Archive for June, 2008

Genesis 22:1-14


I.        Introduction to today’s message

A.      Different way to tell Abraham_isaac

B.      Two messages

1.      From today’s lectionary

2.      What happened Friday afternoon

a.      Connect with message 2 Sundays ago

II.      Message 1

A.      Way In

1.      The story of Abraham and Isaac

a.      To me, frightening and strange

i.        Why would God require such a test?

ii.      Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice Isaac is unimaginable

b.      I never have liked it

i.        Especially reading this account as a parent

2.      Committed to preach on Genesis 22 this lectionary Sunday

a.      Looked at my notes

i.        Avoided it last time, other sermon series going on

b.      The reason lectionary preaching is a discipline for me

i.        Deal with uncomfortable texts

3.      Think with me again about the scene

B.      Tell the Story

1.      “God tested Abraham”

a.      Take your son, your only son Isaac, the one you love to the land of Moriah

i.        Offer him there as a burnt offering

ii.      One a mountain that I will show you

b.      Abraham was completely obedient

i.        Next morning, early

ii.      Saddled his donkey

iii.    Took 2 of his young men (servants) with him

iv.     And Isaac

v.       Cut wood for the offering

vi.     Went where God told him

vii.   A 3 day journey

c.       When they arrived at Moriah …

i.        Abraham told the others to stay there with the donkey

ii.      “The boy and I will go over there, we will worship, and we will come back to you”

·         Did Abraham know that they would both come back

·         Yet, he did not say what kind of shape Isaac would be in when they came back

d.      Abraham set the wood for the offering on Isaac’s back

i.        Abr. Carried the knife and the fire

e.      Imagine the journey at this point

i.        Abraham:

·         God’s command to him weighing heavy on his soul

·         Precious son of laughter, Isaac

·         How long the 3 days must have seemed like

·         Yet, already they are going up to Moriah for the offering/sacrifice

ii.      Isaac:

·         Unaware of God’s command to Abraham

·         Yet aware of how his parents loved him

·         Aware he was a miracle child

·         Father asked to come along to help carry stuff?

·         Had some questions about this offering, though…

f.        Isaac calls to Abraham (note similarity to Abraham and God earlier)

i.        Father

ii.      Here I am, my son

·         Look at similarity to God’s call and Abraham’s response earlier

iii.    The fire and the wood are here, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?

iv.     God will provide a lamb

·         Indeed, God had already provided the lamb

·         As far as Abraham knew at this point, God provided the lamb when he and Sarah miraculously had a baby at their combined ages of 190

g.      They continued to climb the mountain, until they got to the spot God showed Abraham

h.      Notice the drama in the few words from scripture

i.        “Abraham built an altar there and laid the wood in order.  He bound his son Isaac, and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood.  Then Abraham reached out his hand and took out the knife”

·         By this time, the plan was horrifyingly clear to Isaac

·         But can you imagine the scene? (say more about the dramatic scene)

i.        But the angel of the Lord called from heaven

i.        Abraham, Abraham

ii.      Here I am

iii.    Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear the Lord, since you have not withheld your only son

j.        Abraham heard a ram, caught nearby in a thicket

i.        (I bet Isaac heard him, too)

ii.      Abraham offered the ram as an offering instead of his son

k.       Abraham called the place “The Lord will provide”

l.        The angel of the Lord spoke again (God)

i.        Because you have not withheld your son, I will bless you, and make you as numerous as the stars of heaven and the sand on the shore

ii.      And by your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed…because you have obeyed my voice

C.      So What?

1.      Let me tell you about something I read about this text[1]

a.      After showing a dramatic video about Gen. 22 to families, Rev. Willimon and his wife engaged them with the question, “What does sacrifice mean to you?”

·         A child’s answer

“My Daddy and Mommy are doctors at Duke,” said one third grader. “They help sick people to be better. Every day they do operations to help people.”

“And how is that a sacrifice?” Patsy asked. But the little girl was not finished.

“And I go to the day care center after school. Sometimes on Saturdays too. Mommy and Daddy want to take me home, but they are busy helping sick people – so lots of times I stay at the center. Sometimes on Sunday mornings we have pancakes, though.”

And everyone, from six to 11, nodded in understanding. They knew.

·         Adults answers

“We sent our son to college. He got an engineering degree, and he got involved in a fundamentalist church. He married a girl in the church; they had a baby, our only grandchild. Now he says God wants him to be a missionary and go to Lebanon. Take our baby, too.” She began to sob.

The silence was broken again, this time by a middle-aged man. “I’ll tell you the meaning this story has for me. I’ve decided that I and my family are looking for another church.”

“What?” I asked in astonishment. “Why?”

