Category Archives: Homilies – Sermons

Will We Recognize Jesus? Luke 24:13-49

Luke 24:13-49

13Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, 14and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, 16but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 

17And he said to them, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” They stood still, looking sad.

18Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?”

19He asked them, “What things?” They replied, “The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people,

20and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. 21But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place.

22Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, 23and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive.

24Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.”

25Then he (Jesus) said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared!

26Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?”

27Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures28As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on.

29But they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” So he went in to stay with them.

30When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. 31Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. 

32They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?” 33That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together.

34They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!” 35Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.

36While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 37They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. 38He said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.”

40And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?”

42They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43and he took it and ate in their presence.

44Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.”

45Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures,46and he said to them,

“Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, 47and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.

 

48You are witnesses of these things.

49And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”

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Homily Luke 24: 13-49

Will We Recognize Jesus?

Last week we talked about all of those who saw Jesus after the resurrection… and this week,

We look at those who saw Jesus, yet did not recognize him.

Many of whom were intimate friends –

  • How could Mary NOT know it was Jesus when she mistook him for a gardener?
  • How could Thomas require to see the wounds in his hands and feet?
  • How could the disciples who were fishing not recognize the man they had traveled with for three years?
  • How could the two disciples on the road to Emmaus not recognize the man they had followed for so long?

_________

THEORIES

–Jesus’ appearance had changed

–Blind with grief

–Supernatural reason –                                    “their eyes were kept from                                   recognizing him”

–Disbelief was stronger than faith

JESUS’ APPEARANCE CHANGED

  • Transfiguration?
  • Resurrected appearance — more perfect?
  • Apparition/Spirit like –
  • Able to pass through walls

Suddenly disappearing when recognized

 

BLIND WITH GRIEF/FEAR

  • In such pain, can’t see world around them
  • Wrapped up in grief – unable to process
  • Worried about what is next for them
  • Will they be arrested?
  • Have they wasted three years?

SUPERNATURAL

  • Eyes were prevented from seeing
  • Had to understand to see
  • Needed more information to see

DISBELIEF STRONGER THAN FAITH

  • Ancient times understanding of such things were very                     limited
  • Illiterate
  • Uneducated
  • No history of resurrection like we have
  • Only believe what they can see
  • Unable to believe the unbelievable
  • “What I know” stronger than               “What I have been told”
  • How can one see the dead?
  • Not expecting to see Jesus, so eyes overlook him

 

These are people were human…. People who could only understand what they could see/experience…

And they followed a man who was human as well, though with a special connection with God…

———————————–

Their understanding of Jesus’ being the Messiah was one of him being a HUMAN who would free them from the Roman government… a king, warrior or leader…

When this special human was arrested and killed – all that they had been holding onto was destroyed…

their hopes and expectations were gone…. Jesus was dead and buried and they could not see tomorrow…

They lost their leader, their mission, their future and their hope all in one day. Their minds had to have been reeling/.///

 

Anyone who has had a friend or family member die may have experienced disorienting grief –

  • Confusion about the death
  • Denial
  • Fear – of what the death means to their life and future.
  • The changes that will be forced upon them.

Some people go into a form of shock and disassociation – unable to absorb and process the reality of the death.

Mary was probably a good example of that…

Stress from watching the beating and crucifixion – fear of being taken herself – and panic of what the next day would bring.

Then hearing the familiar voice – broke through the confusion and fear.

____________

The two disciples on the road to Emmaus –were not of the close group of 12,  but were followers just the same and             knew what Jesus looked like…

–Do not recognize him when he comes         up to them…spends time and               even shares a meal –

–until Jesus breaks the bread and                 their eyes are opened…

Why?

Why did they not recognize him… and why did he disappear when they did?

Whatever the reason, stories of his appearances provided future believers hope of seeing him and experiencing him.

Even if they were NOT members of the original disciples/followers…

Remember John’s story of Jesus’     appearance in the upper room –   Jesus tells Thomas — blessed are    those who believe without seeing

And

This week’s story of Cleopas and the other disciple on the Road to Emmaus –

announces that more than just Mary and the 12 closest disciples        get to see and experience the   resurrected Jesus.

Even the common believer will have the chance…

What an amazing affirmation the disciples and followers received —-

Reverend George Anastos of First Plymouth Church of Englewood Colorado describes the atmosphere in that upper room when Jesus suddenly appeared behind locked doors…

What a revelation the 12 had when they all could admit to themselves and to each other that they had not stopped having experiences of Jesus when he died.

