Monday, June 30, 2014

You Are a Treat Matthew 10:40-42

In Mathew today we are hearing a call into service.  Jesus is explaining to the disciples how the whole ministry thing works.  That whoever welcomes one they are welcoming Christ and through Christ welcoming Abba God.  Wow that’s a lot.  Jesus is saying through you one meets Christ, through Christ one meets God…therefore through you one meets God.
That may be a bit much to wrap ones head around but simply put through our actions and reactions and non –action others will see God.  You see this is some of what JJ was addressing last week.  It is through our actions that the Gospel is preached and that Christ is made manifest in this world.
Now one reaction to that may be; “Not me!, you can’t place such a burden on me.  There is no way that I am or ever will be the face of Christ in this world!  I am too flawed, broken, I am mean sometimes, or just had not enough coffee to be the face of anything this morning.”  Those are very legitimate reactions But Christ put a caveat on this face of God thing….
It is when you simply offer hospitality, a gift of cool water to the smallest of these little ones. This could say offer a smile to a stranger on the street.  That smile or a “Good day” may be all it takes or it may be worth nothing.  But here is an interesting thing in these verses it also speaks of the receiver.
It says those that receive a prophet for being a prophet shall be rewarded those that welcome holy people for just being holy people will be rewarded.  You see the reception of the face of Christ, thus the reception of God through you is the other parties reward.
It is through our presence as the Christian it is through our action as Christians that we are promised rewards.  If through that practice we have happened to welcome a prophet, if through that action we have happened to welcome a Holy person…great, all the more reward in Heaven and I should point out, we will not know who we have welcomed until then. Also there is no talk about right living brings rewards right now. Life is what we make of it and good and bad things happen to everyone.
But we know when we have given a glass of water; we know when we have been welcoming.  It is the joy of being Christian that allows us, sometimes without intention, to be the face of Christ in this world.
A lot of this sounds like simple hospitality.  The united church of Christ has a saying No matter who you are or where you are on life’s Journey you are welcome here.
That reminded me to just look at some of things we proclaim as the body of Christ covenanted to each other and to the church in Christian living.  Here is what the united Church of Christ says about our beliefs; (This is taken directly from the website.