“Because when I look at that God, the God of Abraham, I feel I’m near a real God, not the sort of dignified, businesslike, Rotary Club god we chatter about here on Sunday mornings. Abraham’s God could blow a man to bits, give and then take a child, ask for everything from a person and then want more. I want to know that God.”

2.      I’m still not sure just what to do with Genesis 22

a.      Do we throw it out of our canon?

i.        Just too wild, brutal, crazy, manipulative?

ii.      The last thing we need to hear as we are reading about violence and brutality in our own streets

b.      Do we try to “dumb it down?”

i.        Make a Chicken Soup for the Christian Soul book about it?

ii.      Write a poignant and maudlin e-mail to send out to the masses about obedience and blessing?

·         Please resist this one, the e-mails out there already are tiresome enough

3.      Can we …

a.      Wonder whether God saw Abraham and Sarah putting too much stock in Isaac?

i.        Becoming fixated on the “gift-Isaac” and overlooking the “giver-God”

ii.      God wasn’t trying to get rid of Isaac

·         God needed to see evidence that Abraham had not forgotten the covenant

·         And in the process, remind Abraham

iii.    Still left to wonder where Sarah was in all this

·         Scriptures are silent about her role in the sacrifice

·         She thought Isaac was just going along to carry stuff, too?

b.      Remember that this is a description of Abraham’s struggle

i.        Not a challenge for us to make a similar sacrifice

ii.      But a call to remember where we may willingly sacrifice our treasures to much lesser gods/authorities

·         Our minds and our children’s minds to whatever rubbish is trotted out on TV as entertainment or news

·         Acquiescing to violence, arrogance, and intolerance – accepting it because “there’s nothing else on”

c.       Acknowledge that following God requires full submission

i.        Fearing God isn’t being scared to death of God

ii.      But abiding in awe of God who is the author of life and sacrifice

·         Did you notice the similarity in Isaac’s journey up to Moriah to Jesus’ journey to Golgotha?

·         Both carrying the wood for their sacrifice on their back as they walked along a way made by their own father?

iii.    The God we serve is more than we can imagine/understand

·         Surely more than we can control

·         We are unable to make God palatable to the human mind

·         Many ask the question, “How can a benevolent and loving God allow innocent people to suffer?”

·         How, indeed.

·         But how do we know God is supposed to be all-benevolent?

·         Does God ever promise that?

·         Doesn’t God say also, “I am a jealous God?”

·         Do we fully understand the concept that God so loved the world that he gave (or sacrificed) his only son for the sake of the world?

d.      Here’s what I can take away

i.        God is God, we can’t always understand

ii.      God is capable, at times, of directing violence.  I don’t understand that either.

iii.    Yet the overarching Word of God

·         That we find in the scriptures, and see in the life of Jesus

·         is a word of creation, sacrifice/obedience, reconciliation, and forgiveness

·         this is the God we have chosen to follow

·         God demands much from us – God demands  everything

·         And God has made us partners in the covenant

·         Established with Abraham, fulfilled in Jesus Christ, and witnessed through the Body of Christ – the church given by the power of the Holy Spirit

·         That the kingdom of heaven has drawn near and God calls us to life and light in his name – as children of the covenant

·         Living for his sake we have hope, and restoration

·         Even in unimaginable love and sacrifice….

·         Now a second message to think about

III.    Message 2

A.      Friday afternoon I stopped by Elmwood Church

1.      Abt. 5:30pm, left something in my office

a.      Another hot afternoon, not as hot as some, but hot

2.      3 young girls sitting on the front steps (middle-schoolers)

a.      Looked a little nervous when I turned to walk up the steps

b.      Had sodas or ice pops, something like that

c.       I said “hi”

3.      They asked me questions

a.      “Is it okay for us to be here?  Is it disrespectful?”

4.      I responded

a.      “Why do you ask?  What are you doing?”

i.        They said, just hanging out

b.      “Sure you can be here.  It’s perfectly alright.”

c.       I went inside

5.      I came back out a few minutes later

a.      Girls were still sitting there

b.      I said something like, “Have a good night”

i.        They thanked me

6.      What a gift

a.      Church provided a spot for the girls to hang out

b.      Respite from some of the meanness and violence we see in the streets

7.      Thought, “Wait a minute”

a.      3 girls – 3 people

b.      That I encountered in the heat of the day

c.       Needing a place to rest, to just “be” for a while

B.      I remembered another story, do you remember a few Sundays ago?

Genesis 18:1-15

The Lord appeared to Abraham by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the entrance of his tent in the heat of the day. 2He looked up and saw three men standing near him. When he saw them, he ran from the tent entrance to meet them, and bowed down to the ground. 3He said, “My lord, if I find favor with you, do not pass by your servant. 4Let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree.

