"Living As A New Creation" June 17, 2018
2nd Corinthians 5: 6-17
A true story, that starts off like a joke… Once upon a time, the Chaplain at University Hospital invited a Jewish Rabbi, a Catholic Priest, Muslim Imam, a Presbyterian Pastor to answer questions of 1st year Medical Students, most of whom claimed to be Spiritual and not Religious, questions about Faith & Medicine. We thought this could have gone any number of ways: When does life Begin, When does life End, Questions of Ethics, Do we Play God? But the question the Students were most interested in was: Their understanding the importance, and the Role of Suffering for each of us. Caught unprepared, the Rabbi and the Priest were like Deer in Headlights both said, “Suffering is bad, we try to comfort those who suffer.” The Imam protested, “Suffering is Good! Suffering is important! Only by suffering can the sinner atone for their sins.” The Medical Students began shifting in their seats, getting up, afraid one or more of us might enter patients’ rooms to cause suffering.
At which point, I spoke to the Rabbi about the Book of Job and how despite suffering illness, the death of children and loss of his career; despite his friends and spouse pressuring him, Job never gave up his faith. I turned to the Priest, reminding him of the Passage in Paul’s Letter to the Romans that “Suffering produces endurance, endurance produces character, character produces hope and hope does not disappoint… And to the 3, that there is a powerful connection between us: Islam, Judaism, Christianity (Catholic and Protestant) in that all of us have Scriptures about the Suffering Servant, whose sacrifice for the world, brings us all closer to God.
Then turned to the Students, describing that we look to Medicine, as professionals possessing an arsenal of different tools to alleviate suffering and pain. Whereas, Our emphasis is on Redemption, and What Else is needed to Heal Suffering of the Whole Person, which does not automatically come because you took out the malignancy, or healed the disease consuming life. As Religious professionals in the business of caring, No one would ever inflict pain or suffering on anyone, but it is true that Suffering changes us! Suffering allows us to appreciate Life, to hope and dream differently than we ever could have without suffering.
Actually, as much as Science and Religion have fought for years over the Origin of life, what I have experienced as far more relevant, have been the times of being Recreated, of Reconciliation and Redemption, that have come because of suffering, and the ability afterward, to LIVE LIFE AS A NEW CREATION!
"Renouncing Sin to Trust God"
I Samuel 8:4-22
Mark 3: 20-35
Listening to the Confirmands last Sunday, like you, I was reminded of my own Confirmation years ago. They did a very fine job, not only professing what they believe, but leading us in worship as the Church! At that time in 1972 when I was Confirmed, and with each of the New Members and Baptisms, there have been 3 questions required in professing Christian Faith:
- Who is your Lord and Savior?
- Do you want to be his Disciple?
- Will you give of your self in every way?
The chief concern being that the highest authority in our lives, more important than Nationalism, more than quest for a Career or dollar, more than following a Hero, more important than anything else… is our Faith in God. AND that instead of asking “will you have perfect attendance, will you give a minimum amount throughout the year”; our hope is that you would be involved because you want to be; you give without reserve because you care and want to see change in the world.
Suddenly, without debate, in the last year, a fourth question has been added, not to The PC(USA) Book of Order but Ecumenically to Book of Common Worship.
Do you renounce Sin and Choose to Trust Grace from God? Oddly, instead of this being an added commitment, it is something of a pre-requisite. Before claiming faith in Jesus Christ, in order to give of your self, we first must consider and choose whether to Renounce Sin. What is it to renounce Sin? There was a time in the life of this Church, where the Session held heresy trials, because as “role models”, as Christians they were witnessed to be crawling in and out of someone’s bedroom at The Sherwood! Because they were so intoxicated as to be unable to walk home… because they had sworn profane language… or worked on the Sabbath… or made an idol of their politics, their houses or their car.
As asked this morning, I want to suggest that Sin is our prideful desire for Control. Our desire to have what we want, to have recognition, in short to make ourselves God, denying the Lord that identity. SO, in order to demonstrate your faith in God, will you intentionally abandon trying to control your world, your own life?
Will you instead trust the grace/love of God? This trust is not in something you can hold, acquire or merit, not something you inherit, or master in school or sports. Like “Job” can you accept all the opportunities, and tragedies of life, as being like the blessings of health and a new Day, unwarranted, undeserved gifts of God’s grace? We pride ourselves on Our accomplishments and believe that we have to work to create everything that happens in our lives. Trusting God, trusting that we are loved by God, so much that God will provide for us without our asking, that is a mind-shift.
"What Are You Searching For?" May 27, 2018
Isaiah 6: 1-8
John 3: 1-17
This is Memorial Day Weekend, which invites us to think about our heritage. This is Trinity Sunday, which directs our worship to the reality believing in 1God 3Persons! But this is also The day the Lord has made, challenging: What are you searching for? It is not enough to want More, or different. What are your dreams?
Be careful your dreams, where you insert yourself, because they may come true.
During the great Depression, people dreamed of a job, food, a home, survival.
During WWII, people dreamed of Victory, ending tyranny & oppression, of surviving as bullets and mortars shot at you. I love the description in 1940’s Movies of getting a Job after the War to be a $15,000/ year Man!
