Saturday, May 25, 2013

Hope In The End

Romans 5:1-5, May 26, 2013
Therefore, since we have been made righteous through his faithfulness combined with our faith,q we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 We have access by faith into this grace in which we stand through him, and we boast in the hope of God’s glory. 3 But not only that! We even take pride in our problems, because we know that trouble produces endurance, 4 endurance produces character, and character produces hope. 5 This hope doesn’t put us to shame, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.  CEB
We begin by re-reading the text line by line and inviting people to call out words that 'stick'.
The I will re read and ask for questions that arise.
such as: What is peace, really?
Access by OUR faith (is this our responsibility) or access by Christ’s faith (already done for us)
Does this really explain Jesus’ God and the Spirit

Traditionally this is Trinity Sunday -with a typical focus on understanding God, who reveals Godself in many ways.

Historically those ways can be gathered into three main areas,
1.    The Creator of the Universe, the ‘I Am’ who was revealed to Abraham, Moses and led Israelites.
2. The “Word and Wisdom” of God found in Jesus1
3. The ‘abiding Spirit’ that Jesus’ promised and which came on the disciples and then followers of Jesus as related in the NT. And ever since!
Big picture questions

Mainly because I never stop asking big questions
    what does this text, this story, these words mean for my life? For OUR lives, as Christians working and living in 2013?

Paul was asking and answering the same questions when he wrote to the Romans around 58 CE.
    Professor Mary Hinkle Shore described Romans very simply;
    In chapters 1-4 Paul is writing about the big ‘what’ of the Jesus’ event in the history of humanity.
Then in chapters 5 through 8, he answers the, “Now what?” question for all of life! 2

We never sit and read all of Romans so we miss the big picture Paul was describing. And when we forget the BIG picture, all kinds of misinterpretations happen. I’m sure I’ve done it.
But even in the small sets of verses like we heard this morning, we can get glimpses of the big picture.
Big Picture

So think for a moment, ‘What’s the big picture of faith for you?’ I wonder if we’re all on the same page? (it's a tough question that takes a minute so I’ll not ask you to share...yet.)

All or most of you have made a life commitment to follow the Jesus’ Way and been baptized to confirm that promise and bring you into Christ’s church. (or at least you’ve been thinking about it). Many of you have joined as members of THIS particular church, like I am.
How does your commitment to follow the Jesus’ Way effect your relationship with others?
    Do you want to help them find what you have?
    Do you wonder if they are ‘condemned’ because they DON”T think or believe like you do?
ASK...How DOES your commitment to follow the Jesus’ Way effect your relationship with others?

I found an interesting answer this week ...from the Pope!

(The commentator speaks quickly so listen and you’ll get the drift.)

All the excitement around the Pope’s statement this week, shows there are many understandings about how God redeemed the earth & humanity thru Christ.
ASK: What do you think of the Pope declaring that God redeemed EVERYONE thru JC?

The Pope (who sometimes sounds like he grew up brethren...) has disturbed the people who have built tight walls around those who are IN and those who are NOT.
Paul ran into similar problems as you will remember.
    His initial problem was trying to expand the minds of the disciples who naturally thought that Jesus, a very good Jew, had come to redeem the Jews. . . and they were right, only God didn’t stop there.

In Acts, right before the Pentecost story;
ACTS 1:7-8
Jesus replied, “ It isn’t for you to know the times or seasons that the Father has set by his own authority. 8 Rather, you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth. ”

Jesus, (remember we say he is the Word and Wisdom of God embodied in a human)...never intended for his mission to end in Jerusalem, but to continue to the ends of the earth.

We of course, accept this, since including non-Jews directly benefitted us. But how quickly the non-Jews drew a line around redemption and claimed it for their own.  -   even reversing things to exclude the Jews, as we sometimes read in the words from John’s community written 30- 40 years after Paul wrote to the Romans.

Still even tho he understood inclusion, Paul had troubles.

He got the point of God’s redeeming ALL humanity.
What he DIDN”T get was why the Jews didn’t jump on board. Why didn’t they get it?

