Sunday, August 23, 2009

Family Ties Sermon Work, Rest, and Purpose

Texts: Deuteronomy 5: 12-15, Luke 13: 10-17

Deut 5:12-15

Nightmare scenario that you get to a certain age and you look at your daily routine, you look at yourself “going through the motions” and you think, “What have I done with my life? Where did it go?”

I don’t think this nightmare scenario is all that uncommon. It is an epidemic in our culture to suffer a “mid-life crisis” when this kind of question is confronted, and then we hear about a full and reckless swing to the other end of the spectrum where people do things that are out of character and bear all the hallmarks of relieving the stress caused by an unfulfilling answer to that question: “What have I done with my life?”

Fortunately, the scripture gives us the assurance that our work is and should be done with a purpose in mind.

In our work, no less than our eating, we have the opportunity to share
in the peace of God. To what end do we perform our tasks? Do they serve
and reflect the glory of God, and thus take fully into account the goodness
of God’s creation, or do they foster self-glorification? Sabbath law in the
Jewish scriptures no less than the action of Jesus Christ, who proclaimed
himself as the Lord of the Sabbath, suggests that the overriding aim of
our work is to enable the
full life of others.

Scripture also sets up for us a pattern of life that will keep us in a better frame of mind.
Judy Prather, “Praying with the Rhythms of Grace.”
“Sadly, this sabbath rhythm is almost lost in our society. Distorted
assumptions about what sabbath means, the value our society places on
possessions and productivity as a measure of self-worth, and our own
need to be in control are eroding sabbath practices. Keeping sabbath is
even, or particularly, a problem within our congregations; every church
program that provides rest for some adds to the busyness for others.

Working with a public charity, Wayne Muller regularly moves between
the spacious offices of wealthy donors, the crowded rooms of social service
agencies, and the simple homes of poor families. “Remarkably, within this
mosaic,” he notes, “there is a universal refrain: I am so busy.” For despite
their good hearts and equally good intentions, most people do not find
their work light, pleasant, or healing. “Instead, as it all piles endlessly upon
itself, the whole experience of being alive begins to melt into one enormous
obligation” because busyness and fatigue make us unable to draw from the
deep wisdom that is available.1”

We are bombarded
with the distorted “truth” that enough is not adequate, overachieving
is average, acquisitive is better than imaginative, networking
is building actual relationships, and padding our resumes makes us more
important. Hearing and heeding the Still, Small Voice is no easy task.

God’s menuha, or rest, on the seventh day of creation is something
more like tranquility, serenity, peace, and repose. Rather than
being a leave-taking from his working days, suggests Abraham
Joshua Heschel, God’s menuha reflects the divine pleasure in a creation
finely made. It suggests God’s attunement to a creation that in the integrity
of its own being promotes joy. Indeed, as we later read in the book of Job,
God takes obvious delight in creatures that are of marginal or no interest
to us. God cares about the calving of deer, watches them crouch as they
give birth to their offspring (39:1). In a speech that devastates human pretension
and narrowness, God reminds Job of the divine care for and delight in the great animal Behemoth, “which I made just as I made you . . . ”
(40:15). The sense of passages like this is that creation is not primarily
for us. It exists for God, and is the occasion for God’s care, pleasure, and
delight. It is a sabbath creation in which all the members of creation, including
humanity, achieve their true end as they approximate God’s own
tranquility and joy.

But hear what the voice is saying. The call of the sabbath is to rest, redemption,re-creation. Rest is the meaningful and sacred work of getting to
know God. Rest is not the same as plopping in front of the ball game with
a plate of nachos and the beverage of your choosing. God has not called us
to be couch potatoes. The call to sabbath is to do more with our lives than
work ourselves to death so that we can fall asleep watching reruns of “EverybodyLoves Raymond,” or holding our lives together all year so we can get two weeks away worrying about all we have to do when we get back
home. The sabbath is a holy
day, which is not the same
as a holiday. It is sacred
space and time.

