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Archive for May, 2010

One particularly beautiful day last week 

 I heard a song written by George Harrison, performed by Richie Havens on Pandora (George H. at Concert for Bangladesh)
 

Always liked this beautiful song 

seems appropriate at a time when summer is arriving 

hot!  Hotter than I like it 

song reminded me of the scripture I just read 

Where God creates the heavens and earth and everything in that is 

And declares that it is good 

where God makes the sun and moon 

And declares that it is good 

Here comes the sun, 

and I say “It’s alright.” 

It is good 

the song also also reminded me that Jesus often called his followers: 

Little children, my beloved, my darlings 

Little darling, it’s been a long cold lonely winter 

But don’t forget that I have promised a brighter day 

Little darling, the smile’s returning to your faces 

See, didn’t I tell you it would get better 

Little darling, I feel the ice is slowly melting 

To everything there is a season…follow me 

(sing “Here Comes the Sun”)

 

Readings from Proverbs 8

A lot to be said and asked about today’s reading from Proverbs 

Complicated: who is this person, Wisdom? 

Another person or divine attribute of God? 

The Bible calls Wisdom a woman, 

Is this God? 

How could she have been present at creation? 

I don’t know the answer to all the theological questions this text raises 

And there may be those who prefer to argue about them 

But I choose to stay with God’s Word 

To see what God is saying to us today 

And leave all those questions 

For the day I can ask God in person 

For now I am willing to accept that Wisdom 

Is a reliable teacher who speaks with authority 

She stands in the most public places, calling out to everyone 

Not a false prophet 

 because her message directs people to God not herself 

this is not what false prophets do 

they are usually aggrandizing or profiting them selves 

She asks nothing of her hearers, 

But that they hear what she says 

And take her instruction which leads to abundant life 

I can tell Wisdom is speaking to me because she addresses me when she says, 

“O simple ones” 

The message here is that when we are able to suspend with the notion that we must fully understand everything before we follow 

Then we will find that God calls on ordinary people 

To live extraordinary lives 

Like Abraham and Sarah, Moses 

And the sons and daughters of  

fishermen and farmers who 

followed Jesus. 

We find in the words of God… 

The Word we find in scripture 

and the Living Word we find in the life and ministry of Jesus 

We find in these the ways of truth and light. 

This (the Bible) is our source 

From which to learn prudence and acquire intelligence 

These are the ways down the path of righteousness 

that shun the ways of pride and arrogance 

which only lead to evil 

These are the ways in which kings and rulers do what is just & right 

In the fruits of wisdom we find treasurers or righteousness & justice 

more enduring wealth than silver and gold 

For the ways of wisdom (also called here “fear of the Lord”) 

Are the ways of life 

Those who follow will find abundant living 

All other ways lead to death, 

Ways that are separate from God 

May we seek out the wisdom and truth found in the Word of God 

With the understanding that it will not make us shiny, happy, 

trophies of people of God 

May our understanding be that this word has been given for the simple 

So that regular people can follow the ways of God 

As taught to us in the scriptures 

And in the love and mercy Christ 

And lead abundant lives 

Not as God’s “trophies” 

But as living reminders of the ways that build up community 

With those whom God has called us to be around 

May we seek God’s wisdom 

And follow in the ways of the Living Word of Christ 

For in these, we will find abundant life. 

So may it be with us.  Amen. 

 

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Acts 2  “Yelling”

 

1.  Way In

This is a picture from our trip to Mississippi

spent the night with my sister in both directions to break up the drive

had a nice visit – they live on the Cumberland River

Nashville area still recovering from flood

a real disaster and still lots to clean up

keep the area in your prayers

this is Pauly, Kazy, and me, with my niece Addie Bean

this was our first time to ride the big tube

Addie, as you can see, is a seasoned professional

her mother, my sister Betsy, was taking the pictures

and she took plenty

her father, Chuck, was driving the boat

we spent a lot of time on the water

Addie taught us about riding the tube

Uncle Chuck taught Paul to drive the boat

More about the picture later

Bridge

for now I want you to notice the image of joy

my other sister’s name is Joy

we didn’t see her until we got to MS

what I want you to see is the joy in our faces

embrace the unbridled joy experienced by a child

you know what I mean …

not the guarded, careful, enjoyment of grownups

when we’re afraid to be the center of attention

or concerned we might look silly

and not taken seriously

there are times we can let our hair down

and let out a good belly laugh

or have a long, loud, cry

but something happens by the time we’re a grown-up\

and unbridled joy gets reigned in a bit

we become more careful

“our culture teaches people to deny their epiphanies”  (Kathleen Norris)