Jesus somehow lived on, he was somehow not dead, and there must have been such joy in saying so.

There must have been such comfort in that room. So it is with us.

If resurrection is to have any meaning for us, it is in the sense that Jesus walks among us unrecognized all the time.

We catch glimpses, we see flashes, we overhear hints and insinuations.

We see this refracted Christ, never head-on, never fully, but fleeting like something that catches our eye and then is gone.

This is the way of resurrection—not in a resuscitated body but in a sweet kind of suggestion that lingers in the world and makes us know that we’ve seen it.

This is the resurrection—always hidden, always smiling, always beguiling in its playful apparitions.

It’s there for the seeing,                                    but not the pinning down;

it’s there for the perceiving,                              but not for study.

And all that is required of us to see this strange    familiar Christ is a pair of open eyes.

Blessed are those who believe yet have not seen…

ILLustration

Kathryn Johnston, a pastor at Mechanicsburg Presbyterian Church, tweeted —-

“When grief and the dark of the valley engulf you, you cannot even see Jesus in front of your face. He’s there. Just. keep. walking.”

Amen

________________

 

 

 

EASTER – 2018 Resurrection of Mary

Homily –

Today’s message is not mine to give. It is not one that I received from Spirit, but one that spoke to me just the same. The author/composer of this message is Rev. Bret S. Myers – Faith UCC in PA.

This message is meant for all of us.

“The Resurrection of Mary”                        Rev. Bret S. Myers

Mary Magdalene was the first person, male or female, to witness the empty tomb…

the first to see angels who reported the resurrection…

the first to hear the voice of, and see, the risen Christ…

and the first to be commissioned to go tell the others.

 

Given her prominent place in John’s gospel as the one who first,

and arguably best,

experiences the risen Christ she might be considered Jesus’ most faithful follower.

And the one for whom the greatest miracle was achieved.

When Jesus found her, she was claimed to have 7 evil spirits in her.

She, too, according to tradition, was considered to be a woman of ill repute by society: a prostitute.

 

If these things about her were true, then her life would have been the epitome of a despised existence in her society.

She would have been familiar with heartache, ostracization,

and the close-mindedness of those who thought they had a grip on reality in thinking themselves superior to her.

 

But it was she who ended up teaching them about a different reality:

that of resurrection – a life full of possibilities beyond all the prisons of our past.

 

From the start, in her darkest hour, she opened herself up to the message of one who told us we all have the image of God within us;

and to the example of how transformative love can be when it is given unconditionally.

She was on the lowest rung of life when Jesus exorcised her spirit from one of waywardness and despair                                           to a path of meaning and purpose.                                       She trusted that her life could be transformed through living in accordance with the values and virtues of Jesus.

And that she was!

Her life is perhaps the best example of what it means to be resurrected –

of having abided in the tomb of social alienation

until Jesus taught her the way of abundant living. (and thus resurrected /transformed)

In the Bible, it is usually the “least of these” that God most seems to be able to speak to most readily.

Why do you think that is?

God was able to get their attention.

They hear God, and talk with God, in ways that the self-assured seldom experience.

Consider that Jesus’ self-chosen disciples were hiding away in an upper room for fear that what happened to him might happen to them.

But it was Mary Magdalene who had the fearlessness to venture out in public to visit Jesus’ burial site.

And when she went back to report what she found, she followed the two disciples who went to the abandoned tomb to see for themselves.

When the two male disciples arrived and found a missing Jesus, they assumed the worst:

that his body had been stolen.

Sullen and feeling helpless, they went back to their homes.

Perhaps they did not want to face their sorrows, fears, and feelings of impotence.

But Mary stuck around. And she wept.

Sometimes allowing ourselves to cry,

openly and prolifically, opens us to

new dimensions of reality that we cannot experience without going into that pit of despair.

It takes courage to go to that place where we are unsure whether we’ll ever be able to recover.

But when we confront the worst that is imaginable, we see solutions unavailable to our understanding when we are in denial of what is happening.

Hiding from their fears, the male disciples were closed to the initial experience of the risen Christ.

They wanted to go back to their homes, to safety and security, to a place which was familiar, even if not revitalizing, in order to see what they could salvage of their previous lives. But Mary’s history of delving into the depths of human emotion opened up her heart, mind, and soul to seeing life, reality, and God’s presence in a whole new way.

