Category Archives: Homilies – Sermons

Will the Real Jesus, Please, Stand Up? June 11, 2017

HOMILY

Will the Real Jesus Please Stand UP

What criteria determines who we say someone is?

Our Impression of them –     based on our filters, baggage, world view and who WE are.

Our Expectations of who we want them to be,                     or assume they  should be.

Our Experience with them, and the consistency of their behavior.

Our Familiarity with them – a deeper understanding         How they relate to us.

In the passage today, Jesus asks –

Who do people say that the   Son of Man is?

(side note- how often do we   hear someone talk about themselves in third  person?—just a thought)

The disciples told Jesus that people thought he was Elijah –

Others said he was

John to Baptist – Jeremiah – or one of the prophets –

People held Jesus in such regard as to think he was possibly a historic figure    returned from the dead –

Then Jesus asked the Disciples –

who do YOU say I am ?

And the impulsive Simon Peter chimed in with –

You are the Messiah, Son of the living God.

Peter said – you are the anointed one –you are special….

___________________________

If we are asked… who do we say Jesus is?

Who is Jesus to US?

__________________________

Which Jesus do we relate to most:

Manger gentle/vulnerable/precious little baby

Teaching in Temple  young – pure – innocent of the world

Turning water to wine     obedient to his mother –        finding his power –

Healing the bleeding woman                      compassionate – blind to diversity – aware

Cleansing the temple    righteous anger –                   taking a stand – making a statement

Teacher        one who shares his knowledge –        takes time for others

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When Jesus comes to mind –                                                  what does OUR Jesus look like?

Vi –       What color is Jesus’ hair?

Mara-   What color is Jesus’ skin?

Dee –    What nationality is Jesus?

Jo –    What does Jesus’ hair look like?

Does our imagination have Jesus look like this – what some people call Jesus’ High School picture

Warner Sallman      Commercial Artist –

Through the encouragement of a business associate,

Sallman enrolled at a Bible school. Sallman recalled a conversation with the dean of the school,

Dr. E. O. Sellers, which had an impact on his image of Christ.

The dean said,

“Sometime I hope you give us your conception of Christ.

And I hope it’s a manly one. Most of our pictures today are too effeminate.”

In 1924, Sallman produced a sketch for a magazine cover that portrayed a strong yet serene image of Jesus.

This sketch was the basis of what would become Sallman’s most recognizable painting,

the Head of Christ, which has been reproduced an estimated 500 million times.

Or

This one of Jesus Knocking at the door –         another Warner Sallman piece

whose subject is based on Revelation 3:20: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock …”

The barely concealed heart produced by the luminance of Christ and the frame of the doorway convey Christ’s call to the soul ensnared      in thistles of sin and the darkness      of ignorance and willfulness.

Yet, as promotional literature points out,

“all is not hopeless, for there is an opening of grillwork in the door ‘revealing the darkness within,’

so that the individual may see who is at the door, and see that He is good and kind.”

For many, the image offers assurance of Christ’s benevolent yet persistent love.

others interpret the image in terms of the freedom of will.

A Lutheran clergyman admires the painting

“because the absence of any outside knob or latch on the door indicates that one must open one’s heart       to Christ from within —

He will not force His way inside.”

Adding to our mental image of who Jesus was and is.

Artists created these images of Christ from their own   Impressions/filters experience, expectations and interpretations

______________

Is there scripture that gives a physical a description of Jesus – what he looked like?

Color of his eyes, skin –hair?

The only idea we have of what Jesus might have looked like comes from

where we are told he was born and  where he lived his life…

He was in Nazareth, Bethlehem, Egypt, Galilee and all of these places were HOT, DRY and desert type lands.

The middle east…

Locations in which people have   darker skin, dark hair and  often  dark eyes – – –

has many skin tones

 

Forensic Anthropology.

Using methods similar to those police have developed to solve crimes, British scientists, assisted by Israeli archeologists,

have re-created what they believe is the most accurate image of the most famous face in human history.

______________

After we get past our image of Jesus’ physical appearance –

What sort of person is our Jesus?

Is our Jesus      reserved   and     dignified

Or         adventurous and     full of laughter -pranks

Is our Jesus      quiet and introspective

Or         talkative and   in constant motion

Is our Jesus        self-confident and                             secure in himself

Or         reticent   and    unassuming

Is our Jesus        Introverted   Or   Extroverted

Is our Jesus ever ANGRY?

When,  and  Why?

Oh, when asked about when Jesus has ever been angry –

What is the story that comes to mind?

Cleansing the Temple – the paintings always show him with a whip and an angry face and chasing out the money changers –

But what other time can we point to?

We hesitate to think of Jesus angry – that is not who Jesus is….       that is not what we expect —                           like Peter –        do we have preconceived ideas    of who we think Jesus        SHOULD be??

We think of Jesus being gentle, merciful, quiet, compassionate – peaceful… passive — wise

————-

Yet, Jesus was human –   and humans have emotions –                     and get angry

————-

Remember when the disciples got in a boat, and began across the lake and a storm arrived –                          Jesus awoke, stood up in the boat as the water washed over, the boat rocked wildly                                          and the wind roared and whipped furiously –   and the disciples were terrified….

To calm the storm

Jesus said–      Peace, Be Still – Can we imagine Jesus raising his voice –   or being agitated or being loud    how do you hear Jesus calming the storm —

I hear Jesus SHOUTING   PEACE – BE STILL –

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So, Who is Jesus to you ?

Baby         Son of God           Prophet             King      Savior        Teacher       Brother       Friend         Healer         Wise Man

_____________

Who do you Say that I am?

  • How did we describe Jesus when we were a child?        Or a Teen –
  • How has that description changed once becoming  an adult?

_______

How do we tell someone about Jesus ?

How do we describe Jesus to a child?                                                        To an adult?

To someone from another culture?

We all describe Jesus differently –

Could it be that we ALL see Jesus differently

We see OUR Jesus through our own experience,                                                               our own reason,                                                        our traditions and   our     own interpretation of scriptures.

Whether our Jesus has    light white skin   Or                                                       dark muddy skin

Whether our Jesus has blue eyes    or                                                                     dark brown black eyes

Whether our Jesus has straight blond hair Or                                                      dark wavy hair – curly

Whether our Jesus has    a short pointed nose       Or                                             a flat, wide or large hook                                                nose

Whether our Jesus is        short and fat                    Or   Tall and slim

It makes NO difference –

As long as we pay                                                                                        attention to his LIPS                                                                      And what comes out of them…

Will the Real Jesus,                                                                 Please stand up…

And when he does – will we recognize him

Or more importantly – will be KNOW HIM?

We are introduced to the REAL Jesus                      though the gospels

We come to know the REAL Jesus                            through Prayer – meditation –                                        and spiritual experience.

We MEET the Real Jesus everyday-

      1. In the homeless shelters
      2. In the Child Saving   Institute
      3. In the shacks of East Africa
      4. In the penitentiaries
      5. In the inner city streets
      6. In the animal shelters
      7. In ourselves…

When Jesus asked the disciples:

Who do you say that I am?

  • How would we answer?

 

 

Righteous Anger

HOMILY

Anger – unrighteous anger

Indignation = Righteous Anger = Indignation

FIRST what is the difference between RIGHTEOUS and UNRIGHTEOUS anger?