1.      Could it be?

a.      Could God be reminding me/us through something as simple as the visitation of 3 teenage girls

i.        Of the importance of hospitality …

ii.      Of what the church can offer …

iii.    Even something as simple as a place to sit, away from the street, I mean “the street”

·         Something as simple as hospitality

·         Let love be genuine…and do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing so, some have entertained angels without knowing it.

·         so let it be with us,  Amen

[1] Will Willimon, Christian Century, March 16, 1983, pp. 237-8


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Genesis 21:1-7

Now THAT’S funny

Way In

I remember a regular section in Reader’s Digest, “Laughter, the Best Medicine”

still there?

Can you remember times when you had your biggest laugh?

A big “belly laugh?

I found my biggest laugh easier to remember than my biggest cry

Didn’t that big laugh feel good?

I remember a couple of times

Sunday afternoon dinner table in Hattiesburg MS, ca. 1970

            grandmother telling family stories

always funny anyway

then somebody dropped a green pea on the floor

can’t believe the hilarity that ensued

as my grandmother went on and on

about, somebody ought to get that pea up of the floor

I won’t elaborate but I think you get the picture

When we lived on Long Island

            got a call from a friend who was stranded in his boat

took another friend with me in my boat to go get them

dark when we reached the area, no spotlight on my boat

since we found them, it’s okay to laugh about it

comedy of errors as I tried to locate my friend’s boat

in the dark with flashlight and radio

zoomed right by him a couple of times

funny to hear how he told his friends on the boat…

“don’t worry; my pastor’s coming after us

as I neared his boat, decided it wasn’t him, and left

True, laughter is good medicine – at least it has its uses

Feels good to laugh

everybody needs a good belly laugh now and then

and more “now” than “then”

you know how people try to “Cheer you up” when you’re down

Laughing helps us cope

don’t you sometimes try to make a joke when something is:


like telling somebody their zipper is down

or their shirt’s on inside-out


arrive at the toll booth with no money and no EZ Pass

BHM when the FD visited

I was illegally burning pine trees

that had blown over in tornado-winds

Miller and Jack, upon seeing firefighters

in their turnout gear

started playing Power Rangers

making ninja moves at firefighters

while I was trying to get out of a $500 fine


“whistling past the graveyard”

L.I., used to take kids up in the scary bell tower

loved taking them up there

scary ladder to climb up

dark and dusty

old tools and equipment in dark corners

joked with them up there ….

usually just as glad to be coming down as them


Last Sunday, we read from Genesis 18

Sarah laughed when she heard that she would bear a child

she was “advanced in age”

Sarah laughed

at this idea

all her life, 90+ years, unable to have a child

The Lord asked Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh?”

why indeed

like we said before,

laughter comes after a joke, no joke was told



I think this is it

Sarah, “Hah!”

after I am this old

gone all these years without children


yeah, right

but Gen 18:15 says, “she was afraid:

afraid?  Sarah was scared?

yes, but not like we think at first

I was 44 when Pauly was born

when he’s 20, I’ll be 64

that’s a little scary

but I don’t think Sarah was scared like that …

strong woman

traveled across the desert

with her husband

to the place that God would (eventually)

show them

a “pioneer woman,” doesn’t scare easily

I think Sarah was scared that God caught her

making fun – laughing at the idea

that’s what seemed laughable to Sarah

having a baby at 90 years-old?

now THAT’S funny

I think

THAT’S why Sarah laughed

Tell the Story

Last Sunday, we read of God’s covenant with Sarah and Abraham

that she would have a son

a laughable idea (to Sarah)

and she was afraid

because she got caught

Busted – God caught her laughing

“Is anything too wonderful for the Lord?”

Today we read that the Lord did as promised

Sarah conceived and bore a son, just as God promised

Abraham, a daddy at 100 years-old embraced this son

took him into the faith of his people

marking him as a child of YHWH

And Sarah…no longer having to stifle her laughter

she didn’t need to duck behind the back of the tent

now she laughed right out loud

declared joyfully, “God has brought laughter to me

everyone who hears will laugh with me!

Who would ever have said that Abraham and Sarah would have children?”