Tom Long and Richard Hays (2 awesome scholars) say Paul was a little worried, he could have been SHAMED by his own Jewish heritage if they weren’t getting with God’s program.3

But Paul had HOPE and claimed God’s promise - no matter what.
    “...standing in Grace, claiming the hope of God, believing that “trouble produces endurance, 4 endurance produces character, and character produces hope. 5 This hope doesn’t put us to shame, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”

Paul wouldn’t be shamed by God including more than anyone expected nor would he be shamed by Jews who didn’t join him. Because he hoped for a different end, one where even “those Jews” were included... And so was EVERYONE else.

As Pope Francis said, “Everyone! (he shares a dialogue) ‘Father, the atheists?’ Even the atheists,” he said, “Everyone! And this blood makes us children of God of the first class! We are created children in the likeness of God and the blood of Christ has redeemed us all!”

ALL, that means, Democrats, republicans, even tea party activists, John Birch Society, and ultra green actvists and 3rd party liberals.
. . .Whew, that’s enough to make anyone uncomfortable.

It’s all about our hope.
    And a different idea of ‘the end’.

Some of you are old enough to remember the song...
"Eve of Destruction"  in 60-70's many songs tried to warn us of what could happen, now we had the means to literally END the World.

I watch a couple videos on (You Tube) to see if there was one appropriate to show today, but they brought me to tears.

The images were Reminders of times when Hope was hard to find. Wars -- just in MY lifetime, conflicts, shootings, lynchings, death.
The images were of students shot by our own national guard, of whites and blacks beaten by police officers, of men, slightly older than children in years, firing weapons to kill other children...and knowing none of them would never enjoy childhood again.

The words, ‘....eve of destruction’ sound all too correct.
The eastern world, it is exploding
Violence flarin', bullets loadin'
You're old enough to kill, but not for votin'
You don't believe in war, but what's that gun you're totin'
And even the Jordan River has bodies floatin'
If the button is pushed, there's no runnin' away
There'll be no one to save, with the world in a grave
Handful of senators don't pass legislation
And marches alone can't bring integration
When human respect is disintegratin'
This whole crazy world is just too frustratin'
...and you tell me over again you don’t believe we’re on the eve of destruction... (see YouTube for video)

ASK: Were their times in your life when you lost hope & feared the end? - WHEN?
    Times like, the Cuban Missile crisis,
    Assignation of a president (or attempt) the series of killings JFK, MLK, RFK
    The fires and riots in DC, MLK, LA, Rodney King

On this Memorial Day weekend, we do recall the dark times when hope was hard to find.
You’ll find poster boards near some of your seats. Take one and read just the bottom statistics to us. These boards are part of a Stations of the Cross exercise called “Count Well The Cost”, but today we will look only at the  war statistics.

Tomorrow around the country many will be remembered, especially those who died  in military coflicts of our country.
As Christians, and more specifically as members of a ‘PEACE CHURCH’ how do we avoid shame when we recall these numbers?
. . .

I believe the answer is by hoping in the END, God’s end.
Paul’s words help and so do these, words HE relied on;

From parts of Isaiah 2:2-6 that speak of God’s END:
ASV 4"The LORD will settle international disputes. All the nations will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. All wars will stop, and military training will come to an end. 5 Come people of 'Israel,' let us walk in the light of the LORD!

We too can find our hope in the END, God’s end, where wars stop, and military training comes to an end.

Tomorrow, rather than lift up these dead in a way that encourages sons and daughters to follow in footsteps that will give their lives to WAR,
we can lift up this scripture.
We can HONOR these many dead and their memory BEST by giving OUR lives to the Jesus’ Way, and praying for GOD’S End of World.

Then our hope becomes a promise that NO ONE will ever give their life to WAR, but that we ALL can work for Peace; (even giving our lives for Peace rather than offering to kill someone else)
We can tell anyone who will listen that God's peace,
    includes justice, includes sustainable agriculture that uses our former weapons of destruction for plows.
In this peace ALL nations will till the earth and plant food to fill ALL bellies, children, adults, Christians, Jews, Muslims, even atheists! :-)

Can we pray for THIS end to come?
Can we Sing about THIS end and really mean it?

