jesus –

  • The WAY that was open to all people  —                                  it was a new way of life –
  • a change or transformation of life…                                                A dynamic act of DOING –

Gradually,  it changed into what we  call      RELIGION…

It is A static BELIEF system –

_____________________________

Is Christianity a RELIGION ??

Well, yes and no.

Yes, it is a religion. It has creeds and rules and beliefs, and Holy Scriptures, and official bodies, and adherents, and heretics, and saints, and on and on.

And no, it is not a religion. At least, if we use the term accurately…

The word religion comes from the Latin word “Re-Ligare”. “

Ligare” means “to bind” or to “connect”.

Adding the “re” before “ligare” causes the word to meanRe-Bind” or “Re-Connect.”

So, if Christianity is  A BELIEF SYSTEM  —

Then Christians are identified on the basis of their BELIEF not how they LIVE

For six days of the week-              Life for most Christians is       indistinguishable from that of nonbelievers.

If our Christianity is a BELIEF SYSTEM – and  When we believe that only we have the truth, we become elitist, aggressive for converts, overly protective of our system, and thereby consider all who would differ from us our enemies.

US verses THEM

We have the ONLY answer –

I do not understand why something is valuable only if it can be had be a few – “I have it and you don’t” “I’m saved, and you’re not”

__________________________________

We all know church goers like that – or have in our lifetime – and probably thought something like that – whew, I am safe…

Ironically, one of the most important and controversial teaching of Jesus  — is his command that we should love our enemies.

He put it this way, 27 “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. Luke 6: 27-28

How we respond to this command of Jesus will determine Christianity’s value to     the world.

For centuries,  many Christian traditions, believed the non- Christian religions of the world are our enemies.

In the Crusades, armies were literally sent to convert or kill out the non-believers

We sent send armies of missionaries to other countries and even in our own county convert them to our religion.

WE SENT missionaries – and not just to make the heathens Christians – BUT our brand of Christians…

Often destroying their cultures in the process…

We see some of the fall out from that today…

______________

Talking with some members of the United Methodist Tradition – they experienced the same issue concerning the international vote to marry and ordain members of the LGBTQ that our denomination experienced –

The more conservative/fundamental countries out number the progressive…liberal.. members.

A United Methodist friend said we only have ourselves to blame – when the more conservative nations around the world have not progressed to a liberal theology…

Before these countries had contact with the rest of the world —They had a more open theology But then our missionaries convinced them they were wrong…

____________________

Tolerance, acceptance and welcoming of different faiths come at a high price and a deadly slow pace…

     What would Christianity look like when it is stripped bare of the RELIGIOUS trappings?


When all of the formality – legality and restrictions are erased?

In the time of Dietrich Bonhoeffer – the world was in turmoil with Hitler and the race war –

Bonhoeffer began to struggle with what remains when the typical traits of a religion—clergy, rites, holy things, beliefs, and morality—are eliminated.

How would that redefine Christianity? What bothered Bonhoeffer was that a person could confess doctrinally correct beliefs, observe its moral codes, and follow the accepted behaviors and       practices of the Church, while simultaneously committing unspeakable horrors.

We have witnessed the same thing in the American South—the “Bible Belt”—where harassment, persecution and lynchings of African-Americans was a norm for “white Christians.”   

Where racial discrimination was justified by narrow minded interpretation of scripture.\

Example: Colossians 3: 22Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord.

This was justification for slavery and continuing to discriminate against African Americans

___________

My heart tells me whenever we err in how we interpret scripture – we should err on the side of LOVE – not power…. Not exclusion – but love

I would rather explain my loving the wrong person than my hating someone….

______________________________________________________________________

Houses of worship around the world, a place of reflection and peace, have been targeted for attack by extremists. Here are some of the deadly assaults over the last decade:

July 16, 2010: Jundallah group kills 27 and injures 270 after it carries out a double suicide bombing against another Shiite mosque in southeastern Iran.