“don’t pursue the impractical or the mysterious

it’ll just bring problems”

with that, we turn to one of the mysteries of our faith – the Holy Spirit

think with me again about the story of Pentecost

2.  Tell the Story

Context

When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place

Jews gather at this time of year for the festival of שבועות, Shavuot

“7 sabbaths” after Passover = after 49 days it begins

then, on the day after the Sabbath, which is the 50th day

an offering is made to the Lord marking the end of the harvest

the Greek name for this day is πεντηκοστή ἡμέρα, (pentecoste hemera) “50th Day”

so, the Greek scriptures and the subsequent English translations call this day Pentecost

This is why there were people from all over the known world there

they were there from (name some of the places)

The text

people from all over the known world were gathered in Jerusalem

suddenly from heaven there came a violent wind

wind filled the house they were in

tongues of fire rested on them

fire, but it rested on them

remember Moses and the burning bush

that was “burning but not consumed”

that same type of fire

burned

marking something holy

but not burning it up

burned but not consumed …

a resting fire

fire of power and light

burning, but not consuming

generating light, but not heat

fired up but not burned up

they were filled with Holy Spirit

they were speaking in other languages

the crowd was bewildered, confused because of the sound

the sound “like the rush of a mighty wind”

the crowd was amazed and astonished because …

they heard the Galileans speaking, but each one heard it in their native language

the Galileans were probably speaking in common colloquial languages like Greek or Aramaic

but the residents of all these other places (go back to list of nations)

heard the words the Galileans were saying in their own native tongues

and because they heard it in their own languages

they knew that the Galileans were speaking about God’s deeds and power

“What does this mean,” they asked?

some said, “Don’t worry about those guys from Galilee, they’re just a bunch of country guys who came to the big city and got drunk”

others said, “no, they are filled with new wine.”

not drunk

but filled with the Spirit, and guided by the Spirit

and because everybody could hear the Galileans speaking in their own languages …

they could all hear Peter’s sermon about the promise God revealed to the prophet Joel in the scriptures

about the out-pouring of God’s Spirit

sons and daughters will prophesy

young ones will see visions

old ones will dream dreams

everyone, men and women, will prophesy

God’s power will be revealed

and “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved”

3.  So What?

God’s people were filled on this day of Pentecost some 2,000 years ago

they were filled with the Holy Spirit

people thought they were drunk

but they were not drunk…

they were filled with new wine

exuberantly open to new possibilities

guided by the Sprits’ revelation of visions and dreams

so much so, that others, who could not understand the holy possibilities

of imagination inspired by God

that they could only be drunk according to the ones who were without that imagination

God was opening their minds to visions and dreams

new imaginations of God’s endless possibilities …

for renewal of our minds by God’s spirit

imaginations of possibilities for:

fellowship

spiritual growth

worship

ministries of mercy and compassion

This is the Spirit that guides God’s ministry, which is known to us in the life and ministry of Jesus Christ

but there are too many times that we don’t get it

we look past that power, deny that exuberance…

and put careful deliberation in its place

we meet, and meet, and call meetings

then we discuss

and try to remember how we did it last year – or 20 years ago

because if it was good enough then, it’s good enough now

and then, remember what happens?   – we said it a few weeks ago

we always get what we always got

maybe that’s good enough for us

maybe we’re tired of imagining and dreaming

maybe it’s too scary

maybe we’re waiting for somebody else to do it

maybe we don’t want to look silly or careless

but I think we all know that’s NOT good enough for God

we have permission to forget all that – by the power of the Holy Spirit

before I ask Lyle to show you the next picture of my niece, consider this

think of a child you know

exuberance

instant emotion

something hurts – they cry – right out loud

something’s funny – they laugh – right out loud

something’s exciting – they yell – at least mine does

yell – right out loud

never mind if it’s the right time or place

never mind if it’s not the way we did it last year – yesterday, etc.