She was open to transformation…to resurrection.

Granted, she was not quick to perceive this. She had to wrestle with what others, and her own way of thinking, told her was impossible. But when she heard her name called, she recognized that the one who had loved her for who God made her to be was as present to her as he had ever been.

Her experience of his reality post-resurrection was even more enlivening for her than her prior encounters with him.

She was herself given the resurrection spirit that changed her whole outlook on life.

What would get us to take this kind of life-altering chance?

Would we have to be at our lowest ebb before we’d be open to the turning of the tide?                                          Might we see, instead, that more is possible for our lives, through faith, than what we would ordinarily dare to conceive?

Does the need for safety and security, comfort and pleasure, keep us from opening our lives to opportunities and possibilities that only those with a daring courage of Mary Magdalene can perceive?

Could it be that we, like Mary, would prefer to “hold on” to those who have made life easier for us rather than venturing out on an adventure that God is calling us to?

Is this why Jesus said to her, “Don’t hold on to me?”

As much as he had been a blessing to her in changing her life around, she was now a true disciple who had learned to live by the values and virtues that Jesus had taught her.

She did not need his continual physical presence in her life for her to live out the lessons and mission that had become a part of her own being.

Jesus later reminded all of the disciples that he would always be with them in spirit, but he commissioned them to go out into the world and carry out his purposes without his doing it for them.

They were no longer children of the faith, but adults of conviction who were to leave their houses and go out into the world.

If God let you know your life could be transformed, would you take the offer?

If it meant trying new things? Helping those most in need? Serving those who might not appreciate it?

Putting yourself at risk or in harm’s way?

Mary Magdalene teaches us the lesson about how we all, even the least of us, can be transformed and resurrected into an abundant life of love, peace, justice, faith, kindness, hope, compassion, and gentleness. These are the qualities and character traits of Christ – the things we need to live by and follow if we are to be true disciples rather than pretenders.

If Easter is not about the transformation of each of our spirits, then we are underestimating its power.

It was not just about Jesus. It was about Mary, who was one of the least of us.

And this is good news;

for if resurrection could be about her, then most certainly it could be about each and every one of us.  – Rev. Bret S. Myers, 4/12-13/2017

_________

Let us remember that resurrection is more than mere resuscitation!

It is life transformed!
It is faith in possibilities, when others are convinced of inevitability.

It is the courage to love others, when they don’t love you in return…

to show compassion, when others are heaping judgment…

to live by peace, when others are being violent…

to work for justice, when others are working for wealth…
to respond with gentleness, when others are reacting with rage…

and to trust that life, well-lived, even if short-lived,  is preferable to longevity without virtue.
Don’t remain caterpillars when you can become butterflies!
Live beautifully! Birth goodness in all you think, say, and do!
For you are called to life abundant!
God’s blessings be with you.

Jesus is on the Loose. April 8, 2018

John 20: 19-34       HOMILY

 

Jesus is on the Loose –

 

Post Resurrection appearances

Garden – Mary     (John/Mark)

Garden – Mary, Mary mother of  James, Salome Joanna                                   (Matthew)

Peter –              (Luke)

Two Disciples /Emmaus  Road            (Luke)

11 Disciples/upper room                       (Luke / John)

12 Disciples 8 days later  (John)

7 Disciples at Sea of  Galilee    (John)

Or Mt in Galilee    (Mark)

500 people at same  time         (1st Corin)

James                  (1st Corin)

Apostles – ate meal    (Acts)

Ascension            (Mark / Luke)

Saul / Paul       (Acts / 1st Corin)

Ananias (31-36 AD)         (Acts)

Paul in Temple                (Acts)

 

1205,   Saint Francis Of Assisi while           praying in the Church

1246 Saint Lutgarde (d.1246), a Cistercian mystic of Belgium

1302: ST. GERTRUDE THE GREAT
She received private revelations from Jesus regarding the devotion to the Sacred Heart and the importance of the Communion of Saints.

1366: Saint Catherine of Siena, Doctor of the Church by Tiepolo,
Saint Catherine of Siena was a withdrawn Dominican tertiary who lived, fasted and prayed at home in Siena Italy.
In 1366, when she was 19 years old she reported her first vision of Jesus after which she started to tend to the sick and the poor.
1372 Saint Julian of Norwich was on her deathbed and had been given her last rites when she reported a series of visions of Jesus, followed by a sudden recovery.

