Sunday, August 25, 2019

We Stand Rejoicing!

Jesus was teaching in a synagogue.  He was often teaching in a synagogue…but what was a synagogue back in Jesus’ day? Understanding what we are reading, understanding the place is essential to any story.  Yet often the Gospels are more concerned with the lessons than setting the mood.

“Synagogue” is a Greek word that literally means a gathering of people but also refers to the place of assembly (Just Like the word Church). Although the origin of the synagogue as a Jewish institution is unclear, by the first century C.E. they were found in both Palestine and the Diaspora, where they were used for a variety of communal needs: as schools (Josephus, Antiquities 16.43), for communal meals (Josephus, Antiquities 14.214-216), as hostels, as courts (Acts 22:19), as a place to collect and distribute charity (Matt 6:2), and for political meetings (Josephus, Life 276-289). Worship also took place in first-century synagogues, although this would not develop into something like modern Jewish synagogue worship until much later.  Nonetheless, reading and interpreting the Torah and Prophets is well attested in first-century synagogues (Acts 15:21), and although scholars disagree about the extent of communal prayers, literary sources suggest that Jews prayed in at least some synagogues at this time (Matt 6:5, Josephus, Life 280-295).”[1]

Does this sound familiar? What in our history may have looked just the same? The old meeting houses.  They often had a split use and some were built to accommodate a separation of church and state but they were used for congregations to meet and then for town business to be conducted.  They were multi-purpose buildings. Just like the old synagogues.

“Since first-century synagogues were local communal institutions, it is not surprising that there is no evidence for a centralized group that determined what took place inside of them. Although scholars used to assume that the Pharisees (the likely precursors to the rabbis) were in charge of synagogues, most first-century sources identify elders, priests, and archisynagogoi (Greek for “heads of synagogues”) as the leaders of synagogues (Philo, Hypothetica 7.12-3, Theodotus Inscription, Mark 5:22-23). Rabbinic leadership of synagogues (which is what we are familiar with today) was limited in the first few centuries C.E. and didn’t crystallize until the medieval period. “[2]

So, it is the sabbath and Jesus is teaching in the synagogue what did that day look like? What would it look like if it was your story to tell?  What would it look like if it were the woman’s story to tell?

“She had gotten used to looking at people out of the corner of her eye, by looking up and sideways.
After eighteen years, she could hardly remember any other way of seeing the world. On this particular Sabbath, there was a special excitement at the synagogue, where she regularly went to worship. A Galilean preacher and prophet, Jesus of Nazareth, had arrived in town and would be teaching there. She and the others in town had heard reports about Jesus--how he talked about God's reign arriving soon and how he healed sick people. She was not sure how many of the rumors to believe, but she was trying not to get her hopes up. Her life already had too many disappointments to count.

When she entered the synagogue, the place was abuzz. As Jesus began to teach, however, the room was hushed. Moments later, his words turned from teaching to invitation. He had caught her eye--no mean feat, given that he had to lean over and incline his head to do so. "Come here," he said to her. She slowly made her way to the front of the assembly.

What happened next amazed the whole congregation. "Woman, you are set free from your ailment." When this man, Jesus, spoke those words and put his hands on her broken, bent body, she felt power surge through her. Without hesitation, she straightened her once crooked back. She stood tall and praised her God . . .”[3]

OMG what a glorious feeling. To finally be able to stand and praise God.  To be able to stand straight up and look people in the eye.  To be able to go home and be her old productive self again.  No longer to be looked at sideways but to be a full member of the community again.  How amazing was that?

“this perspective emphasizes the healing as the crucial starting point of the story. While this pericope is a story of controversy between Jesus and the synagogue leader, at its core is a healing that demonstrates Jesus' power and his compassion. We hear the compassionate tone in Jesus' defense for healing on the Sabbath when he argues from lesser to greater: if compassion is shown to one's animals on the Sabbath by providing them water, "ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen long years, be set free from this bondage on the Sabbath day?" (13:16). Although Luke has not provided this woman with a name in the story, he indicates that Jesus gives her a "name," the daughter of Abraham. This phrase does not occur elsewhere in Luke or in the rest of Scripture (cf. Luke 19:9, where Jesus calls Zacchaeus "a son of Abraham"). This name stresses the woman's membership in the covenant community.”[4]

Her name is Daughter of Abraham…her name is human…her name is a valued child of God…her name is my name…her name is your name…her name is the name of the stranger. If we follow Jesus example of who she is and just how she is treated by Jesus there seems to be, at least to me, a simple answer to a question we have explored quite a bit recently. Who is my neighbor? How do I treat the stranger and what am I doing to offer healing to the human condition?

