SCRIPTURE: John 20:1-18
TEXT: John 20:1 Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb.
THEME: Easter Message
On Friday, after the death of Jesus on the cross, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate to let him take Jesus’ the body. Nicodemus also came and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes weighing about 100 lbs. They took the body of Jesus
and wrapped it with the spices in linen clothes according to the burial custom of the Jews. They laid Jesus in a new tomb as Sabbath began. John is the only Gospel that has the body of Jesus prepared as it is placed in
the tomb, so on Easter morning, Mary Magdalene wasn’t there to prepare Jesus’ body as in the other gospels.
Sunday morning Mary came to the tomb while it was still dark. Why was she there? The events of the past week happened tremendously fast. The palms from the triumphal entry have wilted but it wasn’t that long ago. The celebration of the
passover lead to an arrest in the garden, then a trial and execution. There was a lot to process. Her emotions have been on a roller coster of highs and lows.
Being as close to Jesus as she could might bring some comfort. So she goes to the grave. Having time to run the events of the past week through her mind might give her a sense of why things lead to such a disastrous end. Maybe she just
needed to be alone. Who else would be there so early in the morning? But when she gets there the stone was removed from the tomb. That is all that she needed to go and fetch Peter and the other disciple - yeah you know which
one, the one that Jesus loved. And told them her worst fear, “ They have taken the Lord out of the tomb…and we do not know where they have laid him.” She must have had several case scenarios running through her head of what she might have found when she got to the tomb; the grave site silent and cold. Vandalism. Armed guards preventing entrance or the result of grave robbers. It was the later. It is not quite certain whether the disciples believed her or not. It was dark, she
is distraught, maybe she wasn’t at the right place. So Peter and John set out towards the tomb and eventually break out into a run, which turns into a race to get there. John gets there first and peers in and sees the wrapping there. When Peter
arrives he goes right into the tomb and sees the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head rolled up by itself. John goes in and finally believes what Mary has said about Jesus’ missing body. Peter and John go back home but Mary stays at the grave site. Why? Her deepest suspicions have been confirmed. There really wasn’t anything more to do. In fact it could have been dangerous for her once word got out and the authorities came to investigate what happened. She might even become a
suspect of a hoax.
She didn’t care. Weeping, she stood outside of the tomb. Still sorrowful about the missing body of Jesus she bent to look into the tomb. Maybe to look for evidence. Maybe because she had to do something, Maybe because she had a sense that she needed to be there. Maybe she knew the only explanation of Jesus’ body been taken away was not the real answer. This only made the grief worst. Looking into the tomb she saw two angels. They asked why she was crying and when she explained, she turned about there was another figure who addressed her by name, “Mary”. She recognized him to be Jesus. Stuck in grief Jesus calls her to the reality of the resurrection. What she experienced at Jesus’ death was real. Her grief unconsolable. This is not Jesus revived, but resurrected. No longer Rabbouni, but as the risen Lord. As she goes to the disciples once more she tells them, “I have seen the Lord.”
Mary was looking for some kind of relief from the grief she was experiencing from the death of Jesus. She couldn’t help but stay by the grave of Jesus. Some how being close to the remains of Jesus brought some connection and comfort.
In death, what are we looking for and what is God showing us? Recently I went to a funeral of a buddhist relative. The service left me with three impressions; the impermanence of life, the lost of identity in the renaming of the life and those there, seeking consolation from the wisdom of the Buddha. Each family was called to burn incense for the departed life. It connected us in our familial bonds and gathered us to commemorate our common loss, but it left me empty and unsatisfied. Mary must have felt that there must be something more to the life of this remarkable teacher, healer, and prophet, as she lingered at Jesus’ tomb. Her instincts were correct. At the resurrection every soul is precious to God.
Resurrection life takes precedence over death. We are a soul, loved, celebrated and embraced by God and gifted with a resurrected body that ascends to heaven to be with God when we die. We have relationships of permanence beyond the holding onto of this world. We can live beyond what we can see and have confidence in what we believe in Jesus.
This is what Mary was looking for. This is why she kept on being drawn to the tomb, when she thought Jesus was there, when she discovered it was open, when she knew it was empty, and when there were angels in it, and a gardener who interrupted her grief with the resurrection. She now has a new way to understand death that changes the way she grieves. She may not be able to hold on to Jesus as she had, but if that is the price she has to pay to have a resurrected Jesus, it is more than worth it. Death has now become a passage way and not an end.
Mary is persistent in discovering something more in the death of Jesus. Her unsettledness leads her to discover the empty tomb. She knew Jesus’ missing body was more than the work of thieves. And through her grief she was able to recognize the risen Lord. It is true that what God has done for Lazarus, God has done for Jesus in an even greater way and now we have confidence, that God wills for us in death, is resurrection. Resurrection changes our grief to hope. Resurrection changes our fears to love. And Resurrection transforms our relationships from ending to continuing. Resurrection has changed grief from something we are suppose to get over to hope beyond the grave. That is the something Mary was looking for, that is the something we have to look forward to. This is the something that brings consolation to our grief like nothing else can. The promise of death ending in resurrection.
SCRIPTURE: John 13:1-17, 31b-35
TEXT: 13:6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”
THEME: Maundy Thursday Service
“My feet stink, I can smell them from here. If I had known that Jesus was going to wash my feet, I would have washed my feet before I came. I don’t want him to see how dirty my feet are. I didn’t cut my toe nails.” I wonder how they cut their toe nails in those days. Did they have pedicures in those days? According to Wikipedia people have been pedicuring their nails for more than 4,000 years. In southern Babylonia, noblemen used solid gold tools to give themselves manicures and pedicures. In ancient Rome, military commanders also painted their nails to match their lips before they went off to battle. “I should have used the pumice stone in the shower.”