 

1425: THE IMITATION OF CHRIST
Next to the Bible, this has been the most sold book in the world. Its content concerns the dialogue between Christ and Thomas Kempis.

1559:  Saint Teresa of Avila (Teresa de Jesús) reported a vision of Jesus present to her in bodily form.
For almost two years thereafter she reported similar visions. Saint Teresa’s visions transformed her life and she became a key figure in the Catholic Church eventually being recognized as one of only three female Doctors of the Church.

 

From 1673 to 1675, Saint Marguerite Marie Alacoque recounted a series of visions of Christ speaking to her.
1697: Saint Veronica Giuliani expressed a great desire to suffer in union with the crucified Jesus for the conversion of sinners.
Shortly after that time she reported a series of vision of Jesus

On Good Friday 1697 she received the five wounds of Christ as stigmata.

1843: 1843 Sister Marie of St Peter, a Carmelite nun in Tours France reported visions of conversations with Jesus

1859: ST. JOHN VIANNEY
Known as a great exorcist, he was blessed with countless visions of Jesus,

 

In 1866 Venerable Marie Martha Chambon began to report visions of Jesus telling her to contemplate the Holy Wounds, although it is said that she had received her first vision when only five years old.

 

1898; Secondo Pia’s 1898 negative of the image on the Shroud of Turin, used in the devotion to the Holy Face of Jesus.

 

1899 Saint Gemma Galgani reported a vision of Jesus after which she experienced recurring stigmata- she also reported further conversations with Jesus.

 

1910: The Franciscan Italian priest Saint Pio of Pietrelcina reported visions of both Jesus and Mary as early as 1910.

1923: SISTER JOSEFA MENENDEZ
From 1919 to 1923 when she died, Sister Menendez received apparitions of Jesus]

 

.

1931 Saint Faustina Kowalska reported visions of a conversation with Jesus when she was a Polish nun.

 

1936: Blessed Maria Pierina De Micheli.

On the first Friday in Lent 1936,

_____________

Can anyone share a story about a time when they saw Jesus — ?

Dream

Art

Music

Vision ?

Special Services

Camp

Revival

Hospital

_________________

 

Colleague shared

After losing an adult son to an overdose –

Riding motorcycle – angry

Jesus appeared behind him on his cycle –

____________________

The strange case of Debbie Cain, a woman who was declared dead, has doctors intrigued.

The woman was unconscious and her heart stopped during appendectomy surgery.

She explained that she had been in heaven:

“I started to feel a great love from within.

I was warm and I saw a bright light that began to clean everything.

I saw Jesus there.

He looked at me and without saying a word, he spoke to me and said:

´Not now my child´.

I can´t remember anything else and then I woke up in the Intensive Care Unit”,

explained Debbie.

 

Debbie explains that before her supernatural experience, she was not a religious person,

but now she is certain that God does exist.

 

An encounter with Jesus:

  1. Will often not be what we expected
  2. Addresses questions we didn’t know needed answers
  3. Reveals the gross parts of us
  4. Gets to the true heart of the issue
  5. Sends us out to tell others about Him

 

One theologian says there are three ways of seeing Jesus…

  1. Jesus is alive in the word – the Gospel stories and the living tradition of our church.
  2. We meet Jesus in Baptism and our weekly Communion.
  3. We meet Jesus in our loving service to those in need, those who live on the periphery of society.

What does Jesus look like – how will we know when we see him?

Regardless of how someone looks or lives… we are looking into the eyes of Jesus – who comes to us in many faces and many places…

When we look into the face of someone caught up in addiction – Jesus is there

When we look into the eyes of a man who has committed horrible crimes… Jesus is there.

The writer of Matthew records Jesus saying

Matthew 25:36-40 English Standard Version (ESV)

 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’

37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink?

38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’

40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers,[a] you did it to me.’

When we see Jesus, we finally understand what the love of God can do for all of us

Homily – Jesus Condones Weed (Title borrowed from another sermon)

Matthew 13:24-43

24He put before them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field; 25but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away. 26So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well. 27And the slaves of the householder came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where, then, did these weeds come from?’ 28He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The slaves said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ 29But he replied, ‘No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. 30Let both of them grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’”

After telling two other parables…. He has to explain the first one…

 

36Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples approached him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.” 37He answered, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man; 38the field is the world, and the good seed are the children of the kingdom; the weeds are the children of the evil one, 39and the enemy who sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. 40Just as the weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age.41The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, 42and they will throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Let anyone with ears listen!