 

UNRIGHTEOUS ANGER:

Psalms 37:8 – Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.

Proverbs 15:18 – A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger quiets contention.

Genesis 4:5-8 – but for Cain and his offering he [the LORD] had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell. The LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.” Cain spoke to Abel his brother. And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him.

 

RIGHTEOUS ANGER

John 2:13-25

13The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.14In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. 15Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. 16He told those who were selling the doves, “Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!” 17

ANGER   

        Often, people assume Christians should  never get angry –                          That is not nice…

        The reason may be that the only time we read about Jesus being angry was when he cleared the temple… and one time doesn’t count I suppose.

 Sometimes, however, God allows his people          to fuss and remain faithful.

Such is the case when King David furrows his brow and huffs:

God, I wish you would kill the wicked!
Get away from me, you murderers!
They say evil things about you.
Your enemies use your name thoughtlessly.
Lord, I hate those who hate you;
I hate those who rise up against you.
I feel only hate for them;
they are my enemies (Psalm 139:19–22, NCV).

Or when Nehemiah gets upset after learning about the wealthy Israelites’ exploitation of the poor: “Then I was very angry when I had heard … these words” (Nehemiah 5:6, NASB).

What’s noteworthy in these situations is that David called down curses on sworn enemies of God, and Nehemiah directed his irritation at the “haves” repressing the “have-nots.” Both men were angry because of ungodly people or activities.

And Jesus expressed anger—at the Pharisees who exhibited such hard hearts (Mark 3:1-5) and at the crass commercialism that sullied the temple (Matthew 21:12-13; Luke 19:45-48)—to convey extreme displeasure over sin. Those reasons are the key to righteous anger.

How does this affect me? As Christ-followers, we’re totally appropriate getting upset over sin, too.

Evils such as abuse, racism, pornography, and child sex trafficking should incense us. BUT

But no matter how reprehensible the people or activities we’re condemning, we still aren’t justified to sin in our responses:

The end does NOT justify the means…

“When you are angry, do not sin, and be sure to stop being angry before the end of the day” (Ephesians 4:26, NCV). Those of us with confrontational personalities might want to ask ourselves the question, 

Is my motive to be right or to be righteous? before ripping into the offending parties.

Such considerations also help us be pokey in getting peeved: “Let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (James 1:19–20, ESV). Instead of replying immediately, simply counting to ten before reacting usually leads to much better results in a contentious situation.

If we call ourselves followers of Christ, then we must get involved with working to feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, clothe the poor.  It is our ministry to model how to stand against hatred and oppression and cruelty!

“How can I know for sure that my anger is righteous indignation?”

Is our indignation directed at something that is not of God’s will for us? Are we angry at actions that are detrimental to children, people of different races, different genders or injustice? 

If we can say yest to any of those, then we can be sure we are carrying righteous anger.

 When Jesus entered the Temple and witnessed the disrespect, abuse of power, and dishonest behavior, he responded appropriately…

Appropriate response  and NOT proportionate response –

For example… a proportionate response would be if someone hit you in the face with a pie – the proportionate response would be to hit them in the face with a pie… which would begin a never ending series of proportionate responses and nothing is settled…

And even though appropriate response is still a subjective issue… we can still use our spiritual beliefs to determine what would be appropriate for US. —

If we are hit in the face with a pie… it is natural for us to be angry, but   how we respond and express our anger must be determined by how we live our faith. 

  • We are taught to be slow to anger
  • We are taught to turn the other cheek
  • We are taught to love our enemy and do well by them

So, it frees us from having to locate a pie for ourselves…

As we often find when studying stories in scripture… we find numerous interpretations —

In this story of Jesus clearing the temple – NONE of the Gospel writers mention Jesus being angry — as in out of control rage… 
Mark 11:15-19   English Standard Version (ESV)

15 And they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold and those who bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons.16 And he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. 17 And he was teaching them and saying to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.” 18 And the chief priests and the scribes heard it and were seeking a way to destroy him, for they feared him, because all the crowd was astonished at his teaching. 19 And when evening came they[a] went out of the city.

Luke 19: 45-48  ESV

45 And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold, 46 saying to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a den of robbers.”

47 And he was teaching daily in the temple. The chief priests 

 John 2:13-22  New International Version (NIV)

13 When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple courts he found people selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. 15 So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. 16 To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!”1His disciples remembered that it is written: “Zeal for your house will consume me.”[a]

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Of course, when we hear the story and the circumstances – it is easy to presume Jesus was angry… making a whip, turning over tables, driving the animals and people out of the building… just brings to mind an angry person—

And it is one story in which we allow ourselves to imagine Jesus MAD as hell – frustrated… fed up with people disobeying or dishonoring God…But, was his anger righteous – justified – and was his response appropriate – effective?

_______

Let’s look at the culture of the times…

There was a proliferation of currency systems an standards…

Like today… different countries have different currency systems. At this time, there are 180 different currencies in the world, although The most common is the US Dollar and Euro.

If you have traveled out of the country, the US Dollar must be changed into the currency of the country you are visiting.

The exchange of currency was carried out by “shulhani” (exchange banker). Money exchangers/changers were a common sight around the temple, so that offerings would be given in the appropriate currency.

__________

Because the Jewish population was scattered outside the land of Israel, many came from far away to fulfill the religious requirement of animal sacrifice in Jerusalem.

Some would travel great distances with their animals but many did not want the hassle.

Rather than travel with the animals- having to provide food/water/rest – many waited until getting to Jerusalem to purchase animals for sacrifice.

These pilgrims from distant lands poured money into the Jerusalem economy, and locals often took great advantage of that….and many were not people of wealth… some had to gather money from friends and family to make the journey…

The animals doves, sheep, oxen – being sold were not of  the best quality

The money changers charged high fees  to exchange currency

Profits were being made and the  pilgrims were being cheated –

And with most things that draw large crowds, the merchants take advantage of the tourists….

And Jesus was NOT happy— These merchants and money changers were more focused on profit than the observance of PASSOVER.

_______

Do not be confused with images we have seen of Jesus clearing the Temple…He was probably  clearing the Court of the Gentiles which is outside of the Temple proper.  The Temple was really a complex, or compound of different areas. Around the exterior of the Temple were walled courts and they were enclosed with colonnades and this are was referred to as the Court of the Gentiles. It was as far as Gentiles were allowed into the Temple area. 

The entire Temple compound was considered holy, but it became increasingly more holy as one entered farther in, from east to west. Warning signs were posted to inform the Gentiles that if they past a certain point into the Temple, it was punishable by death.

They could walk within in it but they were forbidden to go any further than the outer court. The merchants were more likely in the Court than the temple doing their business…but it was still HOLY ground..

So, Jesus was angry and ‘righteously’ so…  This was PASSOVER, and a time for worship, meditation, sacrifice, prayer and honoring God. But, with corrupt priests, and money hungry merchants, it had become a bazaar of exploitation.

As Jesus entered the area, he saw  NO worshipful atmosphere befitting the temple…No reverence and humility… 

rather he found noisy marketplace of haggling, bartering, and arguing. Animals bawling, and bleating… tables of money and vendors calling out to draw customers.

