Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Christ the King Sermon: Roman Peace and Jesus Peace

Our service also included a promotion of the Advent Conspiracy, and we watched the attached video. I think it puts the Christ the King theme and sermon in another light not really spoken of in the sermon. Well, if I were to preach it again, I'd probably tie those two things together a little more. Thanks to Annette for suggesting the video, and her words during the service about Advent Conspiracy.
Another "anti-consumerist" group I have found compelling (though somewhat more "hard edge") is Adbusters, and their "Annual Buy Nothing Day" which happens on Nov. 27 (Friday after thanksgiving) every year. Give it a look

Christ the King Sunday Sermon notes:

John 18: 33-38

Breaking down our common saying the Jesus Christ is Lord.

“Jesus Christ is Lord” means something to us today, but it meant something very specific in the ancient world.

To say “Christ is Lord” was to challenge the Roman empire. A common greeting in the time was “Caesar is Lord” There was also a cult of the emperor, a belief that the Roman Leader was a god on earth.

The imperial cult was strong in many of the cities that our that are the birthplaces of Christianity. Cities that had an imperial cult were given special status and benefits in the empire.

The cult made sense to the Roman mind. Who but a god would be able to achieve the things the Roman empire achieved? Jesus lived and the church was born during something historians have called the “Pax Romana,” the Roman Peace.

It was a time when the Roman Navy made the seas safe and clear of pirates and robbery The Roman legion patrolled the various regions of the Empire and were kept free of “inter-tribal” wars lawlessness.

Technological improvements were blooming, and roads were being built to serve the population. The average person, the average Jew, was appreciative of the world the Romans had created.

Rome’s goal was to bring about peace on Earth enforcing a peace on earth. Who but a god could bring about this reality?

This is why someone who rebelled against the Roman rule was called a Zealot. Zealots had let their zeal for the ancient prophecies of God cloud their rationality. It was so clear: The Romans had things pretty well under control. This is why the Sanhedrin (the Jewish sacred leadership approved by Rome) was threatened by rumors of his Jesus’ “Kingship.”

So, Pilate’s question to Jesus, and Jesus’ response should be heard in this context. Pilate was concerned about any threat to the Pax Romana when he interviewed Jesus. This is why he was interested in suppressing any “so called king.”

A new king would mean “inter-tribal” battles, (headaches for the Roman legions in the area assigned to keep the area peaceful.)

This is also why Jesus’ response is also to be heard in this context. “My kingdom is not of this world—this is why my followers do not try to stop you from arresting me.”

“My kingdom is not of this world.” I am not here to threaten the earthly rule of Rome. I am not here to invalidate the peace that has been created. I am here to qualify that peace. It is a temporal peace. I am here to establish everlasting peace.
I am here to proclaim a spiritual peace that only God can give.

Jesus had never made any claims to power. He took the opposite route. He made claims to service. He said he’d be the servant of all and if we wanted to follow him we’d take the lowest positions—the positions of slaves.

To display the rule of his kingdom, he got down on his knees and washed his disciples feet. What he was displaying was that everlasting peace—the peace that transcends space and time—is won through gentle acts of serving others.

It comes through opening your eyes to the holiness of those who are rejected by even the most gloriously peaceful empire that had been known.

This is why Jesus’ ministry was among those who had “fallen through the cracks” of the Pax Romana and the Jewish society upon which it encroached.

He defended an adulterous woman from being stoned. He put his arms around tax collectors (who though served the Roman empire, were shunned by their own communities for doing it.) and zealots (who were marginalized by the powerful and “polite” society). He lifted up children, and said they possessed the truth about the Kingdom of God.

Though temporal peace was and may be won by “enforcing the peace,” as the Romans did, Jesus shows us that everlasting peace is achieved through becoming vulnerable.

Vulnerability is finding humility. Vulnerability is taking the role of a servant. Vulnerability is opening up to someone else in love and covenant. Vulnerability is asking for forgiveness.

Jesus went to the cross in the ultimate display of vulnerability. As Paul says in Phil. 2, “He made himself empty.”

This is the ultimate expression of Kingship. Jesus showed that he is the King who brings everlasting peace by pouring out all the power that he possessed. He made himself completely vulnerable, and thus displayed supreme power.