This just stands out to me so much right now.  Our government has officially changed the rules on how long we can detain children. “The rules, which are certain to draw a legal challenge, would replace a 1997 legal agreement that limits the amount of time U.S. immigration authorities can detain migrant children. That agreement is generally interpreted as meaning families must be released within 20 days. . . Families typically have to wait several months for their cases to work their way through immigration court, and the new rule would allow DHS to keep those families at detention facilities.”[5]

These Children…these families…these people are all Children of Abraham.  In detention they are the women bent over form years of oppression, fear, and hunger and yet…many many times and not just in this instance we behave like the leader of the synagogue. We can hear the leaders voice echoing through our land…

But is the synagogue leader such a bad guy? Or is he just mislead or stuck in a traditional way of thinking waiting liberation?

The leader is doing his best to follow his teaching and understanding of the Torah.  The seventh day was set aside by God for Israel’s rest and work was prohibited. When serving at Children’s hospital I would see this all the time.  Depending upon which sect of Judaism a family practiced we would have to turn on and turn of the room lights for the family. If it was Hanukah, we had special candles that turned on automatically so no one had to light them.

I confess this is still beyond my comprehension for what did that tradition do before electricity?

Jesus’ response  we often here as harsh for his first words are you Hypocrites!  But what if we imagine more a like a pitiful sad cry shaking his head, he sympathetically replies you hypocrites you will untie your ox and allow it to have water would not God allow a person to be healed?

Interesting thing here we often read this passage as scornful but this leader is responding with what he has been taught and Jesus is offering a broader perspective.  These arguments were often what the synagogue was about.

You see just as our laws are black and white…so is the Torah…but then we add tradition, and argument and we end up even where we stand today. A nation divided, a faith divided, a people divided.  What is written in the bible about Jesus time on earth is no different than today.

We have different sects who believe different things about the same text.  Ok sometimes the same text…There are 450 translations of the bible into English text. The NRSV is the most commonly used among scholars and yet 55% of Americans polled report using the king James bible…a bible intentionally commissioned to limit the influence of the puritans and to reflect the principals of divinely ordained royal supremacy…Yikes

Even in Jesus’ day nothing was black and white for the most part the Torah was still an oral tradition though there may have been manuscripts rarely could one read so they were recited by rote.  Then of course were different verses, there are verses, that contradict each other.  So, let’s give the leader a benefit of the doubt. He was a man brought up in a certain tradition and whose job it was is to maintain that tradition and here comes Jesus. The living breathing word itself.  He is here to clarify and move the tradition more closely aligned with a loving, caring God. One that expands and moves beyond tradition.  This is scary.  Jesus’ words are so powerful the leader is even afraid to confront Jesus himself but instead he kept saying to the crowd “there are six days on which to work…”

It has always been done this way…interpreted this way… we can’t change now…if God is loving and caring for all

OMG this is too much too fast

“Then Jesus argues for healing on the Sabbath based on the great worth of the woman as "a daughter of Abraham" and the appropriateness of healing on the Sabbath. What better day to heal (bring freedom) than on the Sabbath?”[6]

“And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen long years, be set free from this bondage on the sabbath day?” 17When he said this, all his opponents were put to shame; and the entire crowd was rejoicing at all the wonderful things that he was doing.”

Just as today we have people who are holding onto a world that cannot continue to exist.  We need to continue to proclaim God’s love for all and seek a just world.  We do not do this through hate speech and or cruel actions but through acts of love and education. Through action and redemption.

One commentator points out that this Gospel eliminates an us verses them attitude…

“the narrator points to the mystery of God’s action in this moment as a way of reframing Sabbath and relationships to all of the daughters of Abraham. There is no room here for Gentile gloating over some Jewish come-uppance. Instead, we are led to the threshold of celebrating and praising God along with the Jewish crowd. When God is up to something, prepare to be unbound: whether from confining diseases,”[7]or social norms, whether it be our attitudes about how we walk with the disabled community… “The UCC Disabilities Ministries (UCCDM) envisions a world in which all people are included in the fullness of life”[8]or how we live with mental health and addiction… “Everyone who is living with a mental health or addiction disorder, or has a loved one who is affected by a mental health challenge or addiction, is on a journey. Together we can connect with each other and share some ways to travel the path of hope and wholeness.”[9]

The list of ministries is exhausting because the world is so broken and so far, from the love and global community that Christ was teaching.  These ministries are our call to support. I am putting the link right into this sermon

I named a few already here are a few more we are seeking economic justice with 12 categories underneath that header. We are seeking Justice for children/education 4 categories under that header…we are seeking civil and human rights 11 categories under that header…

We can feel like the woman bent over bound by Satan as we have 70 some odd justice issues that we are seeking resolve for and as soon as we feel we have successfully resolved one ten more will pop up…why?? Because we are of human nature and our nature is imperfect and we succeed and fail all the time. There will always be work to be done. 

That said we also must…must...celebrate our successes so that said our first shipment will go to Good shepherd United church of Christ in Sahuarita for their work with refugees tomorrow.

So today in the midst of such overwhelming odds we can stand rejoicing not about this just one thing but all the wonderful things God is doing through this small but mighty congregation!  Let’s keep it up, let us be the healing voice that says to the world stand up be well and rejoice! amen!


