Monday, February 27, 2012

God Promised, Genesis 9:8-17, Psalm 25, Mark 1:9-15

(The following sermon, delivered 2/26 is in modified outline form.)

Where /what last journey you took? How did you prepare? (Where did you go?)     (How did you prepare?)
Story: there were two friends who went on a weekend trip. One packed an overnight bag and the other opened her car to reveal a ‘trunk’ to rival Harry Potter’s. Have you known or been that friend?
Some are minimalists, others believe in preparing for any & every eventuality...(“including with the friend I mentioned who prepared for, famine, prohibition, power outage, a strike by the garment-makers union, and the cessation of all magazine publishing.” said her friend.) Carol Noren Minister’s Annual (Inver Grove Hgts, MD: Logos, 2011) 272  
My daughter speaks/blogs about learning how to pack as a GS: outfits in zip-lock bags, socks inside your shoes, extra pants b/c you WILL get in a  mud or food fight, and “never forget your poncho or you will be forced to wear a trashbag with holes cut out for head and arms.”
How do YOU pack for a journey?

40 days of Lent; We have begun the Journey.
(4 days into it) Our preparation is much like preparing a suitcase. What we need for Lent is a subset of what we need for the Journey of Life.
Time of preparing; similar to Advent but with a different feel.
2 weeks ago we talked about what discipline we needed to get ready. Now that we are here, I want to
spend a little time paying attention to WHERE we are going, WHY we are excited about it, along with WHAT kind of commitment we need to get there. .
LENT is a Spiritual Journey, and so is LIFE
Do you know the saying, "if you don’t know where you are going you will likely get there"
when I asked about the discipline you would choose, I offered some choices based on
whether you needed to discipline your head or your heart
to listen to your gut or exercise your hands
now I ask you to visualize your journey.
1st, where are you going? where is your destination? . .
Whether you think in terms of heaven or hell..or
a return to God, the place from which we come..or

Now, answer; What is The truth of your life?
This is a who are you?  question. In a single sentence if possible.
(WRITE IN A SENTENCE) Open your bulletin, see blank section in the middle. Use it to write your sentence. Who/ what truth of your life?
I am . . .  (What is unique & exciting about you?)
    Until we know who we are individually, hard to know who we are collectively.
hard for us to determine, Who we are as church? &
    Where WE are going.
hard for us to be examples for children and youth, or friends who look to us for help, guidance.
Hold onto your sentence while we explore the scriptures you heard today. (Briana read 4 us)
Trans Scriptures are the stories of people who struggled to know who they were as children of God
& how they fit into the story of all creation.
We we listen, we learn that in their struggles they discovered their truth.

you heard; Texts: Genesis 9: 8-17, Ps. 25: 1-10, Mark 1: 9-15
Let’s see if we can discover the TRUTH OF EACH TEXT (Clue; look at the sermon title)
Genesis 9; call it = Noah lands, God promises
Tail end of Noah’s story; even w/o great background in the Bible, most of us know this story = the great flood, all on earth destroyed except Noah, his family, and 2 of every kind.
This is a story from the ‘Priestly’ tradition (Several different story lines combined in much of the OT.) It has certain characteristics;

Those of you who study the great stories of cultures may recognize that in the NearEast cultures, turbulent water was a symbol of ultimate chaos (Dianne Bugant, exegetical, Feasting on the Word, Bartlett and Taylor, eds. (Louisville:WJK, 2008) 27)

Divine beings were often pictured as warriors and in this case, the greatest warrior of all, our God, hangs up his bow and offers humanity/ ALL creation actually, a promise.
Unilateral Promise: only God is obligated and bow is a reminder to God more than to people.

Flood turns out to be an opportunity for a new beginning for ALL creation.
Daniel Schowalter says, this story is; “Not about destruction, disobedience, or confusion, rather it’s an opportunity to picture God, human beings, and all creatures of earth in a harmonious relationship. It’s A covenant moment rare in the biblical narrative, and certainly one worth recapturing today.” (Daniel Schowalter New Proclamation 2005-06 (Minn:Fortress,2005) 148)

Truth of Noah’s story is God’s promise of a new beginning, a fresh start without threat of further world-wide destruction. (Good news for everyone’s journey.)