Oct. 31, 2010: Al-Qaida in Iraq militants attack Our Lady of Salvation Catholic Church in Baghdad during Sunday night mass, killing 58 people in the deadliest assault targeting Christians since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion there. Al-Qaida in Iraq later became the Islamic State group.

Dec. 15, 2010: Two suicide bombers from the Sunni extremist group Jundallah blow themselves up near a mosque in southeastern Iran, including six Revolutionary Guard commanders.

Aug. 5, 2012: Six members of the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin, in Oak Creek, are fatally shot by a white supremacist, Wade Michael Page. Page was shot by a responding officer and later killed himself.

Nov. 18, 2014: Two Palestinians using axes, knives and a gun kill four Jewish worshippers and an Israeli police officer in an attack on a Jerusalem synagogue.

Jan. 30, 2015: Suicide bombing at a Shiite mosque in the Pakistani town of Shikarpur kills 71. Jundullah claims responsibility.

March 20, 2015: Islamic State suicide bombers attack a pair of mosques in Yemen’s capital, unleashing monstrous blasts that ripped through worshippers and killed 137 people.

June 17, 2015: Nine black worshippers including a pastor are killed by Dylann Roof, a 21-year-old white supremacist, after he prayed with them in Charleston, South Carolina. Roof was convicted of federal hate-crime and obstruction-of-religion charges and sentenced to death.

Sept. 24, 2015: A suicide bomber strikes a mosque in Yemen’s rebel-held capital, killing 25 worshippers during prayers for the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha.

Nov. 12, 2016: Suicide bomber from Islamic State group kills over 50 at the shrine of Shah Noorani, in Pakistan’s Baluchistan province.

Dec. 11, 2016: Suicide bomber strikes inside a Cairo chapel adjacent to St. Mark’s Cathedral, seat of Egypt’s ancient Coptic Orthodox Church. The Islamic State group claimed the attack, which killed at least 25 people.

Jan. 29, 2017: A gunman killed six men during evening prayers at the Islamic Cultural Centre in Quebec City. Alexandre Bissonnette pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and attempted murder charges and was sentenced to serve 40 years in prison before being eligible for parole.

Feb. 16, 2017: Suicide bomber detonates his explosives vest among the devotees at the shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar in Pakistan’s Sindh province, killing 98.

April 9, 2017: Twin suicide bombings rock churches in the Egyptian coastal city of Alexandria and Tanta, killing at least 45 people. The attack was claimed by the Islamic State group.

June 15, 2017: A suicide bomber kills four people at a Shiite mosque in Afghanistan‘s capital city of Kabul. Among the dead is a leader of Afghanistan’s ethnic Hazaras, who are mostly Shiite Muslims.

Aug. 1, 2017: A suicide bomber storms into the largest Shiite mosque in Afghanistan’s western Herat province, opening fire on worshippers before blowing himself up, killing at least 90 people. Hundreds more were wounded in the attack, which happened during evening prayers.

Aug. 25, 2017: Militants storm a packed Shiite mosque in Kabul during Friday prayers. The attack ends with at least 28 worshippers killed and 50 wounded, many of them children. Two of the assailants blow themselves up and another two are shot dead by Afghan security forces.

Sept. 29, 2017: A suicide bomber blows himself up outside a Shiite mosque in Kabul, killing five. The attack took place as worshippers were leaving the mosque after Friday prayers.

Oct. 20, 2017: The Islamic State group claims a suicide bomber attack, killing 31 and wounding 29 people, at a Shiite mosque in Kabul.

Nov. 5, 2017: Dressed in black tactical-style gear and armed with an assault weapon, 26-year-old Devin Kelley opened fire at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas, killing 26 people and wounding about 20 others.

Nov. 24, 2017: Militants kill 311 worshippers in a mosque attack in north Sinai, the deadliest such terrorist attack in Egypt’s modern history.

Dec. 17, 2017: Islamic State attack on a church in Pakistani city of Quetta kills 16 people.

Aug. 3, 2018: Suicide bombers disguised in burqa robes attack a Shiite mosque in eastern Afghanistan, killing 27 people.