Jesus’ activity on the sabbath was of like mind. When the Pharisees
were quick to point out that he was not resting, Jesus responded that they
were missing the point: meaningful, redemptive, relational work is what
the sabbath is all about. What better redemptive act than to heal someone?
If we are created in God’s image, why should we not be about re-creating
lives through love? The Pharisees were worried about people breaking the
Blue Laws; Jesus was reminding his disciples that faith is not based on
what you don’t do.

According to [Aristotle], “we need relaxation, because we cannot work
continuously. Relaxation, then, is not an end”; it is “for the sake of activity,”
for the sake of gaining strength for new efforts. To the biblical mind,
however, … the Sabbath as a day of rest, as a day of abstaining from toil,
is not for the purpose of recovering one’s lost strength and becoming fit
for the forthcoming labor. The Sabbath is a day for the sake of life. Man is
not a beast of burden, and the Sabbath is not for the purpose of enhancing
the efficiency of his work. “Last in creation, first in intention,” the Sabbath
is “the end of the creation of heaven and earth.”
A B R A H A M J O S H U A H E S C H E L (1907-1972), The Sabbath

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Sabbath Resources

Sunday the 23rd of Aug., we'll be exploring the patterns of work and rest found in our scriptures that guide people of faith to observe the Sabbath. I found a great resource for a study on the Sabbath, linked here.
It is a beautiful Sabbath day today! I hope you are enjoying it. I also hope you'll join us for this second sermon in our "Family Ties" series tomorrow!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Farmer's Market every Saturday morning at the church parking lot!

The farmer's market we started last summer gathered some national attention. The produce has been great this year! Don't forget to support our local farmers!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Family Ties Sermon: Eat to Live

texts: psalm 111 proverbs 9 and john 6

Introduce sermon series, family ties.

Think back to one of your favorite meals. Maybe it was the food that made it so memorable, maybe it was the occasion. Just hold it in you mind for a moment, because today we’re going to be talking about food, and I want you to draw on the power that the meal that’s in your mind holds for you to as I speak about some of the most important aspects of food and eating and how it relates to our faith.

Joy of Food, anyone seen the movie Julie and Julia yet? Prob. Will be one of those Oscar contenders since it has Marilyn Streep in it. One thing that Julia Child lifted up, and that’s lifted up in another film we’ve shown here at the church at the “preacher feature” called Babette’s Feast, is the

Describe Babette’s Feast.

Food as sacramental—root of the meaning of the scriptures today. The Psalm points to the fact that food is from God. We don’t have to produce food, the earth and God’s provision provides food. We may think we provide food when we get used to sayings like “dad ‘brings home the bacon,’” but the truth is that the miracle of growth and bearing fruit is a miracle.

Slow Food is a non-profit, eco-gastronomic member-supported organization that was founded in 1989 to counteract fast food and fast life, the disappearance of local food traditions and people’s dwindling interest in the food they eat, where it comes from, how it tastes and how our food choices affect the rest of the world.
To do that, Slow Food brings together pleasure and responsibility, and makes them inseparable. Link on the website

I’ve been astounded to watch my garden grow over the summer, and this is a mystery that those of us who garden get to experience on a daily basis. We can take a seed that we find inside a fruit or a vegetable, put it in the ground, and it will grow into a plant that produces more. There’s a reason Jesus compared the kingdom to a seed.

In the Proverbs passage, we heard Lady Wisdom speaking of the invitation to study and “eat” the book of scripture and the study of God’s ways and grace as a great dinner party, where even the simple are invited to come and “taste and see that God is good.”

So many good things happen at a dinner table don’t they?

One of the things that tied my family together was the practice of the family meal at the table.

Eating together fosters fellowship. It conveys to the members of the family that there is a place where they are accepted and that others are interested in them. We have a “place at the table.”

Wisdom of the generations is passed down at dinner tables. Some say the demise of sense of regard for the elderly has walked hand in hand with the demise of the family dinner.

The fellowship of the family dinner has the potential to create a better life for children and teenagers. Linked a study by the Center for Addiction and Substance abuse: Frequent family dining is associated with lower rates of teen smoking, drinking, illegal drug use and prescription drug abuse.

