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First Presbyterian Church of Yellow Springs

Rev. Joe Hinds

Matthew 14:13-21

  1. Way In

    Do you have a summer reading list? For the beach, the camp, maybe just at home?

    I do, or I did.

    We did a lot of reading the last couple of weeks

    I carried a whole suitcase of books.

    How about you?

    So imagine settling down to start your book

    Make yourself comfortable

    Open up your book, start to read …

    Chapter 1, page 1, 1st paragraph, 1st sentence, reads like this …

    “Now when she heard this, she left in a boat …”

    Is that a great opening sentence, or what?

    Really gets your attention

    Makes you want to read more

    I don’t know about you, but I would want to know that the “this” is

    That’s the way today’s gospel reading begins

    1st sentence really draws you in

    “Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a deserted place by himself.”

    What Jesus heard is in the verses, at the end of chapter 13, right before today’s reading

  2. Tell the Story

    (Context) Recent past

    Death/execution of John the Baptist

    (start with this phrase) Jesus had just received the news that Herod had executed his cousin John t. B.

    Herod had arrested and imprisoned him

    Over some remarks John had made about the legitimacy of his marriage

    Then, just a few days before, at a great banquet honoring Herod’s birthday party …

    Herod made a promise to his wife’s daughter after her dance which pleased Herod’s court immensely

    Herod promised her anything she wished

    Her birthday wish, prompted by her mother, was to have the head of the prisoner – John the Baptist brought to her on a platter

    So she could give it is a gift to her mother

    (pause) King Herod kept his promise

    And the scriptures say, in the verse just before today’s reading, that John’s followers “went and took his body and buried it, then they went to tell Jesus.”

    This is what Jesus heard when he withdrew from the crowds to go off to a deserted place by himself

    No doubt, Jesus was weary from the long spell of preaching and teaching among the people

    He had been on the road constantly since appointing the 12 disciples

    Teaching them and preparing them for ministry

    And, as Jesus himself described it, “the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them.” (11:5 f.)

    Besides that, he told the crowds that were following him “no one has arisen greater than John the Baptist

    Now he learns that his cousin, the prophet was executed by a brutal and lascivious King, on the careless whim of a spiteful queen, making nothing more of John’s life than a horrifying game

    Jesus needed to get away, but this was not to be the day for that

    Today’s reading

    The crowds found where he went by boat, and they followed him on foot

    Seeing them, Jesus went ashore,

    Despite his own grief and need for rest, he was full of compassion for the people

    he cured the ones among them who were sick

    The disciples noticed that it was getting closer to suppertime, said to Jesus

    It’s getting late, Lord, and we’re in the middle of nowhere

    How about you send the crowds away

    so they can go into town to buy something to eat

    Jesus may have thrown his hands up or rolled his eyes when he said,

    They don’t need to go anywhere

    YOU give them something to eat

    “But we don’t have anything to give them”

    Only 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish

    Remember there are 5,000 men here “not counting women and children”

    So if there was 1 woman and 1 child for every man there were 15,000

    Safe to say there were 10,000 – 15,000

    Jesus said, bring me what you have

    He had the crowd sit down

    He took the loaves and fish

    gave thanks to God and blessed them

    Jesus gave the loaves to the disciples, and the disc. gave them to the crowds

    Everybody ate and were filled

    And there were 12 baskets filled with what was left over

  3. So What?

    Everybody knows the story of the feeding the 5,000

    And that was sure enough a miracle

    But did you notice how the disciples responded at first?

    When they realized it was getting close to supper time?

    “We don’t have enough food, Jesus better send all these people home”

    But Jesus, already having compassion for the crowds as he did his healing …

    He told the disciples, “You give them something to eat.”

    They said, “But look Lord, all we have is 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish”

    But Jesus said, “Bring me what you have.”

    Have you ever felt like the disciples?

    We don’t have enough, we might use it all up here

    Could this be like the church? Are we ‘enough?’

    We only have a few members, Lord

    We don’t have as many as we used to

    It may not be enough

    I only have $5 for the offering this week

    I just started reading the Bible, I’m a “new” Christian

    I love to sing, but I can’t carry a tune in a bucket

    Do we feel there are things holding us back?

    Are we afraid that there won’t’ be enough if we use it all up today

    To all of these, Jesus answers “Bring me what you have”

    In the hands of the disciples 2 fish and 5 loaves were a meager meal

    Not even enough to feed the 12 of them, let alone the huge crowd before them

    In Jesus’ hands this was a gift

    “Bring me what you have”

    He took it and gave thanks to God for it

    Then, in Jesus’ hands the gift expanded

    The disciples saw the scarcity and it scared them

    “send them home”

    Jesus saw the bounty in God’s possibility

    And the disciples’ humble gift was all he needed

    It’s the same with us

    When we feel inadequate, afraid there isn’t enough

    When we forget about God providing everything we need

    Jesus says, “Bring me what you have”

    It’s enough, we’re enough

    In his hands, the humble gift we bring of ourselves is enough

    As long as we offer all we have

    Not holding anything back, ‘just in case’