__ Jesus took action…. He made a whip of cords… probably from the cords used to tie the animals… so that let the animals loose, then he takes the whip and He drove all the merchants out of the temple, along with their sheep, doves and oxen. 

In addition, He poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables, 

Imagine the CHAOS

Vendors chasing animals that had been let loose and sent running

Money tables turned over and the crowd diving to grab what they could as the merchants shouted and fought.

Even with all of the competing racket… the intensity of Jesus’ righteous indignation was unmistakable… as he shouted Take these things away; stop making My Father’s house a place of business,”

 Was his action proportionate to the violation? 

What would we do? How would we respond.

What are we willing to do when we see people being oppressed – rights being ignored—justice being pushed aside?

How will our righteous anger come forth?

Marching?  Protesting?  Writing? Speaking?

But however we decide to respond… let it be with control, with compassion and without malice. 

 

Advent 2 – Were There Three? Were They Kings?

Magi   Wise Men   Kings

Two   Three   Five   Fifteen

Caspar    Balthazar   Melchior

Jews    Gentiles

 

Were there THREE?

Some reason three because of three gifts –

In reality, this would have been a dangerous journey for three – especially three who were carrying gold, Frankincense and Myrrh..

Thieves / robbers plagued many roads

This forced merchants/commoners to travel in larger groups/ caravans for safety.

THESE were not merchants or commoners…

Prominent men of society..

It wouldn’t be out of line to speculate that they and their servants were escorted by a full military unit.

Three? It could have been more like 300 when all told.

If it were a large caravan… their arrival to Jerusalem would have caused a stir – 200-300 people of obvious importance would have been news …

Then to have these strangers see King Herod without a problem solidified the suspicion they were men of power and prominence.

This was not just three people taking a ride into the next town… it was an intentional journey of great distance – with great danger.

It was an expedition that required months of preparation and then months to travel to the destination….

Thus most scholars believe these wise men didn’t arrive to see Jesus until 2  years after his birth.

The song tells us the Kings from the Orient “traversed afar”.

How far was “afar”??

Well some believe they may have traveled                                                                about 1000 miles to get to Bethlehem.

That’s exactly the same distance as                                                                             from here to Atlanta, Georgia

You or I could make the journey                                                                                     in about 15 hours…                                                                                                              but then we have 4 lane highways,                                                                                        and can travel at 65- 95  mph.

These Magi didn’t have those advantages.                                                            Some scholars speculate it might have                                                                     taken them 2 to 3 months to make it                                                                       to Jerusalem.

If they were on camel,

A camel walks at 3 miles an hour –

And averages 25-30 miles a day…

and the camel was able to do 27                                                                                     miles a day…                                                                                                                                 it would have taken 37 days at best….

Even the text hints at that. Matthew 2:11 tells us

“when they were COME INTO THE HOUSE, they saw the young child with Mary his mother,and fell down, and worshipped him…”

Where was Jesus born?

In a barn, in a manger – a feeding trough.   They’re not there anymore.

Joseph and Mary have moved out of the barn,    and settled into a home in Bethlehem    and Joseph is plying his trade among                                    the Jews of that area.

And it was at that house where the wise men                                                     found Him, and they fell down and   worshipped Him and gave Him            their gifts of gold, frankincense  and myrrh.

Now these wise men had gone to a great deal of trouble.

And they’d traveled great distance.

And they’d spent a great deal of money to get to their destination.

So the question comes to my mind…

WHY WOULD THEY BOTHER?

Why did they go to find the Christ Child?

Astrologers just following a strange star?

Men who were educated in the Hebrew                                                               history and prophecies?

Curious?

They were Gentiles – why would they                                                                           care about a King of the Jews?

Well, they were Magi FROM THE EAST.

A few hundred years before this,                                                                                   there had been Jews who’d been taken   captive and forced   to live in a land in the      East.        A place called Babylon.

How many of you remember the story about                                                  Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego?

How, about the story about Daniel and the Lion’s Den?

They lived most of their lives in Babylon…

IN THAT NATION IN THE EAST.

I’ve read that there is a possibility that the Magi                                                  may have been the descendants of those Jews in captivity, and that they had      become students of the prophecies                                                         of the Old Testament…                                                                                                   and of the Prophet Daniel.

That one prophecy could easily have led                                                                these Magi to look for a star that would lead them to find the ONE destined to hold the scepter of Israel.                                                                              The King of the Jews.

Whether Gentile or Jew –

These Magi were not INVITED by                                                                             an angel, like the shepherds were invited.

Their presence was not requested…

Here we see a parallel of how

Jews = chosen

Gentiles = Want to be part –                                                                                             and eventually are welcomed                                                                                            into the fold….

But they felt compelled… to seek out the                                                              child that had been prophesied.

ALSO – IN OTHER WORDS….

As positive Gentile characters in the Gospel narrative,

the magi tell us much about the evangelist’s views about the Gentiles and his universalistic perspective.

Many scholars make the general point that the magi who pay homage to the new-born Jewish messiah                                                                          represent the Gentile world; \

they therefore foreshadow the Gentiles who believe in Jesus in the time of the evangelist.

These are some of the reasons I believe the nativity  –                          crèche displays show the MAGI alongside the shepherds,                        angels and animals –

It provides a visual message that the Christ Child has come for                    ALL people, all creatures, all creation.

Advent 1 Why Shepherds?

  • ___________________________

Why Shepherds?  Luke 2: 8-20

Today’s message is not about God’s love for some shepherds, but rather about God’s love for us….

 

Shepherds

  • One of oldest professions – Adam charged with dominion over animals….Abel =keeper of the sheep Jacob and his sons Moses         David
  • Rag-tag collection of sheepherders
  • Uneducated
  • Smelly
  • Low-class
  • Social/religious outcasts
  • Untrustworthy – word not trusted thieves
  • Not permitted to give testimony in legal proceedings
  • Suspicious
  • Little exposure to people- always in the fields
  • Unable to participate fully in religious life of community
  • Unclean
  • Last people you would expect God to notice

WHY the Shepherds?

  • Why did the shepherds receive the announcement of the Christ Child
  • Why did the shepherds receive an invitation to go see the child

WHY Not the Famous and Religious Leaders

  • Priests – Pharisees – Rabbis
  • Kings Generals Senators
  • Wealthy merchants
  • Head of Jewish Council
  • People of distinction

REASONS Why It Was the Shepherds

  • Jesus was later called the good SHEPHERD
  • God showed his love does not discriminate

Class, wealth, social standing

  • God proved no favoritism
  • Love is available to ALL

To show Jesus was not going to be only for kings, governors, popes and priests…but for all people … equally

God likes to use people who are humble –

Unexpected             average           common           unknown

Lowly       low abilities

So his power and wisdom are all the more evident.  

Makes more impact of God’s power

_______________

Inviting the shepherds to be the first to meet the Christ child – showed they were   special to God

Even though they were not beautiful people/..                                                             on the fringes of society –                                                                                           unable to go to temple or                                                                                                   make sacrifices …      didn’t fit in…

simple shepherds –who did what God    commanded, without having to see    other religious professionals  for a second opinion…         and went on to tell about the birth.

Wonder how the shepherds felt?

Doubt?   Can’t be US?  Why us?