From “The Power of the Spoon,” by Daniel Daly
If the family prays together before the meal, children learn that they belong to a family of believers. They give thanks to God because there is a God to give thanks to. That prayer of thanks and blessing, prayed day after day, year after year, can be a constant reminder that we are the children of God and He is our Father. At the dinner table, the family becomes a "little church."
The family prayer also teaches the lesson of gratitude. The child learns to be thankful not only to God, but to his or her mother and father for providing the food.
If the greatest Christian virtue is Charity, it is at the family dinner table where the lesson of charity can first be learned. The child learns that he or she must be aware of the others who share the table. He must be aware that others also need to eat and that he does not have a right to everything that is on the table. The awareness of the presence of other persons who have legitimate needs is a lesson that must be carried through life.

Charity that gives dinner tables

Importance of eating together, what it instills in us. Some who say the loss of tradition and loss of all of those things that we decry when we say things like “our culture is going down the tubes” is lost because we’re losing the time and patience and sense of importance of the family meal

You’ve probably heard the dieting mantra, “Eat to live, don’t live to eat.”

I hope we can think of a new interpretation for this mantra. We’re eating to live because…

The meal that most positively influences our family life is the meal that Jesus offers us today in these scriptures we hear.

Friday, August 14, 2009

New Sermon Series begins Aug. 16: Family Ties

Okay, not this "Family Ties." :) August 16, we're going to begin a series of sermons that explores the practices and attitudes that strengthen the family life that we find in scripture and Christian tradition.
First up we'll be exploring how we approach eating: do we enjoy a family meal? What is the value of eating together instead of parking in front of the t.v. to have our meals? What does the Bible say about food and mealtime?
Aug. 23 we'll look at the cycle of work and rest, and what that can mean for a family. Do we model a healthy perspective of work for those around us, or is "workaholism" something with which we wrestle? What is the Sabbath and how do we know if we're keeping it?
Aug. 30, we'll be discussing the power of Authentic Relationships and the Parenting Virtues of Hope, Humility, and Hospitality. Martin Buber spoke of a God formed relationship being one in which we come to view the people around us as "Thous" and not just "yous." It's a perspective that we can take on to form our spiritual life and the lives of those most important to us. What needs to change in your life in order to think of others as "Thou?"
Sept.6 the sermon topic will be Confession and Apologizing. How do we give and receive an apology? Is "sticks and stones may break my bones, but words may never hurt me" really true? Why is what we say so important?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Out of the Depths, David and Absalom Sermon

Texts: Psalm 130, 2 Samuel 14 and 18

Sermon Notes

The Tragedy of “Too Late.”

Overview of what has happened since our last sermon. Lots:
Amnon raped Tamar, Absalom took vengeance on Amnon and killed him two years later. In the meantime, David had no words of consolation for Tamar. Absalom fled, came back and led a rebellion against David. David flew the coup, Absalom took possession of his concubines and had sex with them on the same roof where Bathsheba had caught David’s eye: a fulfillment of the prophecy of Nathan.

First, how this passage gives voice to the grief and mourning of people of faith through the centuries. We have drawn on this passage as a testament to the fact that our lives involve suffering, especially when a parent loses a child. This grief is enough to shock David into a state of mourning even though he has been estranged from this son who has actively led a campaign of rebellion against him.

This text, and the Psalm that goes with it, gives voice to the agony of a parent witnessing the consequences of their own actions play out in the lives of their children. These are David’s consequences. What has happened is David’s sin which haunts him.

Brueggemann suggests that Absalom’s suspension reflects the tensions in which the narrative itself now stands suspended. “Absalom is suspended between life and death, between the sentence of a rebel and the value of a son, between the severity of the king and the yearning of the father.”

David’s conflict between roles of father and King.

