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Set in Stone: Week 4

September 29, 2019 at 9:37 pm · · Comments Off on Set in Stone: Week 4

Set in Stone: Week 4


This week we continued in our sermon series Set in Stone on the Ten Commandments. Often these commandments can be seen as rigid, burdensome rules, but during this series we have been looking at these commandments through a fresh lens to discover how they are lined in grace and guidelines that lead to full life. Today we talked about two commandments that relate to our families: honor your parents and do not commit adultery.

Commandment #5: Honor your parents. The word “honor” in Hebrew means “heaviness.” In English, it means something like “carries a lot of weight.” To honor is to treat with great importance and with respect. We often think of this commandment in terms of calling young children to obey their parents. However, this commandment was given to adults, calling them to take care of their aging parents. The commandment contains a promise of living a long life if we obey it. It is not necessarily a guarantee for long life, but taking care of our parents sets an example for children to take care of us when we are older. The marker of a vital society is how we treat the most vulnerable. Honoring our parents can be difficult to define, but we know it when we see it. We can honor them by obeying their house rules, by taking care of them when they grow older, by spending time with them, by making one of their signature recipes, and/or by telling them “thank you” or “I love you.” Honoring our parents is a way we can honor God.

Commandment #7: Do not commit adultery. There comes a point in many of our lives, where we stand in front of the person we love the most and say the words: “In the name of God, I take you to be my husband/wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish until death do us part.” Adultery happens when we break the marriage covenant and are unfaithful to our spouse. Fidelity is often not encouraged in our society. We see that in our media- from tv shows to movies to books. People throughout scripture struggled with obeying this commandment too. Adultery breaks a covenant not only with our spouse but also with God. Jesus talks about adultery in terms of internal motives. Jesus said that if a married person looks at someone who isn’t their spouse with lustful thoughts, he/she commits adultery in the heart. Adultery causes harm in a marriage, it negatively affects children, and can disrupts one’s family and community. The positive view of this commandment is to be faithful in marriage. Marriage is a gift from God- it is a gift to be loved and to love another. We honor God through honoring our marriage covenant.

Love is a choice. It is a conscious decision to love and serve one another above yourself. We invite you to choose love this week and to honor your parents and your marriage covenant.

Scripture Readings:
Monday- Exodus 20:1-2, 12-14
Tuesday- Ephesians 6:1-4
Wednesday- Matthew 21:28-32
Thursday- Matthew 5:27-32
Friday- Psalm 71:1-24

Questions to Consider and Discuss:
1. How can you honor your parents more fully?
2. If you are married, we invite you to consider- What is one way you can honor your spouse this week?

Set in Stone: Week 3

September 22, 2019 at 8:30 am · · Comments Off on Set in Stone: Week 3

Set in Stone: Week 3

We live in a culture where busy is expected, exhaustion is a status symbol, and productivity is an indicator of our self-worth. We often view rest as a means to an end, with the “end” being going back to the grind of more work. Yet when we are on the edge of burn out, when we are not our best selves because of our exhaustion, and when our happiness wanes from the long days, we know there has to be a more sustainable way to live. This week we looked at the fourth commandment of the Ten Commandments in our series Set in Stone that helps us embrace a better way to live. This commandment states, “Remember the Sabbath day, and treat it as holy.”

Until God delivered them, the Israelites were living as slaves in Egypt, working seven days a week with back-breaking labor. For a people who never got a day off, this commandment of God must have been so freeing for them. For the Israelites, the Sabbath was not just a command, it was and is a gift. In Exodus 20, God reminds us of the story of creation. In six days, God created the whole earth, and on the seventh day, God rested. We rest because God rested. The rest was not a means to an end, the rest was the culmination. The rest was just as important as the productivity. The first thing God declared “holy” was Sabbath. If we can get this commandment right, we can recapture the sense of the holy. According to Exodus 20, Sabbath is intended to be a holy and set-apart day, a day without work, and a day to the Lord.