Sunday, August 18, 2019

Bring Fire to the earth!

Oh, today’s gospel. It is often a Gospel that is avoided because it seems so harsh. It sounds so well…mean.  If we do not hear it right it sounds down right destructive. This isn’t the Jesus we want. This isn’t the Jesus we like.

But it is…It so is… People want peace and a loving Jesus. We want a good challenge less messiah. We want Jesus loves me this I know…

Or Jesus loves the little children all the children of the world or maybe we prefer
 That old coca cola commercial song

 “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing,” Oh, how we wish it were true. You know how it goes.

I'd like to see the world for once
All standing hand in hand
And hear them echo through the hills
For peace throughout the land
(That's the song I hear)
I'd like to teach the world to sing
In perfect harmony
I'd like to teach the world to sing
In perfect harmony

Oh, that’s it! So lovely, so peaceful, no fire of destruction, but Jesus isn’t really speaking of a destructive fire…Is he?

“Jesus the Good Shepherd who searches for and saves the lost sinner. (John 11) We like that picture. People want to believe that Jesus is patiently waiting for them to make up their minds. They feel quite comfortable indefinitely postponing repentance, baptism, commitment, forgiveness, faith. They think Jesus is the Good Shepherd who must wait for them. Any time they want they can repent, get saved, and the angels in heaven will rejoice.
That’s what we want Jesus to say and do. Instead he continues, “No, I tell you, I have come to bring fire on the earth. Not peace, but division! From now on five in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three ....”
We’re looking for love, peace, grace and mercy. And so, the words of the Beatitudes ring in our ears.

Blessed are the merciful for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.

This is always a difficult passage. I really didn’t want to preach on it.”[1]
Jesus addressing his disciples says I came to bring fire to this earth and how I wish it was already kindled.  Fire could be interpreted as destructive force as in the end days that many associate with the book of revelation but …but

I would like to say this is a comment about his own disciples, about Jesus followers… he really wished they had some fire underneath their commitment.  I came to give these people some passion, a mission, the mission of love and you should be excited about it.

Jesus also address his own call and what it means to follow him.  Remember when he said to the young man who loves God, who follows all of Gods commandments and wanted to do more so Jesus said sell everything and follow me…He went away sad for that was more than he could do.

Jesus here says I have a baptism that I am about to be baptized into and lord it is heavy on my heart. (My words not the Gospels) but this is what Jesus is saying I am about enter into the baptism of the crucifixion.  He already knows his disciples, much like the young man cannot follow him this far…at least not yet…He also knows they have no concept of what that will mean until after they are baptized by the fire of the holy spirit.

Jesus is forewarning what all he is doing will bring about. He says people will turn against each other even with in families. This is true as it happens throughout Christianity even to this day.

There is even often a split within ourselves. This dualistic way of being and thinking often finds us as individuals a house divided.

There is an old story that I love that illustrates this well.

One evening an old Cherokee Indian told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people. He said, ‘My son, the battle is between two ‘wolves’ inside us all. One is Evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.
The other is good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.’
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: ‘Which wolf wins?’

The old Cherokee simply replied, ‘The one you feed.’ The Evil wolf or the Good Wolf is fed daily by the choices we make with our thoughts and deeds.

You see even within Christianity this duality exists and when it comes to perception of how we are to live and what God calls us towards, we are divided again that is why there are so many different Christian denominations…This is why sometimes I have to use the hashtag NOTTHATKINDOFCHRISTIAN

I am reminded by a commentator that “It's possible that people don't always understand the Savior or see Him for the Person He really is and was. Look at the contrast in reactions to His birth. Shepherds came and worshipped Him and a short time later a king tried to kill Him. Jesus healed a man who had been born blind and rather than rejoicing at the Savior's work, the leaders of the synagogue kicked the man out of his church.

Jesus raised a friend named Lazarus from the dead which caused gladness among many who were happy to be reunited with the ex-deceased. But Scripture says there were also those who immediately began to hatch murder plots to get rid of Jesus and Lazarus. Shortly before His death Jesus entered the city of Jerusalem. Great crowds welcomed Him, proclaiming Him to be the Son of David. Still, not more than five days later, crowds were calling for His crucifixion. There is a cost to discipleship. (I hate to quote him but) Billy Graham has said, ‘Salvation is free, but discipleship costs everything we have.’

But by the year 500, Jesus' church had become the official religion of the Roman Empire and Jesus' Persona was changed. Now He Who once had no place to lay His head now had glittering churches and cathedrals. Before the calendar rolled over to the year 1000, Jesus had been changed again. The second millennium had the people thinking the Prince of Peace wanted them to take up the sword and march off to Israel to try and wrest the Holy Land from the forces of Islam which had conquered and forcibly converted the country.