Theme (What is God doing in the text?): God walks with us in the most desperate times of our lives.
Need (What is the human need reflected in the text?): To manage the complexities of relationships and roles in our lives–especially when our responsibilities seem to conflict.
We can identify with this, can’t we. I think that for many of us, parenting young children is God’s way of growing us in this regard.
That image of Absalom being “caught between heaven and Earth”
Image (What is the dominant image for the sermon?): Caught between heaven and earth.
We can identify with that image, can’t we? I can recall times when I’ve been busy doing something, and Wesley is just begging and pleading with me to come back to his room and play with him, or go outside and explore with him. And I’m actually struggling with the decision to keep doing whatever unimportant task I’ve set my mind on or to go and participate in this treasured time of childhood with my son, which won’t last forever.
We are caught between heaven and earth. We are vulnerable.
We can sympathize with David and Absalom in this encounter. Their relationship has been marred. David had the opportunity to receive his son as a son, but all he did was interact with him as his King. Do you notice how he refers to Absalom? “the Young Man Abasalom.” The narrator refers to “The King” receiving him and kissing him in the text that Benny read.
Not, “his father reached out and blessed him,” but “The King.” David is trying to navigate the waters as a King and as a Father. He doesn’t want to appear weak and he doesn’t want to appear hard hearted to the people who all seem to love Absalom. He is focused more on his appearances than on his own relationship with his son.
Many of us ministers have a difficult time navigating the role of minister with our spouses. It’s hard to be our spouse’s minister. I’m thankful that our District Superintendant is also a wonderful minister, and that my spouse has someone to turn to in that regard. That’s not to say I utterly fail as a minister to her, our relationships are complex.
He doesn’t recognize his relationship for what it is until it is too late, when he cries out from the depths of his pain and grief. “My son, Absalom!”
A quote by the main character Mori: "Death ends a life, not a relationship."

Friday, August 07, 2009

New Book for Book study is available at church

Our upcoming book study will begin on August 16, but you can pick up the book as soon as you'd like at the church for $14. This great book by Eugene Peterson (The Message) is on the Bible and reading the Bible with depth and discovery. Click here for more reviews from Amazon.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Aug. 2 Sermon: Give and Take

Sermon Texts: 2 Samuel 12 and Psalm 51

Jeremy Begbie, mistakes in a piano piece, turning them into “passing notes.” Weaving them into the grand framework of time.

the means by which prophets announced God’s word is often as important as the content of the message. Direct approaches typically engender interpersonal conflict, tension between the messenger and the hearer; indirect approaches, such as stories, provoke intrapersonal conflict, tension within the hearer.

That’s the way things work, isn’t it? When we are having a conflict with someone we love enough to argue with, we usually address it directly—or we try to: why did you do that to me? I felt hurt by what you said.

When we are confronting someone who has a problem within himself, we usually try to use an indirect approach to get the person to see inside themselves. If I have a friend who has an addiction, and they just can’t seem to admit it, I may tell them about “a friend” who has a problem and let him try to see the scenario from a third party perspective.

This is good news. You see, Nathan’s encounter with David is indicative of God’s encounter with David. God cares enough about David that he first has the patience to let David see inside his own heart and come to terms with his own sin before God (through Nathan) addresses the fractured relationship between David and God.

And when David walks through the door of his own guilt and shame, he pours out his heart to God.

In many medieval synagogue manuscripts of 2 Samuel 12:1, a gap was left by the copyist in the text following David’s confession of sin in v. 13a. This was to give the opportunity for the reading of Psalm 51:1, the great penitential psalm that carries this superscription: “A Psalm of David, when the prophet Nathan came to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.” This psalm expresses the attitude of repentance, rather than guilt, which the church seeks when it speaks in judgment:
Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
and cleanse me from my sin
. . . . . .
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and put a new and right spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from your presence,
and do not take your holy spirit from me.
(Ps 51:1-2, 10-11 NRSV)

Perhaps this is why David is called a Man after God’s own Heart. Because, when David comes face to face with his own depravity, he knows that only God can save him. He understands God’s true and loving role as the one who can give us the only thing we need. A clean heart.

God and David are involved in a “give and take” relationship. God gives blessings upon blessings, and David happily takes them and takes them. But when David’s becomes so focuses on taking that he thinks all the world is his to take, he loses sight of the Giver.

Give and take: is it the role of God’s beloved to simply take the gifts of God or to redirect the gifts. To reflect God’s giving in the world.

Before David can again be a giver instead of just a taker, he must “give up” himself. He must yield himself to God in confession.