kids don’t care

it’s before they’ve been taught to deny their epiphanies

now when we were riding that tube behind Uncle Chuck’s boat …

that was something new for Kazy, Pauly, and me

never done it before

Pauly warmed up to it pretty quick

Mom and Dad, too

but one time, Chuck took a sharp turn

kind of whipped us around behind the boat

we went across the wake a little

we were a little scared

we hunkered down

But Addie stood right up and yelled!

and guess what she yelled?

I kid you not, she yelled (show the picture) … HOLY SPIRIT!

and not just once…

over and over

as loud as she could

Chuck and Betsy heard her but couldn’t understand her from way back at the end of the rope

that’s where we were – at the end of our rope

just look at us – all hunkered down

in fact, Uncle Chuck must have thought she was yelling, “go faster, Daddy!”

because he did – go faster

then guess what happened?

nobody fell off the tube

Pauly got back up

Mom and Dad, too.  But a little more slowly

that tube was totally safe for us

it wasn’t going to tump over or dump us out

granted, we never stood up with Addie

well, I did later, but that’s another story

But this is your Pentecost sermon today

this picture of my niece, Addie Bean – YELLING

people, it just doesn’t matter what they think

we are the CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST

we possess God’s great good news

that the world may be saved by his love

and if we don’t take hold of that good news

… with exuberance

we’re going to go the way of empty shells of buildings to make way for somebody that will

so get involved with a kid

find a neighbor to mentor

do it through the school

do it though Central Zone

we had to stop CZ early this year for lack of volunteers

but if you can’t do it Tuesday afternoon, when can you help?

the Alpha Center is open many days

there’s a lot to be done at Agape

there’s a lot to be done at Compassionate Care

you know where those places are

don’t wait for them to come ask us

or put on three more Minutes for Mission

show up and ask how you can help

you won’t get turned away

I’ll preach on it and preach on it

but I don’t know how to do it all

I can’t do it all, and I won’t do it all

will any of this translate into us getting more members?

will showing our face and being involved raise any interest in our church?

will somebody show up (uninvited) to come check us out?

well, the research shows that personal invitations are still the best way to get anybody to go anywhere

but it’s worth a try

because what we’ve been doing for the past ____ years isn’t working

so it’s worth a try

maybe we won’t yell “Holy Spirit” with Addie

but we can still be exuberant

exuberant in love, compassion, sharing, inviting

… starting something new, for crying out loud

don’t wait for me or Sarah to show you a book

find one you like and start reading it with friends

ask how God is moving in that story

and dream together about how God can move in you

be exuberant

Yell “Holy Spirit” by how you act, how you love

isn’t it worth a try?  for Jesus’ sake?

So may it be with us.  Amen

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Acts 1:1-11;  16:16-34 

  

 1.  Way In

 

My father taught me how to drive in a Ford pick-up truck with a standard transmission 

theory: once I learned to drive a standard, I would be able to drive anything 

I think he was right 

I’m very glad to be able to drive with a clutch, I know of people who have gotten to be my age and can’t drive with a clutch 

that training has come in handy a few times 

Kazy had a straight-shift car when we first met 

and I have driven others 

last time drove a clutch for a few days 

I had to drive it for a few days 

ground the gears some, stalled out a few times 

but I did alright 

but for quite a few days after that, when I started up my car … 

my foot went right for the clutch pedal 

but my car is an automatic 

it’s one of those habits that’s hard to shake – it’s automatic 

Bridge 

thinking  about the Acts of the Apostles 

they finally seem to be getting their act together 

those who had been following Jesus, and their converts, were figuring out how to go about being the Body of Christ 

after Christ was not with them in body any more. 

a few days ago marked the day of Ascension 

1st chapter of Acts where Jesus is lifted up into heaven 

Just before that he reminds the disciples that they are his witnesses “in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and the ends of the earth.” 

then he was lifted up on a cloud until he was out of their sight. 

next verse finds them still looking up to where Jesus went 

two angels come to them. 