“What we believe
We can tell you more about the United Church of Christ with the help of seven phrases from Scripture and Tradition which express our commitments. That they may all be one. [John 17:21] This motto of the United Church of Christ reflects the spirit of unity on which it is based and points toward future efforts to heal the divisions in the body of Christ. We are a uniting church as well as a united church.
*       In essentials unity, in non-essentials diversity, in all things charity. The unity that we seek requires neither an uncritical acceptance of any point of view, nor rigid formulation of doctrine. It does require mutual understanding and agreement as to which aspects of the Christian faith and life are essential. The unity of the church is not of its own making. It is a gift of God. But expressions of that unity are as diverse as there are individuals. The common thread that runs through all is love. Testimonies of faith rather than tests of faith. Because faith can be expressed in many different ways, the United Church of Christ has no formula that is a test of faith. Down through the centuries, however, Christians have shared their faith with one another through creeds, confessions, catechisms and other statements of faith. Historic statements such as the Apostles' Creed, the Nicene Creed, the Heidelberg Catechism, the Evangelical Catechism, the Augsburg Confession, the Cambridge Platform and the Kansas City Statement of Faith are valued in our church as authentic testimonies of faith. [See Beliefs for the complete texts of some of these testimonies.] In 1959, the General Synod of the United Church of Christ adopted a Statement of Faith prepared especially for congregations of the United Church. Many of us use this statement as a common affirmation of faith in worship and as a basis for study. There is yet more light and truth to break forth from God's holy word. This affirmation by one of the founders of the Congregational tradition assumes the primacy of the Bible as a source for understanding the Good News and as a foundation for all statements of faith. It recognizes that the Bible, though written in specific historical times and places, still speaks to us in our present condition. It declares that the study of the scriptures is not limited by past interpretations, but it is pursued with the expectation of new insights and God's help for living today. The Priesthood of All Believers. All members of the United Church of Christ are called to minister to others and to participate as equals in the common worship of God, each with direct access to the mercies of God through personal prayer and devotion.
Recognition is given to those among us who have received special training in pastoral, priestly, educational and administrative functions, but these persons are regarded as servants—rather than as persons in authority. Their task is to guide, to instruct, to enable the ministry of all Christians rather than to do the work of ministry for us.”[1]
A priesthood of all believers, that is a huge each and every one of us is called to be a priest of Christ, a follower and an enactor of Christ on this earth.  We are not just reminded of the possibilities of the rewards for being welcoming, offering simple hospitality we are called to even more than that.
The “what we believe” section goes on to explain; “But we recognize our calling both as individuals and as the church to live in the world: To proclaim in word and action the Gospel of Jesus Christ. To work for reconciliation and the unity of the broken Body of Christ. To seek justice and liberation for all.
This is the challenge of the United Church of Christ.”[2]
This is the challenge put to us today on this gospel reading what are we to do to be hospitable in an inhospitable world?  What does that mean for us as individuals, what does that mean for us as a community?
Let me say this now before we go any further…we are doing it.  We are you are each and every one of you are Christ’s face in this world.  Each and every one of you is a minister, a priest in this world.  How you ask?
Through your gift of time and offerings we are surrounded by beautiful gardens.  Through your gifts of concern and love many have made it through difficult times.  Some, of whom, were in this church and some outside of it.  If you offered and ear, a shoulder a kind word you performed ministry.  Some are called to go to a job everyday and you do the best you can and it sometimes it seems as if it is never enough.  Yet, as long as you are living to your fullest and doing the best you can that is your ministry.I also have some really good news for you when you try and failed.  When you reached out and were turned away.  When you rethink things and wonder if you could have done it differently.  You then too are a member of the priesthood.  For you see there is discernment and learning always to be done.  God did not make us perfect and Christ did not make this Christian thing easy.  If it was easy everyone would be trying it and the world would be...Well … literally heaven.
You know this struggle of being human, seeking God, and trying to be that face of Christ isn’t always easy.  Yet it is what we have been called to, drawn to, want to know more about, and understand better each and every day.  I truly believe that and I think you do as well otherwise, why are you here?

St. Irenaeus back in the early 150’s or so wrote;
The tender flesh itself
Will be found one day
-quite surprisingly-
To be capable of receiving,
And yes, full
Capable of embracing
The searing energies of God.
Go figure, Fear not.
For even at its beginning
The humble clay received
God’s Art, whereby
One part became the eye,
Another the ear, and yet
Another this impetuous hand.
Therefore the flesh
Is not to be excluded
From the wisdom and the power
That now and ever animates
All things. His life-Giving
Agency is made perfect,
We are told, in weakness—
Made perfect in flesh.[3]
We gather as a community in the love of Christ as people have done since the first meal he shared with followers and family more than 2000 years ago. But why, why do we come together Just to hear a preacher ramble on and on?  Well we know that isn’t true for some days the preacher is on fire and inspired and other days he misses the mark and that’s okay cause what may not have fed you in the sermon may have fed someone else and another person may be fed today because you sat with them and shared presence, prayer, and community. Another is fed by the music while still another is fed in the sacred time of Eucharist and every Sunday that all changes about.
But we are here to be affirmed in who we are. We are here as the body of Christ those who come weekly or monthly the Guest and the one who has been dragged here by friends. We are here to be refreshed, renewed and to be loved so that as we leave this place we will have the energy, the where withal to be the one who offers a cool glass of water.
Not everyone can get the analogy of a cool glass of water.  We know where Jesus lived was hot and dry and water though needed to survive was rarely cool less it was freshly drawn from the well.  You have heard the stories and seen images of that time one often went out early in the morn and took water from the well to fill clay jars.  By the time the water got back to the dwelling place it was already raising in temperature. A cool glass of water is not just refreshing but it is a treat.
So we each one of us is called to be a priest of Christ.  Each one of us is called to be the face of Christ.  We know if we are welcoming we will be rewarded and yet that is not of concern for the reward is in the afterlife so we know we need not be concerned with our reward but our action.
As we have prayed many times so I will repeat the prayer of
Teresa of Avila (1515–1582)
Christ Has No Body
Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes, you are his body.
Christ has no body now but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.[4]

You are the refreshing cool glass of water.  Your are the face of Christ, you are a treat to encounter every day, you are a royal priesthood so as St. Francis said and as this verse we reflected upon today really says Preach the Gospel often, use words if you have too! Amen!