Scripture speaks of the Lord reaching out to the sick, the sinner, the sorrowful, to the lost, the lonely, the leprous. By 1500, Jesus was presented as One Who had become so angry with humankind, so unapproachable that if someone went to Him in prayer, he did so with fear. Jesus had once said "come unto me if you are weary and burdened" but the common man was taught it would be far better, far safer, far wiser for him pray to a saint of the church or the Lord's Own mother, Mary. Even Luther had that problem, and often prayed to St. Anne the patron saint of miners, until he discovers the Grace of God in Romans and the words of Paul in Ephesians. ‘By grace you are saved, a gift of God, not by your works….’”[2]

I know it’s hard to proclaim our Christian views in this world.  In my community many LGBTQ people have left the church and tend to blame every hateful action on the Christian church. We have let the scornful, divisive voices, of a certain group of Christians to somehow rule the airwaves.

Gayle Dee writes of the UCC; “We’ve all said it, “The UCC is the best kept secret…  if only people knew there is a church like us!”  There’s plenty of truth to the cliché.  Today’s “spiritual but not religious” are still looking for a sense of belonging and a purpose in life.  Our inclusive, extravagant welcome and our focus on making a difference in the world by working for social justice are exactly what many un-churched folks are looking for.  If only they knew about us….
Another cliché in the UCC is “You know we’re uncomfortable with the ‘E’ word.”  “Evangelism” still scares many of our members, bringing to mind the piercing Jesus-freak question, “Are you saved??”  So, if people are looking for a place like us, but don’t know we exist, and our members are reluctant to invite their friends, much less, total strangers, what can we do?”[3]

The very same can be extended to us.  The Federated church is a very well-kept secret. Many people believe the church is the community Hall.  Some are not sure which building in town is our church or if there is a church at all. We sometimes send out confusing messages.  Often, we do not send out messages at all.

I know some here are on fire for the church. I know some invite friends and family all the time and yet… In the old days, he he, well when I was a kid, we used to have a thing called welcome wagon.  A person in the local area would come to the door with a package of samples and coupons from the neighborhood businesses which would include a list of places to worship.  That doesn’t exist anymore.

There was a time when a pastor would go door to door introducing themselves and inviting people to the congregation. With today’s climate of trust/mistrust it really isn’t safe to do anymore and honestly, I am not comfortable with it.  

But if we are excited about our faith, if we want to be on fire for Jesus, if we want to see our population grow, how do we spread the news?

Well honestly most people find their new churches via the internet.  That is why it is so important as a congregation to keep up on Facebook, twitter, you tube, reddit, Instagram, etc.  I know it seems overwhelming.  It is overwhelming to me just reading this list and that hardly covers all the opportunities for electronic outreach.

Yet having connections on all that electronic stuff does no good we have no actions to post.

All in all, it comes down to visible mission. Not preaching the word. Not praying for more people to come.  Not just inviting people and friends.  

It is through our presence in the community. It is Through how we act out the word of God.  From simple visitation to feeding the hungry to reaching out to neighbors in need across the country and around the world.

Jesus said; “I came to bring fire to the earth and how I wish it were already kindled.” Well he did bring fire to the earth and the flame is kindled now it is up to us to make it into a visible blaze. 

This is why we need to take time to look at our ministries.  We need to look at some of our social structures and see what we can do, what we can do as the small and mighty, to let people know there is a radically inclusive, loving community of God here in Marlborough and we are ready, and well equipped to welcome everyone.

You need to speak up if you have an idea…if you have a passion for any form of ministry let me know, share it with your friends, build up teams to get it done.  For example, I have a dream of revamping what our community meals look like. I have had 3 responses of people interested in looking at what we can do?  Are there any more please let me know and I will schedule a committee meeting this week. I can talk about my vision and dreams but what are yours? I can lift it up my own vision and dreams but I need to hear yours.  The fire Jesus is calling for is in each one of you and you all have gifts that can be utilized, lifted up and made into a blessing for the world around us. Just say yes to your inner voice. That inner movement that is the spirit of God nudging you forward. No Idea is too crazy.  No Idea is too expensive.  Let’s get the blaze a roaring! amen


Sunday, August 11, 2019

where is our treasure?

In today’s gospel God is sharing something new and unique.  “Jesus is on the road to Jerusalem, teaching his disciples - and occasionally the crowds he attracts - along the way. After sharing the parable of the rich fool, Jesus urged his disciples to dwell on no earthly concerns: "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear...Instead, strive for God's kingdom and these things will be given to you as well." (12:22-23, 31). In today's passage, and in light of such faith and trust, Jesus now invites them to give all they have away and, in the verses that follow, to look for Christ's imminent return. The edge in the last verses - reward for those who were ready and what feels like a thinly veiled threat to those who are not - only heightens the sense of expectancy for, and tension around, Jesus' instructions.”[1]

Jesus is coming Look busy!

There seems to be a lot in these three paragraphs.  We have been walking this road with Jesus for a while now.  We have heard his message. We have seen his acts.  We kind of know what this Jesus is about and yet he feels it necessary to remind us “Do not be afraid for it is the creator’s good pleasure to grant you the kindom!”

