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

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