[1] United Church of Christ, What we believe, . (accessed June 23, 2014).
[2] United Church of Christ, What we believe, . (accessed June 23, 2014).
[3] Scott Cairns, Love's Immensity: Mystics on the Endless Life (Brewster, Mass: Paraclete Press, 2007).
[4] Daniel B. Clendenin, The Journey with Jesus poems and prayers, www.journey with (accessed June 23, 2014).

Ascension Sunday "A Call to Broaden Our Vision!" Luke 24:44-53

This is a sermon for what many traditions call ascension Sunday.  Tradition holds that this day celebrates the day Jesus goes up to heaven to remain with the creator until the second coming.  I was trying to think of title and well with some help we came up with a list.  One person suggests “Beam me up daddy”, how about “up up and away” or to quote Cartman “Screw you guys I’m going Home!”, or that’s it “I’m outta here.” and finally from the apostles point of view.  “Well, I never saw that coming”.
Pastor Bob Brink captures the emotion behind this story; “When you were in school, did you ever have one of those subjects that you just didn’t get? When I went to seminary, it was the Ascension. Christmas makes sense. God bridges the gap between heaven and earth. Easter makes sense. God breaks the power of death. Pentecost makes sense. God sends the Spirit to teach and empower us, but the ascension? How does Jesus going away make anything better? I can totally empathize with the disciples, staring up at the sky.
Imagine their emotional roller coaster. Palm Sunday and the crowds love you; Good Friday and they want to kill you. Holy Saturday, you weep; Easter Sunday, you rejoice. The risen Jesus spends 40 days with you, eating and talking and explaining, but what’s 40 days? It’s the blink of an eye.” [1]
It is interesting to note that biblically speaking only two others have had this account of being taken into heaven, Enoch and Elijah.  In genesis Adams descendants are listed one by one till Noah and each one had a son and lived so long and died, except one, Enoch.  Of Enoch Genesis 5:24 states “Enoch Walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him.”  It is fascinating, at least to me, that all the other descendants listed lived and died but Enoch walked with God and was taken.
Pastor rink goes on to explain about Elijah; “Which brings us to Elijah. I won’t make you turn there, because it’s a long story. Let’s sum up. Elijah is commonly recognized as the greatest of all the prophets of Israel. The Bible records 14 miracles in his lifetime, a great Hebrew number. 7 days of creation mean that 7 is the number of completion or perfection. Double sevens, means Elijah was the ultimate prophet. He walked with God, and just like Enoch, God took him.
But before he left, his student, Elisha made a bold request. He asked for a double portion of his master’s spirit. And the request is granted. When Elijah goes up, his mantle falls to the ground. A mantle is an outer cloak, worn for warmth, but a nice one can be a symbol of power, like a well-tailored suit speaks of influence today. By putting on Elijah’s mantle, Elisha is sending a message to everyone who sees it, that he is continuing the work of his master. And he does. The Bible records 28 miracles for Elisha, exactly double the number of his master.
Therefore, when Jesus leaves us, it is not as orphans. He goes up so that his Spirit might come down, so that we can take up his mantle and continue the work he began. Perhaps this is what he meant when he told his disciples that they would do even greater things than he.”[2]
The scripture says Jesus then opens their minds to the understanding of scripture.  He gave the twelve a way of seeing and understanding.  An understanding of the ancient being fulfilled in the present.  This is an understanding of the work of God continuing from before history, through Christ, unto the 12 and beyond.  This is a time of broadening their vision; you see they can no longer directly look to Christ for everything.
This is the final commissioning of the Disciples as Christ states; “In the messiah’s name, repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached to all nations beginning at Jerusalem.  You are witnesses to this.”  Actually the followers of Christ, especially those who had received a miracle, had already been witnessing to this.  Many times you heard how after a miracle they went to the temple and made their offering and proclaimed thanksgiving for the healing.  Then the story of the women at the well where in John It states “Many Samaritans from that town believed in Jesus on the strength of the women’s testimony” (John 4:39) what Christ started was continually happening around the disciples, or maybe, in spite of them.