Can we work toward this end?
Knowing that it is not up to us, alone. But that we labor alongside the spirit of the Prince of Peace. 

1 Barry Howard quoting Marcus Borg from the Meaning of Jesus Living the Word in Christian Century May 15, 2013, Vol. 3130, No. 10 p. 21
2 Mary Hinkle Shore for May 26, 2013
3 Thomas G. Long Preaching Romans Today, Interpretation (Vol. 58, No. 3, July 2004)265-275

Friday, May 24, 2013

Hi friend,

Last week was a nourishing vacation of golf, beach, and friends. Thank you for the time away and for the welcome you extended to Rev. Jessie Syms last Sunday. I wish I could have seen the Pentecost Play. It sounded wonderful! Our 'Players' do a great job and we do love drama.

Here's a few thoughts that came to mind after I changed my daily routine to include a walk to the beach. I saved this picture for you!
photo (12) 2

Vacation is a needed part of life. One can only allow the creativity of God's Spirit to enter our lives, when we've cleared out some of the concerns and appointments that fill our days. Nature; whether beach or mountains, the perfect greens of a golf course, even the sand traps and water hazards, seem to offer me a refreshment that I can't find indoors. Now I'm extremely sensitive to mosquitos and other biting insects. (They will ignore you and come to me if we're together.) the month of May in Kitty Hawk was perfect as the bugs were just getting started, the weather alternated between very warm and rather cool, so I could spend as much time outdoors as I wanted to. Even my (golf) drives improved....a little. Mostly I felt rested again. I trust you will find time to get away and get outdoors soon!
photo (13) 2
Many of you will take advantage of this holiday weekend to do so. I know these vacations can take you away from morning worship and you ARE MISSED! Yet time away is important for our spiritual growth. Just don't leave God behind when you ditch the world. Grab your Bible or save a favorite psalm to your smart phone. We will be using some visuals to pray Psalm 8 this Sunday, join us if you're away by looking up at the sky and praying, "LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name throughout the earth!"

If you miss us, you can always catch up here on the web,
Link to our website
We do try to post sermons either written or audio and sometimes both. But they are not quite they same without your input in our new 'Multi-voiced" style - so hurry back!
For those who will be here this weekend, (Message: Hope in the End) the weather will be awesome so perhaps our lunch bunch should eat outdoors!

Meanwhile, we will have a picnic the following week when we celebrate all the ministry that happens in this building. JUNE 2, is our "UNITY WORSHIP" at 11:00 followed by a carry-in picnic of multi-ethnic foods.

This service is fun. It's not always comfortable. We don't understand everything that happens in the three languages that are native for our three congregations. But it is important to be here to remind ourselves that God works in very different ways in a LOT of different places. The Spirit of God moves in our midst at such times, most powerfully, showing us that we don't need words to worship and we need only smiles to welcome each other. We are ONE in Christ Jesus, is a new song we will sing in two of our languages. "Somos uno en Cristo" We trust the Cambodian congregation will be able to sing in English with us as the IRPE and our own Spanish-speaking members sing in Espanol! Ephesians 4:4-6 undergirds our lives together, don't you agree?

Well those are my thoughts for now. I think I'll post this on my blog and perhaps add to it when I can.
Link to my blog

If you like this kind of note, let me know and I'll write a couple times a month.
Enjoy God's creation until I see you - soon!

Pastor Nancy

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

A Peace of God's Action

Scripture - John 14:23-29
There are ALL Kinds of Peace
(This week’s CoB Newsline included..

During the past several weeks, friends and family members of the lifting team have been pledging their monetary support for the Lift-a-Thon which began on Sunday April 28, a bit after 10 a.m., when various weight-lifters joined forces to pump iron.
The money raised supports the 3,000 Miles for Peace fund started in memory of Paul Ziegler, who had been a student at, McPherson College in Kansas
Manchester College’s Peace Week
    (with associated events)

Everyone seems to have their own ideas of what ‘PEACE’ means. I know those who think working for Peace means protesting.