Whew, we can relax…all these confusing teachings, these huge miracles, these strange parables of fools and riches and Bread needed for visitors at odd hours oh and that story of the Samaritan, yikes! who can forget that one?

Do not be afraid.

Words like 'do not be afraid', 'fear not', etc. occur over three hundred times in the Bible and arguably 365 times, one for every day of the year

Oh, do not be afraid, Whew! Sell everything!  Wait what???

Maybe if we here it rephrased it’s not so daunting.

Luke 12:29-40 The Message (MSG)

29-32 “What I’m trying to do here is get you to relax, not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way God works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how God works. Steep yourself in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met. Don’t be afraid of missing out. You’re my dearest friends! The Creator wants to give you the very kindom itself.

33-34 “Be generous. Give to the poor. Get yourselves a bank that can’t go bankrupt, a bank in heaven far from bank robbers, safe from embezzlers, a bank you can bank on. It’s obvious, isn’t it? The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being, when the Master Shows Up.

35-38 “Keep your shirts on; keep the lights on! Be like house servants waiting for their master to come back from a honeymoon, awake and ready to open the door when he arrives and knocks. Lucky are the servants whom the master finds on watch! He’ll put on an apron, sit them at the table, and serve them a meal, sharing his wedding feast with them. It doesn’t matter what time of the night he arrives; they’re awake—and so blessed!

You see in these passages Jesus is trying to shift the movement of the disciples and his followers. This message is just as true today as it was then. Luke’s message is really about the poor and Jesus’ vision of the Christian community is one which the poor, the widowed and the sick are cared for by those who can.

Yes, the message is hard when we hear sell everything and give it to the poor yet, if you can do that, then you are very blessed for that is a particular and sacred calling. Yet if you think about it, I bet most of you would say you are not striving for the paycheck to eat and clothe yourselves.

There is nothing wrong with eating and dressing ourselves.  I would venture to say there is nothing wrong with treating ourselves good now and then. We all love time spent with family and friends on vacation, at a dinner, or a movie. But Jesus says where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

I suspect the treasure is not in fancy clothes, a good steak, a great movie nor a long road trip.  The treasure is the love of the people we share it with. It is through that love of our closest friends and or family that we learn how to share what has been gifted us. It is then in turn through love of each other that we can educate and learn of what the Love of God looks like and what the kindom of heaven looks like. We learn that we are called to spread that love even to the oddest of strangers in order to help bring heaven here on earth.

Sell everything…

My everything I can’t sell.  I can give it away but I can’t sell it.

I had the opportunity to serve as a chaplain after the devastating fires in northern California. I was part of a group of 8 that were allowed in a neighborhood as the residents returned to try to find anything left. It was an astounding site.  Nothing but ash.  Burnt out cars, a few trees an odd pipe going a story high with a bathtub still attached all else was rubble.

People were seeking any remnants of their lives. They were not looking for anything of monetary value.  They were not looking for their prized coin collection or their trophies.  They were looking for grandmas tea cup, or a wedding ring.  Oh,a few times I would here I found Jesus.  Usually referring to a figurine from their nativity set.  I am not sure how much sentimental value was in that or people brought it to my attention because I was wearing a collar.

What people were looking for were symbols of love shared.  They were looking for any sign of love in what was pure chaos.

Any sign of Love in the midst of Chaos.

One commentator shares this story…

“I led 31 students on a trip to the Holy Land. One of the most memorable experiences was at the Church of the Beatitudes, the place where “possibly” Jesus gave his Sermon on the Mount. During the reading of the Sermon on the Mount, specifically 6:26, “Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” this gorgeous green, tropical-looking bird emerged from a hole in one of the trees.

Suddenly, this verse made sense. Jesus’ sermon was not hypothetical. He stood in a place such as where we were, thinking about what his disciples needed to hear. Not advice, not memory verses to be tested on later, not WWJD proverbs, but words that when heard again, when the disciples are sitting around wondering what to do, they might look up, see a bird such as the one we saw that day, and say to each other, “Remember when Jesus said…?” And the words they remember Jesus saying will not just be words from way back when Jesus was around, but words that continue to impress, inspire, uphold, and matter.”[2]

In that moment of Chaos, as people returned to the scene of the fires we, other human beings, became the provider.  These people who lost everything were suddenly the birds in the air and we offered comfort, companionship, food and resources.  I can’t sell my everything because my everything in realty is love and that we can give away.

The call to be dressed for action is in many ways what we do as a congregation.  We are dressed for action.  People come to our door seeking food, comfort and assistance.  We, when we are in need, we know that our congregation will reach out offer comfort, food and assistance.  We feed the hungry, visit the sick and infirmed.  We seek to offer care and support as needed sometimes beyond what is asked for if we can.

Be dressed for action.  Many of us are dressed for action and do not even know it.