In the 1950s and early 60s, Fallout Shelters were built and at school we practiced putting our heads inside our desks seeking survival when an Atomic Bomb went off.
A few weeks ago our youngest turned 30, and I recalled that at 30, we were already married 7 years, with two children, two cars, a mortgage, our Graduate and Undergrad Loans repaid, and a Beagle. There was a year in which our Church and I as Pastor, received 5 subpoenas of Law Suits, all I wanted was for people to trust. There were years when family members and loved ones were chronically ill, and our dream was to do our best to help them. What are you searching for?
What do you want to accomplish, to volunteer to be a part of with others?
BEING TRINITY SUNDAY, THIS MORNING’S SERMON IS IN 3 PARTS:
God’s relationship with the Prophet Isaiah is unique! Noah, Abram, Moses each of the Disciples, were “Called”. Most, like Moses, responded to God saying “Not me, I stutter,” “I am not worthy,” “Get my brother instead!” Isaiah is the only prophet to volunteer, saying “Here am I, send me!” The boy Samuel, said words like those, but only because he was told to say them by Eli! Like an overanxious student, Isaiah raises his hand shouting “Ooooh, Oooh, Ooo, Here I am, Call me!” In all the Bible, the only other One to Volunteer, is God. In Isaiah 65 God says “I was ready to be sought out by those who seek God! I said “Here I Am, Here I AM!” to a nation and people that did not Call.”
I have always identified with Isaiah, an Ordained priest, son of High Priests, wanting to be a prophet leading the Community to God! There are some of us HARD-WIRED to Speak, others to Listen. I readily admit to being an Extrovert. Some of us listen, to avoid being wrong. We listen, waiting for when and how to offer a suggestion, no matter how interminable the pregnant pause, considering with what inflection, so as to not be misunderstood. When I was in Doctoral Study, it became a game among the other students “How many times can Lindsey be told he is wrong?” Because in the classroom, misunderstandings are only clarified by trial and error. We learn by trying, by testing out possibilities, and if they are wrong: they are wrong and we try again, and again, until better answers are found among all the alternatives. The only wrong answers are to keep trying the way we always have done, because you already know what will happen; or to change only for the sake of change.
"The Gift of the Spirit" May 20, 2018
I Kings 19: 9-13
Ezekiel 37: 1-15
Acts 2: 1-21
Several of you have shared my own feeling, the last few weeks. I recall Doc’s Mother Anne Nichols questioning when we are able to again have the Meat and Potatoes of both parts of the Bible, rather than 2 helpings of dessert from Gospels! The last 50 days, following the 40 days of Lent, we have been in the Season of Easter. During these 3 months of the suffering, death and Resurrection of Jesus,,, Just as with the passing of our loved ones we wonder if/when we will ever find normal?
This is the Day of Pentecost, meaning 50 days after, which actually far more than a Birthday for Christianity, or the day of Peter’s Sermon calling 5,000 to be Baptized, marks God’s Gift of the Spirit! The “Jewish Pentecost” marked 50 days after Exodus’ Passover, The Jewish Feast Day “Shavuot”, remembering God’s Gift of the Law and 10 Commandments through Moses on Mt Simai.
There is importance, of what we read in concert with this Acts 2 Passage as to where we find our emphases. In Genesis 1, The Spirit brooded over the waters of chaos in the beginning. If read with Genesis 2, where God forms humanity and breathes life into the creature from dust of the earth, we focus of God’s Breath. Genesis 10 and the Tower of Babel, we are made to hear the dialects of language and diversity, first divided, so we will not settle building towers to ourselves as gods, now resolved in uniting the one true church and body of Christ! In Kings, we listen for the Spirit of God coming in the still small voice which challenges “What are you doing here?” Ezekiel 37 the hand of God leads us to witness Redemption, that even at humanity’s greatest hopelessness, when we are completely dead and cut-off, spiritually dry, God can Call Life, Faith, Hope and Love into Being.
Taking our clue from the Biblical word “ruach” which occurs 10 times in Ezekiel, and 5 times in Acts, which simultaneously means Spirit, Breath of God, Wind, my prayer is that we will hear that we are each instruments of God bearing the Gift of the Spirit to others. Throughout Genesis, Exodus, Jonah and the Psalms, God speaks through Creation, through Storms, Stars, Mountains. God could have simply called Israel to new life; could have called all the people of dispersed languages together on Pentecost without the Apostles; God could have been present to Israel again in Lightning, Earthquake, Fire or Wind; but in every case, God chose to speak through using people like us, to question “What are you doing in life?” “Can lifeless bones live Call them to be! Call the Spirit to come and breathe life anew!” “A fire was lit under each to Go out into the world, living your faith, rather than locked away by fears!”