Jesus caught Peter off guard. There is no cover up for his feet. What eternal consequence would there be for what his feet revealed? Jesus was just about to see everything about his feet. It wouldn’t have been a problem if this were a household servant whose job it was to wash feet. There might be some implied confidentiality clause that prevented them from talking about what they discovered about your feet. But Jesus was not some humble servant, He was his superior, his teacher, the object of his need for approval. “Then not just my feet but all of me.” Relationship with God is not about what our feet look or smell like. It is not something we can merit, or achieve, or earn or make ourselves look good enough. Relationship with God is about our relationship with Christ and how Jesus makes it possible for us to reunite with God as parent, Creator, and sovereign. Being in relationship with God is about our relationship with Jesus. The washing of our feet is something Jesus wants to do for us as part of his relationship with us. We have to humbly present ourselves, as we are, stinky feet and all, to allow Jesus to serve us.
When we stop trying to earn our way into heaven, when we stop fussing with our own self-righteousness, when we stop obsessing about keeping the law, when we stop rationalizing our behavior to justify our sin, when we stop comparing ourselves to others (because that guy’s feet are really ugly) just to make us look better, then we can instead concentrate on our relationship with Jesus, which allows us to live in relationship with God. How does having Jesus
wash our feet bring transformation in our lives? Our relationship with Jesus, gives us an identity as the people of God. This is a Lamb of God moment, where Jesus marks the door post of our lives to signal for the spirit of death to Passover. We are a people who are focused in living, not on how to escape death. We are in relationship with the source of life, whose ways form community, whose dreams are for equity and whose desire is for peace. We are in a relationship with a God who liberates, frees and creates. To be loved so profoundly enables us to be changed and be more loving towards others. To extend forgiveness to others as God has forgiven us, to be patient as God has been patient with us, to have grace as God have been gracious with us. To serve others as Jesus has washed our feet. What Jesus does transforms our
relationship and draws us closer to God. The examples of Jesus are not about more rules, to wash people’s feet or to
do more one-another-ing. But is it is about being renewed, it is about being given life, it is about being in a supportive and caring relationships with Jesus, that draw us closer to God and express itself in relationships of acceptance,
forgiveness and love.
The washing of feet is about our relationship with Jesus. There are always times in a relationship when we are vulnerable. There are times in a relationship when we have to allow the other person do for us what we cannot do for ourselves. There are times in a relationship when we need to let someone love us allow that love to shape our lives and by doing so, we are able touch the lives of our neighbor with love.
We would over look Jesus’ stinky feet, Jesus over looks ours because this is
not about being judgmental, Jesus’ relationship with us is about love and
fostering loving relationships, stinky feet and all.
SCRIPTURE: Matthew 21:1-11
TEXT: Matthew 21:9 9The crowds that went ahead of him and that followed were shouting, "Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!"
THEME: Palm Sunday
Just in the same way that Jesus is a different kind of Messiah than we expected, Jesus is a different kind of sovereign than what we might expect.
They stop right out side of Jerusalem, almost as if staging for a parade, while a couple disciples go and get a donkey and it's colt. An intentional statement of who Jesus is, as a colt is what the king of Israel rides on for a coronation, and a donkey is a work animal used for farming and other creative endeavors in peaceful times. Paradoxical but we can hope for a peaceful sovereign who establish a rule in the midst of an oppressive Roman regime.
As the animals arrive the procession begins. Israelis patriotism rises up. Shouts of salvation, political and spiritual. Hosanna, to the son of David, blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord. Momentum is building. There is an excitement of liberation in the air that doesn’t care who hears. We all love a little rebellion, to advocate in a safe way, to be a little radical for a good cause, to speak out for justice, to shout out for life, to make noise for freedom, to protest for God’s ways!
The crowd ran up ahead taking cloaks and laying them on the ground to create a carpeted road. Palm branches were cut and laid along the path in honor of their liberator, savior, and sovereign.
This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.
How does having Jesus as sovereign inform our relationship with God?
We benefit by being under the rule of Jesus. We have seen how his ministry has added to our anticipation of what is to come. A reign where the differently abled are welcomed. A reign where all are accepted to be apart of the community that is seeking and discovering what it means to live in relationship with God. A reign where there is hope even when our lives end with death.
When all that Jesus has done and taught was combined with the setting of the entrance to the holy city of Jerusalem the template of the king of Israel falls into place. Praise and worship befitting a king rises.
God’s rule prevail. When we advocate for justice, God is there, When we do the work for caring for the poor God’s resources are available, When we do the work of reconciliation God can orchestrate times of healing. When we participate in the activities of transformation, God is there with others to join the fight.
We are a nation within what ever nation we are in. It is an occupy movement for God.
The events this day turn. The recognition of Jesus as sovereign will lead to an arrest trial and death.
The crowds will turn and trade shouts of acclamation for shouts of condemnation.
Our hope will take a turn to despair as Jesus hangs on the cross and dies. God’s ways can be a mystery to us, but we have learned that God always has our best interest in mind and although we don’t understand, that God will bring about a result for our good that is beyond what we could imagine. There is more come, Jesus will be a different kind of sovereign over us.