Psalm 25; subtitled is a ‘primer’
Psalms are hard for anyone not a poet, not used to looking for meaning in the verses of a song. 
I remember a backyard camp out where a bunch of young teen girls listened to a “whiter shade of pale” for endless hours trying to figure it out.
Ps. 25 is for students on the journey with God, who want to learn.

It is an acrostic; each line beings with a letter of the Hebrew alphabet..aleph, bet, gimmel, dalet, hey, vav, zion, het and chet...
It is more than a more familiar song about prayer or spiritual seeking, it is a psalm of instruction. (made easy to recite by use of the alphabet)

It mentions the student’s love of learning God’s way,
it gives thanks for forgiveness which also references Israel’s history; (1 verse past our reading) & the great sin of the golden can look for that truth later
Reminds: that God commits to love and teach God’s children despite our being hard-headed. (More good news for me.) (Stephen Cook, exegetical Feasting On The Word, (Louisville:WJK,2008) 35)
If look at whole picture of Ps.25 it connects us to salvation history; the story of God’s action to reach out and save.
God offers everyone a new beginning - when WE commit to the journey.
yet we also see from psalmist that the journey of faith in God is a risk.
we are not used to RISK IN FAITH.
Where Job grew up.. . .persecution, he understands risk
Old Brethren saw the risk as the danger of becoming too “worldly” -
it’s a battle still seen clearly in Amish world (& in some ways is still lived out in the struggles of our denom.)
For most of us, if we recognize a battle, it is within; “a struggle between self-interest and God’s interest” and we too often limit God’s interest to Sunday.

It’s hard for us to see there IS a risk to the Journey of Faith, that when we take THIS TRIP, we must be willing to give up our entire self to travel to a destination some will not understand.
 Truth= the JOURNEY IS a risk; you may have to alienate what was ONCE true for you and take on God’s truth which is not about you at all. . . . but With the risk, comes God’s promise. .Truth is you will find excitement when u travel with God. Are you prepared for risk?

Mark 1 (when we get to Mark, we are where the action is)
Jesus’ story begins anew with his baptism which offers new life to all of us.
Jesus’ public act of entering the water brings creation from the chaos of the crazy world of the 1st century. For him and for all Xians who come after, his baptism marks the END of an OLD world and the beginning of a NEW one; a new creation that began to break in (as Mark likes to describe the tearing of the heavens) and is still breaking in today.

With Jesus’ life all the “Old obligations, to temple, priests, Herod, & Rome, were cancelled, for all who repent and follow him into God’s rule.” (Stanley Saunders Feasting p.49) the TRUTH behind this part of Jesus’ great story is that God will bless and equip us for ministry when we’ve made the commitment to be a new creation.

Turns out Mark is into preparing us for the Journey.
his “purpose is not to lay out a sophisticated understanding of what it means to believe in Jesus but to alert readers early in the gospel that they should be most concerned about whether or not they are prepared for the coming of God’s rule.” (New Proc. p. 153)

These are 3 stories of  God’s promise/ a Covenant of new beginnings = GREAT TRUTH.
a story about and an end and a new beginning, a poem about life-long learning and RISK.  Jesus’ story offering a new beginning to the whole world, once again.

Let’s jump from these stories to yours. Play your story forward:
what destination will you reach at the end?
what has your journey to and with God been like? (What do you WANT it to be like?)
How does the truth of your life fit into the Promise of God? and the offer of a new beginning?

Two weeks ago, I asked if you ever have the nagging feeling that the Christian life is about more than just being ‘good’?

Relating the TRUTH of the biblical stories to our lives is where we learn the roots of our faith.
Then we must take this head knowledge, accept it’s truth for our hearts/souls and ACT on it with our lives. This is the commitment of Faith, that begins with baptism continues for our whole lives.
Our story is the TRUTH we are living today.