To keep Sabbath, we must remember four “R’s”: 1) Remember. This is a day to remember God and how God is active in our lives through Christ. It is a day to give thanks for rest, celebration, and play. It is a day to remember that God set apart a day to rest and enjoy the world without distraction. 2) Rest. It is a day for us to recharge and rest. If we think we do not need rest, we are essentially saying we are more indispensable than God. 3) Reflect. It is a day to experience life with wonder and awe. Sabbath helps us discover where we are going and whether or not it’s where we want to end up. 4) Rejoice, Sabbath was given for pleasure and joy. We are meant to enjoy the gifts of creation, gifts such as good food, time with friends and family, naps, and long walks outside. God delights when we are at rest and enjoying life. In his book How to be Here, Rob Bell writes, “Sabbath is when you spend a day remembering that efficiency and production are not God’s highest goals for your life. Joy is.” We encourage you to take some time this week (hopefully a whole day!) for Sabbath to rest, be renewed, and remember God.

Scripture Readings:

  • Monday- Exodus 20:8-11
  • Tuesday- Genesis 1:31-2:3
  • Wednesday- Psalm 92:1-8
  • Thursday- Isaiah 56:1-8
  • Friday- Matthew 11:28-12:14

Questions to Consider:

  1. How can God’s gift of Sabbath help you experience the fullness of life?
  2. What three things renew you?

September 15, 2019 at 11:01 pm · · Comments Off on Set in Stone: Week 2

Set in Stone: Week 2

We are in the middle of a sermon series on the Ten Commandments called Set in Stone. We often can see the Ten Commandments as a divine finger wagging of “Don’t do this” or “Don’t do that.” However, the Ten Commandments were not meant to be these rigid rules brought down by God, they were given in a context of grace. They are guidelines to show us how to respond to God’s grace and point us towards the way life is meant to be. This Sunday we looked at the first three commandments, which all are related to how we can worship and honor God above all else.

The first commandment is “You must have no other gods before me.” Polytheism was the custom at the time this law was given. Egyptians worshiped numerous gods, including a god of the sun, of the Nile, and even Pharaoh. Throughout the Exodus narrative, the Israelites saw how God was greater than any of the gods of Egypt and how God could do what no other god could do. Therefore, God did not want the Israelites to worship any other god besides the Lord God. We may think worshipping other gods is an ancient problem, but a god is simply something or someone you are devoted to above all else. Something becomes a god when our whole lives are centered around it. A god we worship may be money, work, power, status, success, or a relationship. If we choose to serve false gods, they will eventually let us down. If we can get this commandment right, the other ones are easier to obey.

The second commandment is “Do not make an idol for yourself.” Back then, idols were often carved images or statues of gods or animals that people would worship. The effects of this commandment are similar to the first commandment in that it leads to having something that is not God at the center of our lives. The issue of idolatry is found in the results of such worship and the type of person it creates. If we worship an idol, we become more like that idol, but if we worship Christ, we become more like Christ.

The third commandment is “Do not use the Lord’s name as if it has no significance.” Names are important to who we are. There is power in God’s name. This commandment calls us to respect and honor God’s name, for God is holy and sacred. Instead of using God’s name to control, manipulate, or control others, we ought to use God’s name in earnest. We are called to spend our lives glorifying God’s name. These three commandments, when taken together, show us how to worship God above all else. May we be a people who protest idolatry with prayer and choose to be devoted to God above all else, as a grateful response to God’s grace.