In my research I read; “When Jesus declares “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also,” he says that we can train our wills and our ways of thinking (for that is what the heart symbolized in his culture) through the ways we use our money. Spend it all on yourself, guess where your heart will go. Give it to those in need, your heart will go where God wants it to go. Moreover, your heart will find God in the process. For there is a sacramental aspect to charity, in which God becomes present to givers through those who receive and need their gifts.”[3]

Uh oh! The pastor is preaching about giving money and he said he never would…

Hear this those who will listen …I disagree with this statement. But if we rephrase it to Currency hear the shift…

“When Jesus declares “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also,” he says that we can train our wills and our ways of thinking through the ways we use our Currency. Spend it all on yourself, guess where your heart will go. Give it to those in need, your heart will go where God wants it to go. Moreover, your heart will find God in the process. For there is a sacramental aspect to charity, in which God becomes present to givers through those who receive and need their gifts.

Sounds the same or does it?

What is currency…let’s here form Eric Law…Eric Law is an episcopal priest who provides comprehensive training and resources for churches and ministries.  He is the founder of the Kaleidoscope institute in Los Angeles.  I have had the opportunity to hear him speak a few times.  Here is what he says

“The word currency comes from the Medieval Latin word currentia, which literally means "a flowing," and from the Latin word currere, which means "to run or flow." It was John Locke in 1699 who first used the word currency to refer to circulation of money. Since then, the word currency in the English language has been used most often as referring to money. defines currency as "something that is in circulation as a medium of exchange." I would like to ride on the word something in this definition and explore the concept of currency beyond just money. From the example of my family business to the formation of the Kaleidoscope Institute, there were certainly other currencies besides money that were in circulation as mediums of exchange, which made these ministries sustainable. When I researched different sustainable ministries and how they functioned, the key question was: "What other currencies are flowing through this ministry?" As I learned more and more about what made these ministries sustainable and missional, several currencies-mediums of exchange-kept surfacing as keys to their successes. They are:

Time and Place
Gracious leadership

Currency of Time and Place: Paid and volunteer time that leaders and members offer to the church or ministry. Properties from which a church and ministry operates, and other properties owned or which can be accessed by the church and ministry.

Currency of Gracious Leadership: The ability to use skills, tools, models, and processes to create gracious environments (Grace Margin) within which mutually respectful "relationships" and the discernment of the "truth" across differences can be built internally, among existing members, and externally, with non-members. Differences can be racial/ ethnic, age, gender, sexual orientation, class, political affiliation, or simply those existing between church members and other folks in the neighborhood.

Currency of Relationship: The internal and external networks of mutually respectful connections that leaders and members of a church and ministry have. Internal connections include constructive relationships among members and leaders, area churches or ministries of the same affiliation, area denominational organizations, and national and international denominational structures. External connections include constructive relationships with non-members, different racial, cultural and ethnic groups in the neighborhood, people with resources and people in need in the community, civic community leaders, ecumenical and interfaith partners, community and civic organizations, and local businesses.”[4]

Currency of Truth: The currency of truth is unique as it speaks of being able to articulate individual and corporate truths. So being able to express the experience of different individuals and or groups that one encounters in ministry. Speak the truth of their internal experience their personal experience.  Truth is also about being able to speak to a group or cultural experience of particular groups. I can speak the truth of what I experienced and saw at the fire site I cannot express what the neighborhood experienced as a community I had to rely on others to express that to me.

Currency of Wellness: This is the currency of being whole, wholly present and fully engaged.  If you are an anxious presence in the face of a disaster then being at the site itself is not a place for you but if you bring a sense of excitement and cheer fullness when collecting clothes or food then that is where you can bring your currency of wellness.

And finally, he does mention the currency of money but he says it is the “flowing of these currencies that give them value.”[5]

Be dressed for action Christ says…Lets use our currencies to build up our ministries…Eric law says we have to allow our currencies to flow, our time talent and money…I say, simply put, we have to let our love flow. Love, that sums up our currencies and our treasures into one big overflowing world of possibility.  Let’s let our love flow, increase our current flow and seek out new ways to let our Love flow for that is our greatest treasure and then that is where our hearts will be as well.  Amen.

[4] Law, Eric H. F. Holy Currencies: Six Blessings for Sustainable Missional Ministries. St. Louis, MO: Chalice Press, 2013. Page 11-12

[5] ditto

[4] Law, Eric H. F. Holy Currencies: Six Blessings for Sustainable Missional Ministries. St. Louis, MO: Chalice Press, 2013. Page 11-12

[5] ditto

Sunday, August 4, 2019

A call to abundant living!

