Sunday, February 27, 2011

Feb. 27 Sermon: Don't Worry Bout a Thing

Sermon Texts: Isaiah and Matthew

Sermon Notes
Seems like there is a lot of pop-psychology these days for avoiding anxiety. And at the end of the day, those of us who probably need the message the most probably have added to our anxiety by realizing that we can’t seem to shake our anxiety. There must be something wrong with us! Why can’t I do this? Aaagh
I wonder if Jesus had a wife, what she’d think of this kind of sentiment, because I know my wife doesn’t really care for it when she’s worried about something, and I say, “don’t worry.” Usually, I get more “husband points” when I just listen to what she’s worried about and validate her concerns.
I can imagine the look on her face if I were to quote Jesus’ lines from today’s reading. “Well, look at the flowers—they’re not too concerned about what they will wear—let’s go!
Right after telling his followers to "be perfect," Jesus tells them, "don't worry" (Matthew 5:48, 6:25). In fact, he repeats himself five times.
In many ways, I feel like Jesus is here preaching to the choir, regarding worry and concern. I’ve always been fairly able to temper my concerns and worries with healthy dose of optimism (my wife would call it naivite)
I have little musical mantras that flood my mind when I’m feeling anxious about something. Bob Marley singing “Don’t worry, about a thing—cause every little thing, is gonna be alright,” to Stevie Wonder’s “Don’t you worry bout a thiiiiiiiiiiiiing.” To the Beach Boys singing “Don’t Worry Baby, Everything will turn out all right.” To Bobby McFerrin Singing “Here’s a little song I wrote, you might want to sing it note for note, don’t worry. Be happy.” Chuck D (of Public Enemy) Didn’t feel quite so optimistic about things—in “Fight the Power” he says, “Don’t Worry Be Happy was a number one jam, "man" if I say it you can slap me right here.”
But, notice that Jesus isn’t exactly being optimistic here, he says, “Don’t worry about tomorrow, because today has enough troubles as it is.”
Scott Hoezee of The Center for Excellence in Preaching
“Jesus says that each day has enough trouble as it is. This isn’t just a philosophy of life—Jesus is probably speaking out of the experience that he and the disciples have had to this point. And we know what that trouble is. Sometimes it's sheer busyness. Most households these days need flowcharts just to figure out who needs to be where and when.
Especially parents of younger children live with the constant fear that they're forgetting something. "Each day has enough trouble of its own" our Lord said. If ever there were a Bible verse to which we could all shout a full-throated "Amen!", this is it.
Life is full of distractions. Any given day is chock-full of what we deem to be "interruptions" to what we'd really rather be doing. But in Matthew 6, by telling us both that our heavenly Father sees us in these daily lives and by inviting us to pray about those same lives, Jesus asks us to look at even our distractions, even our interruptions, through new eyes. If this is the context in which, somehow or another, we are able to seek first the kingdom of God and its righteousness, then that kingdom and that holy way of living is possible not by our breaking out of the routine but smack in the midst of it all.”
I remember when I used to work at UCLA and then at Occidental College, many students would often come to me with visible anxiety about “what they were supposed to do with their life.” Their own insecurities about the future were coupled with what they perceived their parents expectations to be. Sometimes I’d counter to them, “Well, what do you have going on RIGHT NOW?”
Tony Compolo asked in a sermon on this topic,
Are you going to do what God wants you to do today ? That is the ultimate question. Every day you should get up and say, “This is the day that the Lord has made. What doees God want me to do? What does God want me to achive this day?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Feb. 13 Sermon: Higher Path

Sermon Texts: Deuteronomy and Matthew

Sermon Notes:
We’ve all been at those forks in the road haven’t we? Before the days of GPS, when you come to a fork in the road and you just don’t know
deut. 30: Same obstacles lie ahead of either path you take through them. One gives us life, the other one death.
Pretty drastic language—as with the discussion on lust. Wow—I’m sure most churches would look like a zombie movie if we were to take this prescription literally.
What’s at the root of that? Lust objectifies people, and to Jesus, objectification is the ultimate sin. It is taking a person, a Spirit-bearer, and reducing her to what you find particularly delightful. Perhaps our bodies age and become less “lust inducing” can be a reminder to us that what grips us with lust is very, very temporary. But the light inside us never dies. And it is the light inside us that Christ is trying to get us to see in one another. That light can be overshadowed by lust, especially if we feed our lust. And lust is something that can be trained.
Tackle divorce issue? It’s probably going to be what they key in on the most there—social issue that churches approach in a variety of ways.
Obviously Jesus speaks against divorce, not only here, but elsewhere in each of the gospels, and even later in Matt 19, when he says So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate." /7/ They said to him, "Why then did Moses command us to give a certificate of dismissal and to divorce her?" /8/ He said to them, "It was because you were so hard-hearted that Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. /9/ And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for unchastity, and marries another commits adultery." /10/ His disciples said to him, "If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry." /11/ But he said to them, "Not everyone can accept this teaching, but only those to whom it is given.