Scripture Readings:

  • Monday- Exodus 20:1-7
  • Tuesday- Exodus 32:1-16
  • Wednesday- Exodus 32:17-35
  • Thursday- Ephesians 4:20-32
  • Friday- Psalm 115:1-18

Questions to Consider and/or Discuss:

  1. What are you devoted to above all else?
  2. Does the way you talk to God and about God honor the Lord’s name?

Set in Stone: Week 1

September 8, 2019 at 11:04 pm · · Comments Off on Set in Stone: Week 1

Set in Stone: Week 1

When you think of the Ten Commandments, what comes to mind? Perhaps you think of one of the Ten Commandments movies, like the one starring Charles Heston. Perhaps you think of a general list of “Thou shall nots.” Or perhaps you think of the controversies of displaying the Ten Commandments in government buildings and public schools. When we think about the Ten Commandments, many of us aren’t particularly enthused or passionate about them. This Sunday we began a new sermon series on the Ten Commandments called Set in Stone, where we hope to shed some new perspective on these commands to see them not as burdensome, rigid rules but more as guidelines to experience freedom and point us to the way life is supposed to be. We hope to write the commandments on our heart as our moral compass.

This Sunday we talked about a part of the Ten Commandments that is perhaps the most important part, yet a section we rarely read. Exodus 20:1-2 is known in most Christian denominations as the preamble to the Ten Commandments. The verses state, “Then God spoke all these words: ‘I am the Lord your God who brought you out of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” While it is known as the preamble in most Christian denominations, it is the first commandment for our Jewish brothers and sisters. This announcement helped the Jews and us remember who God is and how God acts on our behalf.

The Ten Commandments were not given in a vacuum as a general list of rules, they must be read in the context of Genesis and Exodus. At the beginning of Exodus, the Israelites were living as slaves in Egypt. They cried out to God for rescue, and God empowered Moses to lead them out of captivity and into freedom. At the outset of the Ten Commandments, God wanted to remind the Israelites of the depths of God’s mercy and grace. They weren’t some “just because” laws, they were principles to bring stability and moral purpose to the Israelites. The law helped give them a unique national identity and were an extension of God’s liberation. They were commands given by a God who loved Israel and wanted them to be a light for the world. They were a guide to show them how life was intended to be.

The same God who rescued the Israelites from captivity rescues us from captivity. Some of us are rescued from being a slave to fear, works righteousness, addiction, or toxic relationships. It’s from a place of rescue and deliverance that God gives us the Ten Commandments. These commandments are meant to be principles to live by, as a grateful response to the God who brought us out of slavery. We receive these commands in a context of grace, where grace always comes before the law. How do we respond to God’s grace? We serve God by writing the commandments on our heart and living them out each day.

Scripture Readings:

  • Monday- Exodus 20:1-2
  • Tuesday- Exodus 3:1-22
  • Wednesday- Exodus 7:1-13
  • Thursday- Exodus 13:17-14:31
  • Friday- Exodus 15:1-19

Questions to Consider and Discuss:

  1. From what bondage has God rescued you?
  2. Does Exodus 20:1-2 change your perspective on the Ten Commandments as a whole? Why or why not?

Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.

March 12, 2019 at 4:37 pm · · Comments Off on Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.

Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.

This past Wednesday was Ash Wednesday, marking the beginning of the Lenten season. This Sunday we began a Lenten series called “Listening at the Cross,” in which we will spend the next 7 weeks at the foot of the cross, leaning in close to hear what Jesus says. Oftentimes in the Protestant Church, we can have a hard time making the cross real; however, there could be no Easter Sunday without a Good Friday, no resurrection without a death- which is why we are spending this Lenten season at the cross. Each week of this series we will deep dive into each of the seven last words (or rather, statements) of Jesus at the cross. This week we began with what is believed to be the first of the last seven words of Jesus: Father, forgive, them, for they know not what they do.

In Luke 23, we find Jesus beaten, bloodied, and barely able to walk. When they get to Golgotha, the Roman soldiers nail Jesus’ hands and feet to a cross. When people were crucified, they ultimately died by asphyxiation, where they wouldn’t be able to get enough oxygen to breathe. Jesus was in horrific physical pain but also emotional agony too, as the crowds, leaders, and soldiers sneered against him. Yet in the midst of such great suffering, he strains his breath to offer a simple prayer, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Jesus asked God to forgive people who undermined his ministry, called for his crucifixion, and killed him. This is quite an unexpected prayer, and it would have been shocking to anyone who overhead it. Jesus wanted us to overhear this prayer. It would have been easier and less painful to pray silently, but he wanted us to see him offering compassion towards the people who wronged him.