Oct. 27, 2018: A gunman believed to have spewed anti-Semitic slurs and rhetoric on social media entered Tree of Life Congregation synagogue in Pittsburgh and opened fire, killing 11 and wounding six, including four police officers.

Jan. 27, 2019: Two suicide attackers detonate two bombs during a Mass in a Roman Catholic cathedral on the largely Muslim island of Jolo in the southern Philippines, killing 23 and wounding about 100 others. Three days later, an attacker hurls a grenade in a mosque in nearby Zamboanga city, killing two religious teachers.

March 15, 2019: At least 40 people are killed in an attack at mosques in the New Zealand city of Christchurch.

By calling ourselves progressive, thinking Christians, we mean that we are Christians who recognize the faithfulness of other people who have other names for the way to God’s realm, and acknowledge that their ways are as true for them, as our ways are true for us.

ELDERS 2019

DATE BREAD CUP

FEBRUARY

3 Sharon M. Harold M.

10 Jonathan W. Bev A.

17 Patt K. Sharon D.

24 Harold M. Jonathan W.

MARCH

3 Liz W. Vanessa W.

10 Bev A. Sharon M.

17 Sharon D. Harold M.

24 Jonathan W. Patt K.

31 Vanessa W. Bev A.

APRIL

7 Sharon M. Liz W.

14 Harold M. Vanessa W.

21 Patt K. Sharon M.

28 Liz W. Jonathan W.

MAY

5 Bev A. Sharon D.

12 Harold M. Patt K.

19 Vanessa W. Sharon M.

26 Liz W. Bev A.

JUNE

2 Sharon D.. Jonathan W.

9 Patt K. Liz W.

16 Sharon M. Sharon D.

23 Jonathan W. Vanessa W.

30 Bev A. Harold M.

ACT JUSTLY

MICAH   6:8       ACT JUSTLY

It is written that the response of a godly heart is      outward (do justice),                inward (love mercy), and          upward (walk humbly).

Micah                                                      – -prophesied during the reigns of kings Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah of Judah. 742 – 696 BC

–He is considered one of the twelve minor prophets of                                   the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible) and   was a        contemporary of the   prophets IsaiahAmos and Hosea

Micah                                                             –also rebuked Israel because of dishonesty in the marketplace and corruption in government.

–He warned the people, on behalf of God, of pending destruction if ways and hearts were not changed. He told them what the LORD requires of them:

Act justly, love mercy, walk humbly with God

Israel’s response to Micah’s charges and threats consisted of three parts:

  1. admission of guilt,
  2. a warning of adversaries that Israel will rely on the LORD for deliverance and forgiveness,
  3. and a prayer for forgiveness and deliverance. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Micah_(prophet)#cite_note-10

ACT  JUSTLY – Golden rule –

UNJUST LAWS

Some of which are so ridiculous, they should never be enforced…

ALABAMA: The City of Mobile may know how to throw down on Mardi Gras, but the use of confetti is strictly prohibited. To carry, manufacture, sell, or handle the party supply is considered an “offense against public safety.”

A frog that dies during a frog-jumping contest cannot be eaten in the state of California.

INDIANA: Liquor stores can’t sell refrigerated water or soda. The law specifies that a beer and wine store should be in the exclusive business of selling adult beverages.

KENTUCKY: Every legislator, public officer, and lawyer must take an oath stating that they have not fought a duel with deadly weapons.

ARIZONA –Illegal for donkey to sleep in a bathtub

In CONNECTICUT … a pickle must be able to bounce.

In Nebraska … you can’t get married if you have a venereal disease.

In VERMONT … it’s illegal for women to wear fake teeth without their husband’s approval.

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I am talking about UNJUST LAWS –

Like the laws in our past:

       INDIAN REMOVAL ACT (1830)

Passed by Congress and signed by President Andrew Jackson, This law gave Jackson’s administration the ability to “negotiate” with native American tribes (Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek, and Seminole), ostensibly forcing them to vacant the lands they held long before the colonies or United States were established

FUGITIVE SLAVE ACT (1850)

Congress, largely controlled by pro-slavery Democrats, passed the Fugitive Slave Act, which required that runaway slaves be returned to their “owners” once they were captured.