“Men of Galilee,” the say, “why do you stand looking up towards heaven?” 

my image of the disciples standing there looking up, maybe looking kind of slack-jawed, 

or like a country boy walking down the streets of New York looking up at all the tall buildings. 

 “Go on.  Get going.”  They’re saying to the disciples. 

 “You just got some pretty tall marching orders, 

you have better things to do than stand here looking up at the sky.” 

But then they get going about the business of being disciples 

which is to go 

That’s what Jesus said, that they will be his witnesses 

the ones to tell about what they have seen; 

they will be the ones to tell about Jesus’ ministry of healing, restoring 

They were sent, as witnesses to the good news, 

 that Jesus Christ came that we may have life and have it more abundantly, 

living not as the world teaches but as he teaches, 

restoring the community of the people of God by forgiving one another as we have been forgiven. 

By this we are freed from the bondage of things like: 

holding grudges, 

from the bondage of possessing things so tightly that we have forgotten what it’s like to open our hand and share what we have with those who are in need. 

not exactly the same thing, but as we look at today’s reading from Acts, 

think about an old habit that comes up practically without your having to think about it. 

Like your left foot going for the clutch pedal in a car, or some other habit or automatic behavior. 

2.  Tell The story 

In today’s reading from Acts, there are those who are free and those who are not. 

first verse Paul and Silas encounter a slave girl with some kind of power of divination… 

in the Greek it’s called a pneuma puqwna, 

a spirit of the Pythona, which was associated with the Oracle at Delphi. 

It seemed that the slave girl was able to predict the future, and her owners made money from her fortune-telling…a kind of 1st century Psychic Friends Network. 

The point is, here we have a situation of bondage, a slave-girl and her owners: slave and free. 

Now Paul and Silas saw this situation 

decided that it was wrong for the slave-owners to be profiting from this girl, 

they rebuked the spirit she had and freed her from its power 

which was doing nothing for her but making her a valuable trinket for her owners. 

Now that their fortune-telling business was gone, the slave-owners dragged Paul and Silas before the authorities and charged them with “disturbing the city” with strange customs. 

For this offense, Paul and Silas were stripped and beaten, 

then thrown in prison, 

not just imprisoned, but sent to the innermost cell 

where they were then chained in stocks by their feet. 

Around midnight, Paul and Silas were in their cell, 

not whining and moping, not even sleeping, 

they were singing and praying, 

and the other prisoners were listening to them while the jailers slept. 

Here’s another image of bondage; prisoners and jailers. 

Then there was an earthquake 

Luke (Acts) says that the very foundations of the prison were shaken 

cell doors all opened up 

chains of bondage fell from all the prisoners.\ 

jailer woke up when he heard all the commotion 

Seeing the cell doors all opened up, and imagining the prisoners had all escaped, he knew that no matter what happened, he would be held responsible.   

Earthquake or no, the freed prisoners would be his fault 

the punishment must have been brutal because he immediately drew his sword to kill himself rather than face the prison officials. 

but Paul; who, even though his cell door was sprung open, and the shackles fell from his feet, had never left the prison, 

he called out to the jailer and stopped him 

In fact, they were all still there, none of the prisoners had left 

“Do not harm yourself,” cried Paul, “for we are all here.” 

Seeing that they had stayed, and had the care to stop him from killing himself, 

the jailer took the prisoners, and brought them all outside 

asked Paul and Silas, “What must I do to be saved?” 

What must I do to be freed from this bondage?  

What must I do to be delivered from the misery of holding down the prisoners in these dark, damp, cold cells …  

delivered into the such a life as those who,  

even though they are unjustly imprisoned,  

keep their faith, singing and praying,  

until the hinges of the cells are shaken loose and the chains fall from their feet?  