What about the sheep?    (took them with them?)

_________

Another reason WHY SHEPHERDS…

WE CAN relate to those who are not                                                                        in the IN crowd

We understand we do NOT have to                                                                                                 be a genius – a rabbi –

Rich or famous…

WE JUST HAVE TO BELIEVE AND OBEY….

___________

When we think of the this story,

Let us remember that the angels                                                                              CAME to the shepherds –

Doing their daily tasks  —    living ordinary lives –

Isn’t that what Jesus is all about?   God meeting us where we are…

God coming to us in the everyday routine, not just on High Holy Days

God meeting us in our pain and loneliness                                                                  In our frustration and anger

In our everyday lives

____   Calling on the shepherds with the good news – lets us know this Christ child is for ALL people…

ILLUSTRATION:

His name was Bill.    He had wild hair, wore a T-shirt with holes                in it, jeans, and shoes with no socks.

This was his wardrobe during four years  of college.

Though mildly eccentric, he was a brilliant person.                                                                    He became a Christian while  attending college.

Across from the campus was a traditional church. They wanted to develop a ministry to students, but weren’t sure how to go about it.

One day Bill decided to go worship there.                                                                    He walked in with his wild hair, T-shirt                                                                    with holes in it, jeans, and shoes  with no socks.

The service had started.    Bill started down the aisle looking for a                            seat but the church was full.

By now people were looking a bit uncomfortable, but no one said anything.  Bill got closer and closer to the front, when he realized there were no seats.

He just sat down right on the floor.   Although perfectly acceptable behavior at a college fellowship,   this had never happened in this church!

By now the people were really uptight, and the tension in the air was thick.

_________

A deacon got up and slowly made his way toward Bill.

This deacon was in his eighties,  a distinguished man with silver-gray hair  and a three-piece suit.

He walked with a cane.  Everyone thought, “You can’t blame him for     what he’s going to do.

How could you expect a man of his age and background to understand some  college kid,                                                                                    thinking he can worship sitting on  the floor?”

It took time for the man to reach the boy.  The church became utterly silent, except for the clicking of the man’s cane  on the tiled floor.

All eyes focused on him.

When the elderly deacon got next to the boy,                                                          he dropped his cane to the floor.

With great difficulty he lowered himself and asked Bill,                                      “May I sit with you?”

The man sat down next to Bill and worshiped with him, so he wouldn’t be alone.

That’s what the birth of Christ means.

 

Signs of the Times 11/13/16

Luke 21:5-19

When some were speaking about the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God, he said, 6“As for these things that you see, the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down.” 7They asked him, “Teacher, when will this be, and what will be the sign that this is about to take place?” 8And he said, “Beware that you are not led astray; for many will come in my name and say, ‘I am he!’ and, ‘The time is near!’ Do not go after them.9“When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for these things must take place first, but the end will not follow immediately.”10Then he said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; 11there will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and plagues; and there will be dreadful portents and great signs from heaven. 12“But before all this occurs, they will arrest you and persecute you; they will hand you over to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors because of my name.13This will give you an opportunity to testify. 14So make up your minds not to prepare your defense in advance; 15for I will give you words and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict. 16You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, by relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. 17You will be hated by all because of my name. 18But not a hair of your head will perish. 19By your endurance you will gain your souls.

SIGNS

We get information from signs…

Signs of Tornado

  1. A Rotating, funnel shaped cloud extending from a thunderstorm towards the ground.
  1. A dark, sometimes green, sky

 

  1. An approaching cloud of debris
  2. A loud roar (similar to a freight train)
  3. A strange calm after a thunderstorm
  4. Debris falling from the sky

 

Signs of a Stroke

  • Numbness or weaknessin your face, arm, or leg,                  especially on one side
  • Confusion or trouble understanding other people
  • Trouble speaking
  • Trouble seeingwith one or both eyes
  • Trouble walking or staying balanced or coordinated
  • Dizziness
  • Severe headachethat comes on for no reason

Signs of Prostate Cancer

These include bladder and urinary problems that result in: 1. painful or difficult urination, and frequent urination,         especially at night 2. loss of bladder control 3. reduced urinary flow or velocity 4. blood in the urine (a condition known as hematuria)

Signs of Hard Winter

  1. Thicker than normal corn husks                                    2. Woodpeckers sharing a tree                                      3. Early arrival of the Snowy owl                                     4. Early departure of geese and ducks                      5. Early migration of the Monarch butterfly               6. Thick hair on the nape (back) of the cow’s neck                                                                                                      7. Heavy and numerous fogs during August              8. Raccoons with thick tails and bright bands                                                                                                9. Mice eating ravenously into the home           10.    Early arrival of crickets on the hearth       11.    Spiders spinning larger than usual webs                          and entering the house in great numbers  12.    Pigs gathering sticks                                              13.    Insects marching in a line rather than meandering                                                                      14.   Early seclusion of bees within the hive       15.   Unusual abundance of acorns                            16.   Muskrats burrowing holes high on the river bank                                                                                             17.   “See how high the hornet’s nest, ‘twill tell  how high the snow will rest”                                       18.    Narrow orange band in the middle of the Woollybear caterpillar warns of heavy snow; fat and fuzzy caterpillars presage bitter cold                                                                                                    19.      The squirrel gathers nuts early to fortify against a hard winter                                                            20.      Frequent halos or rings around the Sun or Moon forecast numerous snow falls.

SIGNS – WARNING SIGNS

            An early signal that something bad or dangerous might happen                                                       A notice or bulletin that alerts the public of imminent danger/ hazard

PURPOSE OF WARNING SIGNS

The main purpose of signs is to   communicate,  to convey  information  such that the receiver may make cognitive decisions based on the information           provided

EVANGELISTS- tell of signs

END TIMES

Harold Egbert Camping who died in 2103                                  was an American Christian radio broadcaster, author and evangelist. …

Camping predicted that Jesus Christ would return to Earth on May 21, 2011, … time of the Rapture or the end of the world

 

Jack Van Impe

TV Evangelist

Weekly program – Detroit

an eschatological commentary on the news of the           week through an interpretation of the Bible.

__________

There will always be those who try to      unlock the real message or      messages of REVELATION

To unscramble the codes… read the clues, decipher the signs… so we would have an exact ANSWER —

 

In the scripture today,

it says Jesus warns that there will   be those who come and claim the   end is near…

they will claim to be sent as the messenger of God –

Jesus said “don’t be fooled – do not follow them…

These impostors will talk

of the wars – of the time

of Nations rising against Nation –

of the latest plagues like the                                          world has never seen before…

and claim the end is here….

__________________

When has there ever been a time when there was no war anywhere on Earth…

it has been calculated that in the last 3500 years,

there have only been 230 years of peace throughout the civilized    world…

__________

Nation against Nation is just part of world history… Even when there may have been times of peace…

Nations were still enemies –                                                  Russia will always hate the US…                                    the middle Eastern countries will continue to hate one         another as they claim to be the chosen ones…

And I have to believe that each time a new illness, virus, bacteria, plague appeared… people believe it was    the sign of the end of the world…

In 10,000 BC – Small Pox ravaged the population

TB – first appeared 15-20,000 years ago… it had to have         seemed like a world ending plague

Polio – spread and maimed thousands after it was first         diagnosed in    1789.

