Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Jan 25 Sermon: Paul's Family Values

Sermon Texts: Psalm and Corinthians

One of the things I have noticed about churches and people looking for churches is that “family values” seems to occupy a place of prime importance.

Many seem to think that the pastor’s message, the Sunday school curriculum, the programming, and everything else should adhere to this nebulous social concept that we have that some things are full of family values, and other things are not.

Are family values actually lived, or are they just views, platforms. Do we care more about how one lives a married life, or how one theoretically defines marriage?

Marriage, I’d say is one of those family values. Mourning, of course is the expression of valuing your family, so I’d say it is a family value too. The accumulation and responsible use of money is a family value.

There are tons of churches which offer meaningful programming and entertaining topical sermons on these issues. Churches that approach ministry in this way are lauded for their practicality and worthwhile messages.

So, I wonder how Paul would fit into one of these immensely practical churches offering money management classes and marriage enrichment small groups with his odd advice to the Corinthians church. This requires a little digging into the context.

Paul believed that the second coming of Christ would happen at any moment, as evidenced by this scripture—so being the pressing nature of the apocalypse, Paul encouraged his disciples to focus on the relationship with God over all else.
Trying to help them “will the one thing” as Kierkegaard says.

Not nec. Bad things that compete with our dedication to God. Good things do too. (Nooma) Can we “will the one thing?”Psalm says “For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation.
2He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall never be shaken.
“God alone” I don’t think Paul was down on the relationships that people have in life. But he was aware of the fact that all these other things take time, and time spent addressing all the other needs first leaves little time for our relationship with the one “in whom we live and move and have our being.”
We need a re-orienting. Paul says to the Romans, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”
Make the time to acknowledge God’s presence. Be here in worship, be in prayer or devotion or worship on a regular basis. Put first things first, then all else will fall into place.
When we first place our trust and faith and hope in God, and we nurture that relationship with time and attention, then the other concerns we have can flow out of that relationship with God. We’ll find that we don’t feel hurried, we don’t feel stretched and pushed and obligated and guilted into doing things. We’ll find, that like Jesus, we are able to press on toward that “one thing” that God intends for us: life—and life abundant! 02

Confirmation Dates to Remember

Feb. 20: Deadline for Retreat Registration

March 6-7: Confirmation Retreat at Camp Egan

March 22: After church-2pm (Pizza included) “TheMethod to our Methodism.”

April 5: After Church-5pm: Operation Understanding

April 19: Lunch and work at homeless shelter: end 3pm

May 3: After church till 2pm-“What you don’t know about the Bible could fill a book.”

May 23: Hiking/Caving at Devil’s Den, Arkansas

May 31: Pentecost and Confirmation Sunday!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Jan 18 Sermon: Nazareth and Toad Suck

Sermon Texts:
Epiphany 2B Corinthians and John

Sermon Notes
Christ from Hicksville

Growing up in Arkadelphia, we always looked down our noses at folks from Gurdon. It just sounds like a place to make fun of, doesn’t it? The po-dunkness of the town just flows from the guttural sounding names of some towns in South Arkansas, where I’m from. Gurdon, Dierks (pronounced Durks), Smackover, Fordyce. We used to make fun of the guys who would date girls from Gurdon. Nothing good comes from Gurdon.

Those towns who tried to name themselves something more glorious usually fall short of the grandiosity of the namesake. There is a London, Tokio (yes, spelled that way), Hollywood, and yes even Paris in Arkansas. .. and London, Hollywood, Tokyo, and Paris they are not.

Some towns are blatantly honest about their place in life. Ashdown was right next to a paper mill, and I suppose it was about the right distance and direction from the plant that it was indeed where the Ash comes down. “Cotton Plant” is Jonny Cash’s hometown, and is aptly described by its name. Even our largest city capitol is a humble “Little Rock.”

Early in my hometown’s history, the name was briefly considered to be changed from Arkadelphia to Athens to attract another university. (Arkadelphia has two: OBU and HSU). I suppose the population of Ark. Did think of our little town as a seat of education, like that namesake. But, they stuck with the name that inexplicably elicits laughter from others.

Maybe we as high falutin as we thought we were. No doubt residents of nearby and more significant Hot Springs looked down their noses at us.

But you know what I mean about these little towns? Perhaps you came, or even come from one. Perhaps that’s how folks think about Morris. Or perhaps that’s how we think of other little settlements around here. Ther’s always somewhere smaller and less significant and more laughable. Unless of course you are in Booger Holler, AR. That’s right down the road from Toad Suck.

Canonical gospels all have nothing positive to say about Nazareth, other than it was the home of Jesus.

They try to kill Jesus by throwing him off a cliff, they aren’t able to receive the ministry of Jesus’ ministry. He said himself, a prophet isn’t accepted in his own hometown. Not until Jesus has died and resurrected that his own family begins to believe his Gospel.

Nazareth is either small and insignificant, or it is disreputable because of the religious practices of those northerners.

In Judea, Nazareth and Galilee in general is thought to be a step down from Judah. Judea is where the temple is, after all. The north had more influence from the Assyrian Empire. It was a less “holy” place. Nothing good could come from Nazareth. Nazereth held no cultural significance to Judaism.