 

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart           be acceptable to you, O God           my rock and my liberator. Psalm 19:14

 

 

 

HOMILY –                                JESUS CONDONES WEED

 

Pericope –

  • Weeds sown with Seeds
  • Malicious vandalism of crop
  • Hopes of choking out crop

The actual weed Jesus spoke of was a ryegrass called “darnell.”

  • In its early stages it resembles wheat;
  • but instead of bearing fruit,it’s poisonous.
  • So not only is darnell useless, it’s toxic as

TRADITIONAL INTERPRETATION –

Metaphor

God – sower of Seeds –                             Good people

Devil –sower of Weeds –                            evil people

In the END

God sorts out the good   from the bad…                                                                takes Good into the kingdom                 and sends bad in the flames

BUT, I ASK THAT WE LOOK AT THIS PARABLE WITH A DIFFERENT LENS…

CHARACTERS IN THE STORY

SEEDS represent ?

WEEDS represent ?

 

Seeds –                                                                                                                                          those trying to do God’s will/Follow Christ

Weeds –                                                                                                                                         those struggling with  God’s will/Christ

Seeds –      Facts                                                                                                            Weeds –     Lies

Seeds – Truth                                                                                                                           Weeds –     Untruth

Seeds –      Accurate News Coverage                                                                     Weeds –     Fake News Stories

At one time or another – we have found ourselves surrounded by WEEDS…

GOSSIP?

Mildred, the small town gossip and self-appointed monitor of church morals, was always one to stick nose into other people’s business.

Most members of the congregation did not approve of her intrusions, but she was feared, so all maintained their silence.

She took that fatal step too far one day, when she accused Frank, a new member, of being an alcoholic after she saw his old pickup parked in front of the small town’s only bar all afternoon.

She emphatically told Frank (in front of several others) that EVERYONE SEEING THAT PICKUP THERE WOULD KNOW WHAT HE WAS DOING !

Frank, a man of few words, stared at her for a moment then just turned and walked away. He didn’t explain, defend, or deny. He said nothing.

Later that evening, Frank quietly parked his pickup in front of Mildred’s house, walked home ….and left it there all night.

LIES/RUMORS

These weeds are the hardest.

We want to stop the spread –

But rumors/lies cannot be stopped –

We must spread the truth just as quickly… then let it go

Often we have to live with the lies/rumors – until the day the truth comes to light….

 

FAKE NEWS

Although it has always existed…

Now it has a proper name

AND a perfect disguise.

Fake news is frustrating, infuriating

For many – we want to take it upon ourselves                                                 to jump on the lies/fake news and WEED them OUT –

Shout out contradictions and

Root out the truth…

In this parable – what is Jesus trying to convey?

Jesus seems to be saying that God’s Answer to Problem – is to do nothing —

Let the lies,                                                                                                                           untruths,                                                                                                                                          fake news                                                                                                                                             rumors                                                                                                                          continue to circulate –

Go On about your life… live it according to God’s will –

Racing in to refute a lie only   keeps  the lie center stage…

Once the story is out there…                                                                                                       an immediate  correction  rarely repairs the damage

Stirring up the mud…

The lies begin to muddy the water – but then when we respond trying to refute the lies, we stir the water more and more mud gets into the mix…

Jesus says —  wait – don’t act now… let the mud settle and THEN the truth will appear…

Don’t’ spend all of our time trying to fight the lies, and nothing else gets done…

_______________

Jesus wants to get across to the disciples that attempting to pull out the weeds before harvest will only result in pulling out the wheat as well….

God wants us to Wait –

In the end, the lies and the       truth will be sorted out …

BUT

BUT

BUT

This means we have to allow the lies to continue to live and grow –

Until God moves in….               Letting God handle it…

Trusting God to bring the                truth into the light

And send the lies into flames

 

ILLUSTRATIONS,

There was a church in which the minister asked the people to imagine what would happen if they adopted a policy of weed-pulling,

if they drew a circle around their little town of Wingate, North Carolina, and made a vow that no evil would cross that line, that no weeds would grow within that border.

 

The minister said,  “You know, you and I could spend the rest of our lives protecting that boundary, standing shoulder to shoulder with pitchforks and clubs, making sure that we kept drugs and alcohol and pornography and gambling safely on the other side.