I can imagine laughter rocking the camp

peals of laughter – ringing with joy

welcoming this child


“Is anything too wonderful for the Lord?”  Indeed, not

Isaac – the name Abraham gave the child

Hebrew word, in English means ‘laughter’

the child’s very name is a testament

that the Lord, our God

is the One who makes covenant?

and keeps promises

even when it seems preposterous – laughable


Sarah’s laughter and joy

resounds through the ages of God’s people

through Mary as God makes a promise to her

and her soul magnifies the Lord

her heart rejoices in God her savior

So What

the name Isaac reminds us that nothing is too wonderful for the Lord

the child Isaac is living proof

God makes a way out of no way

even when that seems laughable

God created a world out of chaos

humankind from the dust into God’s very image

from disparate and fallen people – a nation of faith

an escape to freedom by parting the waters of the sea

a Daddy out of a 100 year-old man

and a Mommy out of a 90 year-old woman

A storyJordan_and_fuller

In 1965 Millard Fuller, a rich businessman, liquidated his vast financial holdings and moved his family to Koinonia Farm near Americus, Georgia.  By 1968, with Clarence Jordan, Koinonia Partners started building affordable housing for poor people.  This was the beginning of Habitat for Humanity.

            In 1969 Bo and Emma Johnson moved with their 5 children from their unpainted, uninsulated shack without plumbing into a simple, concrete block house with a modern kitchen, an indoor bathroom, a good heating system, and a landscaped yard.  The sale price for the thousand-square-foot house was $6,000.  Koinonia Partners financed the home with no interest to be repaid at $25 a month for 20 years.[1]

            In 1989 the Johnson’s paid off their home six months early, the first of many thousands of decent homes sold to low-income people at no interest and no profit by Habitat for Humanity.

            Through the years, countless people have volunteered their time and other resources to the efforts of Habitat to relate the Gospel of Jesus Christ in tangible ways.  And there have been those who did not.

            In the early days, Millard Fuller was at the building site when a work crew arrived from the local power company to hook up the electricity for the 42 lots that were staked off.  The foreman came over to Millard and asked, “Who’s building all these houses?”

            “Koinonia is building them,” answered Millard, “You know about Koinonia, don’t you?  We’re a Christian community right down the road.”

            The foreman said, “Yes, I’ve heard of Koinonia.  But why are you building all these houses?”

            “We are building them for poor people – folks who don’t have a decent house to live in.  You’ve seen people around here living in bad houses haven’t you?”

            “You mean those shacks (here the foreman used a racial slur that I do not repeat) up and down the road?”

            Millard responded, “Well I wouldn’t put it that way, but you’ve got the idea.”

            “Okay,” the foreman said, “But I still don’t understand.  Who is making the money off the project?”

            “Nobody is,” said Millard.  “It’s a Christian venture, and building these houses is an expression of our faith.  The houses are sold to people with no profit added to the cost of construction and no interest charged.  The people pay low monthly payments over a twenty-year period.  We get the money for construction from gifts and non-interest loans from friends of Koinonia around the country and from profits of the Koinonia farming operations and the pecan-fruitcake-candy business.”

            Still incredulous, the foreman asked, “But why are you building the houses if no one is making any money out of it?”

            “I’ve already told you,” Millard answered.  “We are building them to help our neighbors who desperately need a decent house.  We are doing this project because we are Christians and we believe Christians ought to help their neighbors when they are in need.”

            The foreman shook his head in disbelief and said, “That’s the craziest thing I’ve ever heard of!”

“Sir,” Millard responded, “You’ve been grilling me about the project.  Now I’d like to ask you a question.  Are you a Christian?”

Proudly he answered, “Yes sir.  I’m a deacon in my church.”

“You’re a deacon, and helping somebody is the craziest thing you’ve ever heard of?”

“Yes,” he replied, “I’ve never heard of anything like this!”  And he walked away shaking his head.[2]

This was the craziest thing this job foreman had ever heard of

preposterous, laughable

That’s precisely what the call of Christ often leads us to do

that which others see as foolish, preposterous, laughable

giving food for free to somebody who needs it

giving clothes away to somebody who needs them

feeding the hungry, clothing the naked?

whenever we do this for the least of our sisters and brothers

we do it for Jesus – HE says so

May we always be open to God’s calling

even when it doesn’t make sense to others

yet we know it’s the right thing to do

And may we proudly claim what is just and right for God’s sake

even as Sarah

proudly participating in God’s promise

naming the child of promise – even naming him ‘laughter/Isaac’

So may it be with us.  Amen.

[1] Fuller, Millard and Linda, The Excitement is Building, pp. 3-4 (Word Publishing, 1990)

[2] Fuller, Millard and Scott, Diane; Love in the Mortar Joints, pp.70-71 (Follett, 1980)

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Genesis 18:1-15

A.     Genesis 18:1 says, “the Lord appeared to Abraham by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the entrance of his tent in the heat of the day.”