Jesus offers this prayer not only for the people by the cross that day, but for all of us who have ever wronged God. Jesus’ compassion and mercy extends to all. As Jesus prays this prayer from the cross, we discover no deed is unforgiveable, no person unredeemable. The part of this statement “for they know not what they do” implies that Jesus knows these people, their hearts, and their pains. It is an invitation for us to take a step back when we are wronged to consider another person’s story and have compassion on them. I have come to believe that each person who does something we consider offensive and egregious does so out of great suffering and pain of their own.

Forgiveness is hard, but forgiveness is necessary. If we cannot forgive others, it closes us off from the grace we need. Forgiveness enables us to experience true freedom in Christ. The power of forgiveness comes from the truth that it did hurt and matter, yet I still chose to forgive. Rather than being gripped by a grudge, Jesus invites us to find freedom through forgiveness.

Scripture Readings:
Monday- Luke 23:26-35
Tuesday- Matthew 18:21-35
Wednesday- Matthew 6:7-15
Thursday- Isaiah 1:10-20
Friday- Psalm 51:1-19

Questions to Consider and Discuss:
1. Jesus prayed the prayer “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” over you too. What does that mean to you?
2. Are you holding a grudge against someone who has wronged you right now? If so, do you think you could overcome the wrong done to you by praying the prayer “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do”?

March 3, 2019 at 4:39 pm · · Comments Off on Listen

Listen

This past Sunday was Transfiguration Sunday, where we remembered the story of the transfiguration and God’s invitation of the disciples to listen to Jesus. Jesus’ transfiguration is an intriguing and illuminating story. One day, Jesus took his disciples Peter, James, and John to the mountaintop to pray. While praying on the mountaintop, Jesus is transformed before the disciples eyes, his face and clothes change and a radiant glow shines forth from him. Then, Moses and Elijah appear and talk with Jesus. In this mystical experience, Jesus’ identity as God was affirmed. God tells the disciples, “This is my Son, the chosen one. Listen to him.” The disciples had all sorts of voices speaking to them- voices of the Roman government, Jewish leaders and Pharisees, families, friends, and their own internal voice. Out of all these other voices, God invites the disciples to listen to Jesus.

We too all hear all sorts of voices throughout the day- voices of politicians, authority figures, family members, friends, and even voices in our own heads. In the midst of all the other voices in our lives, the top priority voice for us to listen to is that of Jesus. As Christians, listening to Jesus is one of the most important, if not the most important, things we can do.

This week was a difficult week to be a United Methodist. At General Conference this week, the One Church Plan, the plan that the Council of Bishops recommended, failed. Instead, the Traditional Plan passed in a vote 53% to 47%, a vote that shows the bitter division in the church right now. While the Traditional Plan passed, 2/3 of American delegates voted for the One Church Plan, so this decision has created much angst within the American United Methodist Church right now. The Traditional Plan upholds, strengthens, and enforces the current language in our Book of Discipline (the book that contains the doctrine and law of the UMC). However, much of the Traditional Plan was ruled unconstitutional by the Judicial Council. As of right now, we are not sure what we have, as we wait for an official ruling from the Judicial Council in April 2019. Some are grateful this plan passed, while others feel hurt, angry, and personally harmed by this legislation. Whatever your emotions about General Conference, the invitation from the Transfiguration story remains pertinent. Listen to Jesus. We wonder, what would Jesus’ response be to this General Conference and the legislation passed? What would Jesus have to say about how we have treated each other this week? What would happen if we all took some time to take a deep breath, stop, and listen to Jesus?