    The difference was, Jesus gave thanks to God for what they had

    Then it was more than enough

    Jesus said, “Bring me what you have.” The other thing is that he made the disciples part of the miracle

    Now Jesus, being Jesus, could have made the miracle happen any kind of way

    He could have had the crowds sit down

    And make a KFC 2 piece meal plop down in everybody’s lap

    The miracle could have taken any form

    And he didn’t need the disciples’ help

    Jesus chose to teach the disciples something through the miracle

    Took what they had and expanded the gift

    And he made the disciples a part of it

    Jesus did the miracle

    He’s the one with the power to produce bounty from scarcity

    But the miracle came through the hands of the disciples

    The disciples weren’t just observers of, but participants in the miracle

    And so we are called

    Not as just observers or readers of the Word, but doers of the word

    The miracles of God’s provision in Jesus call us to be participants

    As the 16th century nun, Teresa of Avila wrote:

    Christ has no body now on earth but yours, no hands but yours, yours are the eyes through which he looks he looks with compassion on the world. Yours are the feet with which he is to go about doing good. Yours are the hands with which he is to bless the world now.

    Bring what you have. In the service of Jesus Christ and his church, it is enough.

    Be part of the miracle.

So let it be with us. Amen

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7th Sunday of Easter

June 5, 2011

First Presbyterian Church of Yellow Springs

Rev. Joe Hinds

Acts 1:6-14

1. Way In (“Is it time?”)

Looking off into space – or at least not where I’m going

New Orleans

As a kid, teenager

Going with my Father to Saints football games

Then after, walking with him and his buddies through he French Quarter

Looking with great interest into the clubs and bars we passed

Open doors, barkers out front calling folks in

Looking so intently at what was happening inside

I walked into a light pole

Dad and his friends had a good time with that

New York

Visits when we lived on Long Island

Walking down the streets, esp. around Central Park and Financial District

Looking up at all the tall buildings

Danger of stepping off the curb

Into an intersection where traffic signals were considered suggestions

Or roadways where so many cars, busses, taxis, trucks, and bikes where constantly whizzing past

So we find the Disciples today

On a hillside outside Jerusalem

Mt. of Olives

Looking off into space – or at least not where they were going

2. Tell The Story

Context

Ascension

40 days since Resurrection

Disciples spent the time with the risen Lord

Now is the time for what Jesus told them would happen

Paying better attention now?

He also told them about his death and resurrection

Learned to listen better by now? To believe?

Still, the Disciples were “losing” Jesus – again

Luke begins the Acts of the Apostles

“In the first book (gospel) … I wrote about all Jesus did

From the beginning (Luke 1)

To write an orderly account of the events that have been fulfilled among us

Until he was taken up into heaven (Luke 24)

I am sending you what my Father promised

The Holy Spirit, Advocate, Pantocrator

Acts 2, Pentecost – gift of the Holy Spirit

So stay in Jerusalem until you have been clothed with power from on high

“You are witnesses of these things

Then he led them to Bethany

He lifted up his hands

He blessed them

While he was blessing them he was carried up into heaven

And they worshipped him

Returned to Jerusalem with great joy

And they were continually in the temple blessing God

Verse previous to today’s reading from the NT

John baptized you with water,

But you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now

Today’s reading

So, Lord. Is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?

This was the prophecy of the Messiah, when he came

After Israel had been under different rule and occupation for generations

… Is this the time?

To be free of Roman occupation

And be restored to how it was before under King David?

But Jesus responds

That time is not for you to know – only God knows when

But you:

Will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes

And you will be my witnesses

In Jerusalem

In Judea

And Samaria

And to the ends of the earth

When he said this he was lifted up

And a cloud took him up and out of sight

While they were standing there looking …

At the last spot in the sky where they saw Jesus

Two men in white robes stood by them

Men of Galilee, why are you standing here looking towards heaven?

Jesus has been taken into heaven

And he will return the same way

Then they returned to Jerusalem

From Olivet, atop the Mt. Of Olives

Near Jerusalem

A sabbath’s journey away

Meaning, a distance short enough to walk on the Sabbath

A day of rest, when no further exertion or travel was permitted

Back to Jerusalem to the room upstairs

The room where they had been staying since Jesus’ crucifixion

The room of the Last Supper

The room where the risen Lord returned after resurrection

the remaining followers of Jesus stayed in Jerusalem

Eleven disciples

Judas Iscariot was no longer among them

Along with

Certain women

Including Mary, Jesus’ mother

And his brothers

All of these were constantly devoting themselves to prayer

3. (So What?) Is it time?

The last words spoken between the Disciples and Jesus before his ascension

D: Is it time?

J:

The time is not for you to know

He didn’t answer that question

But you will receive power

And you will be my witnesses

Two realms of purpose

God is in charge of the disposition of the world

That seems fair

God, the Creator of the universe and everything in it

In God’s own time

Jesus’ followers – their purpose, our purpose

Mission

Witnesses

And not in the sense of sitting in the witness box to tell what we saw

But witnesses to the world

Beginning where we are

For the disciples – Jerusalem

For us – our home/our community

And going into the world

The known world

As the disciples know it

As we know it

Witnesses to the world

Of God’s saving love of Jesus Christ

Having seen and received that love for ourselves

Now living as witnesses to God’s love

By the way we live our lives

So that the world will know

Does that sound like just religious” talk”?