Here Jesus clears their minds so that they can finally put everything together.  Their rooted faith comes alive and they can be seen worshipping in the temple.  That is brave considering what was done to Jesus and knowing the fear and anxiety they had been experiencing just 40 days before.  They are not mourning a loss for it is the living Christ that goes to heaven with a promise of more to come and an empowerment that is their own.
Christ says wait in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.  This recalls Elijah being taken up to heaven and his “Mantle”  Falls to the ground  and  By putting on Elijah’s mantle, Elisha is sending a message to everyone who sees it, that he is continuing the work of his master.  Christ is sending his mantle, the Holy Spirit, which will birth the Church and move it beyond the walls of Jerusalem. 
Now what does this all mean for us today?  What does Christ opening the mind of the disciples and commissioning them have to do with us today?  A Lot, as a matter of fact, everything, everything it meant then.  Christ is calling us, through the Holy Spirit to understand his ministry then, which was accompanied by the ancient text, which predicted his coming and had shaped his society, and in reality made him relevant. This is a call to broaden our vision and see the relevance of Christ for today.
Today we are gifted with opportunities to seek out the Old Testament, listen to scholars and teachers, and learn for ourselves what they meant to Christ in Christ’s time and what they mean for us today.  In the exact same way that the mind of Christ followers were opened so they could understand and address their contemporary audience.  We are challenged, often times directly, to do the same.  I say arm yourself with scripture, understand what was written for whom and what it meant then and what, if anything, it may mean today.
For centuries the bible has been misused as a weapon to continue the oppression of people.  Reverend Patrick Rogers at UCC down in Pensacola on may 25th was a part of a counter protest against some radical fundamentalists...he wrote in face book “The part of last night's fundamentalist protest and assault on our LGBT community (and allies of which there were many) that saddens me the most was their approach to reading scripture (the Word of God). Prior to reading the sacred text, they would chant together "READY, AIM, FIRE!!!" thus declaring their intention of using the Bible as a weapon against others.”[3]
The Bible has been used to Justify some of the most horrendous historical atrocities of humankind, from slavery, to suppression of women.  “There was a time when most Christians believed slavery was the will of God. There was a time when most Christians believed women should not be allowed to vote. There was a time when most Christians believed that interracial marriage was wrong. Each position was elaborately supported with biblical arguments -- and each position, we can now clearly see, was dead wrong.”[4]
And "[Slavery] was established by decree of Almighty God... it is sanctioned in the Bible, in both Testaments, from Genesis to Revelation... it has existed in all ages, has been found among the people of the highest civilization, and in nations of the highest proficiency in the arts."[5] --Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States of America.
The inquisition, which is hardly mentioned any more, justified, estimated as lows as 32,000 to as high as 135,000. For crimes such as teaching anything other than Catholicism (heresy), witchcraft, blasphemy, Bigamy, Sodomy (most cases of older gentleman and adolescent as opposed to consenting adults), and freemasonry.
The Bible and women, I am sorry ladies but in the instance that a father sells his daughter to another man who is not pleased with her, she must be redeemed. Regardless of the amount of satisfaction that the girl provides for the man, God’s rules still allow him to acquire another wife. If he so chooses, the first wife is not allowed to leave unless her master refuses her food, clothing, or other marriage duties (Exodus 21:7-11).
If a man decides he no longer wants to be married to his wife, he can attempt to have her killed by claiming that she lost her virginity prior to their marriage. Following this accusation, the woman must then provide sufficient physical evidence, such as a bloodstain, to demonstrate that his accusations are fraudulent. In the event that she fails to prove her innocence of this “crime,” she is to be stoned to death because of this utmost act of disgrace. Guilty until proven innocent is the law within God’s court. Any woman who accidentally tears her hymen due to an injury or other non-sexual act is simply out of luck because she could never prove her virginity. Thus, she would be at the mercy of her husband throughout her entire life. If evidence is produced to exonerate the woman in question, the accuser is fined a couple pounds of silver and forced to stay married until death (Deuteronomy 22:13-21)