CHILD LABOR LAW —The first group to fight for child Labor laws, formed in 1906, and it was over ten years later that a law was finally established.


USA PATRIOT Act (2001)

Passed and signed more than a month after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the USA PATRIOT Act (an acronym for Uniting Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act) gave the intelligence community and law enforcement agencies broad new powers to combat terrorism. Thanks to recent disclosures by whistleblower Edward Snowden, Americans have learned that the PATRIOT Act has been used by intelligence agencies, most notably the NSA, to snoop and spy on American citizens, even if they’re not suspected of terrorist activity, by obtaining phone and Internet metadata from third-party businesses. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI), who authored and introduced the PATRIOT Act, has said that the government’s interpretation of the law is “excessive and un-American” and supports efforts to put better privacy protections in place.

  • Illegal for a black person to marry a white person – finally struck down 1967 by Supreme Court
  • Illegal for American Women to vote until 1920.

TODAY

Ban on Those entering country

Iran   Libya   North Korea   Yemen Somalia   Venezuela   Syria

_____________

RESTRICTIVE VOTING MEASURES           have been enacted by states in recent years. They range from laws demanding that voters produce specific forms of identification to reductions in the number of locations where people can cast their ballot. 

  • California city passed a law banning the charitable act following a massive Hepatitis A outbreak.
  • police officer warned the activists not to give food to the homeless in the park.
  • “It’s okay to give food in public to other people but not homeless people,” he said, referencing the city law, KGTV reports. 
  • “That’s an unfair way of targeting the alleged issue of hepatitis A.”
  • ________________________

Justice is not merely about defending     personal rights and condemning social evils. 

Biblical justice starts in the heart.

It is inseparable from love and humility.

When we choose to walk in the light – to follow the teachings of Jesus – to work to do God’s will… 

We enter a covenant which means both parties have obligations to the other…

Micah was reminding people of their part of the bargain – of what GOD expects of a person who seeks Him. 

God requires three ongoing actions:

  1. Act justly.
  2. Love mercy.
  3. Walk humbly with God.

acting justly

making fair decisions in our business      and personal lives.

Show each person the same respect whether they are rich or poor / young or old / educated or ignorant/ white or one of the million other shades of skin tones….

Do we treat people better who are dressed in a suit and tie than if they are in drag?

However we treat one another is how we treat God.

To Act Justly requires we show others the same attention as we show ourselves.

We are to love justice, not only when it harmonizes with our own interests… but we are to love justice…more than ourselves…

if it ain’t right – and I do nothing,     then I ain’t right.

Pay attention to the word REQUIRES – meaning NOT OPTIONAL

       Eugene Peterson paraphrases in the MESSAGE –                          Do what is fair and just.

And that means, even when life isn’t fair to us…

We are the only Bible some people read… we are the only Christ some people will meet.

We are the only example of a relationship with God, some people will ever experience…

HOW DO OUR ACTIONS DEMONSTRATE OUR LOVE FOR GOD?

Archbishop Desmond Tutu  said this:

If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.

If an elephant has his foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality. ~

Samuel, Hannah, Mary, Jesus

41Now every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the festival of the Passover. 42And when he was twelve years old, they went up as usual for the festival. 43When the festival was ended and they started to return, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it. 44Assuming that he was in the group of travelers, they went a day’s journey. Then they started to look for him among their relatives and friends. 45When they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem to search for him. 46After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. 47And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. 48When his parents saw him they were astonished; and his mother said to him, “Child, why have you treated us like this? Look, your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety.” 49He said to them, “Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” 50But they did not understand what he said to them. 51Then he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them. His mother treasured all these things in her heart. 52And Jesus increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favor.