I think it would take all of our energy and most of our time. But what if we did it? What if we succeeded? What would we have?

We would have a town characterized by the absence of evil            which is not the same as a town characterized by the presence of good.

And maybe this is what Jesus was talking about all along, that it’s better to have a wheat field with weeds in it than a field with nothing in it at all. We also have to understand that what is a plant to one may be a weed to another…

I am sure I have one of the healthiest WEEDS growing in my back yard…who knows… I am not deciding…

The same goes for some people around us we may see as weeds, who AREN’T –

Transgender       Illegal Aliens       Muslims     Homeless

Mentally Challenged

A man wrote about someone he viewed as a WEED…

He said: One of the best Christians I’ve ever known was a Roman Catholic who cursed and smoked and had a heart as big as the Gulf of Mexico.

She was not the kind of person you would find serving punch in the church fellowship hall. But she started the shelter movement in Atlanta.

I remember when she stopped a knife fight at our night shelter by walking calmly between two combatants and saying, “You guys know better than      this.” And that was the end of that.

When one of our homeless friends died on the street,                                she claimed his body,  paid for the cremation, and waited for someone-  friend or family-to come.

No one ever came. She drove around for weeks with his ashes in the backseat of her car.

Finally, she asked the rector of a downtown Episcopal church                    if the ashes could be placed in the church’s memorial garden.

He said: “Our policies will allow only the remains of relatives to be placed here,”   “Perfect,” she said.   “Jesse was my brother.”

It’s often hard to tell who is wheat and who is weed.

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I am wheat and sometimes I am weed,

Often, I can’t tell when I am being either…

 

Homily “You’re Welcome”

Matthew 10:40-42            (NIV)

40 “Anyone who welcomes you welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.

41 Whoever welcomes a prophet as a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and whoever welcomes a righteous person as a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward.

42 And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.”

HOMILY  —    YOU’RE WELCOME

 

Everyone into the pool—

Y’all Come Back Now

There’s Always Room for One More

Grab a chair and join us

Come sit by me

Come on in and make yourself at home

These words do wonders for the soul

Wanted

Included

Welcome

Important

Valued

Significant

Debbie and I often will tell someone… come by and see us if you are out and about – just drop in.. We would love to have you visit…

Then, when someone finally takes us up on it, we don’t answer the doorbell… forgetting our open invitation to our friend.

I am sure it didn’t make our friend feel welcome not having someone answer the door.

______________

Hospitality in ancient times involved much more than just having a guest visit and offering them a drink…

Jewish Hospitality

In Judaism, showing hospitality (hakhnasat orchim) to guests is considered a mitzvah. (commandment)

When one knows of strangers who are hungry or need a place to relax, it becomes a legal obligation.

Some rabbis consider hakhnasat orchim (literally the “bringing in of strangers”) to be a part of gemilut hasadim (giving of loving kindness).

The first time hospitality is displayed in the Torah

The Torah, or Jewish Written Law, consists of the five books of the Hebrew Bible – known more commonly to non-Jews as the “Old Testament” happens when Abraham invites the three wanderers from Mamre to relax while he brings them water and food (Gen. 18:1-5).

Also the TalmudThe Oral Law is a legal commentary on the Torah, explaining how its commandments are to be carried out.

Common sense suggests that some sort of oral tradition was always needed to accompany the Written Law, because the Torah alone, even with its 613 commandments, is an insufficient guide to Jewish life.

teaches that one’s house should always be welcoming and open to strangers.

In the Torah it affirms that Abraham always kept all four sides of his tent open, for guests to easily enter.

The opening of one’s doors is why at the Seder on Passover an invitation is delivered to the hungry and needy.

It is read in the Hagadah, “Whosoever is in need let him come and eat” (Ta’anit 20b).

During the Middle Ages the custom arose      of providing a guest house (bet     hakhnasat orehim) for the poor; this   would later be called hekdesh (“sanctuary”).

THE GUEST has obligations too

Be grateful for labors of hosts

Recite additional blessing

Leave some food on plate

Not impose on host – so not staying more than three days…

“On the day a guest arrives, a calf is slaughtered in his honor; the next day, a sheep, the third day, a fowl, and on the fourth day, he is served just beans” (23:3).

Historical practice

In ancient cultures hospitality involved    welcoming the stranger and offering him    food, shelter, and safety.[7]

Strangers to town would wait near the well or town center until offered a place to stay and food.