The kind of stuff you expect the preacher to say?

“Go into all the world and tell them Jesus loves them”

<dramatize that>

“Now let’s go have coffee and go home so we can get some lunch”

“I mean….’into the whole world,’ what are we supposed to do with that?”

Are we with the disciples on that one?

OK, Lord. We’ve all seen some pretty amazing things these last few years

All those miracles

Healing people

Walking on water

Feeding multitudes

Feast for hundreds from a few fish and loaves of bread

Making fine wine from a few barrels of washing water

Broken down barriers between rich and poor

Turned people’s lives around

And beat the high religious officials and politicians in games of “Stump the Chumps”

with the high

And lately …

We’ve been through Easter and all that…

After you were executed

We saw you raised from the tomb

And walk on the earth for the last 40 days

Now isn’t it time for you to do something else?

Time for you to do the next big thing?

Isn’t it time for the next chapter of the Jesus story?

Is it time to see Jesus doing the next big thing?

How about restore the kingdom?

Kick the Romans out of Jerusalem

And all the rest of our territory

And make it God’s Kingdom again?

Like back in the good old days

Is it time to watch Jesus do the next big thing?

The next part of his act?

No. Now it’s time for us.

And we are witnesses

I spend time looking at my old sermons and messages

It may be said that I spend a lot of time in this pulpit talking about our work as the hands and feet of Jesus in the world

Doing justice

Offering hospitality

Organizing ourselves around the best ways to do these things

But I believe that these are at the foundation of what Jesus calls the church (us) to do and to be

There is time for talking about theology and history

The doctrine and context of the scriptures and our faith

But today, thinking about Jesus’ final words before ascending to heaven

Because that’s important

The Last Words Before He Went To Heaven

Don’t you think that means something?

Not just, “Alright, see y’all later. Take it easy.” “Take care” “Bye”

Left the disciples/us with 2 things: Assurance and Practice

Jesus assures the Disciples/Us

That he will not abandon us – never leave us orphaned

“I am with you always, until the ends of the earth”

Promises the presence of the HS

In which we will know God’s presence and power

Practice

As Jesus lived and walked among God’s people

He devoted himself to prayer, worship, and fellowship

Many times he went away to pray

And called the disciples to follow him

He worshipped and praised God

In the temple

And in practice, before meals, and gathering with friends and the community

And he never ceased reaching out to others

Inviting them in

Even foreigners, sinners, strangers – the likes of me and you

And we see the disciples get right to it

Devoting themselves to prayer

In community with the others

Then as we follow today’s reading we will see them

Practicing collaborative leadership

Right away they restore the body of leadership

Replacing Judas

And expectantly awaiting the gift of the Holy Spirit

Which we will see next Sunday

And the growing community devoted themselves to

The teaching of the apostles

Fellowship

Breaking bread

The prayers

Daily practice, 7x

Is it Time?

Yes, this is the time

To work for the kingdom that God has promised

Which is to carry out the mission that Jesus left us with

To witness to the world – beginning where we are

To his saving love

“As I have lived you,” he said

Loving God

Loving your neighbor as Yourself

Even loving your enemies

Christianity Today, May 18, 1998, “The Day We Were Left Behind”, Barbara Brown Taylor

Eleven “abandoned” disciples with nothing to show for all their following.
But in the days and years to come it would become very apparent what had happened to them.
With nothing but a promise and a prayer,
those 11 people consented to become the church,
and once they did that,
surprising things began to happen.

They began to say things that sounded like him,
and they began to do things they had never seen anyone but him do before.
They became brave and capable and wise.
Followers became leaders,
listeners became preachers,
converts became missionaries,
the healed became healers,
and disciples became apostles,
witnesses of the risen Lord by the power of the Holy Spirit.

That probably was not the way they would have planned it.
If they had had their way,
they would probably have tied Jesus up so that he could not have gotten away from them,
so that they would have known where to find him and rely on him forever.
Only that is not how it happened.
He went away – he was taken away –
and they stood looking up toward heaven.

Then, they stopped looking up toward heaven,
looked at each other instead,
and got on with their commission of being Christ’s witnesses,
Christ’s body on earth.
To this day, too many Christians still stand staring up in heaven,
or worse yet, sit around doing little themselves,
waiting for something to happen,
waiting for Jesus to do something about the church, the world, our own lives,
when we ought to be getting on with the commission we have clearly been given, of being Christ’s witnesses,
of being Christ’s body, his hands and his feet, on earth.
We must finish the work Jesus began.

Is it time that Jesus will restore the kingdom?

That is not for us to know

But we have the power and the practice

To bring about God’s kingdom of peace

By living as Jesus teaches

So do we want to spend the rest of our days standing on the side of the hill staring off into space?

Or working for God’s peace, love, and justice in the world.

So may it be with us. Amen

No sermon today, I was out of town.  See you next week.