Samuel 2:18-26

18Samuel was ministering before the Lord, a boy wearing a linen ephod.19His mother used to make for him a little robe and take it to him each year, when she went up with her husband to offer the yearly sacrifice.20Then Eli would bless Elkanah and his wife, and say, “May the Lord repay you with children by this woman for the gift that she made to the Lord”; and then they would return to their home. 21And the Lord took note of Hannah; she conceived and bore three sons and two daughters. And the boy Samuel grew up in the presence of the Lord. 22Now Eli was very old. He heard all that his sons were doing to all Israel, and how they lay with the women who served at the entrance to the tent of meeting.23He said to them, “Why do you do such things? For I hear of your evil dealings from all these people. 24No, my sons; it is not a good report that I hear the people of the Lord spreading abroad. 25If one person sins against another, someone can intercede for the sinner with the Lord; but if someone sins against the Lord, who can make intercession?” But they would not listen to the voice of their father; for it was the will of the Lord to kill them. 26Now the boy Samuel continued to grow both in stature and in favor with the Lord and with the people.

  1. eph·od
  1.  (in ancient Israel) a sleeveless garment worn by Jewish priests.

Two Stories – hundreds of years apart

Hannah –desperately wanted a child

Mary – surprised by a child

Hannah makes covenant with God if she can have a child

Mary – angel announces that God has chosen her and there is a covenant concerning a child.

Each mother has been given a child that is then returned to the service of God.

The similarities between the stories of two women are reflected in the words of their two songs.  

From the miraculous conception of each woman’s son to each woman’s faithful response of praise, we see God’s purpose and plan revealed. 

1)  What the books reveal:  

The books of 1 Samuel and Luke both focus on the birth of a male child who is born to serve God.  

2) Who the women were:

The roles of both Hannah and Mary in Scripture are limited to that of motherhood. 

Neither is a picture of salvation of Israel, of saving the people, like Esther—or of leading the people, like Deborah. 

Their work for God was simply to raise-up the child whom God had given to them.

Hannah’s pain came immediately when she handed Samuel over to Eli to raise in the Temple.

Mary’s pain would come later.

God choses the marginalized or the downtrodden to break-in upon history.

Sarah, like Hannah, was older and barren. Rachel, too, was barren and jealous of her sister Leah. All three women were dealing with “competitors” — either co-wives or servants.

Hannah was taunted by Peninnah, the other wife of Elkanah.

These stories finally parallel that of Elizabeth, also old and barren, who then conceives and gives birth to John, the baptizer, the last and greatest of the prophets.

Then a lowly maiden Mary is selected to birth Jesus –

Through these surprising and unexpected births, a child is set apart as truly “of God,” dedicated to and willing to serve God.

Contrasts

Having noted the similarities of Hannah’s story with Mary’s story and Hannah’s song with Mary’s song, let’s consider several contrasts.

  • Hannah was marked by sterility and shame.
  • Mary was marked by virginity and purity.
  • Hannah prayed for a son, desiring that her shame be removed.
  • Mary did not seek a son, but was graced with this great gift (Luke 1:28) and shame came upon her and her family.
  • Hannah gave birth to the son of Elkanah.
  • Mary gave birth to the “Son of the Most High” (Luke 1:32a).
  • Hannah’s son was one of a long line of prophets.
  • Mary’s Son was the True and Better Prophet (Deuteronomy 18:18).

Hannah is a type of Mary primarily in her role as a mother and as a maidservant of God.  In Hannah we see incredible gratitude to God and selflessness in giving her son to God.  Hannah knew that Samuel did not really belong to her, but to God.  Mary knew that Jesus did not really belong to her…He is God.  In each mother’s story, their love for their child is evident and their love for their God is magnified.

1 Samuel 2:21b  …the child Samuel grew before the LORD.

Luke 1:80  So the child [Jesus] grew and became strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his manifestation to Israel.

Luke 2:52  And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.

__

In both passages, we have nearly identical words at the close o0f the story –

         Samuel continued to grow both in stature and in favor with the Lord and with the people.

Jesus increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favor.

It is a theme of growing – of maturing…

Both boys grow physically in STATURE

Both grow in wisdom and in favor with God – and with humanity –

Jesus did not come into this world gifted with knowledge – wisdom and power.