There is a windsurfer who when he launched from the beach always went left, on this one occasion he had the inclination for no reason to launch from the right. Once he was out on the water he noticed another wind surfer who's mast was broken and he helped him in to the shore. This is part of being under the rule of God.
We tell the story of a faithful church who raised $41,000 for an organ without an organist, but just as the commitment is made to install the organ, a organist send a resume.
We all have these stories of God’s orchestration of events, of chance meetings, and of how when we follow God of things some how working out just by being under the rule of God.
SCRIPTURE: John 9:1-41
TEXT: John 9:3 Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him.
THEME: God’s work is revealed in us.
This passage begins with Jesus and his disciples walking through town and passing a blind beggar. The disciples ask whose sin was it that has caused this man to be born blind, his parents or his own? There is a poor theological belief that bad fortune is caused by sin. What we are discovering through the Gospel of John is that God is not out to punish us for our sins, there are consequences enough to our bad behavior, but God is trying to lift us up and take us away from such a life. It is like flossing our teeth every night. Not flossing is not a sin, per say, but receding gum lines and cavities between our teeth could be a consequence of our neglect. Then when we go to the dentist, whose sin is it, the dentist, the floss, the food stuck in our teeth, or our own?
Jesus says this is not a matter of sin, the fact of the matter is that we live in a world with brokenness where there are people who are born blind. As we think about this we may agree that no one is exactly perfect and that we are all differently abled in one way or another. It is into this brokenness and to the differently abled that God’s work is revealed.
Then Jesus spat on the ground and made a salve and rubbed it in the blind man’s eyes and told him to go and wash his eyes out in the pool of Siloam. After he washes the mud from out of his eyes he can see. This healing is not based on the blind one’s faith. He just happened to be there as the disciples asked this question. But as the story progress we get to see the continued work of God revealed in this person’s theology. Having been blind and a beggar he was probably ignored, marginalized and invisible to most. So when he emerges seeing, no one believes him. His neighbors say he looks like someone who used to be blind and begged over there, but he can’t be him because that fellow was blind. We are all guilty of seeing but not taking a good look. Avoiding eye contact and not wanting to be engaged. If we did, we might have to be more involved and do something about it. Jesus crossed over that boundary and heals his blindness.
The neighbors ask, “If you are that blind beggar, then how is it that you can now see?” The formerly blind person tell the story of how Jesus healed him.
Then his neighbors ask the blind man where Jesus is. How should he know? He was blind. So they take him to see the Pharisees. Instead of rejoicing at the healing that he received they complained about their broken Sabbath rule and refused to see how Jesus could do any good. When asked, the former Blind man calls Jesus a prophet but the Pharisees put him in his place by accusing him of being born entirely in sins and drove him out. (Who is blind now?) Later Jesus finds him. He has become quite the theologian. He argued the truth with the Pharisees, He spoke about the signs of God through healing in comparison to the darkness of their interpretation of the Sabbath rule. And now at seeing Jesus he believes in the Son of Man.
The way that we are, no one is exactly perfect. We all have something great about us as well as something wrong with us, whether it is because of the way we were born, or how we are wired, or something we did or because of something somebody else did. Everyone of us is differently abled and that is not a punishment for our sin. It is just that we are diverse and unique. Jesus says that in just the way we are, that God’s work might be revealed in us. In the way that we are, how might the God’s work be revealed in us?
Salvation is not just following a set of rules but by living by the will of God. We were driving the speed limit in stop and go traffic, waiting for our turn at a four way stop when, Crash the driver behind us hit us from behind, falling asleep and letting the car drift into us. We were following the traffic rule but not the tenants of driving safely.
One of the punchlines that the formerly blind man says to the Pharisees is, “God listens to the one who worships and obeys God’s will.” This is how Jesus was able to heal him and what we are freed to live as. This is found in relationship with God, in communion with God.
I ran into someone who attended the Bible and Homosexuality workshop and entered into a conversation about it. She said she wanted to have a greater understanding about homosexuality. Counting it as a sin she felt that they would be disqualified from heaven. And yet none of us are sinless. We all rely on God’s will to forgive, accept, love, bestow grace and have affection towards us to get into heaven. This is based on belief in Jesus as the Son of man. This is how we get into heaven from the Gospel of Jesus. Salvation is more about how we treat God and each other than it is about being right about how we are obedient to the law of God.
The Law of God is a description of how the people of God are supposed to live their lives in relationship with God and their neighbors. We all have sin and we live in a world with brokenness in it. If God is loving, gracious and forgiving of our sin, we should be that kind of sign to our neighbors of the work of God in us.
It is not our sin that causes all of the misfortune in our lives, there is brokenness in our world. Jesus comes into our broken world with its people who are differently abled to invite us to live in relationship with God. We are not invited because we have reached some level of perfection on our own, but out of the deep affection that God has for us to offer us forgiveness, grace and love. the man born blind experienced this by being given his sight.
The Law of Moses is to draw us closer to God not to be rules to keep to earn us and invitation to heaven. The goal is not to live sinless lives but to be transformed through God’s forgiveness of our sins. Then our lives can be lived in dialogue with God. Jesus comes to connect us with the help of God, so we can be gracious when we encounter those who are different from ourselves and offer them love as God has been loving towards us.
