Sunday, February 28, 2010

Lent 2 Sermon: All Hail the Holy Hen

Sermon Texts: Philippians and Luke 13

Sermon Notes

Rick Steves kind of sermon today. 

Dominus Flevit, description.  The church that commemorates this occasion we hear about today.  Jesus wept, the chapel is shaped like a tear. 

Window—Barbara Brown Taylor: Inside the chapel, the altar is centered before a high arched window that looks out over the city. Iron grillwork divides the view into sections, so that on a sunny day the effect is that of a stained-glass window. The difference is that this subject is alive. It is not some artist’s rendering of the holy city but the city itself, with the Dome of the Rock in the bottom left corner and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in the middle. Two-thirds of the view is the cloudless sky above the city which the grillwork turns into a quilt of blue squares. Perhaps this is where the heavenly Jerusalem hovers over the earthly one, until the time comes for the two to meet?

Can you imagine Jesus looking out over a very different Jerusalem, perhaps with the view as clear as this window makes it for us that there is a new Jerusalem, a heavenly Jerusalem, waiting to join the earthly Jerusalem, and he knows he will be the one to usher in that new city? 

He is met by the Pharisees, who do him the favor of telling him he has a death threat against him, and he starts talking about animals. 

He calls Herod a fox, and then tells the Pharisees what to tell Herod, basically, I’m going to go about my business, and you mind your own! 

I used to enjoy imagining what kind of animal I’d be if I could be an animal.  I remember running around the playground when I was about Wesley’s age imagining I was a rhino.  I also enjoyed thinking I’d be a St. Bernard.  In fact, I wanted to change my name to Bernard as a kid, because I thought it would make me bigger.  Now that I think about it, a rhino is pretty big too, so maybe I had a thing with wanting to be bigger. 

You would think Jesus would have chosen a little better.  CS Lewis pictures the savior as a fierce Lion in the Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, and we certainly can see why.  The Bible talks a lot about the Messiah as the great Conquering Lion of Judah. 

But, if Jesus cared to venture into bird territory to find a good animal representation of himself, then certainly the Eagle of Deuteronomy 32:11 makes sense, like an eagle that stirs up its nest and hovers over its young, that spreads its wings to catch them and carries them on its pinions.   Yes indeed.  That’s strong, protective imagery.

But instead, Jesus chooses a hen.  A hen!  His choice is commemorated here in the Dominus Flevit chapel with this mosaic.  Though if you ask me, and even though I’m from Arkansas, I don’t know a lot about chickens mind you.  But, I thought that only roosters had those combs on their heads. 

Well, we can imagine why the artist has taken liberties, can’t we?  At least a rooster offers some form of defense.  He’s got those spikes on the back of his legs, and I can tell you from the experience of being the cause for alarm to a rooster, they can be awfully intimidating, can’t they?  They certainly think they are!  I remember thinking, surely I could just kick the thing in it’s head, couldn’t I?  But instead I just made a habit of taking a wide berth and kind of scooting across that rooster’s path pretty quickly when I was a visitor to a farm that had a rooster. 

Yes, at least a rooster is a little more like an eagle.  A little more formidable opponent to a fox, but Jesus very clearly likens himself to the female chicken, which   Barbara Brown Taylor said, "About all she can do is fluff herself up and sit on her chicks.  She can put herself between them and the fox, as ill-equipped as she is.  At the very least, she can hope that she satisfies his appetite so that the fox leaves her babies alone."

The medallion is rimmed with red words in Latin. Translated into English they read, "Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings,
and you were not willing!" The last phrase is set outside the circle, in a pool of red underneath the chicks’ feet: you were not willing.
My dad’s dad was a Pentecostal preacher, and every once in a while, my dad tells me about one of the gems that they’d sing in church.  One is, “The Devil is a sly old fox; if I could catch him, I’d put him in a box; I’d lock the door and throw away the key; for all those tricks he’s played on me!  I’m glad I got salvation, I’m glad I got salvation, I’m glad I got salvation, by the grace of God!” 

So, all Hail the Holy Hen, The one who takes away the sin of the world by offering himself as a holy and perfect sacrifice, perhaps praying that the “Sly old fox’s” appetite would be satisfied. 

The hen has already given her life for the chicks, and she calls out to all who will listen, come and gather under my wings!  Are you not willing? 