We discover ‘who we are’ by Relating our TRUTH to God’s Truth. then we find we are prepared with suitcase full of enough Grace for our journey, enough Courage for every eventuality, and the Ultimate promise that will carry us the whole way, ...from THIS Journey to the Next.

Introspection is part of Lenten travel - What did you learn about the TRUTH of your life today?
Where does God’s promise enter YOUR story?

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Invisible Men and Women, Mark 9:2-9 Transfiguration

Today’s story is known as the Transfiguration. It is traditional to read this text the Sunday before Lent begins – which is this Wednesday. The importance of this story falling before Lent is to give us a glimpse of Jesus’ ‘glory’ before we enter the season of Lent which can be called 40 days on ‘the way to the cross’.
All this is Christian TRADITION but many people today feel disconnected from the details of Christian traditions. And, in our uncertainty, we’ve let others define our traditions and even our beliefs. So we come to this rather strange story at a disadvantage.
  • We aren’t sure whether to read it and move quickly on to a story that clearly has more application for our lives.
  • Or we could try to explain the phenomenon experienced by the disciples in order to make sense of it in their lives.
  • Or we can look for some hidden meaning in the little details and minutia and leave it at that.
OR, my preference; step back and open our eyes to the big picture.

You know that I like to look at both the context and the ‘Big’ picture when interpreting biblical stories for our lives. And this unusual vision gives us one of the biggest pictures in the whole gospel of Mark; and for Jesus’ story in ALL the gospels. The transfiguration is about visibility.

I make the case that as incredible as this story seems, with visions of long-dead humans and dazzling white clothing – it is no harder to believe than me telling you that - I have been invisible!

Now, before I tell you the story of when I was invisible, I have to apologize to all the JR Highs in the congregation. This is not meant to insult you. I was once a Jr Hi, were and we DO understand the challenges you face. So please forgive me in advance.

I have always wanted the power to become invisible. When I was in Jr Hi, I remember thinking that if I could have a superpower, it would be invisibility. I wanted to be like a fly on the wall – without the danger of getting swatted.But I was REALLY surprised when I found out I WAS invisible – and it all happened when I went to Warrenton Junior High School where our children attended.

I had to go in for a teacher conference and unfortunately I arrived at the end of the day as people were exiting to the buses. I attempted to thread my way against the flood of students and CRASH, one guy walked straight into me!     He shook his head, picked up his book-bag and looked around to see what he had run into but since he couldn’t see anything, he ran to catch up with his friends.
That’s when I first suspected that I was invisible. – at least to jr high students.
As You may guess, I continued to struggle to get inside the school.  - I kept my eyes open and avoided most direct collisions by side-stepping at critical moments. It was truly amazing. I actually stood and tried to make eye-contact with a few students just to confirm my suspicions; with no luck - because I was invisible.It seems that almost everyone over 30 is invisible to jr high.

It’s not just a past phenomenon either. I’ve tested it again and again.
I work out at the Thomas Jefferson Community Ctr. (with some of my friends here today) The fitness facility shares space with the school’s gym – so there are many ‘seniors’ (like me) and other people over 30, walking around the track at the same time students have gym class in their half of the gym. The Center uses half of the gym, but we share the track and can see each other’s activity –
That is - we, adults, can see them, but it is obvious that this arrangement works because the Jr high students CAN’T see us.

You really have to be careful when you are walking the track and a ball gets loose. When you realize that the student running for the ball can’t see you, you learn to be careful. Invisibility has some disadvantages too… (Thank heavens they (I should say WE) humans don’t stay like this forever!)

Thinking back on these near collisions due to MY invisibility, I decided that today’s story of dazzling VISibility isn’t so unbelievable after all!