SCRIPTURE: John 4:5-42
Jesus and the disciples come to a Samaritan city called Sychar. Jesus stays at the well while he disciples go into town to get food. It is noon when a woman comes to draw water. The parallels between Nicodemus encounter with Jesus and this woman are interesting. In the story before this one, Jesus is encountered by a the Jewish teacher, we don’t know what this woman does. He was a man, now we have a woman. He has a name, this woman is nameless. The man comes at night, this woman comes at day. He is a prominent Jew, she is a Samaritan. Jesus treats this woman without condemnation, no judgment and asks for a cup of water. There is a long standing prejudice that he over looks to get a drink of water. It is a beautiful dialogue of grace, discovery, acceptance and healing. And through the honesty of this conversation truth is told. There is a confession of broken covenants. But this time when she gives platitudes to Jesus, they have a theological discussion about God and worship. She reveals a thirst for God and Jesus reveals himself to her as the Messiah, “I am he.”
Belief in Jesus brings us into relationship with God. In the previous chapter, the end of the story of Nicodemus we get the John 3:16 passage of God’s great love for us. So much so, that righteousness is given to us as a gift, that if we believe we in Jesus, we may receive and enter into an eternal relationship with God. Relationship with God is the goal of Jesus’ ministry. How do we overcome exclusiveness and build a community through inclusiveness?
In order to do this we have to wrestle with what we do with sin This weekend I went to the ETCL workshop at Iao UCC, on the Bible and Homosexuality. I don’t like focusing on one sin in particular and hammering at it as the Church has done. I believe the UCC has had an approach more like Jesus has with the woman at the well, where there is no talk of condemnation but compassionate actions of a hope and grace, of worshiping together in Spirit and in truth.
Some of us hide our sin better than others. We act as if we have none so we are not truthful when we are critical of others. But if we were honest to the deep dark secrets of sin we harbor we would admit that all of us are in the same boat with God. And we all want to meet Jesus at the well to be accepted, to be known, to be treated with respect and loved.
There isn’t a passage to say that Homosexuality is not a sin, but I don’t think that that is so important as how we treat a broken person. Jesus did not come into the world to condemn the world but that the world through him might be saved. And salvation come with belief. Then we wrestle with who we are with God, we wrestle with what God is calling us to do, and we wrestle with how we love our neighbor. So our work as the church is not to condemn but to introduce people to Jesus from our experience. To tell our story of meeting Jesus, to listen to their story and to make the invitation for them to meet Jesus as we have experienced him. Then maybe they could wonder, “He cannot be the the Messiah can he?”
The second part of the passage is about what happens when the disciples return and the woman’s witness of Jesus in the village. Many Samaritans believed because of what the woman said. They asked Jesus to stay a few days, and he did. Then having heard Jesus for themselves they knew that Jesus was the Savior of the world.
The disciples came back from the village with provisions and wanted Jesus to eat. He was not hungry after his ministry to the woman. Doing the work of God feeds him. When I used to go fishing, and the fish were not biting, you were hungry, tired, hot, thirsty, and had to go use the bathroom. But when the fish are bitting you felt none of that.
People are ready to hear the message of salvation that Jesus brings. Jesus was encouraging his disciples to quicken the pace of talking to people about God because they are ready to hear the Good new he is brings to have their lives turned toward God.
Jesus traveled, intentionally into the area of Samaria to share the good news there. The message of Jesus crosses over all kinds of boundaries but mostly over the boundary of sin. We should not keep our stories about Jesus contained within our boundaries but be willing to share it as the Spirit leads.
This Friday Maile and I went to address the Committee on Ways and Means and the Finance Committee of the State. We have an application for a grant for from the state to help us with our mission ground project. They gave us a 3 minute opportunity to talk about our grant proposal. I did, in sermon form. I identified those who are looking for affordable housing as our neighbor, and those who need a place to gather and learn in our community center as our neighbor. Then I shared the story of the Good Samaritan in this way. “Who is my neighbor?” Is the question the Lawyer asks Jesus to define the boundaries of benevolence. Jesus’ story of the Good Samaritan shatters the boundaries of prejudice to include the ignored, the marginalized and the wounded. They got a little theology with our request to extend our mission.
This weekend at the event at Iao I met a seeker who has been rejected by several other churches. He was unidentified as sin or otherwise, just as a fellow human being. But my hope was that if he came here he would find a welcome as we have felt. The story of the Jesus and the woman at the well is the illustration of John 3:17 for he did not come into the world to condemn the world but that the world might be saved through him. Because God so loves the world and has called us to do the same.
SCRIPTURE: John 3:1-17
THEME: Influenced by Jesus
When it come to faith, we become intrenched because we don’t want to be wrong. But what if what we have been holding onto is wrong, how do we change? When we want to be correct, sometimes we take a strict literal understanding and miss the freedom, grace and wide expression of our faith. Could it be possible that faith in God is more about grace and living than following a bunch of rules?
A leader who has been teaching the same theories of faith year after years, has been intrigued by this new approach to faithfulness with God. It is not so much about obeying a set of rules to keep in God’s good graces, but about living
transformed lives in a relationship with God. This makes us think about the people who have been influential in our lives.
How our relationship with them have changed the way we wash rice, tie a hook, take a bath. I was watching an episode of “Friends” and Chandler caught Joey for using his wash cloth. Joey’s come back, was to have Chandler think about
the last place he washes with that wash cloth and the first place Chandler washes when he takes a bath. I now rinse my wash cloth out before I bathe. If even an incidental relationship with TV can change our behavior with truth,
how much more should our lives be transformed by our relationship with God and God’s truth?