Peace

Love Your Enemies, Matthew 5:38-45a (off-lectionary)

I created today’s sermon notes in a format which is more loose than usual to faciliate my delivery and the accompanying images.  I hope the reader is able to get the gist of what I had to say.  If anything isn’t clear, please contact me.  Peace, Joe 

1. Way In

Somebody said, “Pastor Joe, I would love to hear a sermon on the Christian response to the killing of Osama bin Laden.”

Well, I got right to work on that

First, I gave myself some time. A few weeks

Then I got my tools together

I wanted to hear what people were saying

Talked to some people

Newspapers,

editorials, magazines, radio

Don’t watch TV news

Asked provocative questions on the www

Responses ran the gamut

So what should you feel? What should we feel? What should we do?

Jesus says, “Love your enemies.”

Jesus did it

Didn’t he ask God to forgive the ones who crucified him?

“Forgive them, they don’t know what they’re doing”

Don’t his followers give us their example?

Stephen, as he was being stoned to death …

Where are my Acts Bible scholars? Come on, Bible Study group …

“God forgive them this sin.”

But what about when we don’t? … when we can’t?

What do we do then?

2. Tell The Story

Jesus went throughout Galilee

Teaching

Proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God

And great crowds followed him

From Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and beyond the Jordan River

When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain

Then he began to speak, and taught them

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven

And so begins the Sermon on the Mount

Where today’s reading comes from

Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ According to Matthew (Chapt. 5)

Love Your Enemies

…and he continued to teach

You have heard it said an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth

But I say to you

Do not resist an evildoer

If anyone strikes you on the right cheek,

turn the other one also

If anyone wants to sue you and take your coat

Give them your cloak as well

If anyone forces you to go one mile

Go also the second mile

Give to everyone who begs of you

Do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you

You have heard it said, you shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy

But I say to you

Love your enemies

Pray for those who persecute you

So that you may be children of God

3. So What?

In these lessons, Jesus gives the people a new paradigm

Culturally and theologically, primarily a Jewish crowd

A new paradigm with 2 different examples

“You have heard it said” this way

But I am telling you that it is this way

This is the way for you to live

So that you may be children of God

An eye for an eye

Lists in Exodus and Leviticus of offenses and their punishments

There are capital offenses

i.e. murder and blasphemy

That are punishable by death

Others are guided by “an eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth”

These are actually to measure the retaliation

i.e. if someone pokes out your eye, poke out their eye

But don’t poke out their eye and break their arm

Or kill them

The Babylonians practiced the same measure of restraint

Hammurabi Code states, “an eye for an eye”

And a similar code was part of Roman law

Directing retribution over retaliation

Vengeance ratchets up the retaliation

And God knows that we will tend to wipe each other out for the wrongs we have suffered

So God said, “Revenge is mine” (Dt. 32:35), Y’all can’t handle it

God’s right

I know how I feel about my sons

About how I would visit harsh retaliation on someone who harms them

… the level to which I would take it

Give them your cloak as well

In that day, the coat was an under garment

The cloak was worn over everything else

And often used overnight for sleeping to keep warm

These were among a person’s most valuable possessions

And often used as collateral for loans

Another law in Exodus about the cloak

If you do take someone’s cloak as collateral

Return it before the sun goes down

For it maybe their only means of keeping warm overnight

Then it’s OK to hold it again during the day

Not only that, but giving your cloak as well leaves you naked

And in that culture, nakedness bring shame on the viewer

Then in this case, a person being sued would be in court

So the defendant’s nakedness brings shame upon the court

Turn the other check

A back-handed slap was delivered by a person to someone they deemed to be of a lower class

An back-handed blow to the right check comes from your attackers right hand

Offering the other cheek as well makes them decide

The left hand was used for unclean personal sanitary purposes and was not used

So your attacker would have to use an open-handed blow with the palm or use their fist

Problem is, this is how you fight with an equal

Now the attacker has a decision to make

Would retaliation bring their victim “up to their status?”

Go the extra mile

In the Roman Empire a solder on the road could stop any citizen and make them carry his armor and equipment

But only for one mile

So Jesus tells the ones living under occupation to still act with generosity

If they “force” you to go one mile

Go the second mile

Your generosity may humble them

And teach them to carry their own load

Jesus said, “Love your enemies”

Even though they have done grievous things to you

You may feel such contempt for them

Truly they may be wicked people

And you would revel in getting them back

Then get them back some more

Don’t be consumed with your contempt

Or reduced to vengeance with your retaliation

Love your enemy. Dr King spoke of this many times

When the opportunity presents itself for you to defeat your enemy, that is the time which you must not do it. There will come a time, in many instances, when the person who hates you most, the person who has misused you most, the person who has gossiped about you most, the person who has spread false rumors about you most, there will come a time when you will have an opportunity to defeat that person … That’s the time you must do it. That is the meaning of love. In the final analysis, love is not this sentimental something that we talk about. It’s not merely an emotional something. Love is creative, understanding goodwill for all men. It is the refusal to defeat any individual. When you rise to the level of love, of its great beauty and power, you seek only to defeat evil systems. Individuals who happen to be caught up in that system, you love, but you seek to defeat the system.