May sound like Jesus is pinning the blame on the women—only the women are committing adultery? But viewed throught the lens of his contemporary culture, Jesus is actually speaking about the value of the women who are rejected in divorce. Though it was accepted in his culture, Jesus pointed to the significance of what divorce did to the women in question—Though the men who decided to divorce their wives thought it was appropriate just to think of themselves, Jesus reminds them what their actions mean for the lives of others. He tightens the bonds of covenant by including not only our actions, but the intent behind our actions.
Matthew speaks of a pathway of personal integrity, which joins the inner and outer life. What we think about and our emotional lives shape how we act. Small things – like anger – are in a continuum with dangerous actions such as murder. Jesus is not denying our emotional life or personal attractions, or asking us to repress our feelings, but reminding us that we need to educate our emotions and thoughts – that what we feel and think has an impact on our overall well-being. Integrity involves the integration of the inner and outer life in ways that are life-giving for us and others. We can experience a healing of memories, emotions, and thoughts that enable us to move from alienation to reconciliation and learn to live by love and not fear.
Steep pathway up a mountain Karate Kid. At the top of the mountain are Kung Fu masters, one of whom the Karate Kid sees on a cliff ledge face to face with a cobra, seemingly dancing with it as it bobs and weaves its head. He at first mistakes her for mimicking the motions of the cobra, then Jackie Chan, the new Mr. Miogi, tells him that she is actually controlling the snake with her intentionality. Choosing life is that high steep path to the mountaintop—and what Jesus tells us, whether we are ready to hear it or not, is that at the top of that mountain, our intentions are of primary importance. They are the place where true worship and love of God, or where murder and adultery begin.
Choosing life or choosing other gods is the follow through on momentum. That momentum can be trained and honed—but it takes diligence and committement.
cause the sayings of Jesus, especially in Matthew's text, go beyond a 'code' of ethics into a 'psychology' of ethics, they stimulate our "imaginations" so we go deeper into all that motivates us, the impact of even our most mundane actions on ourselves and others
It does bring to
mind something from the movie Eat Pray Love in
which someone talks about the importance of
controlling your thoughts. I believe what he said
was we should choose our thoughts the same way we
choose our clothes in the morning. Unfortunately
the way I choose my clothes is to reach in to a
dark closet without the light so that I don't wake
my wife and grab whatever pants and shirt my hand
falls upon; which is also the exact same way I
seem to do with my thoughts, groping around in a
dim mind trying to catch hold of something that
feels right. Most times this can lead to some
strange and foolish combinations, but once in a
while the results are interesting.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Feb. 6 Sermon: Cooped Up

Sermon Texts:
Isaiah and Matthew


One thing I’m sure we all got into touch with this past week is the experience of being cooped up.
We were cooped up anyway with various illnesses, so we’ve been hanging around the house for a couple of weeks.
Experience of being cooped up.
From today’s reading, we hear that God is much the same—He doesn’t care to be cooped up.
Jesus says it this way, “You are light—who lights a lamp and then puts it under a bushel?”
In John’s Gospel, he calls Jesus Christ the “true light, which illumines everyone.” So, by Jesus telling his disciples that they are light, he’s saying that he lives in us.
And when he lives in us, he doesn’t like to be cooped up in the house. He wants to be let out.
Isaiah speaks about what kinds of specific ways the light is shown to the world—things that we might call “social justice.”
And lest we think that “letting your light shine” means putting a smile on your face or name-dropping “Jesus” or “Praise God” into every other sentence, Isaiah tells us what letting your light shine really means. I’m certain Jesus had Isaiah’s instruction in mind when he began preaching this “Sermon on the Mount” and made such bold declarations about his hastily assembled congregation:
Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice,
To undo the thongs of the yoke,
To let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin?
Then your light shall break forth like the dawn and your healing shall spring up quickly!
Isaiah 58:6-8

Jesus said, “In the same way, let your light shine before others so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” Every time you share with the hungry; every time you tend to the homeless; every time you clothe the cold and naked; every time you refuse to hide your face from the suffering around you but look it square in the face; each and every time you do that, you breath life-giving air onto that tiny little light burning within you causing it to burn even higher and brighter!
Jesus also turns from this discussion to a perplexing discussion about fulfilling the law to the stroke of the letter—something Paul would have no doubt scratched his head at (had Paul not already written everything we find in the Bible)
Jesus seems to say that one of ways that we can let our light shine is by observing the law to the best of our abilities. And what is it that is the law is most about? Loving God and loving our neighbor as ourselves.
Salt and Light for the Whole World. Jesus' teachings in the Sermon are directed far beyond the narrow circle of the disciples themselves. We are to be the salt of the earth and light of the world. Matthew 5:13-16 is connected, as if with an umbilical cord, to Matthew 28:19.

Salt and Light Give Glory to God, Not Ourselves. The goal of being salt and light is to give glory to "your Father in heaven" (see 5:17, 6:9, 11:25). These two metaphors are perfect for depicting a ministry that points beyond itself to God. Salt shouldn't call attention to itself in a well-seasoned dish. It enhances the combination of other ingredients. Light illumines other objects in the room beyond itself (Reid, 36).

It’s a good thing we hear this at an early age and begin to try to learn it, for we must spend a lifetime reminding ourselves to keep our light burning! It takes constant attention, lest we succumb to that temptation to “hide our light under a bushel.” There in the opening verses of what surely must be The most famous sermon in the world, “The Sermon on the Mount” right after the poetic and status-changing opening which we call “The Beatitudes,” Jesus looks out at a crowd of close disciples and lesser-know followers alike and makes some very bold declarations: You are the salt of the earth! You are the light of the world! Has something that been said to you lately? Has someone boldly looked at you and proclaimed such good news?

You can go a long time without hearing that kind of declaration. More often than not, you don’t hear anything that comes even close. Instead, you hear, “You’re not who we’re looking for!” “You don’t measure up.” “You’re too old.” “You’re way too young—come back when you’re more experienced.” Or, something just as disappointing. It’s enough to snuff out any kind of light flickering there within you. But you don’t hear that from Jesus. Instead, without first passing out an aptitude test or requiring a year-long internship, he proclaims, “You are the salt of the earth—you are the light of the world!” Like salt, we are to conserve the well-being of this world we inhabit—as light, our good works stand out or lights up in such a way that God is made known.