Jesus’ teaching is a teaching of change by being able to living intimately with God because God allows it, sin and all. Instead of living in a way as not to draw attention to the wrath of God we can find purpose, adventure and creativity with
God. Under the cover of night Nicodemus goes to have a one on one discussion with Jesus, but it was not what he expected. Marveling at this new approach to God Nicodemus comes to Jesus with platitudes, “Rabbi”, “Teacher from God”, “signs that display God is with you”. Jesus is unimpressed but wants to get to the heart of the matter, so Jesus
“Rabbi”, changes the subject to address the kingdom of God and being born again. No one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. Water is baptism, reminding us of a repentance that turns us Godwards. The
Spirit is the power of God that helps us to participate in the activity of God or the will of God. Turning our direction to participate in the God’s activity in the world, is how we can begin to see the kingdom of God in our realm. Being born of water and Spirit is one thing; listening to what God wants us to do, and to let God helps us with abilities through God’s Spirit.
Jesus then ties the past with future events, the ascension tied Elisha's heavenly ascent in a chariot of fire with the prophetic messiah, who is Jesus, the Son of Man. The lifting of Moses’ serpent on a stick saves anyone destined to die in the same way The Son of Man must be lifted up to save those who have been poisoned by sin. All who believes in him may have life with God that is eternal.
This is a display of God’s love for the world, not God’s condemnation of our waywardness. Take a breath, once we figure out that God is not out to get us, instead of trying to fly under God’s radar, we can begin to live with God! The
possibilities are freeing and endless.
We are influenced by the relationships that we have. They inform us, inspire us, show us ways to do things and how not to do others. So when we believe in Jesus, we begin our relationship with God. We are about living not dying. Believing is transformational. Belief sets us on a new course. We are influenced by God. Having Jesus as a part of our lives causes a dying to somethings as it brings a living to others. How does Jesus influence us to live? We live in compelling ways that express our faith in God and love for each other. Life is like a rummage sale that has a good reputation. Did you know, our
little rummage sale has a good reputation in the community? This has been about the third one, when people have come said, “you have the best rummage sales.” “good quality things at good prices,” but not only that, “you all seem to
get along together”. “it is like you really enjoy and respect each other”. then someone said, “Yes, that is how we are in church, you should come.”
There were some people at this rummage sale that asked what time our service was, and said they wanted to come to church here. Our people shared bottles of water with people who were thirsty, bought roast pork plate tickets and gave them to the food pantry. This was not just any roast pork plate either. When I got home to eat mine, it was gone in less that five minutes. Scarfed. I even had theological discussion at the rummage sale. We were discussing the Event at Iao UCC on the Bible and Homosexuality. What does this mean for us? It means this is a good time for us to discuss this and get a new perspective. It may be influenced and change the way we think or not. Or more importantly, it may influence the way we behave. it is worth a look and see. It is like Nicodemus going to Jesus at night. In an earnest exploration of the heart of the matter. And maybe the matter is not so much about what is sin or not, but how
we love, care and treat our neighbors.
In the future, when we ask some of our members how they came to WUC, some will say because of the Preschool, Some will say because of the Music at WUC, Others will say because of the great rummage sales the church has put on, but most will say because of friends who have invited them to come. You are all so nice and get along so well with each other, you are living out your faith as best you can and there are others, who wanted to do that too. When people come, they may not believe in Jesus being lifted up but they believe that we have taken our relationship with Jesus seriously and are as best as we can, living with grace, love and forgiveness.
Influenced by Jesus to live faithfully in the activity of God in our world.
SCRIPTURE: Matthew 5:38-48
Reptile brain, monkey brain and human brain, these are three parts of our brain. Our reptile brain is our fight or flight impulse in danger. Our monkey brain is our emotional response. Still not logical, but intuitive, fear based, anger response, impassioned, obsessive decisions. And our human brain is our thinking before we do brain. Jesus is advocating our use of our God given human brain. We need our reptile brain to help us respond to dangerous situations quickly. We need our monkey brains because this helps us to empathize with others. But instead of striking back in anger, we must use our human brains, that help us to build relationships through forgiveness, prayer and
Justice is equal hurt for equal hurt, an eye for an eye, and tooth for tooth. When some one hurts us we have a right to hurt them back just as much as they have hurt us, but no more. My Systematics professor, Collin Brown, described forgiveness as giving up our right to hurt back as much we have been hurt. The NRSV has an odd translation of verse 39 "Do not resist an evil doer." Emerson Powery’s Sermon Brainwave’s commentary says, “Rather, Jesus has an alternative strategy for dealing with evil. His objective is to overcome evil with good." So not to be tempted to retaliate or engage in the endless cycle of revenge.
This is illustrated by turning the other cheek. We are not opening ourselves up to getting hit a second time but we are giving up our right to hurt back by offering the other cheek. This has been helpful in understanding forgiveness as an act of
strength and a not weakness. In forgiveness we choose not to hurt back in the way that we have been hurt. Then we don’t have to rely on our poor memory to forgive because forgetting is not a condition to forgiveness, but remembering that
we have chosen not to hurt back is. Then there are those, that no matter what we do, we seem to be at odds with
them. Sometimes we may even refer to these as enemies. At least Jesus doesn’t tell us not to have enemies, but challenges us to submit them to the will of God through our prayers for them. The greatest good we can desire for them is to know God and to have God's rule over their lives. But Prayer is double edged, as we pray for our enemies, we find ourselves subject to prayers for ourselves and our behavior and how we too are to be formed by the will of God.