As I read today's gospel, I knew I wanted to head somewhere towards greed, the need to build up our own reserves at the expense of others and then…and then stupid things were said, another meaningless mass shooting, the threat of executions, and religious leaders gathered at the border…

But as Stephen Colbert says in the meantime.
In the meantime, …

“It is not a sound normally associated with the border, particularly in its latest role as a national symbol of incalculable political charge.
But there it was, as unmistakable as the pink seesaws that prompted it: laughter.
Two architects in the San Francisco Bay area are responsible for the installation over the weekend of the three seesaws that briefly graced a small stretch of the nearly-2,000-mile swath of land where the United States abuts Mexico. Videos of the seesaw have drawn millions of views after one was posted on twitter by Mexican actor Mauricio Martinez.
The project draws power from its simplicity, the way it presented a vision of another reality at the border that contrasts with the one created by the heated immigration debate.”[1]

In the meantime, … I just saw this though it happened a few weeks ago

“World-renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma performed at the US-Mexico border Saturday to make a statement about global unity, urging listeners to "build bridges, not walls."
The classical musician brought his touring Bach Project to Laredo, Texas, in hopes that his music will connect people with each other no matter their cultural differences.
"I've lived my life at the borders. Between cultures. Between disciplines. Between musics. Between generations," said Ma, who performed with the Juarez-Lincoln International Bridge, which connects Texas and Mexico, as a backdrop behind him. "In culture, we build bridges, not walls. A country is not a hotel and it's not full."[2]

In the meantime, …

“Francisco Erwin Galicia, a rising high school senior in Edinburg, Tex., had set off on a Texas road trip on June 27 to attend a college soccer team tryout only to end up accused of lying about his citizenship as authorities questioned the authenticity of his documents, according to his attorney, Claudia Galan.
He had been traveling to North Texas with his brother and a group of friends for the scouting event when they were stopped at a Border Patrol checkpoint in the South Texas town of Falfurrias, about 65 miles north of their hometown, Galan said.
They were asked for papers. And Galicia had plenty, including a wallet-sized Texas birth certificate, a Texas ID card and Social Security card, Galan said.”[3] They didn’t believe him “ he was held with 60 other men and not allowed to shower for the 23 days he was held, and by the time he was released he had lost 26 pounds. "It was inhumane how they treated us," he said. "It got to the point where I was ready to sign a deportation paper just to not be suffering there anymore. I just needed to get out of there."[4]

“And in March of this year, 9-year-old Julia Medina was detained by CBP for 32 hours despite her being a U.S. citizen.
Though she's an American, Medina's family lives in Tijuana, and they cross the border each morning to get to school. On a Monday morning, CBP detained her and her 14-year-old brother, Oscar, saying she didn't look like the photo in her passport, according to NBC San Diego. CBP said the elementary student, who was questioned without her parents present, "provided inconsistent information during her inspection." The agency reportedly had no explanation for why it took 32 hours to confirm her citizenship and release her, though in that time they accused her brother, who is also a U.S. citizen, of human smuggling and tried to have him sign a document saying his sister was his cousin. Medina was finally released after her mother pleaded with the Mexican consulate to contact U.S. immigration authorities.”[5]

In the meantime, as this week we recall the bombing of Japan… the bulletin of atomic scientists report we are still two minutes before midnight on the doomsday clock

“As the Bulletin’s Science and Security Board prepared for its first set of Doomsday Clock discussions this fall, it began referring to the current world security situation as a “new abnormal.” This new abnormal is a pernicious and dangerous departure from the time when the United States sought a leadership role in designing and supporting global agreements that advanced a safer and healthier planet. The new abnormal describes a moment in which fact is becoming indistinguishable from fiction, undermining our very abilities to develop and apply solutions to the big problems of our time. The new abnormal risks emboldening autocrats and lulling citizens around the world into a dangerous sense of anomie and political paralysis.”[6]

Where do I go, what can I say?  My heart breaks daily and I get angry, and I pray and I pray and I pray and yet the world goes on spiraling into a cultural mess that divides, alienates and blames the other.  Our country today has become a hoarder of goods and prosperity and has decided that we need to store up what we have for a better tomorrow as opposed to sharing it and seeking an egalitarian future.

You would think that the world has taught us enough of how hate and prejudice prosper and grows and how to avoid just such situations and yet It goes on and on.

It is funny ok maybe not…but there is an ongoing argument about just how political a sermon should get…Why isn’t there an argument on just how religious politics should get?  You see, dear government and world, my faith is not crossing into your government. your government and it’s practices and it’ language has crossed my faith!

You crossed my faith when you allowed slavery to run rampant, you crossed my faith when you ignored the rise of Hitler and you allow the same divisive rhetoric permeate our culture, you crossed my faith when you dropped bombs on Japan and then increase our nuclear arsenal, you crossed my faith when you failed to serve veterans properly and continue to leave them in the dust , you crossed my faith when you separated Children from their families and incarcerated them in prison camps…

So, I am angry, I am upset, I am prayed out…not really…but as I list all these things…all these overwhelming historical facts and articles and noise…noise, noise, its nothing but noise…

It is just noise when we get lost in this huge picture…It is so much noise when it over powers us and makes us feel small and insignificant, it is just noise when we decide to close of the outer world and just focus on ourselves

This comes back down to being present to the here and now, being present to our spiritual needs; our prayer life, our quiet time with God, our engaging in the holy spirit which is the answer to our prayers and then listening, deep listening for the movement of the spirit…

“The rich farmer is a fool not because he is wealthy or because he saves for the future, but because he appears to live only for himself, and because he believes that he can secure his life with his abundant possessions.