 It is obvious that the disciples saw something on the mountain that even they had trouble believing.
They saw Jesus become ‘transfigured’ and his clothes turn dazzling white. The word used is metamorpho from which we get the word, metamorphosis. It indicates a change.
They also saw a vision – of two ancient figures. Now we assume that even without ‘breaking news’ video, they somehow knew who these two old men were standing next to Jesus.
When we open our eyes to the big picture, we realize it is important to the disciples and Mark’s readers for Elijah to show up, because Jewish tradition said that Elijah had to come before the Messiah. (Elijah and John the Baptist are also tied together but that’s another day’s sermon.)
Moses is important for a whole host of reasons related to the law and his pivotal role as the Key leader of all Hebrew history.
But the real bright revelation here is that Peter, James and John are given a glimpse of the BIG picture – so they can recognize who Jesus really is…   BUT- they can’t see it- the big picture that is - not quite yet anyway.

The disciples have their eyes focused on human things. They have tied their hopes for fame and fortune to Jesus’ coattails. In spite of his warnings about what will come, they see Jesus as their superhero, with all kinds of super powers.
They have seen him heal incurable disease
They’ve seen him feed thousands with only a little bit of bread
They’ve even seen him walk on water
Today’s Dazzling clothes and a vision of prophets – well it just CONFIRMS their excitement & super-hero ideas. And Peter wants to make it permanent. He immediately makes a suggestion for a building program.

The poor disciples SEE, but don’t see. Thankfully, (like jr hi) they don’t stay this way forever. Their eyes WILL be opened and they will make sense of this vision – but it takes time.

The Transfiguration occurs exactly half way into Jesus’ time on earth. Finding it at the very center of Mark’s story (not the beginning nor the end) indicates that even Jesus needed time for transformation.
(But) From here on in the big picture, life is different. He ‘sets his face to Jerusalem’ that’s the way the gospel phrases it. From here on, Jesus’ focus is clear –to him at least, but for his followers – their transformation will take more time; more time spent – with Jesus.
            We shouldn’t be surprised that OUR limited vision also needs more time spent with Jesus.
It takes time for transformation. Jesus’ whole life led up to this point. His “change” is what will carry him thru the trial to come.

We too can be changed, because Transformation IS the Christian way of life.
Christ’s life shows that the:
  • sick can be transformed with healing
  • the captive is transformed when released
  • even the dead can be raised (& if that’s not transformation, what is?)
No matter how blind you are, Christ’s transformation can help you see. No matter what you think is blocking your vision, or what huge weight is holding you back, the way through it is transformation. . .
Transformation is why we come to church.
We hear it in our stories and we sing it in our songs. It is part of our practices and our prayers. It undergirds our care for each other and our service to the world. EVERYTHING we do is because we BELIEVE IN TRANSFORMATION! We believe PEOPLE can be transformed with Christ in their life and we believe thru Christ – the WORLD can be transformed too.

As good as transformation sounds, it’s not for everybody – it is offered to everyone-- don’t get me wrong.

 Transformation IS available to all, but not everyone wants it.
In order to be transformed you have to leave your old self behind. There is no cheap grace.
            St. Augustine said, “what it costs is what you have.”[i]

The disciples left behind their lives as fishermen, farmers & tax collectors to follow Jesus. Soon they will have to leave their visions of worldly glory and superhero-fame (too) and face the cross.

We have to leave behind our limited vision and our ideas of how things should be in order to take on Christ’s priorities. We have to LET transformation happen. (Just the way every child eventually leaves self-absorption behind and grows up.)
      Transformation fills us with a different kind of super-power- - - the “power of divine love.”             When our eyes are opened to Love’s vision, we find a “powerful, assertive love that does not dominate and defeat evil so much as challenge, expose, and seek to transform it. It is such love that is truly redemptive. It is THIS LOVE that can transform the world.”[ii]
             I guess it’s the super-power of SUPER LOVE.

Today we close our eyes to worldly distractions for a little while. We take in the atmosphere of the sanctuary & the sound of the organ. We take on the remembering that comes with this table, and these elements... It is a way of opening our eyes. Here we can return to the mountaintop again and remember what we saw that first changed us.