The blessings of God's rule is for everyone. Knowing God as a parent is different from knowing God as the Judge of the Universe, the Creator of everything and decider of the destinies of life and death. Then the punch line of this passage is to be Perfect as the Lord God is perfect, Perfection not as justification before God but perfect as being complete in love,
growing in intimacy and maturity.
The Lamb of God brings deliverance and liberation that moves us from obedience of the law to the internalization of the intent of God’s will in our hearts. We saw this last week as Jesus tells us to resolve anger, work at reconciliation,
control lust, bolster covenant, act honesty and practice truth telling. This week Jesus challenges us to forgive, pray and love. I like to hang out with smart people because it makes me look smarter than I am. I went to the Maui Outstanding Piano Amateur Festival master class on Friday. Later Damira introduced me to a couple of the pianist who in their real
lives are professors in science doing research! They are like rock stars and made me look brilliant and talented just by being seen talking to them. How do you think people feel being in the company of Christians who are forgiving,
praying for their enemies and themselves, and perfecting their love for God and their neighbors?
Awesome community. What we learn about God hanging out with Jesus shapes our relationship with God. How we live with God and has an effect on how we live in relationship with our neighbor. We are not punished for the hurt we have caused God so we are able to give up our right, to hurt back those who have hurt us.
This draws me back to Allan Boesak and the first time I heard him speak. An antiapartheid leader in South Africa, he spoke at Keawala’i church and talked about seeing ‘the wounds’. When we can see ‘the wounds’ in people, then they become human again and our treatment of them becomes more human. But anytime we count people as being less than human by the color of their skin, their lack of education, economic status, where they come from, their religion, then it justifies our behavior to treat them as less than human. Jesus’ words gives dignity even to our enemies and gives us no excuse for
treating anyone less than a child whom God loves. Jesus takes down walls instead of building them, Jesus speaks truth instead of name calling. Jesus forgives instead of blames, and Jesus chooses love instead of power.
We have three brains. We can take quick action when we are in danger, but when the urgency is not so immediate, we can check in with our feelings and how what we are feeling might be determining how we are reacting. And if we have even more time, then we can even determine our actions beyond what we feel, such as loving an enemy we hate and praying for them or by holding back on our first impulse of revenge in order to seek the reason for the initial blows.
Then by admitting how we contributed to the situation we were in, we can ask for forgiveness and take responsibility for our actions to prevent this from happening again.
We are on the road of reconciliation. We are operating at a higher level, using
our human brain. We are choosing love over justice and participating in the rule
of God over our lives.
SCRIPTURE: Matthew 5:21-27
THEME: Mission reconciling relationships
In the past few weeks we have been focusing on passages that come from Jesus’ sermon on the mount. John the Baptized sets this up for us by identifying Jesus as the ‘Lamb of God’. A provocative insight on the Lamb of God was that the lamb was not used as sin offering but as a marking on the door post as a sign for the Spirit of death to passover. The Lamb of God is the sign of the deliverer and liberator who takes away the sins of the world. Then as Jesus begins to preach, the premiss is that righteousness, brings us into relationship with God. But righteousness is a gift given to us by the grace of
God. Righteousness is not a product of our good effort but an act of God’s grace and forgiveness towards us. So for the beatitudes, there are no prerequisites for us to be blessed but blessedness is a benefit of living under God’s rule. Today’s
passage is a continuation of the sermon on the mount and the implications of living with God’s truth in our lives.
At first there was a list of ten things for us to do. Now Jesus seems to have put on a stricter application of the commandments of God. It is not just don’t murder but don’t be angry, or it is not just to be reconcile with God with an offering, but be reconciled with others before you make an offering. And then not only don’t commit adultery but don’t even lust over anyone beyond your marriage. Then eliminate the reason to swear by anything by always telling the truth. What Jesus is talking about, is taking the Ten Commandments and internalizing them so they are not a bunch of rules to obey, but to live by the will of God from your heart. These are all in regards to fostering a healthy relationship with God and with others. The result of our relationship with God is to have a community of rightful living. Murder is the boundary we are not to cross but Jesus is concern about how anger effect our relationships. So Jesus is telling us to find ways to regulate our anger and to find appropriate ways to deal with our anger. Giving a tithe or offering to God is a way we worship and appreciate our relationship with God, but if our relationship with God does not have an impact in our relationship with others then we need to expand the love, grace, forgiveness and acceptance that God has for us in our relationship with neighbors. This passage has wrongly been applied to the reception of communion. There is no such condition to make things right with a brother or sister before we go to the Lord’s Table for communion. We don’t merit this holy meal, we come because we are invited to it as Christ’s guest. Don’t add another obstacle to people coming to receive grace from God’s gift. If we are being accused of doing something wrong be fair and honest and try to reach some kind of agreement. The amount of of time, wages lost and inconvenience of being in court is best served if we can settle out of court. If not it may take longer, cost more and be more inconvenient than you could ever project.
Adultery is a breach in your marital covenant. Lusting after other people is a betrayal of our marital covenant. Be proactive and treat each other with love and respect. Forgive the hurt the other has cause, chose not to hurt back, and move
The next part of this sermon exaggerates to make a point but is not to be taken literally other wise there would be a lot of one eyed Christians with hooks for hands. Jesus is not literally saying to take out an eye or to cut off a hand. But
what he is saying is exhibit some self control and how your actions effect the relationships around you. Divorce in Jesus’ day was devastating to the women. They lost everything, family, identity, income, home, security, status and pretty much were left impoverished. Women had no rights so Jesus is saying, take this decision seriously, by divorcing your wife, for whatever reason you are literally taking her life.