When the rich man talks in this parable, he talks only to himself, and the only person he refers to is himself: “What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?” “I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry’” (Luke 12:17-19).

The rich man’s land has produced abundantly, yet he expresses no sense of gratitude to God or to the workers who have helped him plant and harvest this bumper crop. He has more grain and goods in storage than he could ever hope to use, yet seems to have no thought of sharing it with others, and no thought of what God might require of him. He is blind to the fact that his life is not his own to secure, that his life belongs to God, and that God can demand it back at any time.

The rich man learns the hard way what the writer of Ecclesiastes realized -- quite simply, that you can’t take it with you. All that we work so hard for in life will end up in someone else’s hands, and as Ecclesiastes puts it, “Who knows whether they will be wise or foolish? Yet they will be master of all for which I toiled and used my wisdom under the sun. This also is vanity” (Ecclesiastes 2:19).[7]

We may not be able to act on a national level, except by voting, but we can act on the local level. We are collecting items to be sent to our church at the border in Arizona to help them in their mission work.  We support the denominations which in turn send clergy, chaplains and theologians to address our concerns in the daily business of our government where the cross the lines into our purview.

We serve our community here with the food for kids at school program.  I wonder what it would take?  How many more hands to make this happen at the high school level as well as the grade school.

We have the beautiful community meals but what would it take to make that happen more than once a month.  Let the Community know that this is a free community meal for all! If you can afford it please donate ten dollars, if you can’t please volunteer, if you can’t volunteer please enjoy the meal.

I would love a team to sit down with and look at how we do this and what we can do to improve it.  Can we invite guest chefs to perhaps do a cooking lesson that then turns into the meal of that night? Just a thought.

Let’s do more to explore what we can do as a community for our community.  Where is the greatest need and what skills do, we have to meet it?

As we engage in our local charities.  As we engage in our community as the loving face of Christ.  As we seek to serve our neighbor out of our abundance then we set the example.  Then we become the norm of how a loving community lives, acts, and speaks! 

Yes, we are but one small community yet we have abundant resources,

If we reach out to all of our fellow congregations 134 UCC 57 UMC 24 UU congregations, that’s 215 congregations. What can we achieve?

 Even if we do not share ministries with them, we share core values that are being expressed over and over again.  If we lift up the love that is Christ in our communities then our communities are lifted up in love as well and then love will win.

“Like the rich farmer, we are tempted to think that having large amounts of money and possessions stored up will make us secure. Sooner or later, however, we learn that no amount of wealth or property can secure our lives. No amount of wealth can protect us from a genetically inherited disease, for instance, or from a tragic accident. No amount of wealth can keep our relationships healthy and our families from falling apart. In fact, wealth and property can easily drive a wedge between family members, as in the case of the brothers fighting over their inheritance at the beginning of this text.

Most importantly, no amount of wealth can secure our lives with God. In fact, Jesus repeatedly warns that wealth can get in the way of our relationship with God. “Take care!” he says. “Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions” (Luke 12:15).”[8]

This is a call to share our abundance. To evaluate our resources. To look at what the future of our church should be and invest in it wisely.  This is an investment in our community and ministries.  As we set this example and continue to minister to the community around us, and as our denominations continue to minister to the world around us, we know that one day we will see the realization of the prayer that as in heaven so here on earth.

Keep praying, keep listening   keep growing in God and we soon will see the headlines I shared will dwindle.  So, as a final thought let us pray into our abundance

From The Light of God that we are.
From The Love of God that we are.
From The Power of God that we are.
From The Heart of God that we are.
Let us Decree-
WE dwell in the midst of Infinite Abundance.
The Abundance of God is our Infinite Source.
The River of Life never stops flowing and it flows through us with lavish expression and bountiful possibilities.
Good comes to us through unexpected avenues and God works in a myriad of ways to bless us.
We now open our hearts to receive God’s goodness.
Nothing is too good to be true.
Nothing is too wonderful to have happen.
With God as our Source nothing is impossible.
Let us not be burdened by thoughts of past or future. One is gone. The other is yet to come.
By the power of our faith, coupled with our purposeful fearless actions and our deep relationship with God, our future is created and our abundance made manifest.
we ask and accept that we are lifted in this and every moment into Higher Truth. Our minds are quiet.
From this day forward let us give freely and fearlessly into Life and know that Life gives back to us with a fabulous increase. Blessings come in expected and unexpected ways. God provides for us in wondrous ways for the work that we do.
We are indeed grateful. Amen.[9]

[5] Ditto