Monday, February 22, 2010

hymn and singing study readings for 2/28/10

You can find the study guide at this link, and the songs that are referenced there here. Also, we will not only discuss new hymns, but our favorites. Come prepared to speak about your favorite 1 or 2 hymns and why you like them. You can get a hymnal from the church, or just look up the hymn on Cyberhymnal which allows you to search for the hymn by title, then has the story of the composer, then the lyrics. If you download the plugin in the left hand corner, it will play the hymn in a midi file.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Ash Wednesday Service: Feb. 17 at 6pm

We hope you join us in marking the first day of Lent this Wednesday. Be there at 6pm for a special service.

Readings for Hymn Study feb 21

We'll be focusing on Prophetic Music on Sunday the 21st. You're welcome to join us.
Click here and here

Monday, February 08, 2010

1 Corinthians and Luke

Today's sermon was a midrash, or an "imaginative retelling" of Luke 4 and 5. I imagined I was a resident of Capernaum who observed the call of Simon, James, and John.

A fishing story:
You want to hear a fish story?
I remember that day Simon, the bully of Bethsaida, took that wandering prophet out in his boat to let him preach from it.

He had come once before, and had been welcomed by Simon. Simon usually gathered the largest men and went out to meet any newcomers in town, in case they were zealots or soldiers. But this man had come alone, and Simon had heard of him. He was a healer and a prophet—so he invited him to stay at his own home, where his mother in law was suffering from a fever. That night, the man rebuked the fever, and it immediately went away.

As soon as word had gotten around about Simon’s mother-in-law, everyone brought their sick and ailing to see the man named Jesus. I remember how everyone crowded around Simon’s house, and his daughters tried to organize everyone into groups small enough not to overwhelm the saint. This went on through the night, and he healed all of them, and then slipped away at dawn to be alone in the wilderness. When a group of us found him, he told us that he was going on to preach in more places.

So when he returned one morning, just as the fishermen were cleaning their nets from an unsuccessful night on the lake, everyone gathered around and wanted to hear what he had to say. Sound echoes well over the water. Every fisherman knows you don’t speak with your partners about things you don’t want to get out while you are fishing. Voices just seem to carry over the water, don’t they?. This day, I didn’t have to listen closely for the words of that man. They danced out over the water, and the lake itself seemed to stop lapping at the shore and listen attentively.

The man spoke for awhile about how the Lord was not some far off and aloof God, but was right there with us. He said that God wanted to be known to all of us a child knows his father, and that God wanted to be trusted. Then he told Simon to row out to the deeper water. Seeing him tell Simon what to do made me chuckle to myself. I’d never seen anyone do that before! Usually, Simon stormed around town telling everyone else what to do! He was larger than all the other men in town, and he was persuasive in ways that go beyond words. But, Simon obeyed the strange man.

Then, even though he had already folded his nets and finished for the day, I saw him throwing out the nets again. I couldn’t believe my eyes when they hauled up a catch so big it seemed as though the nets were about to snap! James and John, who were known as the “sons of thunder” because they were also large and commanding young men whom Simon had chosen as partners and everyone thought as future sons-in-law, since Simon only had daughters, were standing on the shore, dumbstruck by the prophet’s words. When they saw the full net, they leaped into their boat and rowed out to help with the haul.

Two boatfuls of beautiful fish shining in a new day’s sunlight weighed down the two boats so low that water actually started seeping over the tops of them. Waterlogged, it took the boats three times as long to bring the boats to shore as usual. When they got the boats to shore, Simon was weeping. I had never seen him shed a tear! There wasn’t a single stray catfish in the haul. (We would have had to throw the catfish back, as we are prohibited by the Law from eating them.) All of them were beautiful tilapia, which after that day we started calling by the name “Simon’s Fish,” and then when Jesus gave him a new name, “Peter’s Fish.”

Simon stumbled out of the boat, and made a plea to everyone there, “forgive me for how I’ve wronged you. Forgive my impatience and my temper and my haughtiness. At these words, James and John fell to their knees as well and joined in the prayer. Jesus stood in the boat, with the fish flopping around at his feet. He said, “Today these men bring in plentiful fish, but I am going to make them fish for people. Care for their families while they are gone. They will return, and you will have the chance to follow too.” Then, he turned to Simon and his brother Andrew and James and John and said, “Come, follow me.”