Then, in the last part, Jesus is saying to tell the truth. Don’t swear by anything to make what you are saying more truthful. We lie only for our advantage, to get something or to get away with something. Trust in God and always speak the
truth so that there will be no question that what you are saying is not a lie but the truth.
Jesus is not initiating anything new but continuing on the theme of our grace given righteousness that enables us to live in relationship with God. What have we learned in our relationship with God that can help us foster healthy
relationships with our neighbors?
Our relationship with God challenges us to love in profound ways. There is long suffering. We will do the unpopular for justice sake. We will do what is seemingly cold, and uncaring to protect others, protect ourselves, create healthy
boundaries and hope and desire the very best for someone else. We have been suffering like a family that has a member who is addicted to drugs. It doesn’t matter if they are from the street or prescribed. We are ready to help, care and rescue, all good and right in normal circumstances, but when the one we love is on drugs, then this not a normal person, but a person on drugs and to love them we have to have a different set of rules. None of us have the expertise to counsel we can only point to professional help, point to God or listen for the purpose of prayer. We can set boundaries for safety sake, for us and for them. We can choose not to rescue in order for real consequences to be the natural result of choices that are made. I had a friend at seminary who told me that he played the role of the rescuer in his alcoholic family. His dad would be drunk as he drove home and crawl on the lawn to sleep. My friend would wake up, pull his dad into the house, dress him for bed. In the morning when he dad would wake up, he would find himself in his bed with no memory of how he got there, not facing up to the consequence of his actions or choices. He realized that although he loved his dad, all he did was prevent him from seeing the consequences of his choices and prolonged that alcoholic behavior.
We want those whom we love to come to the realization that what they are doing is not working and admit that they need help. We need to be truthful with them, not give into their lies, and not enable them so they can get the help they
need. Unusual but all for the purpose of love. Desiring the very best for someone else and at the same time to preserve ourselves from their destructive and disruptive behavior.
Jesus doesn't want us just to live as a person not wanting to get caught by God for doing something wrong. But Jesus wants us to live with God as those who are delivered and liberated to live in relationship with God. The purpose of God’s gift of righteousness is relationship with God. This gives us to freedom to live creativity in our relationship with God. This forms communities that love and care for each other. We have a ministry of reconciliation that keeps our anger in check, is aware of our relationships with others, that resolves conflict, and pursues what is right. We honor our commitments and speak the truth. We maintain covenant relationships of respect and love. We are challenged by love to set boundaries, so the truth can be spoken and wholeness with God can be found.
SCRIPTURE: Matthew 5:13-20
Black beans. Salty, potent, pungent flavor pods, that bring savory taste to steamed fish, or stir fried lobster. Sam Choy has this amazing recipe in his cook book that takes chopped lobster tails and cooks them with black beans, garlic, ginger, sherry and tomatoes. These salty black beans are so filled with flavor that they need to be soaked and rinsed off with water before you use them (and they still are salty). Black beans add seasoning that blends these flavors together. But
if black beans loose their saltiness, they are good for nothing and then begin to look like little rat dropping.
Being light to the world is to be unique. Being light to the world is another way of saying that we are holy or set apart for God. Not in a stand offish kind of way, but just in knowing about God’s love. What we know about God, through the forgiveness that Jesus makes possible, is different from the how the rest of the world understands God. What we know about God’s grace through Jesus Christ helps us to be better people, than what we could possibly be on our own. What we know about God through the love of Jesus illuminates God’s lavish love for for those who are sick, outcaste, lonely and alienated. What we know is not the usual way the world perceives God. What we know is unique but if we keep this
light hidden and only for ourselves, then our neighbors won't be able to benefit from God’s light from us. Being light, we are a city on a hill. People can either think we are compelling or hypocrites. Being light on a hill, we can be seen as amazing or for show. Being a community of light, we can be known as being genuine or a bunch of phonies. We are the former; compelling, amazing and genuine. Jesus does not trump the prophets or the commandments, but rather, he shows how the promises of the prophets become fulfilled and how anyone can bring the commandments to life by living them. Jesus isn’t bringing a new teaching to replace the old but is showing how the truth of God can be lived, how the commandments have not change, how living in covenant is not just following a bunch of rules but a deeply practical way to live, full of truth and grace and as a blessing to our neighbors. So whoever breaks even one of the least of these commandments, that
represent the will of God and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. But if you are using the commandments as a way to work yourself into the good graces of God. Then you are going to have to live lives more obsessive and compulsive than the scribes and Pharisees. They have a reputation of being fastidious about the Law and its practice. If we want to have righteousness before God using the Law, we are going to have to step up our game with lives with better self-control lives and legalism than the scribes and Pharisees. Or we can believe in Jesus and receive righteousness as a gracious gift from God through forgiveness. We can live grace filled lives in relationship with God. The purpose of righteousness is to live in relationship with God. The only way we can achieve righteousness is as a gift of grace from God and not by our good works.
Jesus tells us that we are salt and light as we seek to live as God’s people in the world. With the Spirit’s help, we offer our gifts and talents to extend the reach of God’s realm. What are some of the "indelibly etched pictures" of God's love
that our congregation has drawn?
It would look like members of Iao UCC and our church cleaning the house at 2351 Main Street and eating sandwiches together. Our tenant has moved out and we are leasing this building back to Iao UCC for their new pastor (if ratified by congregational vote). We were cleaning it together to get it ready for the new pastor.