Dr. King was able to get past the hateful, even murderous, Jim Crow segregationist

submitting himself, and encouraging his followers to civil disobedience

That in standing up for civil rights

And standing before unjust laws

They force the hand of the courts

To enforce a law that would bar a person from riding a bus, or going to school, or eat in a restaurant because of the color of their skin

And isn’t that a more powerful response than just hating them back?

Love your enemies

I believe that Dr King is the greatest contemporary teacher of this love

And he reminds us of the personality of this love

Greek, the language of the NT, and of that day has 3 words for “love”

Eros: romantic love, the love you have for the object of your affections

Philia: intimate and reciprocal love for the ones whose company you enjoy, and whose relationships you cherish

Agape: the deep and abiding love that Dr King describes as:

(the) understanding, creative, redemptive goodwill for all men (humanity). It is a love that seeks nothing in return. It is an overflowing love; it’s what theologians would call the love of God working in the lives of men (people). And when you rise to love on this level, you begin to love men (people), not because they are likeable, but because God loves them. You look at every man (one), and you love him (them) because you know God loves him (them). And he (they) might be the worst person you’ve ever seen.

So we are able to love someone in God’s love for humankind

For the ones God has created for good

Even for the ones who obviously have become something other than good

… with the redemptive power of agape love

Trusting in God’s power to redeem and in God’s power to punish

Human culture has established a system of laws and mores to keep order

We submit to those with whom we have entrusted

The keeping of law and order

These are elected or appointed to make and keep policies and law

Tasks are described and defined by

Constitutional rights and privileges

And, in many cases by wanting us to re-elect them

Our government often seeks and covets guidance from the religious community

Calling on leaders and the faithful for prayer and reflection

And the same constitution prohibits this nation from becoming a theocracy

What is our response when, for example

What do we do when actions taken on our behalf

Grieves us

Causes us questions from a faith perspective

I say we are the voice of the prophet

Not a “tell the future prophet”

But to carry and speak the prophetic voice of the scriptures

In voices that Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel says

May be shrill and unwelcome in some quarters

When the exercise of law and order on our behalf grieves us

Let us be the voice of justice

Not the retaliatory justice

You get what’s coming to you

But the justice of the scriptures

Mishpat in the OT

That all will be well

That actions taken by the faithful will result in

Hungry being fed

Houses for the homeless

Peace among God’s people

And when the justice meted out seems more like revenge

Let us hold fast to the law of love/agape

Before we become the hate that we deplore

I don’t know whether I’m totally there yet

Regarding the killing of OBL

Part of me was in the streets when I heard the news

And I thank God for the part of me – the part of us –

That hears the still small voice

The voice of peace

That is sometimes called naïve

I believe that above everything else,

We are called to work for peace and mishpat justice

the voice for peace

Is carried by the breath of love

Which has the power to overcome

The shrieks of hate

So that we do not become the hatred we deplore

Rooted in love – which is God’s other name

The greatest of these is love

So may it be with us

Acts 2: 42-47 (The Message, translation by Eugene Peterson)

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.

  • Way In (didn’t really have a “way in,” just got into the message)
    • New converts in Acts 2 became a new community
      • Family, disciples
      • Converted, then called into a gathering of believers
        • These gathered people, called evkklhsi,a
          • “gathering”
          • The church is not the building, it’s the people
            • Do the thing again with my hands

              Here’s the church

              Here’s the steeple

              Open the door, there are all the people

          • The church is the people
            • Somebody said, “The church is what’s left after the building burns down”
              • Photo of IPC choir singing in front of the charred remains
            • 1Peter 2:9, called by God and set apart to proclaim the gospel
              • Which I characterize from Micah’s charge –