I. Way In


1.      we can relate to thatRublev_gen18

a.      the heat of the day

b.      when the sun is high and hot

c.      Abraham, looking for a cool place to sit

d.      sits at the entrance to the tent

i.        maybe a little shade, a little breeze

2.      the weather lately

a.      hot!

b.      southwest Alabama hot

c.      as I have driven around the city

i.        seen plenty of people

ii.      sitting outside the front door

iii.    maybe on the porch

·         maybe out under the trees

·         always in some kind of shade

iv.    trying to get out of the sun

B.     I have visited in some homes this week

1.      nice to be greeted with something cool and refreshing to drink

2.      offered a place to sit where it’s cool

a.      sometimes even in air-conditioning

i.        getting spoiled

3.      I’m still a little dubious about the CNY claim (really it’s true on L.I., too) –

a.      we don’t need a/c

i.        it’s only really hot a few weeks out of the year

b.      I’ve been places in the last couple of weeks that have a/c and it’s not on

i.        I guess they’re waiting for it to get really hot, like 90-something isn’t hot enough!

·         hate to see what it takes to get the a/c turned on

C.    But we can relate …

1.      to trying to stay cool in the heat of the day

2.      and how it is to be offered refreshment when you’re hot and tired

D.    Bridge

1.      Abraham knew it, too

i.        and he knew the code of hospitality

ii.      how important it was, especially in a hostile climate like the desert

·         to take care of fellow travelers and nomads

2.      Today’s OT lesson is a familiar one

a.      in fact, it’s legendary

b.      what happens in Gen. 18:1-15 is what Paul refers to

i.        Hebrews 13:2

ii.      “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some (like Abraham) have entertained angels without knowing it.”

II.      Tell the Story

A.     The scriptures say that it was “The Lord” who appeared to Abraham

1.      by the oaks of Mamre

2.      as he sat at the entrance to his tent – in the heat of the day

B.     Yet Abraham “looked up and saw 3 men standing near him”

1.      even though, as far as Abraham could tell, these were only 3 travelers

a.      he treated them with hospitality

b.      although we read that Abraham addresses the stranger as “lord”

i.        this seems to be a term of respect

ii.      not the Holy name

C.    Abraham provides the visiting strangers with his very best

1.      water

a.      refreshment and cleansing

2.      bread

a.      freshly made from choice ingredients

3.      a prized calf

4.      milk, and curds (cheese)

5.      all this he laid before the strangers

a.      and stood by a they enjoyed themselves

D.    From now to the end of today’s lesson if Abraham figures out he’s been visited by God …

1.      we don’t know about it

2.      later, when the promise for Sarah comes true …

a.      that’s another story

E.     Today I want to look at the welcome Abraham gave the strangers

III.    So What?

A.     but we do know that Abraham faithfully practices hospitality

1.      yes, it is being nice to strangers

a.      but in the harsh, unforgiving desert, it can mean life or death

B.     Hospitality takes on the attitude of welcome

1.      but it is much more than dusting off the welcome mat

C.    I took a sociology class where the professor encouraged the students to put ourselves in places we weren’t used to and didn’t know anybody

1.      I attended Good Friday services at a church I didn’t know

a.      Episcopalian, 3 hours

b.      lots of reading and drama

c.      emotional and tiring service

2.      went to an Arlo Guthrie concert alone

3.      Others talked of:

a.      movies, weddings, classes, riding the bus

4.       the idea was to put yourself in the place of the stranger, the newcomer

a.      notice how my own experience of how that felt impacted the way I treated strangers myself

5.      Preacher in Seattle, WA describes an exercise from a retreat she attended

      a.      write down the name of a person you are having a hard time with

i.        someone you dislike, can’t get along with

b.      write down all the things about them you don’t like

i.        a list of their ‘transgressions’

ii.      things that drive you nuts

·         you can get really carried away with this

c.      now, imagine you ARE the person you names

i.        now write, in 1st person, why you do the things you do

ii.      tell about what makes you the way you are

·         “I do x because I am insecure, my mother belittles everything I have ever done.  Nobody ever notices me at home”

·         “I’m afraid people will hate me if they figure out what I’m really like.  I can’t ever invite people to my house because of how my father drinks and yells”

·         you get the idea

d.      then the retreat leader said, “Stop writing.  Now look at what ways you have just written about yourself.”

i.        point was to notice what we project of ourselves on to somebody else

ii.      especially that which we like least about ourselves

D.    Real hospitality, biblical hospitality, desert hospitality, superstar hospitality is that which requires us to

1.      suspend judgment

a.      why does this person look like that?

b.      I don’t want to be here too long, look how he’s/she’s acting

c.      What if they try to take advantage of me?

2.      notice the image of God in “the other”

a.      she too is a beloved child of God

b.      don’t be so sure I know what she’s like

E.     The same article I mentioned before tells of a teacher who called a pupil into their office

1.      made them comfortable and began to pour water in a glass for them

a.      teacher kept pouring

b.      even after the glass was full

c.      water spilled over onto the table

2.      student said, “Stop, it’s over full, No more will go in.”