Zika Virus –panic spread in the last couple of years and it spread into the US… but it was first seen in 1947 –

Ebola – hemorrhagic fever – strikes fear in our hearts…

HIV- AIDS in the 1980s had people screaming the end was near…              it was a plague on sinners…

Each time the world is in the throes of a medical epidemic… we fear the end has come..

_____________

SIGNS-

So, the signs Jesus means, are signs that mean MORE than just wars and plagues…

He mentioned weather calamities as well… and with the climate warming issues… we see these happening now too..

Jesus said these will come and go…– and even if we understand the signs… we cannot prepare for what is coming…

We don’t have to prepare… just keep our walk with God as the most important focus of our lives…

_______

Signs of the times are everywhere…

Many of us as well as our neighbors are feeling very anxious and afraid with the result of the Presidential election.

There is fear for well-being for those who depend on the Affordable Care Act for their medical needs –

Those of other cultures fear the possibility of not being recognized as citizens and forced to leave the country.

Some are afraid for their lives because of promises to undo the laws that assured their rights as equal citizens –

The threats of physical violence towards those who think differently – is a real fear for many…

________

But before all this occurs, they will arrest you and persecute you;

they will hand you over to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors because of my name.13

This will give you an opportunity to testify. 14

So make up your minds not to prepare your defense in advance; 15for I will give you words and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict. 1

6You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, by relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. 1

7You will be hated by all because of my name. 18But not a hair of your head will perish.

19By your endurance you will gain your souls.

____

So, is the end near…? Are the signs clear?

Once again , Jesus dodges giving an answer…

What we do know is God is                                                    establishing the new age among us..

This new age does not come with wars, and uprisings, protests and threats…

Not with vengeance and resisting the forces that control our land

But it will come in the still of the night… with the birth of a child in Bethlehem…

It will come with a quiet call to love one another…

The new age will come with a journey through our fears —           and we will be under God’s protective wings –

We will face the world with LOVE

We will stand up to anger and hatred –                              With MORE LOVE

We will be the LOVE the world needs…

______________

Signs of the times are everywhere.. and there’s a brand new feeling in the air

Keep your eyes upon the Eastern Sky- Lift Up your heads redemption draweth nigh…

Thanks be to Spirit….

Looking Deeper…

Luke 18:9-14  (NRSV)                                                       Pharisee and the Tax Collector

He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.’13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.”

HOMILY

Today’s parable (a made-up story) is about two men who go to the temple to pray.

Jesus says the first man was a Pharisee.

The word, “Pharisee,” symbolizes a set of       unattractive attitudes and behaviors. ,

This Pharisee has become a symbol of a                  person who thinks to himself,

“I am better than ….,

those other people who are riff-raff and           detestable and contemptible.

I am better than those …

prostitutes who cruise on Saturday nights,               and those bums sleeping on benches in the downtown ,

The Pharisees would think

I AM BETTER than

those poor souls who sleep in the church doorways, those addicts who are strung out on     booze and drugs, those welfare folks who use their coupons  to buy cigarettes in the grocery store in line in front of me,

those people who never darken the  doors of the church, those bar hoppers who spend their                  life with their friends at the bar,those Muslims, those Jews, those gays, lesbians, and transvestites,           transgenders–

those marriage losers who have divorced over and over — those prisoners who spent months,            years or decades in jail. You know, those people who won’t work, but expect the government to take care of them

PHARISEES

Saw themselves as  GOOD….                                                 Men who obeyed the law

  • I work… pay taxes… pay bills…
  • I go to church every week.
  • I give ten percent of my income.
  • I say my prayers daily.

 

IN JESUS’ DAY                                                                                 the Pharisees were the strict Jews.

They believed.      They were disciplined.                     They took the Law seriously – so seriously,                 in fact, that they created a “hedge” around the law,  called   the Oral Law                                                          a tradition of the ELDERS –  a tougher law with the idea that if they kept the rules of the Oral Law  then they wouldn’t break the Mosaic Law.

By building a “hedge about the law” or fence around the law, the Jewish   leaders would be able to   `      develop a system of rules and interpretations that would keep people as far from sin as                      possible.

For example, if the law said not to work on the Sabbath day, they would make up volumes of              rules that indicated exactly what actions       constituted work. This made a huge separation between the so-called righteous and the sinners.

It also made following God a burden that Jesus Himself said was too heavy   to carry.

It also allowed the leaders appear to be righteous, to approve and disapprove of people and to control     all of the religious affairs within Judaism.

Jesus continually referred to the oral law as the “tradition of the elders” or the “tradition of men” (Matt 15:1-9; Mark 7:1-23;

The problem with building a hedge around the law is that the hedge often becomes the new law.

Pharisees would chastise the violation of the Jewish “hedge” law as if it were from the mouth of God.

When the hedge becomes the law, a new hedge ensues, to keep us from violating the new law.

Pharisees were members of an exacting party of the Jews who believed in strictly observing God’s law.

People became chained to these unrealistic laws; would wreck themselves while judging others –       and all for something God did not intend.

In some ways, we might pity the Pharisee –

Their original intention may have been to    safeguard against breaking Jewish Law, but as often happens,

original things change… and … the laws morphed into twisted versions that were nearly too difficult to observe.

Into MAN’s LAWS not Gods.

Possibly through no one’s fault…. Just good intentions gone too far

___________________________

We too, have our “hedge” around the law.

At various times and in various churches there have been rules against  flip-flops,                   sleeveless dresses, slacks for women,                       women not in leadership, abstaining from wine and hard liquor,  beards, lack of beards, lack of head       coverings, eating pork, dancing,eating any meat, drinking caffeinated drinks , smoking…

You get the idea.

None of these is stipulated clearly in                                      the scripture, but each comes from a                             desire to please God and avoid

 

But, just as the Pharisees, Sometimes we misjudge others because of not knowing the origin of                  their beliefs –

What was their ORIGINAL intention for this law?

NOW——-

What has this got to do with us?

This entire year, our nation has been  divided by what we know and what   we think we know about two  candidates –

Many people view the opposing side’s supporters as morons – uneducated and unthinking mobs –– people who will ignore illegal behavior —   crude and socially unacceptable – liberals with no morals –  conservatives with no ability to                   understand…

Much like the Pharisee

We thank God we are NOT like those  who support Trump –

We thank God we are NOT like those  who support Clinton

We pray that those blind followers will see the truth before they vote…

___________________________

WE only see THEM                                                                           as one dimensional = WRONG

Until this morning, we only had a one dimensional view of PHARISEEs—-Bad men – who hated Jesus  HOLIER than thou…. Self-serving…unrighteous

THEN

by taking time to learn about the Pharisee—-we have a broader understanding where they came from- what they originally intended —

Good intentions – that got lost in the shuffle…

The same can be said for how we view others in our nation this week…

Stop and look at  ORIGINAL INTENTIONS and PURPOSE

Attempt to look at this election through your opposing supporter’s eyes… and try to understand how they have arrived at their decision…

NOT all intentions are selfish – self-serving –           meant to hurt someone else…

As we continue to learn –                                                     not everyone takes the same path to get to the top of the mountain…

The Devil Made Me Do It?