                Do justice

                Love kindness

                Walk humbly with your God

    • Acts passage describes the community
      • What do we do after conversion?
        • We have responded to the message. So what?
      • This was no empty message – or day at church
        • Only done to make people feel good about themselves
        • But a call to changed life
        • God doesn’t call people to conversion just to add trophies
          • The converted aren’t simply counted and put on the trophy case
        • Called to new life as the community of faith
          • They have heard a new music
          • And their converted souls reverberate with the sound …
            • Driven by the rhythms of new life
            • …and that rhythm rocks on and on
      • Marks of the community. Given over to:
        • Teaching/preaching
        • Fellowship
        • Breaking of the bread
        • prayer
  • Called to community around these 4 acts
    • Intro.
      • It’s never easy
      • We see evidence right away in the NT
        • Persecution from outside
        • Quarrels and disputes on the inside
          • Over doctrine
          • Practices
          • Personality conflicts
      • And we see evidence that people always had trouble with that
        • Schisms, splits, the Reformation
        • Baptism: to dunk or to sprinkle?
        • Getting mad and moving on …
          • First (name your denomination) Church – New Life Church – New Beginnings Church – etc.
      • Paul’s letters deal with these conflicts and difficulties
        • “I heard about the way you’re doing communion now”
          • Rich folks come early and get all the good food
          • Working folks come later and there’s not much left
        • Shunning outsiders because they’re different rather than finding ways to commune with them
    • Being the community of faith requires more than membership
      • Luke says, “they devoted themselves” to these things
        • Devoted – committed
          • To God and to each other
        • Devoted people are in relationship over what they hold in common
          • Not torn apart over all the stuff they disagree about
      • The devotion stands through the quarrels
        • The coastline remains at the edge of the ocean
        • Shaped, shifted, etc. by the waves and tides
        • But it remains at the edge of the ocean
          • Shifted, but not destroyed by the water – event he storms
      • Devoted
        • Built on shared values and goals
        • Mutual acceptance
        • Stick together
          • Early church shared all things/goods in common
          • Sharing as any had need
            • Paul’s 3rd missionary journey
            • Delivering relief from the church (people) in Greece
            • To the church (people) who were suffering in Jerusalem
    • Consumer culture – we find less joining
      • Lots of stuff, and the pursuit of it
      • Convenience, instant gratification (or at least quick)
        • Seems people are growing less willing to devote much
          • Get it or quit it
          • I want it now, and I want it right, my way or the highway
    • Jesus’ challenge to lose your life for his sake will find it (Mat. 10:39)
      • This is a call and a challenge to consider life together as followers
        • To set aside individual tastes and desires – esp. when they become barriers to community
      • This can get messy
        • We like it our way
          • The way we’re comfortable with
        • Yet “my way” can get in the way of the way that serves the church
          • That is to say the Body of Christ
          • That is to say the gathered believers committed to life together for his sake
      • And sometimes the way to get past this challenge is to “part ways”
        • But how long will it take before we come up against the same struggle
        • And how many ways must we go on our own
          • Before we realize that it’s through a common life …
          • Devoted to the ways of community …
          • Where we find life – and find it abundantly?
        • So watch out for the church that matches “my way” all the time
          • Because I don’t think that’s the way
  • So What?
    • Were at the 3rd movement of my sermon structure
      • I call it “So What?”
      • So what does this mean for me – for us?
    • Today, it’s a way to introduce you to the sermons in the coming weeks
      • Moving towards Pentecost
        • Day we celebrate the “birth of the church”
      • Look together at God’s power that shaped and empowered the early church
        • And how that power continues to shape and empower the church
      • A series of sermons that will look closely at the 4 qualities of the early church
        • Teaching/Preaching
        • Fellowship
        • Breaking of the bread
        • Prayer (and practice – ora et labora)
    • Next week – Teaching/Preaching
      • “teaching of the apostles'” from today’s Acts reading
      • Two parts
        • Teachings of Jesus
        • Interpretations of these teachings by the apostles
      • Specifically, the rule of love
        • Love of God
        • Love of neighbor
        • Even, “Love your enemies”
          • In the context of the killing of Osama bin Ladin on May 1
          • I bet that opens a can of worms
    • For now
      • Listen again to the Acts reading from Peterson’s The Message
        • And remember the calling to being devoted to following Jesus
          • Especially when our own personalities and preferences cry out for devotion to their own way
        • And imagine the power of that devotion
          • To hold us together
          • And to save us
            • Doesn’t mean saving us from a vengeful God
            • Rather saving us from human possibilities of solipsism and comfort-seeking
              • That only our own mind exists
                • Our grey matter is all that matters
              • And how scary it is to step out on an uncomfortable limb
          • … this is saving us from that

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.

So may it be with us. Amen.

Luke 24:13-35

“Stories from the Road”

Way In

Experience at The Open Door – Resident Volunteer

House Duty

Responsibilities of…

In charge from breakfast until yard clean-up

First day on the job

Tonnie King, “You got to come help us with Bear”

What I thought about dealing with a man named “Bear” at 6 a.m.

Didn’t help when Tonnie said he thought Bear was drunk or high

Describe my encounter with Bear

Describe Bear

Biggest, angriest man I had ever encountered before 7am

Somebody said something to him or looked at him wrong

My response

Non-violent community

Stepped into his space, asked him what’s wrong

Unable to reconcile

invited him to leave – come back tomorrow

Did I mention that he was drunk (or high)?

Didn’t want to go

So I gathered the others from the community and made a circle around him, to walk him out

I was surprised when Bear left without punching me

Kazy and I got to know Bear

when he was high on crack – mean as he could be

coming to breakfast, half dressed, cold, wet, beat up

we had several visits with him sober – he could be really sweet

in the yard, or saw him around town

learned his name, his given name, Eric

Most important thing we learned – why they called him “Bear”

assumed it was his appearance…or behavior

both were bear-like, grizzly bear, vicious

but that’s not it

when he was a little boy, he loved teddy bears

We met some people in Atlanta who were able to beat the demons of addiction and violence that stalk the streets.

And we met some whose backs bore the claw marks of the demons who rode them all day and all night.

Thank God, I never saw all of Eric’s demons.

Thank God, I never knew the ways the demons tortured Eric until he literally turned himself into a vicious bear to protect himself in the streets.

But it made me think about how I wasted years of my life and plenty of my father’s money at college, partying and skipping class, until I flunked out. And then I got serious

Was I better than Bear because I got out of that destructive spiral?

Or did I just have more options?

Bear was a man that culture threw away, a scary man that just seemed no good.

But for me, there were mornings when I went out in the yard to hand out breakfast tickets and there would stand Bear

Often only a blanket around him

Cold, wet, out of his mind

As I handed him his breakfast ticket and looked in his dark eyes….