And they did! They left the fish and the boats and their homes and followed him. I looked at Simon’s wife Ruth, expecting her to be frantic, but she was peaceful. Ever since he had healed her mother, Ruth had spoken of Jesus with reverence. She looked as serene and joyful that day on the beach as she’d been that night, laughing and darting around the room serving the guests with her newly rejuvenated mother.

I wondered what would become of Simon and our town. I wondered if I would go if Jesus had called me. I wondered all of these things, because later that man who seemed so glorious and powerful in that boat would be nailed up on a cross and left to hang and die. Simon Peter would tell everyone who listened that he had seen him in the flesh after his death, but I never saw him again. And so I wonder, because his voice still echoes in my ears, and he seemed to be speaking to me when he said, “Come, Follow me.” .

Friday, February 05, 2010

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Souper Bowl Luncheon

Have a bowl of soup and support our mission work this Sunday at 12 noon. Many soups and desserts will be available from the great cooks in our congregation. You can make a donation at the supper. All funds will be used for charitable benevolences.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Upcoming Workshop on Prayer

The First United Methodist Church of Owasso is hosting 2 special events on prayer. Our leader for these events is Dr. Tom Albin, Dean of the Chapel at the Upper Room in Nashville , Tennessee . Tom is a clergy member of the Oklahoma Conference and is excited to come back to Oklahoma for these events. He is a featured speaker at national events and is known for his insights on prayer, our Wesleyan heritage and the spiritual life of Christians.
The first event, “Teach Me to Pray” will be held on Saturday, February 20. This event is designed for anyone interested in developing their prayer life. We think it could enhance the prayer ministry of your church and hope that you and your lay people will attend. Registration is from 9:00-9:30 a.m. The day will end at about 3:30-4:00 p.m. The cost for the event is only $10 and includes lunch. Childcare is provided at no charge for those who register by February 15.
The second event “Praying in the Wesleyan Spirit”, will be held on Monday, February 22. This event is designed for clergy and staff to have a “day apart”. This day will be a good way to start the season of Lent. Registration will be held from 9:00-9:30 a.m. with the day ending at about 3:15 p.m. The cost will be $10 which includes lunch. Childcare will be provided if needed. Please let us know by February 15.
If you have any questions please call Chris Tiger at 272-5731. We look forward to hosting these events and hope you and your church can come.

Yours in Christ,
Chris Tiger

March 6 Potato Banquet and Bolivian singers in Muskogee

The following email came to the pastor's attention. It looks like a great evening if you are interested!

Save the date, Monday, March 8, 6:30 p.m., St. Paul UMC, Muskogee

Our Conference Covenant Agreement with the Evangelical Methodist Church in Bolivia is a rich one. We will be privileged to host three Bolilvians in the singing group AYNI-Bolilvia on the above date.

The purpose of this Potato Banquet and Concert is to raise funds for the construction of the Nuevo Canaan Methodist Church in El Alto , Bolivia . Bishop Hayes has visited that church.

1. WHY A POTATO BANQUET? The potato originated in the Andes Mountains. It is the staple food of those in high altitudes because it is about all they can raise in the cold.
2. WHY BUILD A METHODIST CHURCH IN EL ALTO? For over a hundred years the UMC has had a missionary presence in the Altiplano. The native people respect Methodism because we have not been paternalistic. We have provided for education of the indigenous peoples when the government frowned upon their improvement. We have trained Bolivian pastors. The Methodist presence is strong in the Altiplano.
At the present time, indigenous peoples are moving from the country to El Alto, which now has about 2,000,000 inhabitants. This city has sprung up in the last twenty years. Since the people have an affinity for Methodism, they look for Methodist Churches. The Bolivian Methodist Church is building churches as fast as they can. We can help with this critical construction.

Please bring a group from your church to this event. Our support can go a long way to helping build this church which will spread the Gospel to many persons. More information will be coming.

You can You Tube a video presentation of the group AYNI-Bolivia. The videos show both musicians and dancers. We will host only the musicians due to the cost of travel.

See you March 8th.