3.      Teacher:

a.      you are like this cup

b.      over-filled; with desires, prejudices, opinions, speculations

c.      your own thoughts and desires

d.      You don’t have room for anything/anybody else

F.     Have you ever been with somebody like that?

1.      so full – of themselves – there’s no room for anybody else?

2.      so full of …

i.        their own ideas

ii.      and self-fascination

iii.    that’s what directs the conversation

iv.    no room for you to add anything

v.      there is no room in their cup

3.      or so full of their own needs …

a.      there’s no room to see how you, or anybody else is doing

4.      when you do get a chance to speak

a.      do they listen?

b.      or are they waiting for the chance to jump back in

i.        to re-dominate the conversation

5.      such a person has no room for hospitality

a.      or anything or anybody else

G.    Hospitality – the Bible kind

1.      creates community

2.      welcomes strangers

a.      not just dusting off the welcome mat

b.      but welcoming …

i.        creating space for the life they bring

ii.      making room requires pouring out some of yourself

·         so you can receive “the other”

3.      And when we do

a.      community is made from those who were formerly strangers

b.      the community is built up by the presence of God

i.        the food and life shared is like an offering to God

·         means more to God than what we notice as a beautiful worship

·         God wants to see God’s people coming together, sharing their lives in community

·         like the feeling any parent gets when seeing their children getting along, caring for each other

·         that means to the parent that they are “getting it”

H.    Hospitality ….

1.      makes space for the presence of God in the company of the people of God

2.      and when that happens, miracles happens

a.      strangers become friends

i.        walls of fear and suspicion about the unknown are broken down

b.      a tent in the desert becomes a banquet hall

c.      life breaks in where there has been no life

i.        Sara finally has her baby

I.        Let love be genuine…and do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing so, some have entertained angels without knowing it.

1.      so let it be with us,  Amen

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Matthew 9:9-13, 18-26

Go and learn

I.        Way In

A.     The reading today STILL makes me think about preaching class at CTS

1.      Dr. Campbell’s favorite text to assign the class for preaching

2.      There were about 15 in my class = 15 sermons

a.      for me, no telling how many Chuck heard

b.      don’t remember any of the content

i.        not even mine

ii.      we made a tape to watch with Dr. Campbell

3.      Chuck was patient with us

a.      listened intently

b.      encouraging like Barnabus (son of encouragement)

c.      always found something positive to say

i.        sometimes he had to look harder than others

d.      I meant to ask him why he chose this text

i.        maybe because there was so much material

·         he wanted to teach us about selecting a particular part to preach on, not to try to preach on it all

·         whatever the reason …

B.     This is a familiar text for me

1.      not as familiar as for Dr. Campbell

2.      maybe it’s a text you’re familiar with, too

C.    If it is, listen again as if for the first time

1.      if it’s not familiar, listen for the good news – gospel

a.      What is Jesus saying here to his hearers then?

b.      what is he saying to us – his followers – today?

II.      Tell the Story

A.     Listen to the gospel lesson

1.      read or re-read it

III.    So What?

A.     What jumped out at you?

1.      that’s what you do with a text that’s so dense

2.      look for the key phrase that speaks to you today

B.     For me….”Go and learn what this means”

1.      that’s so important, it may be in red in your Bible

C.    Pharisees were questioning Jesus about his habit of eating with sinners and tax collectors

1.      He said, “Go and learn what this means, I desire mercy not sacrifice”

D.    Jesus’ favorite way of teaching – sending you off  with something HUGE to think about, or in this case, to look for

1.      Go and learn what this means …

a.      experiential learning

b.      spend years, decades in classroom – academia

i.        learning from textbooks, lectures

ii.      when I took Greek, I was living in BHM

·         came home from class one day

·         wrote the Greek alphabet

·         sidewalk chalk, in our cul-de-sac

·         wrote words

·         sounded all the kids names on the block and wrote than in Greek

·         something about writing in that context helped me learn

·         “Go and learn what this means”

·         experiential learning

c.      like learning to ride a bike

i.        you can read books, watch videos, etc.

ii.      but there is no comparison to “go and learn”

·         go – with a parent or friend

·         have them hold you steady on the bike

·         “go and learn what it means” to ride a bike

iii.    do you know what I mean?

iv.    When I took Driver’s Ed

·         hard time remembering which way to turn the blinker on to blink the right side for my turn

·         “Up for right or left?”