James 1: 12-13

 

12 Blessed is anyone who endures temptation. Such a one has stood the test and will receive the crown of life that the Lord[a] has promised to those who love him.

13 No one, when tempted, should say, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil and he himself tempts no one.

 

HOMILY  INTRODUCTION

 

Whenever I hear the word temptation – I have several images come to mind…

Adam and Eve – Garden of Eden

Job

Jesus in Wilderness

The old gospel hymn I grew up with..

Yield not to temptation for yielding is sin—

Each victory will help you – some others to win..

Fight manfully onward – dark passions subdue – look ever to Jesus – he’ll carry you through…

The devil… satan – is rarely a topic on Sunday mornings…

I do not know why it is the topic today, but I have learned NOT to ignore what God puts on my heart… even when it scares me – or makes me wonder why…

Today, I continue to trust God’s decisions, and just get out of the way….

_________________________

What does the Devil look like?

Pitchfork and tail –  Greek mythology,                           Neptune/pitchfork

RED            blood – violence – passion

Horns/ Beard –   Satyrs, the lust-filled tempters    (goat legs, horns, beard)

___________________

SATAN – Originally

Angel – most perfect of all

In Ezekiel 28:12-18  you will find God describing     him:

“Thus says the Lord GOD,   You had the seal of perfection,    Full of wisdom and perfect  in beauty. You were  blameless in your ways from the day you were created. Until un-righteousness was found in you.”

So Satan was created a cherub and he            originally was

“the anointed cherub that       covered” the very throne of God.   He was perfect and “blameless”.

  • -But his pride got in the way
  • -he became “unrighteousness” before God.
  • -Satan’s pride was his downfall.
  • ________________________

NAME    –      SATAN

PROUNUNCIATION

The Hebrew word “satan” means   adversary or accuser.

“Satan” is pronounced as “sah-tahn.”

There has arisen a misunderstanding of the Hebrew in which some are

choosing the pronunciation of the name of the accuser of the brethren as “Shatan” rather than as “Satan.” 

However,

“Shatan” is a different Hebrew word                                                                                            which means “urine”.

We should not confuse these two words,

rebuking “urine” (Shatan)  does nothing to get the enemy to depart from us.

The confusion comes because the same Hebrew letter in both words has two PROUNUNCIATIONS

s- sound   or   sh- sound…

Satan (Hebrew: meaning                                                        “ENEMY” or “ADVERSARY“;

-derived from Hebrew verb ‘satan’                         which means TO OPPOSE

Arabic: shaitan, meaning;  “ASTRAY”, “DISTANT”,

When Hebrew scriptures were translated into Greek….

  • They translated “satan” as “diaboloc” from which we derive our English term “devil” and “diabolic.”

 Devil- DIABLOS in Greek

is a figure appearing in the texts of the Abrahamic religions who brings  evil and temptation,                  and is known as the deceiver  who leads humanity astray.

OTHER Descriptions

 SATAN = Any person acting as an

  • accuser
  • enemy
  • Opponent
  • Adivine messenger sent by God as an adversary:
  • member of God’s inner council;
  • a type of chief prosecutor of Heaven:

HEBREW PHRASE

“Ha satan” –      THE Adversary

  • such as advocate on other side of argument

HEBREW HA – just means THE

SO WHAT?

This makes ‘ha satan’ a common noun rather than a proper noun      or      NAME like   “Satan Jones”

Judaism does not believe in the devil,                                       but they do believe in   ‘the Satan”

 

`Not SATAN, but ‘the satan’

which also means  ‘CHALLENGER’ –                                 ‘DIFFICULTY’

___________________________________

IN JUDAISM

HaSatan works for God.

His job is to make choosing good   over evil enough of a challenge so that it can be a meaningful               choice.

HaSatan is an angel whose mission it is to add difficulty, challenges, and growth experiences to     life.

Contrast this to Christianity —-           which sees Satan as God’s opponent. _______________

In Jewish thought, the idea that there exists anything –capable of setting itself up  as God’s opponent  would be considered  overly polytheistic

Viewing Satan as God’s opponent would be setting up the devil  to be a god or demigod.

_____________________

SO —-

We learned all of the meanings behind the name HaSATAN – one I have been taught over the years is TEMPTER –

Since we have the Eden story, Jesus in the Wilderness – and of course Job’s mess.

We even have other faith’s understanding of the Purpose – of the HaSatan

We began this lesson by describing what HaSatan looks like….

Red – Horns – Beard – Goat legs – Tail – Pitchfork – scary red eyes – sharp teeth

Interesting that human imaginations picture         ha-satan as scary,  red, black, violent,                                   ugly, viscious…

Yet,

If that is how we envision ha-satan-     how could he be a temptation to us?

Something that is ugly, scary and violent would send us running in the opposite direction – yet

Our teachings are that the devil is  trying to lure us in –  tempt us into sin – lead us into trouble and pain.    Take advantage of our weaknesses…

Hang with me for a little longer…

If THE Satan is not a proper NOUN –                                 then we can also deduce                                                            THE Satan may NOT a  proper BEING –

but a metaphor –

A representation of what tempts us from our walk with God –From our loving one another              From our joy —

SORT OF- The Devil Made Me Do It

a catchphrase made famous in the 70s by Flip Wilson –

on his tv show – he had a character Geraldine  who used this excuse whenever her husband accused her of doing  something wrong….

Not my fault… the Devil Made Me Do it.

ALSO —

Remember the cartoons when a character was caught between doing something wrong and right… and on one shoulder appeared a miniature angel telling them to do right…

and on the other should appeared a miniature devil, telling them how great it      will feel to do wrong…

Halloween is our time to express our fears or lack of fears – and the devil is almost always one of the costume choices…                                                                          either the ugly, vicious scary version…or the cute little cherub devil…or the sexy temptress —

Whether we view this tempter as Satan – HaSatan – Devil – Opponent – Adversary – enemy or challenger –OR   whether we understand this part of creation as a thing or spirit or just an   expression of behavior…

It is one way of gauging our spiritual walk –   again using bad things for a positive       purpose…

— we can measure ourselves against this one we call the Satan –And use this information to help us            Recognize temptations –                                                           and work hard to avoid them…

Lead us not into temptation, but when they happen – let us turn away…

I realize this dressing as HaSatan/ Devil is a very different approach to a Sunday message… but,I couldn’t help myself…                                                               maybe the angel made me do it…

Homily – Mary and Martha

Luke 10:38-42   (MSG)

Mary and Martha

38-40 As they continued their travel, Jesus entered a village. A woman by the name of Martha welcomed him and made him feel quite at home. She had a sister, Mary, who sat before the Master, hanging on every word he said. But Martha was pulled away by all she had to do in the kitchen. Later, she stepped in, interrupting them. “Master, don’t you care that my sister has abandoned the kitchen to me? Tell her to lend me a hand.”

41-42 The Master said, “Martha, dear Martha, you’re fussing far too much and getting yourself worked up over nothing. One thing only is essential, and Mary has chosen it—it’s the main course, and won’t be taken from her.”

People are interesting—

Some people are morning people while others are night people

Some people are always in motion, while others are content to remain still.

Some people are get up and go DOERS while others are sit down, reflect and BE-ers.