What king has more power, the king who has to guard his power or the king who is so secure that he knows he can pour out his power among his people?

It is our heritage then to serve in the task of creating everlasting peace through acts of service. We pour ourselves out to those who have fallen through the cracks of the Pax Americana. We proclaim the greatest King when we get on our knees and wash feet.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Christ the King and Thanksgiving Sunday

Don't forget that this week after worship we will host our annual thanksgiving luncheon. UMW supplies all the turkey, and members are asked to bring a side dish. Guests are welcome to simply come and eat! The Sunday worship will be devoted to our observance of Christ the King Sunday (the last Sunday of the Christian calendar year, Advent begins a new year) and that evening at 7pm we will gather at the school auditorium with Christians from other traditions in our community for the Ecumenical Thanksgiving service.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Nov. 15 Sermon: Signs of the Times

Texts: Romans 8: 25-29
Mark 13: 1-8


Contending with the “2012 Phenonmenon” that some churches in the area seem to be instilling in their unfortunate adherants.

Mayan archaeologist Jose Huchm complains that, "If I went to some Mayan-speaking communities and asked people what is going to happen in 2012, they wouldn't have any idea. That the world is going to end? They wouldn't believe you. We have real concerns these days, like rain."[21]

I worked at a bookstore in W. Hollywood where many books were sold that have posited theories of a “new era of consciousness” that will begin on Dec. 21, 2012, when the Mayan Calendar ends.

Many of these “new age” books are “channeled” from “extra-terrestrial beings” among other things. And no, they’re not thinking of Jesus as an “extra-terrestrial” being.

I just can’t understand why any church would take their cues on the coming of the Kingdom of God from the end of the Mayan Calendar (which was developed by a culture with no knowledge of what an “apocalypse” is) and Hollywood.

Yes, many people “in the industry” shop at the Bodhi Tree, and it would not surprise me if the screenwriters and producers of the upcoming “2012” movie, which is fueling this hype, were inspired by the movie by one of the books at the Bodhi Tree, such as

This show proved popular and was followed by many sequels: 2012, End of Days (2006), The Last Days on Earth (2008),Seven Signs of the Apocalypse (2008), and Nostradamus 2012 (2008).[62] Discovery Channel also aired "2012 Apocalypse" in 2009, suggesting that massive solar storms, flipping of the magnetic poles, earthquakes, super volcanoes, and more may occur in 2012. [63]
On November 12, 2008, the studio released the first teaser trailer for 2012 that showed a megatsunami surging over the Himalayas and interlaced a purportedly scientific message suggesting that the world would end in 2012, and that the world's governments were not preparing its population for the event. The trailer ended with a message to viewers to "find out the truth" by searching "2012" on search engines. The Guardian criticized the marketing effectiveness as "deeply flawed" and associated it with "websites that make even more spurious claims about 2012".[83]
The studio also launched a viral marketing website operated by the fictional Institute for Human Continuity, where filmgoers could register for a lottery number to be part of a small population that would be rescued from the global destruction.[84] The fictitious website lists the Nibiru collision, a galactic alignment, and increased solar activity among its possible doomsday scenarios.[85] David Morrison of NASA has received over 1000 inquiries from people who thought the website was genuine and has condemned it, saying "I've even had cases of teenagers writing to me saying they are contemplating suicide because they don't want to see the world end. I think when you lie on the internet and scare children in order to make a buck, that is ethically wrong."[86]
Fred Craddock once said, "Maybe people are obsessed with the second coming because, deep down, they were really disappointed in the first one."

Stones thrown down our world and our idea of greatness will crumble, when compared with the New Reality of the Kingdom.

Earthquakes, Wars, Rumors of Wars: These are but the birthpangs: and perhaps the birth involves our response to the pangs. Perhaps we are to be midwives of the Kingdom of God.

There is also "birthpangs" imagery in Romans 8: 22 that I may link to this text, to speak about "Creation herself, groaning out in birthpangs for her redemption." And the lectionary choice of Psalm 113 also has childbirth imagery as well. "He gives the barren woman a home, making her the joyous mother of children. Praise the Lord!" We are those who are called to minister to the suffering, to stand in the midst of wars and famines and cataclysms and "share the gospel." (As Jesus says in Mark 13 must happen.)