I swear there were some moments when I could see all the way in to the sweet, gentle soul, of the little boy whose Momma named Eric, but called him Bear because he loved his Teddies…

Have you ever met a stranger

Who didn’t turn out to be like you thought they would be

Tell the Story

On the day of the empty tomb

Two of Jesus’ followers were on the road to a village called Emmaus – about 7 miles from Jerusalem

They were talking about what had happened over the last few days

While they were walking, they met a stranger

A fellow traveler on the road

Although the stranger was Jesus himself, their eyes were kept from recognizing him.

“What are you talking about?”, the stranger asked

Sadly, Cleopas told him about Jesus of Nazareth

They were not proclaiming the fulfilled prophecy of the Messiah’s death and resurrection

Rather they gave a sad account

Jesus, a prophet and teacher

was handed over, condemned, and put to death

…and we had hoped he was the one to redeem Israel

Yet some said they had seen the empty tomb

And some said they even saw him

But we did not see him

Then the stranger put some hard words on them

how foolish you are, and slow of heart to believe the prophecies

then he interpreted the scriptures about Jesus with them

the travelers invited “their new friend” to stay with them at the next village

he did

and when they were at the table with him

he took bread, and blessed it, and broke it, and gave it to them

Then their eyes were opened, they recognized him

and he vanished

They remembered how their hearts were burning within them while he was talking to them on the road

they went to find the disciples

to tell them that the Lord had indeed risen

and they knew him the breaking of bread

So What?

The two travelers did not journey only from Jerusalem to Emmaus

They moved from hope to faith

from hoping and wanting the things they had heard about Jesus to be true

wishing, full of expectation

to faith in believing

when their eyes were opened, and they truly saw

their personal connection with Jesus gave them faith

knowing Jesus, truly learning him

they heard the scriptures – directly from Jesus

they remembered how their hearts were burning when they did

as they travelled along the road

Our faith is a journey

getting to know Jesus better

every time, learning his words and ways better

knowing and remembering him in the breaking of bread

no matter how far down the road we are on that journey of faith

Jesus teaches us to welcome others/strangers

Because, as the scriptures say

By doing so, some have entertained angels – unaware

Like Abraham who welcomed travelers into his tent

…out of the heat

… shared food and drink with them

… these were angels of the Lord

As we recognize Christ in others

.., treating each one we encounter as if

They truly are created in God’s own image

This is how community is built

getting to know him

taking the time

like the way I got to know my friend Eric/Bear

as I invited him to talk to me, and tell me about himself

I got to know who he really was

The disciples Jesus encountered on the Emmaus Rd were caught up:

They were caught up in their sorrow over Jesus’ death

Although they heard the reports of the empty tomb

They were caught up in the story of their own construction

Jesus was crucified, but they had hoped he was the one to redeem Israel

But for them, at this moment,

The empty tomb was a hollow ending

“how foolish you are … and slow of heart,” Jesus said

They still did not know it was him

“Don’t you see that what’s happening is just as the prophets said it would be?”

Then Jesus went back over all the teachings, beginning with “Moses and the prophets”

That is to say, the law and the prophets – the Hebrew scriptures, the scriptures of their faith

STILL not knowing this was Jesus walking with them

When the travelers saw that the stranger was headed past the village where they were stopping…

They invited him to stay

For it was getting late

“stay with us, have something to eat, be our guest”

Then, just as he had done a week before – in an upper room

“when he was at the table with them

He took bread, blessed it, and broke it

And gave it to them”

Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized Jesus

Then he vanished from their sight

Then, even though it was late

… too late to still be on the road

For they had already taken lodging for the night

That same hour, they went back to Jerusalem

And found the others

And proclaimed “The Lord has risen”

They had seen the empty tomb

Strong evidence of the fulfilled resurrection prophecy

But they told what happened on the road to Emmaus

…and how Jesus made himself known to them in the breaking of the bread

As our journey of faith continues

We may miss seeing Jesus, even as he comes as a stranger

…when we get too caught up

Caught up in the story of our own construction

Overcome by our own “stuff”

So that the empty tomb – strong evidence of fulfilled prophecy – is just a hollow ending

What is that “stuff” for us that clouds our eyes?

Fear of the unknown

Fear of something different

Fear of failing

Fear of looking foolish

Yet, when we set those aside

And make room for the stranger … practice hospitality

Then Jesus is known to us

And we can proclaim that he is risen. He is risen indeed

Then we can practice the ministry of the greatest commandment

The one that Jesus himself said, upon which hangs all the law and the prophets

Love the Lord your God, with all your heart, and all your soul, and all your might. And love your neighbor as yourself.

So may it be with us. Amen

John 20: 19-31

  1. Way In

    Good News

    Since Easter, I have been thinking about “Good News”

    Show the “Good News for Modern Man” Bible (from parlor)

    Scriptures – Good News, gospel, euvagge,lion

    Mark 1:1 “The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the son of God.”

    Luke 2:10; the angel to the shepherds about the birth of Jesus, “Behold, I bring you good news of great joy to all people.”