________

Some people fret over every detail while others go with the flow…

Some people sweat the small stuff AND the big stuff, while other people take life as it comes and deals with the big stuff.

 

Jesus sees Martha is tied up in the small stuff, and angry that Mary is unfazed and hanging on Jesus’ every word…

Martha, dear Martha, you’re fussing far too much and getting yourself worked up over nothing. One thing only is essential, and Mary has chosen it—it’s the main course, and won’t be taken from her.”

Jesus told Martha to let go of the little things and focus on the essentials… keep your eye on the ball – determine what is important and what can wait…

Prioritize –

Give the important things the TIME it deserves… and that time is a peculiar sort of time..

It is “kairos” time instead of “chronos” time,

Which are two Greek words for time.

KAIROS Time – opportune time –                                         God’s time –                                                 season –                                                  fitting time

CHRONOS –   Chronological time –                                 duration                                                    Sequence

 

In other words KAIROS- the fullness of time instead of the mere ticking and keeping of time which is CHRONOS.

Martha, dear Martha, you’re fussing far too much and getting yourself worked up over nothing –

Instead – soak yourself in the FULLNESS of time

Like Martha, we get caught up in the busyness of life… that we miss the fullness of life.

 

ILLUSTRATION

A man goes on vacation with his family.

It’s been a long year, and he is looking forward to this suspension in the normal routine of things.

He is ready to put away the calendar and to get beyond a telephone and to do different things for a little while.

But, without his noticing it,

the to-do list for his vacation is as long as      the to-do list back at the office.

Read these novels                                      go to this museum,                                   take this hike,                                    eat at this restaurant,                           get cabin repaired                                     buy and absorb these newspapers.

Until one night, early on in the two weeks            away, his little four-year-old says,

“Daddy, will you read me my stories       tonight?”

He stretches out on the bed next to her,        and they read.

 

And, because she’s tired, he knows                      that as soon as this last story is                         finished,

he can get back to his novel and begin                planning the events of the day                        tomorrow.

But instead. When the last story is over,               she says,

“Daddy, will you just sit here until I fall asleep.”

And so he does.

And with the light out                                while she sings herself to sleep,                            he listens to her voice                                       fade quietly away,

then he listened to her breathing,

the curtain rustling quietly in the soft breeze

THEN- he listened to the holy sounds made by wonder itself.

Suddenly He is aware of the

fullness of time

and the keeping of time is not as    important

and he is thankful.

People need more of that kind of time.

So maybe we appreciate this interpretation of these words of Jesus to Martha:

Martha, dear Martha, you’re fussing far too much and getting yourself worked up over nothing.

One thing only is essential,

and Mary has chosen it—it’s the main course,

and won’t be taken from her.”

The fullness of time…. Time to smell the roses

Time to JUST BE as well as TO DO

__________

Martha is not just in need of the DURATION of time – to get things DONE –

but also the FULLNESS of TIME to receive spiritual enlightenment.

And Martha needs the ability to know which TIME she needs….

Chronos or Kairos –

so she can recognize the moment God is breaking through – and be sure she isn’t distracted by filling Chronos time with busyness….

__________

This story shows how                       Sometimes, what matters the most is the contemplative response ( MARY )

And sometimes what matters is the Going and — Doing response which is often a result of when God breaks into one’s life…

One response is not better than the other.

What matters most is the ability to discern what to do on each moment.

 

Just here is where Martha’s busyness is ill-timed.                                                   It’s not the busyness by itself                              that’s the problem,

but the timing of it.

Paul Tillich once put it this way.

“There are innumerable concerns                 in our lives and in human life                           generally,” he says,

“which demand attention, devotion,              passion.

But they do not demand infinite     attention, unconditional devotion,        ultimate passion.

They are important, often very      important, for you and me and                     for the whole of humankind.

But they are not ultimately                        important….”

Sometimes, the faithful thing to do is to drop                      everything and sit still and listen ~                          like Mary.

Other times, the faithful thing to do is to get busy and to commit to some important task ~ ~ like Martha.

If we were to ask Jesus which of these two           things we need more of ~                     Mary’s reflectiveness or Martha’s activism ~ he would probably say yes.

Again – it is not a matter of good or bad

Right or wrong

Be or Do —

It is BOTH — AND

___________

 

 

We must be mindful and watchful of how God’s Kingdom may be drawing near….

In one who is in need

An Injustice that needs righting

Noticing the beauty of the world

Then discern if you are

TO BE (Mary) OR NOT TO BE (Martha)         

Thanks be to God.

Unlikely Faith

Luke 7: 1-10

1-5 When he finished speaking to the people, he entered Capernaum. A Roman captain CENTURION there had a servant who was on his deathbed.

He prized him highly and didn’t want to lose him. When he heard Jesus was back, he sent leaders from the Jewish community asking him to come and heal his servant.

They came to Jesus and urged him to do it, saying, “He deserves this. He loves our people. He even built our meeting place.”

6-8 Jesus went with them. When he was still quite far from the house, the captain sent friends to tell him,

“Master, you don’t have to go to all this trouble. I’m not that good a person, you know. I’d be embarrassed for you to come to my house, even embarrassed to come to you in person.

Just give the order and my servant will get well. I’m a man under orders; I also give orders. I tell one soldier, ‘Go,’ and he goes; another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; my slave, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”

9-10 Taken aback, Jesus addressed the accompanying crowd: “I’ve yet to come across this kind of simple FAITH anywhere in Israel, where the very people who are supposed to know about God and how he works.”

When the messengers got back home, they found the servant up and well.

HOMILY

LUKE   GENTILE  PHYSICIAN

-Paul the Apostle calls Luke the “beloved physician” (Col. 4:14).

-Luke was a companion and fellow worker of Paul (2 Tim. 4:11; Philemon 24).

-They traveled extensively. Luke was a keen observer of the human condition.

-Like a good physician, he saw people as they were and he loved them all.

-His gospel is the easiest to read and understand, because it

presupposes that his audience is not familiar with Jewish customs and practices.

 

-Luke was a Gentile. 

-He is the only New Testament writer who was not a Jew.

-He addressed his gospel to a fellow Gentile, named Theophilus.

(Friend of God)

-Luke intended his gospel for the Gentile Christians.

-Paul was the apostle to the Gentiles and likely encouraged Luke to write such an account.

-Luke wanted to give an account of the gospel to a non-Jewish audience who were not accustomed to Jewish beliefs and practices and who lived in a society dominated by Greek culture and language.

-Luke wrote his gospel in the common Greek of the day.

-It was likely written between 63-70 A.D.

—————————

Since LUKE was a Gentile, addressing his Gospel to Gentiles… his stories are about Gentiles…

Luke tells a story of great faith, but from an unlikely character

This is a story about a ROMAN CAPTAIN who demonstrates a faith unmatched even from the people of Israel.

A gentile, roman, soldier… triple threat for being unlikely

UNLIKELY to demonstrate faith.

Typically soldiers are not known for examples of piety, and particularly not when it comes to Jewish religious figures.

This story is typically interpreted as a story of tremendous faith.