According to the rules of Moses, the deceased father’s inheritance goes entirely to his sons. If he has no son, it goes to the daughters. After that, the inheritance should go to the closest male relatives (Numbers 27:8-11). Not only do the boys of the household have priority over the girls, the wife is also noticeably absent from the will. Instead, God’s law forces her to marry her husband’s brother, provided she doesn’t already have a son with her former husband. However, the brother-in-law has the right to refuse the marriage; the woman does not (Deuteronomy 25:5-9).
Even in the New Testament Timothy says that females shouldn’t wear decoration or try to usurp authority over their husbands. Instead, women should remain silent and fully submissive to them. As he also declares that Adam was not the one who was deceived in the Garden of Eden, Eve is clearly the party implicated as being responsible for the downfall of man (1 Timothy 2:9-15).
On our own website my Rev. Dr. Husband, Bob points out  “There are seven texts used or rather misused as texts of terror, as weapons against translesbigay people: Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13, Genesis 19 and Judges 19, 1 Corinthians 6:9; 1 Timothy 1:10; and Romans 1:26-27. These texts, misused by some, reflect a model of ancient sexuality and gender codes different from those in our postmodern world. The issue behind these biblical texts traditionally applied to homosexuality does not concern same-sex behaviors but deals with phallic violence and gender transgressions.”[6]
If you have not read Practicing Safe Text on our webpage, for your own education, I encourage you to do so.  Bob goes on to point out “Many contemporary Christians object to Paul's views on women and his support of slavery in the Greco-Roman world. They have rejected his opinions on women and slavery as the word of God, realizing that these are his opinions, holding little weight in our contemporary Christian practices. Why many still cling to Paul's cultural opinions expressed in Romans 1:26-27 and ignore sound biblical interpretations of scholars has less to do with theological or biblical reasons and more to do with prejudicial motivations best left to the psychologist or therapist to explain.”[7]
Now allow me to repeat what I said earlier… Today we are gifted with opportunities to seek out the Old Testament, listen to scholars and teachers, and learn for ourselves what they meant to Christ in Christ’s time and what they mean for us today.  In the exact same way that the mind of Christ followers were opened so they could understand and address their contemporary audience.  We are challenged, often times directly, to do the same.  I say arm yourself with scripture, understand what was written for whom and what it meant then and what, if anything, it may mean today.
There are opportunities for study and research. Christ has gifted us with the capability for understanding the scriptures what they meant then and how, through the Holy Spirit they are still relevant today and that in no way can be taken literally for through the Holy spirit the scripture is revealed as new, as very current and as sacred.
With prayer and contemplation accompanied by research and reflection one can discover what the bible might say to them directly.  This is the gift of the ascension.  You see the ascension with its final blessing and gift allows the focus to move from the man of Jesus Christ and waiting for his next revelation to the practice of seeking to understand his revelation and the living Christ as it is manifested in the word, in the spirit and in the world today.
Finally the last thing Jesus does it take the disciples out to Bethany and, while blessing them, he is carried up to heaven.  While he has just told them to see, learn, understand and preach his final act is one of example in giving a blessing he asking the disciples to be that blessing.  To live and act as Christ has asked is to be a blessing in the world.  So one more time, I ask you to pray, study and preach…each of you be Christ’s blessing in this world. Amen.

[1] Bob Brink, God must laugh, http://( (accessed May 26, 2014).
[2] Ibid.
[3] Patrick Rodgers, our counter protest, http:// (accessed May 20, 2014).
[4] Life Journey Church, Would Jesus Discriminate, http://( (accessed May 26, 2014).
[5] the confederate partisan, every qoute you'll ever need, (accessed May 26, 2014).
[6] Rev, Practicing Safe Text, http://( (accessed May 26, 2014).
[7] the confederate partisan, Every Qoute You'll Ever Need.