    Matthew 4:23 …Jesus went preaching the good news of the kingdom

    Matthew 10:7; the mission of the disciples, “Proclaim the good news, the kingdom of heaven has come near.”

    Mark 16:15; the Great Commission, “Go into all the world and proclaim the good news.”

    We have good news:

    God has raised our Lord, Jesus from the dead

    we need no longer fear the power of sin and death

    How I really knew to preach on the “Good news of the gospel”

    you know the “churchified” meaning of Good News

    But what else do you think of when I say, “I have good news.”

    Who is thinking about GEICO?

    Show the flyer from mail

    “You have heard the good news about GEICO”

    GEICO’s doing it, so can we

    Bridge – This is the Good News …

    God has sent his only son, the Living Word of God, to be light and life for the world

    In the life and ministry of Jesus we have the model for covenant living with God and one another, so that the way we live our lives may bring glory and honor to his name

    This Jesus comes into our world, and calls us together in his name as the church to proclaim his kingdom, and to live as if he has touched our lives so that we may touch the lives of others for his sake.

  2. Tell the Story

    On the day Christ rose

    the two Marys came to the tomb and saw the risen Christ

    they went to tell the disciples

    locked themselves up in the house, they were afraid

    That night Jesus came to the house where the disciples had locked themselves inside

    stood among the disciples and said “Peace be with you.”

    showed them his hands and his side

    “As the father has sent me, so I send you.”

    Breathed on them the Holy Spirit, and said

    “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven, if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

    After that, the other disciples told Thomas, who was not there, about what had happened

    Thomas: “I won’t believe it until I see the mark of the nails, the hole in his side, and put my fingers in the holes they made

    A week later, they were all back at the house (Thomas, too)

    Jesus again came through locked (or at least closed) doors

    Jesus again said “Peace be with you.”

    Jesus went to Thomas and told him to check it out

    He already knew what Thomas said

    said “Do not doubt, but believe.”

    Thomas, “My Lord and my God!”


    Jesus, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”

    John writes, “Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples who are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.”

  3. So What?

    This is our model for the church – the Body of Christ

    the community or family of faith Jesus left with the charge to go and make disciples of the whole world, teaching his ways, and baptizing in his name.

    It’s okay if we don’t have thousands here every Sunday like some of those churches you see on TV do

    Jesus himself only had 12 that stayed with him all the time

    Couldn’t even count on all of them

    You may not be a perfect disciple

    that’s okay, even they weren’t

    Look at Thomas today

    Jesus didn’t get angry at Thomas for having doubts

    he said “Blessed are those who believe anyway”

    but he did not say Thomas was wrong

    doubts/questions don’t mean weak faith

    just thoughtful discipleship

    doesn’t mean you have to always argue

    but it’s okay sometimes to doubt or wonder

    Two things

    Jesus can take our questions

    Q’s don’t mean lack of faith

    We want to know

    Not just being obstinate

    But digging deep

    Jesus didn’t rebuke followers for asking questions

    But he was aware when the q’s got in the way

    Example: Transfiguration

    Witnessed a miraculous vision

    Jesus, Moses, Elijah

    Transfigured before their eyes

    Fulfilled the law and prophets

    On the way down the mountain

    Disciples arguing

    Who’s the best disciple

    Jesus, “how long must I endure you?”

    Pure questions were not criticized

    It’s not “believe it or else” –

    Believe and do

    And if there are questions,

    Here are some things to do while you figure it out

    Do justice

    Love kindness

    Walk humbly with your God

    For these are the ways we find God’s living Spirit at work in the world – especially where there is hurt and brokenness

    Bridge: leads me to the 2nd thing

    Jesus is more interested in our life

    How we live it

    How we carry out the good news

    Even if we are still stumped by some of the questions

    Maybe we’re not called to change the world

    but be ready, because will have a chance to make a difference

    to somebody, somewhere

    not a random act of kindness

    we’re not called to be random Christians

    we need to be intentional Christians

    not to practice “random acts of kindness”

    but an intentional act of faith

    not to say we can’t be spontaneous

    but we should mean to act like Christians

    so that somebody who’s watching us can tell we know the Lord

    People doing things because they mean to

    Examples

    Outpouring of help to the South

    Truck saw on I75-South this morning

    “Water for Tuscaloosa, AL”

    I’m already thinking of a work trip from our area

    Rural areas in AL

    Will be in need for many months to come

    We never know when we are making a difference

    You have heard the Easter Good News …

    God has raised his son, Jesus, the Living Word of God, to be light and life for the world

    In the life and ministry of Jesus we have the model for covenant living with God and one another, so that the way we live our lives may bring glory and honor to his name

    This Jesus comes into our world, and calls us together in his name as the church to proclaim his kingdom,

    Thomas came to Jesus, to touch him and see …

    if he really was alive again

    and when Thomas saw, he was overwhelmed

    may we touch and see, like “Believing Thomas”

    you’ve heard him called “Doubting Thomas”

    but remember there was no shame in his questions

    he may have had some questions, but he was filled with belief

    So as Jesus touched Thomas’ life

    may we live as if he has touched our lives …

    so that we may touch the lives of others for his sake.

so may it be with us. Amen.

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