“Believe on the Lord Jesus,” they said. 

That’s it. 

Believe in him, entrust your life to him, live as a witness to and an agent of his saving love. 

“Then,” they said, “You will be saved.” 

 And not just you, everybody in your house. 

3.  So What? 

We can be held captive to attitudes or thoughts, 

so that our response seems almost automatic, 

like the left foot going for the clutch pedal. 

 Do you ever find yourself responding to a person or situation with frustration, impatience, criticism, or anger … or any other emotion so that it seems automatic? 

Do you ever find yourself responding automatically? 

It’s like having  feelings that hold our behaviors captive, 

and we are shackled and chained away from living fully in community with those God has placed around us. 

But the love of Christ has the power to break us free 

from negative attitudes or thoughts that hold us captive, 

breaking the hinges from the cell doors until the doors fall open and the chains break away, 

freeing us to emerge from dark, damp cells of misery into the light of the truth and life …  

free to make habits of loving and caring ways that build up the community God is making of the Body of Christ. 

In today’s reading things are not entirely as they seem. 

Slaves have more freedom than their masters, 

and prisoners are freer than their jailers. 

Although she was the one held in slavery, 

 the fortune-telling slave’s masters were so bound up in greed that they were willing to hold another human being in slavery for their own profit 

and when Paul and Silas challenged them, they turned them over to be flogged and beaten severely then thrown in prison. 

Even though it was Paul and Silas, and the other inmates who were chained in their cells, 

the jailer was so bound to and fearful of the system of brutality and violence that he was willing to kill himself rather than face the awful consequences of the prisoners escaping under his watch. 

The scriptures say that during the earthquake the foundations were shaken, 

all the doors were opened and everybody’s chains fell away. 

The foundations were shaken.  I like that. 

These followers of Jesus, finally getting their acts together, were doing what Jesus did, and doing what they were sent out to do.   

Shaking the foundations. 

Mother Theresa said that her job was to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. 

Shaking the foundations; 

when systems of oppression become so standard and routine that culture seems comfortable in it because it helps those in power stay in power – while the powerless remain without, 

or those who have the most keep the most – while those who need the most stay in need. 

Shaking the foundations, 

when white people in the Jim Crow South started to believe that segregated schools were the way, 

that white children should not be in school with black children, 

and that separate could be equal, 

somebody said that’s not right.  Shaking the foundations. 

Shaking the foundations in our own community 

When will we stop the hateful rhetoric around the school levy issue 

that goes on, as far as I can tell, year round –  

especially on the “letters” page in the newspaper. 

When will the people on each side of the issue come together for civil dialogue 

and stop sniping at each other 

and doing so much damage to the kids and schools caught in the middle. 

Who will be the first to breach the generations-old gap? 

Who will shake the foundations? 

Shaking the foundations.  Have you ever forgiven somebody? 

I mean really forgiven them? 

For doing something so bad to you or somebody else that it made your blood rage even to think about it? 

Have you ever really forgiven somebody? 

If you have, maybe you have known how that person looked to you 

as the tears that clouded your eyes poured down your face so that you could taste them and realized that you were pouring out bitterness and contempt that held you captive, maybe for years. 

But that might not have fixed it, 

things might still be hard between you, 

but didn’t you feel a certain freedom of being released, 

even if just for a moment. 

That’s a time we remember Jesus teaching us to forgive one another just like he forgives us, 

and that’s a pretty good place to start, don’t you think? 

Shaking the foundations. 

I don’t know about you, but Paul and Silas are teaching me about sitting up late singing and praying. 

They are teaching me about noticing the cell doors and shackles in my life that are holding me in bondage, 

keeping me away from the abundant life in the community of the Body of Christ that Jesus promises. 

And they have me studying the power of God’s Living Word in Jesus Christ 

that has the earthquake power to shake the foundations. 

It’s a good place to start. 

So may it be with us.  Amen. 

  

 

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Old Sunday School photos of congregants and today’s children proclaimed the good news of God’s transforming love. No sermon needed from me.

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