Are you willing to accept this Christ who comes from nowheresville? Or, even a disreputable place? It is not what Nathanael observes about Jesus that saves him. According to Nathanael, he doesn’t expect much of this Jesus guy if he comes from Nazareth.

However, it is that encounter with Christ and finding that though he thinks he knows Jesus, Jesus really knows him. Now that is where Nathanael begins his discipleship.

In a sense, Nathanael goes from expecting nothing of Jesus to being wowed by his foreknowledge of his whereabouts to being told, “you ain’t seen nothin’ yet!”

That’s what happens when we bow to the truth that great things can come from what we think are insignificant sources. That’s the truth of the nativity. That’s the truth of the incarnation.

God’s mystery and miracle can even come from places like Toad Suck, AR. If we live inside this truth not because we have seen proof, but because God is God—then we are living lives of discipleship.

Even those moments or occasions that we think are insignificant and boring can contain the precious jewel of enlightenment.

One notion of Zen philosophy that really attracted me to that practice is that mindfulness or a settled sense of letting things “be” is often best practiced by being attentive to those mundane practices like doing the dishes or sweeping the floor.
These tasks, which we would probably say, “well, what kind of significant moment could come out of doing the dishes?” hold the keys to enlightenment, because if we find value in the “boring stuff,” then we will be less likely to grow unfazed by the truly “brilliant stuff.” Some people drive the Pacific Coast Highway every day—a highway which most of us would be truly astounded by and shouting “woah, look at that!” at every twist and turn. And some people who have grown accustomed to it probably don’t really see it anymore.

Paul writes to the Corinthians about having the same kind of open mind about the importance of our bodies.

People in the time of Jesus and after (and even now) have a fairly dim view of our bodily life. After all, our bodily life is fragile and corrupted. Our bodies get old and broken and they eventually fail us.

Cheap understanding of value of body—led some to use prostitutes.

Our body is the temple of God. Can anything good come of the body? Our bodies are infused by the Holy Breath of God. Living itself is a miracle. When we cheapen the value of our bodies by following their every urge and inclination, we forget that we are not our own. We belong to God.

God can use any humble vessel or place to bring about significant change. The author of the universe if the author of every part of the universe, and none of it is insignificant. Every sparrow, every hair on our head is numbered. Even Gurdon is the dwelling place of God.

Roof before and after

Thanks to a generous gift from the Goodman family, we were able to able to put on a new roof. What a witness for stewardship! The parish was inspired, and eighty percent of our 2009 budget was raised in our first (ever or in a really long time) pledge campaign. Praise God for the gifts!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Jan 11, 2009 Sermon: Living Water/ Water Living

Stuff from Christian Century Article by Yamada:

“I am haunted by waters.” Last words of Norman Maclean’s novel, A River Runs through it.

Waters haunt all of us who profess the Christian faith. They haunt the human imagination. Rightly so, our bodies are made up of water. If we are prevented from drinking, we will die. If the land is prevented from drinking, we will die.

As some of you may remember, if the land goes without water, the wind can whip the dust into giant clouds of destruction and alter the lives of millions.

Water will play a central role in the coming decades or centuries. When it is said that fresh water will become a commodity like oil, available to a decreasing percentage of Earth’s population, and yet the seas are forecasted to rise and displace billions of people. Humans will have a dual relationship with water in the 21st century. We will desperately need it, and it will inundate us.

Water: metaphor in ancient literature for chaos, leviathan. Also a metaphor for the necessity of life. We are brought into this world through the water of a womb. God’s people come through the waters of the Red sea and the Jordan.

Remember playing with water table at Mid America Museum.
Visit to grand canyon.

Shaped by water metaphor with the grand canyon. Letting our life be eroded by God’s presence and activity. You can tell which stones have not been in the stream for very long. River stone is round and smooth. Foreign stone would be angled and rough.

Didache: what it is, what kind of advice it has about the baptismal waters. It should be flowing.
Perhaps this is one reason why—it reminds us that water is living, and the waters of baptism should be let loose on our lives.

The song we sang earlier has that one line that is so interesting: come Holy Spirit, aid us to keep the vows we make; this very day invade us, and every bondage break. Come give our lives direction, the gift we covet most: to share the resurrection that leads to Pentecost.

How do the waters of baptism “invade” us? They invade our lives. They invade our plans.

They have dual meaning to us as well. Paul speaks about “dying” in the waters of baptism. The act of immersion very illustarates this notion of drowning in the water. In a very real way, we do drown.

The waters of baptism drown that aspect of us that we have been deceived into believing: that we can make it on our own, or that we aren’t worth spit, or that we’re too lost and too far gone to ever come back.

Yes, baptism is s symbol of the death of those ideas about ourselves and the “putting on” of a new identity—that of a child of God.

Early Christians, take off clothes, go down into water, come out and put new clothing on and stomp on the old clothes.

Pouring water over our head—reminds us that the waters of baptism erode our souls. They shape us into the beautiful landmarks that God would have us be.

God making skipping stones

Scientists say the main reason we have life on earth is water.

God agrees.