Today we can have transformation. We can experience the dazzling vision of the Jesus’ Way that seems so 'in-visible' when we are distracted by other priorities.
Today, in our remembering and renewal at the table, Christ becomes visible again –  - - in us.

[i] St. Augustine 382 quoted by Charles Quaintance, Feasting on the Word, Theological Ps. 50 (Louisville: WJK 2008) 442
[ii] Rodney J. Hunter, Pastoral in Feasting On the Word, Bartlett & Taylor, eds (Louisville: WJK, 2008) 454 (quoted and paraphrased)

Monday, February 13, 2012

Tortoise and Hare 1 Corinthians 9:24-27

I think I like the story of the Tortoise and Hare because I’m not a
runner. I like the idea that my slow plodding could result in a win,
however unlikely that seems. I like it because I’m usually far behind
the winner, so far that I don’t even see them win.
I has happened to me in the Annual conference 5K, which has both
walkers and runners. In fact, In San Diego, I was walking with a
couple of women (I’d like to think they were older than I was...not
sure about that.) and it became obvious that the race officials
were merely waiting for us to FINALLY get to the finish line so
they could leave.
Maybe another reason I like the story is the Hare seems to mirror life
around me. In fact, I do my share of jumping around from thing to
thing too, until I sometimes feel like I have lost my way.
Perhaps the Hare is typical of many of our lives.
Fewer and fewer people stay in one place for life.
Few of us live with same world view of our parents.
Many of us feel disconnected from the Spiritual Journey and
are not quite sure where we have made a wrong turn, or when we
jumped off the way.
As old as the biblical letters are, Paul's experiences in Corinth
may have more to say to us than any other NT letter. Ancient Corinth
was full of a variety. There was plenty of jumping around. “Situated on
the isthmus between the Greek mainland and the Peloponnese,
Corinth controlled traffic and trade.” It was known in ancient times for
its wealth and “licentiousness” and by the time of Paul it was as
cosmopolitan as any Mediterranean port.” “Corinth had an immense
cultural as well as economic influence on the surrounding territories
and other Greek-speaking provinces within the Roman empire.”1
What brought these diverse people together were the games.
The Isthmian games were a biennial event founded in 580BC
that brought prestige and revenue to this city already full of trading
partners and diverse populations.
Paul, a runner, who was burdened by the day to day problems
of his complex life that included preaching, working, and planting
churches, had to realize the potential long-range influence of a strong
church in Corinth.
We can’t image the influence of the Isthmian games on the
people. There are few things in our world to compare to the
excitement that was generated by the Grecian games, here and in
Athens. We might get an idea -- based on our own culture’s
preoccupation with last week’s Super Bowl, -- the power the athletic
image had on their lives.
And if our lives are even more complex than those in metro
Corinth and if the Journey of Faith can still be compared to races, like
the Corinthians watched, then how are we progressing?
Do you feel like you are in front of the pack... or does the view
from the back - never change?
Do you wonder, Why so many of us feel like we are
stumbling thru the race unprepared?2
Surely this community is one place where we find help and
guidance for our journey.
Yet our plodding along or our frantic running leaves many of us
without the clear conviction of ‘Why’ and ‘What for?’ Don’t we wonder,
footnote: 1 Paul J. Achtemeier, ed. The HarperCollins Bible Dictionary (San Francisco, HarperSanFran,
1985, 1996)198-200
2 Ronald J. Allen Feasting on the Word, Homiletical (Louisville:WJK,2008) 355

‘How do we make tomorrow’s agenda fit with what we hear from
We obviously don’t share his worldview from so long ago. And
we struggle to understand his perspective. We often don't know what
to think -about heaven hell, and the end of time, on which Paul was
so focused:
- Some of us believe that we are really living close to the end.
- Some think, well the end won’t be that soon, but one day God
will end history and a New Age will begin.
- Others think an apocalyptic perspective doesn’t fit with our
understand of the universe at all, but still believe God continues to
work in history to attempt to lure humans and nature to cooperate
with the divine purpose of love and justice - for all.
These thoughts about the context of our lives form the terrain on
which we run, jump or plod in the race of life. We may not like to think
about the end, but it comes none the less.
Then we face the foundations of life-necessity;
- providing shelter and food, - security and happiness, -family. They
don’t feel like mere distractions, they are important achievements and
for many of us, these necessities BECOME our goals in life.
But these are not the prize of which Paul writes. He not only refers to
an end time goal, he finds his reward in the running too.
We do agree with Paul that there are proper ways to live. When we
slow down to think about it, we know that it matters very much how
Christians live life w/one another."3