Like us, he came in as a vulnerable baby – a clean slate upon which life would write –

He would have to be taught –

 The same way Samuel – had to be taught –

Samuel began his growth in wisdom along side the Priest Eli –

Jesus began his with Mary and Joseph and his time in the temple.

And when the time came to return home, Jesus was more interested in learning from the priests—he had questions – they had answers – and his understanding amazed the priests.

Both Samuel and Jesus had to prepare for their life of service to God

Samuel’s preparation was through Eli

Jesus’ Preparation included                                          Wisdom: Jesus grew in Intellectually

Stature: Jesus grew in Physically.

with God”: Jesus grew Spiritually.

“with men”: Jesus grew socially.

The priests in the temple were impressed with Jesus because he was at ease and comfortable in His Father’s house.

But he would continue to grow – as he experienced life in new ways-

I never really thought about how Jesus had to grow – into becoming who he was called to be.

But, it speaks volumes that Samuel – and even Jesus had to learn – and grow and mature in their spiritual and social lives, as well as in favor with God —  just as much as their physical lives.

Jesus models that in order to grow intellectually, we must watch – o0bserve – and experience so that we have WISDOM

We must take care of ourselves physically –                            by eating well – resting when                             needed – and consider our                               bodies temples..

Jesus showed us that we are to always study        scripture, pray, reflect and engage in        our relationship with God – to grow spiritually – and find favor with God –

And to find favor with those around us –                  so that we are all one body in God…

These things are accomplished through small ways of treating one another — small acts of kindness – not huge achievements — 

Sometimes God lets us know we have found favor —

Illustration –

Madeleine L’Engle tells one such story.  While speaking at Wheaton College, word came to her that her 9-year old granddaughter, Lena,  had been hit by a truck while she was walking home from swimming.  The news was not good — Lena had two broken legs, broken ribs, her jaw was fractured in two places, her arms and legs had bruises and contusions, and she had a head wound that laid open her scalp to the bone.

She finished her lecture at Wheaton, and asked there for prayer for her granddaughter.  Returning to her room, she tried to call both an Episcopal clergy friend of hers in New York, and the Episcopal Sisters who ran the school her granddaughters attended. Neither of her calls went through.  Finally, after ringing and ringing, one of the sisters answered.  Madeleine told her about Lena, and the sister said that all of New York was blacked out and that she had to feel her way through the dark building to find and answer the phone.  Later, the same sister would tell Madeleine that hers was the only call that came in that night, that afterward the phones quit working altogether.

As was her custom, that night in her hotel room, Madeleine L’Engle reached for the Episcopal Book of Prayer she carried with her.  She always read Evening Prayer.   However, that night when she turned to the Psalm for that evening, a photograph of Lena stood at the page.  Taken only a few days before, L’Engle had stuck it in her prayer book hastily without thinking.

She said she could barely stand to see the photo, but as she held the prayer book, a piece of paper fell from its pages.   Given to her years before by some Catholic nuns, the card contained a quote from St. John of the Cross, a medieval Christian mystic.  The quote read —

“One act of thanksgiving made when things go wrong is worth a thousand when things go well.”

And so she thanked God for Lena’s nine years of life, for their family, and for God’s blessings.  Ten days later, little Lena emerged from her coma.  Among her first words were “Read to me.”  And so they did, night and day, until little Lena recovered. — Walking on Water, p. 184-186.

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Both stories stress the need of growth in faith – growth that is in terms of understanding and practice. We might also call it wisdom in the faith, the beginning of which is, as Proverbs reminds us, the ‘fear of God’.

Not terror but awe and worship;

a sense of God in relation to creation which intimately involves understanding ourselves and those around us.

How much more do we as Jesus’ disciples in every age need to seek to grow in our faith – in favour both with God and humanity.

 Faithful service to God is a slow journey of growth and learning with aspects of loss and vulnerability along the way.

Significance of the Visit of the Magi

Matthew 2:1-12

2In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, 2asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.” 3When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; 4and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. 5They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet: 6‘And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel.’” 7Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. 8Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.”