"I Believe in the Resurrection" May 13, 2018
John 17: 1-19
Acts 1: 1-11
There are some passages of Scripture which preach themselves: The Burning Bush, the 10 Commandments, Jesus’ Calling Fishermen, 10 Lepers healed 1 returns thanks. AND THEN there is the Ascension. What are we to do with this, on Mother’s Day? The disciples asked the natural question, “Resurrected, having conquered Death, will you now restore the Kingdom?” but are told that is the wrong question, Only God knows. Ascension is about asking “What do we really believe?” Being a parent is more than biology, there is a question of who you are that you pass on to loved ones.
Throughout the last 75 years there has been a Quest for the Historical Jesus, this is at least the 3rd such quest in Christian History. Searching for historic proof, that Jesus actually existed, taught, preached, healed. But there comes a dilemma: Whether our goal is to document existence of the Galilean Rabbi who pointed us toward God, or for witness Jesus is God in human form providing us Salvation? Ironically, the Muslim Koran recognizes Jesus as a Prophet, a man of great wisdom. But Islam believes God is absolutely Sinless, Pure, Divine, Holy; or stated differently, that the World is too corrupt for God to enter in and become one with humanity. Acknowledging Jesus as a Man, Islam describes Mohammed also as a Prophet, but who at Jerusalem was transported to Heaven to receive the Word from God and return to life.
Christianity is the only faith believing God loves the world so much to become One with us. Instead of beginning with a Human Person being elevated to Heaven and returning to earth; that God became One with Humanity, and after experiencing life sacrificing everything in death was resurrected to heaven…Not that he returned to Heaven but that there was a resurrection of the body, as means of our salvation.
The Apostles’ Creed does not deal with whether Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount, or whether he told the Parables, or whether he was Baptized by John, or gave us the Sacrament of Communion, or 11th Commandment to Love One Another. The Creed is about the intersection of the Divine and the Human. The Creed does not explain the How or the Why, only the importance of the bond. God Made Heaven and Earth. Life, Reality is not an accident, not the occurrence of fate, God made us.
"The Reason For Faith", May 6 2018
John 15: 9-17
Acts 10: 44-48
Social Media has changed human understanding of “Friendship”. But while we may now have hundreds or thousands of contacts, the relationship of Friends is different. Real Friends are intimate. To be Real Friends requires time together, letting down barriers, experiencing life and struggles and laughter together, that “virtually” cannot be done. Cambridge University published a study, that “real friendship” requires sharing a minimum of 200 hours together, literally if you worked at getting to know one another like a full-time job, making Friends would take 5 weeks, most of our friends are only acquaintances or likes.
Possibly that may also be influenced by the depth of experiences shared. I had a grandfather, whose name was Charles Herb, and doing factory work for 40 years he was known by co-workers on the line as “Herb”, when finally his best-friend asked him: “Hey Herb, what is your last name?”
Over and over again, the Church receives phone calls from strangers saying “I am so lonely! I go to concerts, I go to the beach, I go to movies, I go to the Mall, but in these crowds I am all alone. How do you make friends?”
The irony of this passage from John is that while Jesus says to his disciples, “No longer do I call you servants, but friends, and greater love hath no one than to lay down their life for their friends” he already knows that within moments everyone of those whom he claims as his friends whom he loves, shall abandon him, deny him, betray him. But the point of the Love of God for us, is that even so, knowing full well everyone is going to betray and abandon God, still God loves us.
The other day, I overheard an email conversation among my family about the Bible. Their conversation repeated the old-line about the Bible, that The God of the Old Testament is God Judgment, and the God of the New Testament is a God of Love and Friendship.
I do not believe that!
Instead I believe that this morning’s readings identify a shift in human development from the Reason for Faith in the first 8000 years, and the Empires of the last 2000. Regardless of how humanity came to be, created out of the dirt and breath of God, microbial organisms in the cesspool of genetic material, or left off here by aliens… as Nomadic tribes, each and every person’s Reason for Life was Survival. There are still those times in our lives today, where all we can focus upon is getting through the day, trying to avoid pain and suffering, Living a selfish-life. But the challenge that came to Abraham, later to Moses, is to live in relationship to God. Instead of imagining ourselves as the Center of the Universe, to witness all God has done for us to enjoy, and as part of Creation: to give thanks. There is something extremely comforting in knowing that we do not have to be in control, that there is a God, and we have a place as a part of God’s plan and Creation. The Word of God that came to Abraham and Sarah, the Reason for Faith in God was simply to follow God, leaving the past, trusting believing God would be God and God would love you.
Writing this in stone we made Laws, but what God gave Moses was a Covenant. Mark Twain described the difference between Laws and the Covenant with God is the difference between a Lightning Bug and Lightning! Contracts are legally enforceable requirements, demanding that you do or not do specific things, enforced by an authority of power and the State. A Covenant is personal and relational, evolving, a covenant is trust between friends. A covenant is a living, spiritual bond. The 10 Commandments were laws built on one Covenant: Honoring Your Parents, Not Killing, not Committing Adultery, not Stealing, not Lying, not Lusting, Coveting… all are based on One basic Reason for Faith, that we love God.
There was a time, when humanity imagined God was far distant. That God had created this world like a great machine, setting it in motion. Today, scientists are learning more and more each day that this Creation, the whole universe is a living organism, a living being an ecological network, with every element interdependent.