I'm not referring to "sharing the gospel" as simply telling people about Jesus, I'm referring to it as showing people Jesus, showing people the gospel. "Faith without works is dead," says James.

So, in short, the idea of the apocalypse shouldn't prompt us to sit around and obsess about all the speculations that are proffered by the latest con artist preacher. (I say "con-artist" since preachers should know that stoking the flames of people's fears and anxieties about the End of Days is a cheap trick for cheap faith.

If Jesus says that even he doesn't know the day nor the hour, then what would prompt a preacher to have the gall to believe that he or she does. Jesus himself warns against these kinds of cons in the passage. I admit, speculating about the apocalypse has an allure. It is mysterious. It is fun. It is intoxicating. And some people who are intoxicated on speculation about the apocalypse spew out some of the most hateful and anti-Christian things I've heard.

The idea of the apocalypse should instead prompt us to action for the sake of Christ. Jesus says "Be alert!" (Mark 13: 33) Being alert doesn't mean alert and alarmed about latest prognostications about an occasion that we can't possibly fathom, let alone predict.

"Alert" means "awake" and "about the tasks that we were left with." That's the summation of the whole passage, in the parable about the man leaving his house to the care of his servants. We don't want to be caught sleeping or daydreaming.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Zach Zink approved for ministry candidacy process at Paul's Valley UMC

We're proud of you Zach!

Nov. 8 Sermon: The Widow's Might

Sermon texts:
Philippians 2: 1-11
Mark 8: 38-44

No podcast again today--sorry, once again it messed up as I began to preach. In my opinion, you didn't miss much though.

Here are the notes:
Nov. 8 Notes:
A mother wanted to teach her daughter a moral lesson. She gave the little girl a quarter and a dollar for church "Put whichever one you want in the collection plate and keep the other for yourself," she told the girl. When they were coming out of church, the mother asked her daughter which amount she had given. "Well," said the little girl, "I was going to give the dollar, but just before the collection the man in the pulpit said that we should all be cheerful givers. I knew I'd be a lot more cheerful if I gave the quarter, so I did."

This passage of scripture is as familiar as it is celebrated. IN our annual conference each year, we even present a church or a person with the “widow’s mite” award, which honors some church or individual who has “given everything” for God’s glory.

We are all fond of the message that “it’s not how much you give, it’s how you give it.” We like thinking about God taking our seemingly insignificant gifts and holding them up as the most impressive thing of all.

It seems the lectionary designers have churches and their inevitable stewardship campaigns in mind when assigning this story from Mark in mid November, when churches are all considering their plans for the coming year and how they will achieve those plans.

I noticed a speed bump though this year as we cruise into this story and scoop up the inevitable and seemingly obvious “moral of the story.”

We have this description of Jesus observing the religious leaders and calling them out for their long, drawn out prayers and long flowing robes. There is one word for the scribes: pretentious. They live on the pretense that everything is about them.

On another occasion, Jesus compares the very loud and ostentatious prayers of a scribe to the prayers of a simple man, saying “Lord, I have sinned.” Here, Jesus lauds what is genuine and from the heart. Luke 18: 9-14

I think the widow’s mite is comparable to that short, simple prayer.

Some may say, “well, there isn’t much that two pennies is going to do for you anyway, so you might as well give it away.” Perhaps this is why God so loves the poor. The poor haven’t accumulated so much insulation between themselves and Him. The poor widow who has nothing to her name is more awake to our ultimate destiny than the rich fool who builds himself a bigger barn to keep all his stuff.

As Mother Theresa said, “If you give what you don’t need, it isn’t giving.” Another luminary of the 20th century, CS Lewis, said I do not believe one can settle how much we ought to give. I am afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare.
If our place in life isn’t so crowded—if we live a simpler life, as Andy was preaching about a couple of weeks ago, we are more reliant upon God’s grace. The more room we make for God’s grace in our lives, the more we get. God fills us to overflowing with grace.

Have you ever been waterlogged? You just feel full and slow and uncomfortable, right? This is what happens when we think all the good that comes into our life is for our own consumption, and we consume and consume instead of being filled and then overflowing.