footnote: 3 Bruce Rigdon,Feasting on the Word, Pastoral (Louisville:WJK,2008) 354
We believe we should be "good" to ourselves and to each other, . . .
how many funerals have you attended where the person was
described as ‘good’? but don’t we have a nagging feeling that Jesus
and Paul were talking about more than just 'being good'.
I talk to people quite often who have arrived here (in this
church) thanks to parents and mentors who have now completed
their race. We remember their dedication. We’ve honored them at
memorials, we recall their efforts and give thanks.
If they were judging our racing towards the prize, what would they
say?. . .
There’s nothing like a guilt trip to make us reflect and think
about things we’d might otherwise push away.
If you were to write the memoir of your life as a race, reflected in the
eyes of those you most admire, what kind of athlete would you
describe? Are you a tortoise still plodding along, a hare jumping from
place to place, or a disciplined runner focused on the goal?
I think our view of the GOAL effects the way we live, don’t you?
Paul tells the Corinthians in the next chapter to ‘Watch out’ "if you
think you are standing firm, Watch out or you might fall.” (10:12)
His warning comes to all; runners, jumpers and plodders to make
sure we are headed in the right direction and haven’t left the path. His
advise calls us to consider, if we know the true goal and prize of life?
and what are we doing to condition our bodies to reach it?
As we rapidly approach Lent; we move from planning
congregational goals to introspection of our personal lives. We
need this. We must determine where we are and how we are
progressing so that we will not waste the life we have, so we can
be valuable members of this team.
Paul’s focus on the individual runner may be just what we need
to find our answers, however we envision the race and its end. (as a
lifetime or a universal event)

Runner or not we know that an athlete plans her/his exercise to
increase “competence and endurance and speed before a race.
During the race they must monitor their bodies and behavior, keep
hydrated, and pace themselves to have optimum energy at the key
moments. In the heat of the race the runner must push the body to
the limit and keep it focused on the one goal.”4
Artists, writers, and even employees must also practice a
discipline in order to accomplish the goal of a masterpiece, or a
promotion. We all have goals for which we are willing to sacrifice and
push our bodies while we discipline our minds and actions. Does your
Christian journey include the discipline a life-priority requires? And
should it not have the highest priority of all?
Paul says that every part of our lives must be disciplined, our
emotions and desires, our actions and thoughts "so that nothing
interferes w/ participating in the life of Christ.”5
We are the community that Paul is writing to, not Ancient
Corinth but modern-day Arlington. We are the ones responsible for
our own journeys. And we are the ones who have promised to
support each other as members of THIS community, of THIS body of
So, What discipline do you need for the rest of your race?
Do you need to understand your faith better in your HEAD?
Maybe you are the studious kind and the discipline you need is
a class, a book or the questions of an assignment to push you to
disciplined learning that you may understand faith and answer the
questions that flirt at the edges of your mind, and Keep you from
commitment. If so, Lent is the time for you to choose the discipline of education.
footnote: 4 Ronald J. Allen Feasting on the Word, Homiletical (Louisville:WJK,2008) 355
5 Steven Kraftchick Feasting on the Word, Exegetical (Louisville:WJK,2008) 355