This Wednesday we begin our Lenten journey. More than ever we need Lent right now, with its emphasis on prayer, self-denial, and listening to Jesus. This year during Lent, our sermon series is entitled “Listening at the Cross.” We will be journeying through the last words of Christ before his crucifixion. In the wake of General Conference, we hope the journey to the cross this Lent will help us all open our hearts and ears to Jesus.

Scripture Readings:
Monday- Mark 9:2-9
Tuesday- Luke 9:28-36
Wednesday- Matthew 17:1-8
Thursday- Mark 8:27-38
Friday- Deuteronomy 6:1-9

Questions to Consider and Discuss:
1. Julian Treasure says, “I think listening is the most generous gift you can give another human being.” What are your thoughts on that statement? Why do you think that is?
2. Spend five minutes in silence each day this week, praying the prayer of Samuel “Speak Lord, for your servant is listening.” As you listen to Jesus this week, what does he reveal to you?

February 24, 2019 at 4:47 pm · · Comments Off on God is big enough to guide the future of The United Methodist Church

God is big enough to guide the future of The United Methodist Church

In our final week of our sermon series God is Big Enough, we looked at how God is at work in our United Methodist Church right now. Pastor Mike shared a story about a previous church that did something innovative in worship one Lent. The first Sunday of Lent, they invited the congregation to fashion an object that represented Lent for them out of clay. Some of the objects included crosses and teardrops. The next Sunday in worship, all of their clay creations lay smashed in pieces around the altar, all of their creations tragically broken. The Apostle Paul in his second letter to the Church of Corinth, used imagery of clay jars, which some say is actually better translated as “cracked pots.”

The church of Corinth was all sorts of cracked pots, dividing over a variety of issues among each other. The body of Christ was chipping and cracking, as people divided into factions. In his letters to the Corinthians, Paul reminds them that they are all a part of the body of Christ, called to unity in the midst of diversity. Are we not cracked pots also? Are we also not broken, leaking, and bent towards division? General Conference, a global gathering to decide our church’s stance on the ordination and marriage of LGBTQ persons, is gathering February 23-26. This conference and the issues that surround it have been created some cracks and chips in our body of Christ.

Yet, God puts this treasure in clay pots. God puts the treasure of the good news of Jesus Christ inside each of us and our community. Because of this good news, we do not lose hope and must fix our eyes not on what is seen but on what is unseen. The treasure of the gospel is poured into leaking vessels, which means we cannot retain the whole truth on our own. We must not mistake our truth for the whole truth. We need each other to discover the whole truth, for together we are better at finding the truth together than we are on our own. We are a better witness when we are united and not divided, for division is the world’s way.

On Easter Sunday, the congregation entered into the sanctuary only to discover a beautiful cross made out of all the broken shards of clay. God made something new and beautiful out of the brokenness. One of Jesus’ final prayers in the Gospel of John was not to pray for all the disciples to be right but for them to all be one. We do not know what the final vote will be on Tuesday, but there are a few things we do know. On February 27, we will still be a church with the treasure of the good news of Jesus Christ. Christ is still at work in us and our church in vibrant, transformative ways. We must keep our eyes fixed on the good news and the mission to make disciples that Christ has set before us. God is big enough to guide the future of The United Methodist Church. God is big enough to make our broken vessels whole. Let us put our trust in God and do what we can to stay united, for we are better together than apart.

Scripture Readings:
Monday- 2 Corinthians 4:7-18
Tuesday- 1 Corinthians 1:10-17
Wednesday- 1 Corinthians 3:1-9
Thursday- 1 Corinthians 10:14-33
Friday- 1 Corinthians 12:1-31

Questions to Consider and Discuss:
1. What does it mean to you that God puts the treasure of Jesus Christ in cracked pots?
2. What are the blessings of diversity in the midst of unity in the church? What are the challenges?
3. What are practical ways we can stay united as the body of Christ?