But, what is faith? There is a clear answer in the centurion…

He understands his position as a Roman Captain is one of authority… he recognizes authority… and he sees this authority in Jesus. He trusts his judgment of Jesus’s authority to heal so much that he sends a messenger to have Jesus just speak the word and his sick servant would be healed…

The roman captain was not only an UNLIKELY believer – he was also an unexpected.

Jesus is surprised by this gentile roman soldier’s confidence in him…

“Not even in Israel have I seen such faith”

____________

Who have you seen or known who was an unlikely and unexpected believer?

The centurion is an example of great faith… but there is more to this story..

__________

It is an illustration of how God shows up where we least expect God to be–

Jesus was amazed at God working in the Centurion… but, those who read the original account decades after it happened knew little had changed in the world. Rome was still forcing its will on Israel – and here is a story about one of those enforcers calling on this Jew for healing.

Luke fails to mention whether the centurion became a follower of Jesus… Neither Luke nor Jesus seem concerned about that.

The centurion did not express interest in anything more than the authority

He saw in Jesus… and how it would benefit him….

Neither Luke or Jesus appeared interested in whether the soldier became a disciple… —

Jesus just praises his faith and Luke writes about it…

_____________

God met the gentile soldier where he was… Not after the soldier became a disciple…

What does this mean?

 

Pope Francis reminded us of that this week as well.

During a homily at mass last Wednesday at the Vatican, the Pope said that all people are redeemed by Christ’s sacrifice and invited his hearers to meet all people, whether they believe or not, at the place of doing good works.

The fact that he included atheists among those who are redeemed by Christ and invited to do good works shocked many.

But perhaps what we should be surprised at is not that unlikely and unexpected people demonstrate faith and do good works, but that we consider them unlikely and unexpected in the first place.

———————————————–

God is God for ALL people… not just those who adhere to some religious dogma …

God is God for ALL people – no matter where they are — who they are – or what they are —

God is God for and to ALL people.

And that is good news.

 

Did You Hear What I Said?

HOMILY

John 16:12-15     The Message (MSG)

12-15 “I still have many things to tell you, but you can’t handle them now. But when the Friend comes, the Spirit of the Truth, he will take you by the hand and guide you into all the truth there is. He won’t draw attention to himself, but will make sense out of what is about to happen and, indeed, out of all that I have done and said. He will honor me; he will take from me and deliver it to you. Everything the Father has is also mine. That is why I’ve said, ‘He takes from me and delivers to you.’

_____________________________

Christmas Carol –  Do you Hear What I hear?

Ministers Wonder – Did you hear what I said?

  • Each hears the same words, but receives different messages
    • experiences
    • Filters
    • Baggage
    • Education
    • Culture
    • Geographical region
    • Previous information
    • Prejudices

Then – when shared – the message received is altered – because

Who you are telling

Why you are telling

How you are telling

And your listeners hear your words,              and receive a different message

_____________

Each listener is in a different place – thus receives information where they are…

Oral Tradition –

The stories that are collected in our Bible were shared by word of mouth for years, decades, or even centuries before they were written down.

This process of telling and retelling these passages from the religious life of God’s people is called oral tradition.

When the stories began to be written down (3500 years ago) the stories were interpreted by the writers

Scribes wrote these stories onto scrolls for the priests  –

by the middle ages – monks were copying the Bible with quill and ink…

only so many could be completed… and only available to priests – who read and interpreted

—-

1455 AD:    Gutenberg Invents the Printing Press; Books May Now be mass-Produced Instead of Individually Hand-Written. The First Book Ever Printed is Gutenberg’s Bible in Latin.

1516 AD: Erasmus Produces a Greek/Latin Parallel New Testament.Finally, the public had access to the Bible —

1517 – Martin Luther — Posted 95 Propositions for academic debate   concerning the practices of the church…

No reformer was more adept than Martin Luther at using the power of the press to spread his ideas. Between 1518 and 1525, Luther published more works than the next 17 most prolific reformers combined.

500 years ago –

Protested reformation  aimed initially at reforming the beliefs and      practices of the Roman Catholic Church

Failed to reform, but produced a split –                                                               A complete change in the CHURCH –                                                                     The Catholic Church did not DIE –                                                                       But the PROTESTANTs were born

Noted 21st Century writer – Phyllis Tickle –And Lay Eucharistic Minister in the Episcopal Church writer of the “EMERGING CHURCH”

  • She argued that Christianity is currently undergoing a vast upheaval —
  • AS HAS been the pattern – 500 years ago we had the REFORMATION
  • A historical pattern
  • Every 500 years or so, Christianity has gone through “an upheaval,” she said, because the old answer no longer holds true for a large number of people, and the church at large has to accommodate.
  • Five hundred years ago, the upheaval was the Reformation, when Protestantism was born. There are now more than 37,000 different denominations worldwide.
  • Five hundred years before the Reformation, in the eleventh century, the church went through the Great Schism – the church split into Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy.
  • Five hundred years before that was the decline and fall of the Roman Empire, and 500 before that was a time scholars call the Great Transition, or Great Transformation.
  • Today’s shift, Tickle said, is something scholars call the Great Emergence.

______________________

In today’s scripture lesson, Jesus said                                                                     I still have many things to tell you,                                                                                 but you can’t handle them now.

But when the Friend comes, the Spirit of the Truth,                                             he will take you by the hand and guide                                                       you into all the truth there is.

_____________

Could it be that we are witnessing or participating in the Great Emergence – another 500 Year upheaval..?

_________

The church is again      in an upheaval –

  • Numbers are down
  • People aren’t religious but spiritual
  • Traditions and beliefs are in question
  • Old ideas are being rejected      and new one’s emerging
  • Church is an old fashioned concept —

But why?

  • The Protestant Reformation was born from                                                 a PRINTING PRESS that gave people personal access to the Bible –
  • with their own understanding of scripture –

But what could be a factor in the present 500 year upheaval?

________

A major world and life changing invention —       again —                     may be the culprit –

__________

Computers – Communications – Social Media

Today, we have information at our fingertips

When there is news –                                                                                                 it is world known in minutes

As Bob Dylan sang in the 60s –                                                                   The times they are a changing…      

And  the church again has to change with the times…

Generation X and Millennials   do not communicate the way                               we did 40 years ago…

Were not raised the same…

Going to church was not automatic

Religion came into question/suspicion

 

_________

As the Catholic Church moved into the background during the Reformation –

The post Reformation church is losing its voice of authority –

The modern church  will not die… but like 500 years ago, it has moved into the background –

As the printing press opened Scripture to the Masses

Computer Technology is doing likewise..

    • Undermining fixed traditions
    • Subverting established authority
    • Leveling hierarchies
    • Pulling back the curtain on fear based                                      theology

This 500 year ROLLOVER reminds us

God can’t be limited by scripture or clergy                                                      but available to ALL PEOPLE

 

Jesus told his followers —

I have much more to tell you…   but you are not ready to hear it ….

Seminary –  Ministers are told we will only be able to preach or share a fraction of  what we learn…

Not everyone is ready to hear it yet

But as we ARE ready, Jesus said the spirit of truth will:

  • bring us into the light…
  • Will provide the information
  • Will light the path for us..

In other words…

When the spirit of truth comes,                                                                             the Spirit will guide us in the ways of truth…                                                    and give us what we need.                                                                                                        For that we are truly grateful….