Maybe you need to allow what you feel in your heart to surface and
lead the way.?
Perhaps you have been bogged down too long in the rules and
let others prescribe what you believe. Can you listen to the
acceptance Christ placed in your heart? and find your conditioning
in the support of this community of fellow racers? If so, your Lenten
commitment is to spend more time with others who are on the journey
sharing your experiences and helping each other.
or Perhaps you need to follow your gut. . .?
Do you need to hear the good news in a new way that
resonates with the athlete inside? You may need the discipline of
time alone with God; time spent in prayer and meditation that will
reinforce your focus on the goal and make you a stronger mentor to
someone else.
Or finally, Do you need to head to the gym of volunteer service
to beef up your body with physical labor?
Maybe you need to work our your legs and arms in service that
confirms what you believe and shows others the joy you find in the
running while you serve Jesus, the Christ?
Everyday that We run the race, We “proclaim the good news of
Jesus, and share with others a taste of God’s Kingdom right here and
Paul never said the journey is an easy one. “the radical path of
faith is not easy but demands us to persevere, to endure, to push
past our weariness as we approach the finish line.”
“the reward that awaits us is not a medal that is displayed one day
and then sold on eBay the next. (as one scholar wrote) Our reward is
eternal and intangible yet also vividly present now” - each day that
we live and each year that THIS congregation continues.6
We know the journey. We are in this race together. Lent begins in
10 days. We have time to choose our discipline of head, heart, gut, or
So, Get your running shoes on, do your stretches,
focus on the prize, and
whatever your style of running, you are on the way with Jesus.
What does the rest of your day hold?
Take a break from your running and jumping to reflect and
decide what discipline YOU need to reach the prize.
 all quotes in the paragraph are from Eric Barreto

Saturday, February 4, 2012

A Missed Opportunity

Mark 1:29-39 “Missed Opportunity” Epiphany V Year B 2/5/12

What does it mean to be healed for service?

We can’t help but notice that the woman in this story is un-named. She is identified by her relationships; Peter’s mother-in-law. And as soon as she is healed…, she goes to work – serving!
It was typical for a woman to serve, but one who was just near death from illness? It seems unusual that she would jump up after being healed and immediately get to work.
But in Jesus’ world, things aren’t always what they seem.

Jesus has a good thing going in this town by the sea. “In just one chapter, he has dealt with the Devil in the wilderness and emerged triumphant. He has called his first disciples, been to the synagogue, and cast out demons.
Now after healing a family member of one of his staff, the “whole town” is outside the door bringing everyone to him for healing. He is one popular guy!
In today’s world, his staff would be talking about ALL the opportunity ahead. They will have to find a bigger place to meet, (maybe a building campaign is in the near future). Certainly they will have to add more service times to get all the healing in.[i]
But in Jesus’ world, things aren’t always what they seem. . .
After time alone to pray, Jesus walks away from this great opportunity for success.

It isn’t easy to put ourselves in Jesus’ time or the context of the time Mark’s gospel was written. Even in the first century tho, numbers mattered. Success meant survival. You didn’t just walk away from crowds that wanted to hear you speak OR people who needed the help and healing you could give. And yet Jesus did, he walked away.
William Loeder reminds us that “Crowds often dictate agendas; success spawns its own rules. Mark [gospel] shows Jesus acting deliberately in ways which will maximize the impact of the good news, but Jesus will not be dictated to by the rules of the game. In some sense they also belong to the powers from which he must liberate people.[ii]

Jesus didn’t stop his healing after he left Peter’s house, he just took the news he had to share and the gifts he had to give – elsewhere, to spread the word to a broader audience.
But, There were plenty of people in Capernaum who didn’t get healed that day. We don’t hear any more about the crowds at Peter’s door. Do you wonder how they felt  about their missed opportunity? – (when Jesus walked away)
If things aren’t always what they seem in Jesus’ world – what do these missed opportunities Jesus mean? . . .