Of course, (we hope) Peace means lack of war.

Other’s work for peace in Environmental action.

And of course, there’s WORLD PEACE! (who doesn’t want that?)

What kind of peace do YOU want?
    I’ll give you time to talk about it. Form small groups about 3 people in your pews. Get up as needed move around, go sit with someone you’d like to talk to and answer this question.
(slide) What kind of peace do YOU want?
(Click in “Let’s talk about it.)
        5 minutes max

Ask: What are the kinds of peace you want?
    A few you mentioned (
    World Peace
    Gettysburg anniversaries

    Peace Ying Yang

Our many ideas of Peace are all TRUE and all fall within God’s desires for humanity & creation. = true ‘peace on earth’.
Stay on SLIDE Work for Justice - hold on this
Scripture text
There is a fullness in Jesus’ words found in today’s scripture which express his desire that his followers have his ‘peace’. He tried to communicate this within the limits of human speech. There is quite a variety of words in Jesus’ discourse in John. (unity, abide, peace, love, obey)
Extending before and after today’s passage, we read the many assurances that Jesus shared with the disciples. Jesus was
going to prepare a place’ for his followers’
they knew the way to this place (a place of his peace) because they knew him and had already been following HIS WAY
that Loving Jesus means keeping his commands (his word)
That he wasn’t leaving the disciples (including us) alone
Believing in Jesus means doing the same work he had been doing
That a companion, parakletos will be sent to help us with this new way of living. . .
And ALL of this means PEACE. . . . . 

    Christ’s peace is the place or state of being where we find the wisdom of God.1 this is the Christian definition of Peace.

    (on slide) British Museum. It is a Russian icon from the late 17th century, depicting Sophia, God's Wisdom, along with Christ, the Theotokos ('God-bearer', Mary), and John the Baptist (a.k.a. Forerunner).a
This image of a Russian Icon helps us re-imagine Peace so we can learn what Jesus meant by ‘MY PEACE’.

PEACE is God’s way of acting in the world.
   This is not a false promise of security, and it is
        not an immediate end to all conflict.

PEACE is a PRESENCE, it is the entire sphere of Jesus’ life that enacted God’s great, generous, and abiding love for all people.2 making it visible in a human life.
We SEE peace in Jesus.

Today we are reminded that following, obeying, all the things  that Jesus’ taught and did are part of what sustains his followers.
We LEARN peace by following Jesus.

If we want PEACE, we need today's scripture before us:
    “Whoever loves me will keep my word.”
“It is the word of the Father who sent me.”
“The Companion, the Holy Spirit, will teach you everything.”

“Peace I leave with you. My peace I give you.”
“I give to you not as the world gives.”
“Don’t be troubled or afraid.”

The words of Jesus sustain us, the other part of what sustains Jesus’ followers is called the Holy spirit or Parakletos.
So, We See peace in Jesus
We Learn peace by following Jesus and
We receive “PEACE” with Christ’s spirit (parakletos) 

Just as Jesus is sustained by God’s presence in the trial he faces, we, his followers, ARE also sustained by God’s own presence found in the parakletos, the companion . .

Which means WE, all Christians, ‘Jesus Followers’
     have already received the wisdom we need to act justly.
(The Sophia or Wisdom of Christ that comes with his Spirit)
We have wisdom,
We have the strength we need to work for peace in all venues.
We have the ability to obey Jesus command to serve others and to give up our lives to something much greater than this life -- which is God’s Peace.

Thanks to the parakletos (and today’s text as a reminder)
    We who have committed our lives to follow Jesus, already have the accompanying presence to bring Christ’s own Spirit of Peace to places where conflict seems to rule, where hate threatens to overcome life so that ALL PEOPLE may live ANOTHER WAY - the Jesus’ Way.

This is what PEACE means.
    & This is the peace WE NEED.
        In fact, This is the peace the whole world needs.
“Can We” (slide)

“A life of Peace” !

We can because we have been given the Spirit to LIVE it!