God’s best,
Pastor Rusty Williams, Chairperson
Muskogee District Committee on Missions

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Jan. 31 Sermon: An Answer to our Inadequacies

Jeremiah and 1 Corinthians

Story about not being fully understood. Razorback to the shower.

I am fully understood by God. Jeremiah: I am known even in the womb. We can’t know fully as God knows in this life. Perhaps this is a blessing.

……..I’ve heard it said that education, (that instruction in knowledge and understanding) is like kindling a flame, not like filling a vessel. This is true—and the fire that is stoked can either be the pure light of wisdom and reason, or it can be the destructive glow of the atom bomb. Knowledge and Understanding can be corrupted……..

God does give us the ability to love fully though.

Jeremiah feels inadequate. He says he is just a boy. Perhaps he doesn’t feel like he knows enough. God tells him, “don’t say ‘I’m just a boy.’ I’ll put my words in your mouth.

……….If we’re willing to love God and we communicate our love of God by trusting him fully, we will be adequate……….

Matthew gives us a picture of Jesus making a similar point when he declares: "Not every one who says, 'Lord, Lord', will enter the kingdom of heaven, but those who do the will of my father who is in heaven" (7:21) and continues by pointing out that in the end people will report their wonderful deeds, miracles, prophecy and the like, only to be told they have no real relationship with Jesus at all. Similarly in the parable of the sheep and the goats, Matthew reports that the sheep are those who exercised compassion in their lives (25:31-48). That is ultimately what counts.

Paul puts the other gifts in their place in the Cor. Chapter. Everthing is hollow and pointless without love. Love is how we align ourselves with the will of God. Epperly, “To acknowledge that we “prophesy in part” is the first step in honest spiritual leadership and the primary antidote to religious idolatry, intolerance, and fanaticism.

Socrates said, “As for me, all I know is that I know nothing.”

Tillich: Shaking of the Foundations “And now let us consider our existence, and the knowledge that we possess. Paul says that all our present knowledge is like the perception of things in a mirror, that it therefore concerns enigmas and riddles. This is only another way of expressing the fragmentary character of our knowledge. For fragments out of the context of the whole are only riddles to us. We may surmise the nature of the whole; we may approach the whole indirectly; but we do not see the whole itself; we do not grasp it directly face to face. A little light and much darkness; a few fragments and never the whole; many problems and never a solution; only reflections in the mirrors of our souls, without the source of truth itself: that is the situation of our knowledge.”

Story of mice and elephant.

Our knowledge of others is incomplete. We can’t substantiate it. I can’t go into your head and see life as you see it. There’s a great, strange movie called “Being John Malkovich” that taps into this question. Cameron Diaz and John Cusack find a strange small door in his office building, and it leads into the body of John Malkovich. They walk around looking out through his eyes, but they still retain their own selves, and so they keep getting flushed out and landing in a ditch on the New Jersey turnpike.

Have you ever thought about this before? What does green look like to the person sitting next to you? Even if our brains all have a common interpretation for the color green, we have different experiences tied up in the color which flood our minds when we see that color too. Those experiences are unique.

And so, we see the tip of the iceberg as to why “knowledge is incomplete, and why we cannot possibly know the other. As Epperly says, the ultimate Other is God, who we believe experiences His entire Creation. Every life, every pulsing star, everything!

This is why Paul says we see like this image you see on your bulletin cover. We see as though through a foggy mirror. We can make out the shape of God, perhaps. We know certain things about God.
One thing we can be sure of, because God gives us this gift of being able to fully comprehend God’s love toward us and toward His Creation, is that God’s Love is somehow united with the identity of God.

Though our knowledge and understanding fall short of comprehending God—we can comprehend God when we become vessels of his Love. We can love completely as we are completely loved. We can reciprocate in this way only. And it is by this path only because any other path leads perilously close to self-idolatry and self-worship.

The time is coming when faith will be replaced by knowledge, and when hope will find its realization. But in the new age love will not be superseded, for God is love.

This is why we believe that faith, which is best expressed by love, can have room for doubts and intellectual hesitation. Article in Christian Century, “When author Madeleine L’Engle was asked, “Do you believe in God without any doubts?” she replied, I believe in God with all my doubts.” We see in a mirror dimly, but what we see is important. We have treasures in our congregational traditions and doctrinal understandings, but they are mediated through earthen vessels.