We look at this text today because it is service Sunday in the Church of the Brethren. It is a day for highlighting Disaster Relief, Brethren Volunteer Service, workcamps, service projects and all kinds of volunteer work or ‘service’. Peter’s M-I-L is our entry point for this emphasis. Let me share another preacher’s look at her.
“We often talk about “waiting on the Lord” but do we understand it in its truest perspective? Do we look at it from the perspective of Peter’s Mother-in-Law? To Mark; waiting is a contact sport. The term we read as ‘serve’ [GSN1247 diakone] means to minister, administer, care, contribute support, or do the serving. How often does our response to a prayer request include impatient foot tapping kind of waiting while we look up and say to God: “I’m waiting!”     [Peter’s MIL shows us that;    Waiting means serving!
If we want a response from God we need to give God our all in service. Nine times out of ten, Rev. Goebel says that he finds that the response he receives from “waiting in service” is the realization that what he was asking for really was inconsequential in [comparison to those he serves.] “God’s answer to my prayers,” he says, “is to reveal my smallness, to liberate me with a new sense of humility before God. Peter’s mother-in-law was liberated from illness and into service.”[iii]
I have a few slides to show you. They are of people across the denomination that were caught -- in the act of service. Many are waiting for their next opportunity. They may be waiting for what the rest of their summer or even the rest of their life -will bring. I want you to focus on their expressions. Try to guess what they are feeling when they were frozen by the camera.
Some will be looking right at you, others will be harder to see and you may have to judge their body language to guess their emotion. Would you say they are, ‘waiting on the Lord?’
Keep a mental tally and after we’ve seen a few, perhaps you will tell me what emotions these folks are feeling.

What emotions did you see?

One BVSr, Dana Cassell, explained service like this,

“Volunteers often come to their year of service with an attitude of “helping,” giving out of their abundance to those who are “less fortunate.” But a transformation happens somewhere in the middle of the experience, and we often find that service isn’t just a one-way transaction. Instead, we recognize that we actually need those we’re serving just as much as they might need us. We’re ALL a part of God’s body, and we all need each other to survive.”[iv]
Mother Teresa put it like this, “I can do things you cannot, you can do things I cannot; together we can do great things.” — Mother Teresa

What does it mean to be “Healed for service?” Do you have a different answer now than when I first asked?
I think we have seen the face of Peter’s MIL in today’s pictures. Her response to Jesus came from being healed. She ‘got it’ because she had entered INTO Jesus’ world where success isn’t measured by numbers, and joy doesn’t come from success.

It seems there is only one way to understand the rules of Jesus’ world, and that’s to enter into it. . . and in Jesus’ upside- down way of living, ‘healed for service’  means; WE are healed WHEN WE serve.

In such an un-worldly way of thinking, I’ll bet those crowds outside of Peter’s house are standing & waiting for us.
There are always opportunities we shouldn’t miss.  Opportunities for healing others –
& opportunities for us to be healed;
healed for service – do you get it?                                           End

[i] Timothy V. Olson As Far As I Can See in Clergy Journal Preaching and Worship Resources Sept/Oct Vol. 88, no. 5 p. 32
[ii] William Loeder First Thoughts on Year B Gospel Passages from the Lectionary Epiphany 5
[iii] Copyright © 2005 Jerry Goebel. All Rights Reserved.  This study may be freely distributed, as long as it bears the following attribution: Source: Jerry Goebel: 2005 © :

[iv] Dana Cassell previously of Staff for Vocation and Community Living Brethren Volunteer Service Unit #277

Friday, February 3, 2012

So far behind

If you click on the title, you can switch to the church site where I posted last Sunday's sermon, "Mother, may I?" It was fun to preach. So quickly another Sunday comes around and I realize I haven't even blogged in awhile. I'm about to write the draft for Sunday that will need some edits. I really want to watch more of Downton Abbey to catch up on missed episodes. I just started watching this year thanks to church friends who highly recommended it. And Netflix which carries last season. I've just started watching this season and want to keep watching. Perhaps that will be my late evening 'reward'. Once I get around to writing that is. At least dinner is done and cleaned up. The 'kids' are downstairs watching a Twilight movie and Fitz is off helping to move a piano. I'd better get to writing while it is quiet!

Since this Sunday is Service Sunday, I'll pop in a picture of all the scarves made at last Saturday's "Monthly Service Project" and if I can figure out how, I'll put the qr code for the website.