·         When I first started driving I thought about it every time I turned

·         after I while, I turned the blinker right every time

·         now I just have to remember to turn it off after I change lanes

·         you’ve seen people like me

v.      classroom learning teaches us the fundamentals of reading

·         but “go and learn” makes us lifetime readers

vi.    I grew up in a family with good cooks; mother, father, and grandmothers

·         I remember learning to cook breakfast first

·         watching them at first, and helping out

·         but “go and learn” made a pretty good cook of me, too

2.      Jesus knew that “go and learn” was the best way to prepare his followers

a.      he talked in parables about what they knew

i.        fishing, sheepherding, farming

b.      he drew pictures in the dirt

c.      and made sure that people who came to hear him got something to eat

d.      Jesus invited any who would to come where he was teaching

i.        he met them where they were

ii.      taught with stories

iii.    and taught by example

e.      he sent those who would be his followers …

i.        to go and be his witnesses

ii.      “Go and do likewise”

iii.    “Go and learn”

3.      Just like today

a.      responding to the Pharisee’s questions

b.      Eating with tax collectors and sinners?

i.        right

ii.      guilty as charged

iii.    that’s what Jesus does, that’s what he’s like

iv.    makes no apologies

v.      sits down at the table with them

·         gets right into their world

·         coming to them where they are

·         loving them as they are, and too much to let hem stay that way

4.      Jesus said he came to heal the sick, not the ones who thought they were well

a.      he went to the ones who needed him the most

E.     We find Jesus today among the people that need him

1.      responding to the Pharisee’s questions

2.      talking here the disciples could hear him, too

3.      and he’s talking to us, too when he says “Go and learn what this means”

a.      doesn’t mean for them to read a lot of scrolls

i.        or even hear a lot more preaching or teaching

b.      doesn’t have any videos for them to watch or tapes to listen to in the car

4.      “Go and learn,” that’s the way to do it

F.     Jesus wants them to learn about the lesson he is teaching

1.      “I desire mercy not sacrifice”

2.      like the prophet Hosea brings God’s word, “For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings” (6:6)

3.      Hosea says “steadfast love” – an attribute of God that occurs 172 times; and Jesus says “mercy”

4.      but the essence of the message is the same

5.      same message Jesus gives later in Matthew

a.      “woe to you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!  For you tithe mint, dill, and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy.”  (23:23)

6.      The point is, they can bring their money, precious herbs and spices, all day long

a.      but if they neglect justice and mercy

b.      they’re just wasting their time, and God’s too

c.      unless they are doing as God commands, their sacrifice is empty worship

G.    Jesus Chris is the personification of God’s love

1.      his life and ministry is love in action

2.      of course, it’s not the actions that save us

a.      but faith without works is dead (James 2:26)

b.      and worship without service is dead

H.    Jesus said, “I desire mercy not sacrifice.  Go and learn what this means”

1.      mercy is what Jesus gives us, even when we don’t deserve it

a.      especially when we don’t deserve it

2.      because we never deserve it

a.      God treats us better than we deserve

i.        thank God for that

3.      the Bible says we all fall short of Gods glory with our transgressions

a.      by  his mercy, God forgives us

b.      loves us just as we are, and too much to stay that way

4.      God’s steadfast love and mercy is the foundation of the covenant between god and the people of God

a.      a relationship where love should abound …

i.        flowing between God and the people of God

b.      that’s the idea of the covenant, of mercy and not sacrifice

i.        “go and learn what this means”

ii.      steadfast love is truthful, faithful, and honest

iii.    we heard from Hosea earlier

·         he exhorts Israel for not showing steadfast love to each other

·         and showing love for God

·         Hosea says, “your love is like a morning cloud or dew that goes away early”

·         this is compared to God’s steadfast love

·         steadfast and solid

·         even to those whose faithfulness falters

c.      this is what Jesus is saying God wants from us

i.        steadfast love, not sacrifice

ii.      the knowledge of God, not burnt offerings

iii.    merciful love for God and for one another

God welcomes us in an embrace of steadfast love and mercy.  Knowing that love has the power to transform us.  Knowing that love calls us to love in that same way, to seek mercy, to do mercy, not just empty sacrifice.  This love has the power to transform us, and Jesus calls us to learn from him, and open our hand in love and mercy as witnesses to and agents of God’s steadfast, saving love for us in Jesus Christ.  And even to those who don’t deserve it – like you and like me.