Both individuals AND Towns were obligated to offer hospitality to a stranger….

 

hospitality meant not ONLY welcoming   the individual stranger – but it was a      show of respect for and   welcome of  stranger’s family and         community from which he came.

Jesus told the disciples that he was        sending them into the world as envoys   of his ministry and of himself. Representatives of his ministry…

.

So, for someone to welcome them, they  welcomed Jesus… and in welcoming Jesus, they welcomed God

Paul, later in his letters to the Romans emphasizes the importance of  Hospitality…

Hebrews 13:2   (NIV)

Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels  without knowing it.

 

Greek Word for

Hospitality –

PHIOXENIA – love of stranger

XENOPHOBIA – Fear of Stranger

 

In this modern world… how do we understand HOSPITALITY – WELCOME?

How do we define Hospitality? WELCOME

______________

The Dictionary defines Hospitality as

  • the friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers.
  • Warm and cordial acceptance
  • GLADLY received… not just accepted

What a simple gesture:

Welcome

Handshake

Hug

Smile

But Jesus seems to be telling us that a simple greeting is also a profoundly spiritual act.

“Anyone who welcomes you welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.”

In greeting one another, it is as if we are greeting Jesus, himself. Powerful.

Jesus calls for hospitality that has no boundary or limit; where a welcome is extended not in the expectation of social gain, but for its own reward.

Where no-one remains excluded and unwelcome.

 

Here Jesus was SENDING out the disciples –

WHY was the topic of Hospitality and Welcome mentioned to them?

WHY does the word WELCOME occur no less than six times

WHY is Jesus putting so much emphasis on a Jewish Law that was in the original TORAH

It was the disciples who would be RECEIVING hospitality and welcome..

Well, Jesus was putting a fine point on it..so to speak…

Possibly he wanted the disciples to fully understand their role as representing him…

If you are not welcomed –                                I am not welcomed..

and you do not stay…                                              but move on.

The disciples were being sent out…     but they didn’t have the entire responsibility of enlightening the world—

The world had a role to play                            in this ministry too…

  • For the ministry to spread –
  • For good news to travel
  • For lives to be changed..

FIRST a stranger had to be welcomed…

Otherwise – they were to MOVE ON

 

SO – what does this tell the modern  believer to do?

Like the original 12, we are called to share the good news –

This has taken the form of

Pamphlets

TV Evangelism

Door to Door Visits

Commercial Media

Even though these are effective methods for sharing information…

Do they fulfill the mission we have been given?

Having information and understanding that information are not the same…

Having the information and accepting and taking in the information are not the same…

Just as the ancient world had to WELCOME the disciples and their good news….

It is the same today…

What would happen if we stopped expecting people to come to church on their own initiative

, and instead took seriously our calling to bring the gospel to them?

What would happen if we truly believed that we bear the presence of Christ to every person we encounter,  in every home, workplace,                           or neighborhood we enter?

What would happen if we saw every conversation as an opportunity to speak words of grace,

every interaction as an opportunity to embody Christ’s love for the neighbor?

 

There is a story of an interaction with a bagger at her local grocery store.

She had been talking with this woman off  and on for a year, and upon learning that    she no longer worked on Sundays,   invited her to come to her church,          to their casual, outdoor, come-as-you-        are service.

Much to my friend’s surprise, the woman responded by giving her a hug!

The bagger welcomed the stranger –                                                                           the news and the intent –

But if the bagger had rebuffed the invitation… the disciple/woman buying groceries – should just move on – and continue casting seeds…

_________

Our ministry as a disciple church, is to show extravagant hospitality –

By –

  1. Overtly welcoming guests into the  service…

Saying we are glad they came

Providing for their needs

Restrooms   coffee  bulletins

Having complete information in the bulletins to make them                       feel included.

Handicap accessibility  Hearing enhancements       LARGE PRINT

And continuing that HOSPITALITY AFTER the service

  1. Taking our hospitality outside these walls – Taking it To the Streets – Lutheran Family service –ESLanguage – Refugees – VETerans –
  1. Taking our hospitality home and into our workplace – how we deal with others – Making our community a more welcoming community –

We are called to show boundless hospitality – a welcome extended for its own reward – a welcome that includes ALL –                                            not just same thinkers….

All are welcome, all are welcome
in this place.

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

_________________________________

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 –

______________

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]

____________

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….