9When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. 11On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 12And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.

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EPIPHANY

Christians celebrate the feast of Epiphany,

* from the Greek word epiphaneia,

meaning disclosure, manifestation, unveiling or appearance.

* At the simplest level, on Epiphany Christians commemorate the “appearance” of the magi from the east

It is interesting that Matthew was the only biblical writer who recorded their visit.

WISE MEN/KINGS –WHO?

here came wise men—literally, “Magi” or “Magicians,”

*KINGS?

KINGS?  Why would they seek to pay homage to another KING

Asked a KING for directions to KING of Jews?

*Why ask at all, if following the star,   and continued to follow the star?

*Left for their own country… where?

More likely a priestly caste of *Zoroastrianism, noted for their study of the stars as part of their religion. 

Zoroastrianism

  • Possibly the oldest             monotheistic faith
  • pre-Islamic religion of       ancient Persia founded    by Zoroaster in the 6th    century BC.                              3500 YEARS AGO
  • The Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy calls Zoroaster

 “the world’s first philsopher

  • echoes of his words in Judaism, Christianity and Islam. 
  •  Zoroastrians were also known for their devotion to truth and wisdom.
  •  They place a strong emphasis on protecting the environment.
  • Also within his religion, Zoroaster taught the existence of angels, demons and saviorsideas that can also be found in ChristianityJudaism and  Islam.                                                                 Zoroastrians use the Avesta as their sacred text. The Avesta contains hymnsritualsand spells against demons.

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NAMES

  • Gaspar, Melchior, and Balthasar,                                                       
  • do not come from the Bible
  • and did not appear in Christian literature until over five hundred years after the birth of Jesus.
  •  Nothing in the Bible says the wise men rode camels (or any other animal);
  • they may have made their journey from the east on foot for all we know.
  •  And despite the familiar lyrics of the Christmas carol “We Three Kings,” no biblical source depicts the three wise men as kings. (They were most likely learned men, perhaps astrologers.)     

probably of the learned class who cultivated astrology and kindred         sciences.

TRADITION

prophesied – a star would come   out of Jacob /  giver of  light

and exercising kingly power  might have come down to them by tradition;

 but nothing definite is known of them.

FROM THE EAST – where

from the east—Arabia, Persia,      (IRAN)  or                                        Mesopotamia

Most popular IRAN

NOT JEWS

Went to Jerusalem—       as the Jewish metropolis.

** In the Revelation of the Magi, by    Landau —  they come from a    land called Shir,

which, because it is located at    the eastern edge of the inhabited         world, is probably equivalent to           China

LOCATION

  • NOT at stable-
  • Some sources say they traveled 6 months to two years
  • Matthew only place of story
  • “until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10When they saw that   the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. 11On entering the house, they saw the child –
  • According to Luke 2, it was shepherds, not wise men, who visited the infant Jesus in the manger.
  • Each GOSPEL writer was writing to a different audience—
  • Shaped stories to be more relatable and relevant.

SIGNIFICANCE of Visit

  • Matthew is the only gospel referencing the arrival of the Magi, specifying that they bring three gifts, not necessarily the number of Magi that arrived.
  •  The importance of their arrival and gifts offered bring great meaning to the story.
  • Matthew was Jewish and possibly a Pharisee, so his inclusion of the Magi was a reference to eastern gentile wisdom, which also included astrology, and was perhaps viewed in a negative light by the Jewish community.
  • Yet this point brings us to the conclusion that gentiles were included in the birth of the Messiah. Upon the Magi’s arrival, their bowing down to the infant offered the respect shown divinity, as did the gift of gold.
  • he other gifts have sparked debate, but I see frankincense representing the presence of God as an incense and myrrh as an anointing oil, both of which have significance throughout Jesus’ messianic journey and our own Christian tradition.
  • Being Southern, I recently learned about a tradition called “chalking of the door.”
  • In a ceremony held around the Epiphany, the letters “C,” “M” and “B” are chalked on a home’s entrance to bless all who live or visit there.
  • It is said:
  •  traditionally, the initials represented names of those Three Wise Men — Caspar, Melchior and Balthazar. However, the meaning actually is
  • , Latin for “Christ, bless this house.” Regardless, Christus mansionem benedicat the inclusion of gentiles and recognition of the Christ child as Messiah ultimately point to the clearest meaning of the Three Wise Men.