            Go and learn what this means.  So may it be with us.  Amen

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Matthew 7:21-29

I.         Way In

A.       My grandparents built their retirement home on the MS Gulf Coast

1.        when I was a boy, I spent as much time as I could with them

2.        Ocean Springs, MS

       a.        Davis Bayou

             i.          between Biloxi MS and Mobile AL

        b.        house on the bayou, on Eagle Point

c.        site of a home leveled in Hurricane Camille, 1969

3.        Granddaddy, Joe M. Hinds Sr.

a.        literally built most of the house himself

b.        often said this house would withstand the next big hurricane

i.          foundation, posts sunk deep in the ground

·         big, creosote posts

·         2 or 3 feet square, no telling how longMission_trip_katrina_389

·         buried

c.        it did survive many

4.        August 28, 2005

a.        6th strongest Atlantic hurricane recorded

b.        made landfall along the Gulf Coast; LA, MS, AL

c.        Ocean Springs and nearby Gautier, MS (where Granddaddy was born)

        i.          were some of the MS coastal towns devastated by Hurricane Katrina that summer

5.        Spring 2007, my church on L.I. organized a work trip to assist the clean-up efforts in Gautier

a.        8 adults plus Pauly

b.        while we were in Gautier, Kazy and I drove out to Eagle Point

i.          site of my grandparents home

ii.         my grandmother, Peggy, sold the house after Granddaddy died

·         she moved to town

c.        it was hard to get to the Point

d.        the devastation we saw was complete

i.          I could barely recognize the place where I spent so many summers

e.        I will never forget what I saw when we turned onto the old road

i.          on the shore of Davis Bayou

        ·         among the fallen trees

·         and other debris, even after 2 years

·         and among the rubble lining the street that was formerly houses – newer houses than my grandparents house

ii.         there stood part of the eastern wall of the house my grandfather built

iii.        and along, and around that partial wall that still help the a/c unit

iv.       stood the mighty creosote posts my granddaddy had sunk deep in the ground

6.        The house was gone

a.        but the posts were still there

b.        neighboring houses, built newer than my grandparents’ house

i.          were gone

ii.         literally piles of rubble and lumber

c.        but Granddaddy’s posts were still there

B.       Bridge

a.        Their house, my aunt called it ‘Hinds Hacienda’

i.          Granddaddy built after Hurricane Camille, another strong, historic, Atlantic hurricane

ii.         that’s where he learned about using the strong posts

iii.        many others learned about even better building techniques after Katrina

iv.       strong materials, in rock-solid foundations

·         withstood the storm

·         although the house didn’t make it

v.        newer homes

·         more poorly constructed?

·         didn’t take seriously the possibility of another strong storm?

·         …these didn’t make it

II.        Tell the Story

A.       re-read vv. 24-29

III.      So What?

A.       I remember studying three points about this parable when I was in seminary

1.        We are all builders of our own houses/lives

2.        We all have to live in the house/life that we build

3.        Every house/life will endure storms

B.       Go back over the three

1.        Each one of us are making a life, we’re building a house

a.        for those of us that are here today, it’s a life of faith

i.          probably passed on to us

·         parent/family

ii.         many learned from a young age

iii.        a good foundation – like the big creosote posts Granddaddy used

2.        We have to live in the house we build

a.        our reputation, character

b.        the things that shape our behavior and relationships

c.        this is where we have to live

i.          are we using the best materials?

ii.         are we designing and building a solid foundation?

d.        will our house/life hold up to the storm?

i.          because that’s the 3rd point

3.        There will be storms

a.        that’s a guarantee

b.        are we ready?  do we take it seriously?

c.        when I was in college, U of A, I remember the fraternities having hurricane parties

i.          forget which one it was

ii.         Tuscaloosa is about 200 miles from the coast

        ·         but the forecast was for heavy winds and rain even there

iii.        yet there were fraternity boys

·         till late at night

·         partying, carrying on – some even getting up on the roof

·         in spite of the impending storm

d.        they (we) got lucky

i.          the storm wasn’t as bad as predicted in TCL

ii.         good news for the hurricane partiers

e.        storms were predicted

i.          didn’t take it seriously

ii.         not only did we not take proper precautions

·         we made STUPID decisions

·         even flaunted them

f.         Jesus promises a life of faith won’t be easy

i.          mocked, derided, like he was

ii.         storms, difficult times …

·         not only predicted

·         but guaranteed

C.       Will we be ready?

1.        How is our foundation?

a.        in the parable Jesus tells …

i.          there are ones who hear his Word and follow

·         like the ones whose house withstood

·         because it was built on a foundation of rock

ii.         and the ones who hear and do not follow

·         like the ones who built on sand

·         did not withstand, and it fell.

·         “and great was its fall”

D.       The good news for us

1.        never too late

2.        to start fresh and strengthen our foundation

3.        by the amazing gift of God’s grace

a.        we can always strengthen our foundation

b.        and live our lives/build our homes

i.          in the reconciling love and forgiveness

ii.         of our Lord Jesus Christ, and for his sake

iii.        so let it be with us.   Amen

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