The true might of the widow isn’t “mite,” it is the might that she expresses when she takes the bold stance of hanging on to nothing in her response of gratitude to God’s grace. This is the kind of might that displays the power of God.

God’s power can be felt through such expressions of might. Instead of being waterlogged with the things that do not last, like wealth and presteigue, if we are mighty like the widow and let the sustenance of God flow through us into a world that needs it.

The Philippians passage is known as the “Kenosis Hymn” because Paul is here referencing a hymn known to the early church. “Kenosis” means “emptying” in greek, and it refers to this passage where Paul is proclaiming that Christ “emptied” himself so that we could know God through him.

Jesus sacrificed all he had and all he was for us. And this, says Paul, is the “same mind which should be in us.”

I have tried to keep things in my hands and lost them all, but what I have given into God's hands I still possess.
Martin Luther.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

All Saint's Day Sermon

Revelation 21 and John 11

Have you ever been cried for?

Crying: Tears in Heaven: I think this was the first CD I ever bought. I loved the song and the sound of Eric Clapton singing for his son who had tragically died as a small child.

Don’t cry much.

Complaint belonged to the language of faith in Judaism (e.g., Psalms 4; 6; 13; 22) and does not cast doubts on Martha’s piety. On the contrary, the edge of complaint in v. 21 gives greater impact to Martha’s statement of confidence in Jesus in v. 22. “Even now,” in the face of Lazarus’s death, Martha’s confidence is undiminished. Martha’s words are framed as a confession, “I know . . . ”341 (see also Martha’s words in vv. 24, 27; cf. 9:31) and can be read as her assessment of Jesus as a righteous man to whom God will listen in prayer.342 The truth of Martha’s assertion runs deeper than that, however, because God has given all things into Jesus’ hands (3:35; 10:29).

Tears in heaven. Yes for now, but our ultimate destiny is to have no tears at all. Who is going to shed the last tear? I believe it is Jesus.

The African Slave Song went, Aww, Mary don’ you weep, don’ you moan. Pharoah’s army got drownd’ed! Aww, Mary don’ you weep. God’s grace and power over our slavery to sin and death has been shown again and again throughout history. And Jesus is going to make it right.

Movie example: This is where Revelation passage comes in: like when you see a movie, a thriller perhaps, and then you see it again with a friend, when you see them reacting and worrying over it, you want to say to them, it’s all right—it turns out all right.

From Lazarus point of view:
What graveclothes keep me bound and prevent me
from entering into the new life to which Jesus
calls me?
lack of trust in God
trusting in our culture's assumptions (wealth,
military might, some people are deserving and
others are not...)

Unbinding: Jesus gives the command to the disciples to “unbind him and let him go.” Jesus has freed him from the clutches of death. Jesus has taken the dead man and has made him alive. Now it is for those who witness the great power of this act to unbind the man from those grave clothes.

Do you hear? Are you risen from the grave? Has Christ given you a new life? Are you born from death? I hope so. I hope we can all say that we have found the mighty power of Jesus Christ that frees us from death.

I’m not just talking about the death that we will all experience at the end of this earthly life. I’m talking about the death that traps us, that clutches us, that clings to us, that smells so offensive to the righteous, and yet does not distance us from the one who saves us. You notice that Jesus isn’t fazed by Martha’s concern that Lazarus will smell bad.

But, even if you have been raised from sin and death, are you still bound in the grave clothes? Are you bound by the old ways, the “way things have always been?” The things of the life you had before being raised from the tomb? Are you still bound? John says earlier that “though the light had come into the world, the people loved the darkness rather than the light.”

Why is that? Because their deeds were evil. You can hide in the darkness, see. You can hide in the tomb. But Jesus has come and has called us out of the tomb, and he has commanded us to be unbound from those stinking, hideous clothes

If we get to that point where we can shed our grave clothes, then we have a new command: unbind them and set them free. Jesus likes to put things in the hands of his disciples. He gives them the bread and the fishes to distribute. He also gives them the charge to unbind Lazarus and let him go.

How have we been wept for? How have we been unbound by those saints who have heard the call of Christ to minister to us? How have those who have gone on before us helped us to walk out into the light?