DETAILS

The Magi are not always given their due –

I read a story about one person who keeps the Wise Men figurines from her nativity – out year round –

She says:

it’s a visual reminder to me. It    reminds me that the truth of the           ages from this part of the             “Christmas” story is, and always           has been, that wise men and      wise women, wise boys and wise         girls, still seek Jesus. Not just at Christmas time, but all through             the year.

  • the magi are a poignant reminder that Jesus welcomes all peoples from all places.
  • he magi, then, “unveil” this mystery and disclose the nature of God’s kingdom announced in Jesus.
  • They remind us that it cannot be limited to the Jews or any other singular people.
  • The magi symbolize the divine promise given to Abraham for “all peoples on earth” in the first book of the Bible (Genesis 12:3), and
  •  John’s vision of heaven with people from “every nation, tribe, people, and language” in the last book of the Bible (Revelation 7:9).

________________________

A couple of weeks ago we talked of Living the Nativity –

Today’s story talks of how wise men met Jesus and returned home by a different path —
Mary and Joseph were warned in a dream to leave Bethlehem –

And they fled pagan Egypt where they found asylum.

  • That symbolic place of Israel’s bondage now became a place of protection.

As we all seek Jesus and to discern the main thing in life –

Once we find it, we too continue on a different path than we came…

Let us pray –

Continue to open our eyes, hearts and minds to the wonders of our walk in the light…

Help us to share our journey with all who wish to join… Amen

“Keep Your Fork” by Roger William Thomas

There was a young woman who had been diagnosed with a terminal illness and had been given three months to live. So as she was getting her things in order, she contacted her Pastor and had him come to her house to discuss certain aspects of her final wishes.

She told him which songs she wanted sung at the service, what scriptures she would like read, and what outfit she wanted to be buried in. Everything was in order and the Pastor was preparing to leave when the young woman suddenly remembered something very important to her.

“There’s one more thing,” she said excitedly.

“What’s that?” came the Pastor’s reply.

“This is very important,” the young woman continued. “I want to be buried with a fork in my right hand.”

The Pastor stood looking at the young woman, not knowing quite what to say.

“That surprises you, doesn’t it?” the young woman asked.

“Well, to be honest, I’m puzzled by the request,” said the Pastor.

The young woman explained. “My grandmother once told me this story, and from that time on I have always tried to pass along its message to those I love and those who are in need of encouragement. In all my years of attending socials and dinners, I always remember that when the dishes of the main course were being cleared, someone would inevitably lean over and say, ‘Keep your fork.’ It was my favorite part because I knew that something better was coming…like velvety chocolate cake or deep-dish apple pie. Something wonderful, and with substance!”

So, I just want people to see me there in that casket with a fork in my hand and I want them to wonder “What’s with the fork?” Then I want you to tell them: “Keep your fork ..the best is yet to come.”

The Pastor’s eyes welled up with tears of joy as he hugged the young woman goodbye. He knew this would be one of the last times he would see her before her death. But he also knew that the young woman had a better grasp of heaven than he did. She had a better grasp of what heaven would be like than many people twice her age, with twice as much experience and knowledge. She knew that something better was coming.

At the funeral people were walking by the young woman’s casket and they saw the cloak she was wearing and the fork placed in her right hand. Over and over, the Pastor heard the question, “What’s with the fork?” And over and over he smiled.

During his message, the Pastor told the people of the conversation he had with the young woman shortly before she died. He also told them about the fork and about what it symbolized to her. He told the people how he could not stop thinking about the fork and told them that they probably would not be able to stop thinking about it either.

He was right. So the next time you reach down for your fork let it remind you, ever so gently, that the best is yet to come.