We would have portraits of the saints of our church which we have treated with respect and honor. We would have a picture of a car, because so many of you have picked up and given rides to members who could no longer drive.
We would have a picture of a brown easy chair in the middle of our sanctuary for Dot Romson because she was having difficulty sitting and we brought this chair in the sanctuary so she could still come and worship with us.
We would have a picture of Bubu and Finagan as welcomed additions to our service who love unconditionally.
We would have a picture of the big brown table in Dodge Hall with food on it from all of the Ohanas and Aloha Hours and special occasions. We would have a picture of service men who were stations at Specklesville
and came up here for service and were served delicate little finger sandwiches during the second world war.
We would have a picture of a rummage sale, where we practice stewardship by getting rid of wonderful items so people can get what they need at great prices.
We would have a picture of the stained glass windows that are receivers of light and display our faith in art.
We would have a picture of the organ. That is a symbol of our hearts that sing praises to our God. The $41,000 that was raised to continue this part of worship and ministry. And we would have a picture of Damira because she is an answer to prayer because what good is having an organ if we don’t have anyone to play it? Katherine Matthews says it best in her UCC commentary: when people encounter us--as individuals and as communities of faith--they should see and sense more: they should feel hope, they should feel the possibility of a "different world," Charles Cousar writes, "marked by unheard-of reconciliation, simple truth-telling, outrageous generosity, and love of one's enemies". We're called not to make just a refreshing but a reinvigorating difference in the world, so that all who watch us will feel new life, new vitality, new possibility, new hope, new beauty.
What we know about God through Jesus is so revolutionary it has transformed the way we live. Living in relationship with God makes us live savory, light filled lives. Very simply, to participate in the mission of God, all we have to do is to be a little more salty infusing our surroundings with the flavors of Black Beans, Chung Choi, Harm Ha, Bagong, Nato, gochujang, love, forgiveness and grace and then let the light of God shining through us as savory extroverts. We know we are doing this right, when our neighbors’ lives become infused with the spices of God and they begin to shine.
SCRIPTURE: Matthew 5:1-12
At the preschool Chapel time we talked about Be Attitudes, like be happy, be friendly, be nice, be kind, be forgiving, be good, be helpful, be caring, be loving. This was one way to describe the people of God, who follow Jesus. And yet, we often times look at this as what we need to do in order to receive blessing from God. In the nearness of the reign of God, these are the blessings that come to us with God’s rule over us irregardless of what we do. Blessings are not contingent on our behavior or what we do. A Blessing is God’s free gifts to us. Being Blessed is a sign of our covenant relationship with God.
The poor in spirit, are those who are empty spiritually. They maybe broken with little hope. Like those who mourn. They have loved and lost and their lost has made them empty. The meek are those who have remained silent. They are none confrontative but deprived. Just as those who hunger and thirst of righteousness, the justice that they desire eludes them and they are empty. Can you imagine being a refugee who is apply to enter the United States, having gone through a rigorous process and been granted a visa but now is stopped from going forward for the next 120 days because of an executive order? The hunger for a righteousness to let them come into our country. It is not what they
are doing that makes them deserving of blessing but, it is the reign of God that blesses us. Look at how God blesses them, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven, they will be comforted in their loss, they will inherit the earth, and they will be fill with what is right.
The second half of the beatitudes are about those who are acting in ways according with the reign of God by being merciful, pure in heart, peacemakers and advocating for what is right. They will have mercy, they will see God, they will
be called children of God and they belong to the reign of God.
The Sermon on the Mount is Jesus’ radical vision of what God’s reign on earth could look like. It is a vision of wholeness for all people. Jesus expresses what it is like to live in our work a day world with God. What blessings does the
nearness of God’s reign brings in us and to others? The Beatitudes seem to be divided into two groups dealing with those who are empty and then with those who are engaged in the activity of God’s justice. Both are blessed by God’s sheer gift of the reign of God. Brokenness allows us to receive from God’s promise and grace. We have hope in the midst of emptiness.
We have a future beyond the circumstances we presently find our selves in. God is gracious and abundant in the promises given to us. Here is Jesus who comes to reveal the in breaking of God’s abundant life. Those that are down trodden, weak, and marginalized have hope in God’s future for all. Then there are those who are doing the work of justice. Walter Brueggemen made this comment on the Micah passage but it describes our participation in the works of justice described here in the beatitudes. “Do justice: to be actively engaged in the redistribution of power in the world, to correct the systemic inequalities that marginalize some for the excessive enhancement of others.” When we learn God’s truth, then we need to find practical ways of living it. The pipeline in South Dakota is being looked at again to put steelworkers back to work, to bring oil from Canada to Texas, over the concerns of protection a native american holy site and clean water. We see this, as fear is the motivation for prejudice to keep those traveling from muslim countries from crossing our
boarders. Or the appointment of people to positions where they have no expertise to create a particular governmental profile. At yesterday’s Winter Aha Makua meeting, someone asked me if the TIA can have a prophetic voice to speak to these issues. What is it the bible tells us about the immigrant and sojourner among us. How are we to treat those who are
different from ourselves? Why does the pursuit of money trump any other values? At the Fall Aha Makua we sat around round tables and had a discussion on Black Lives Matter. What do the Beatitudes tell us about how to treat those
who are empty and to approach the injustices we see in our community, our nation and the world? An easy way to begin to get a perspective on what is happening in our nation and world is to go to National Public Radio. Their reporting is not based on selling a national brand of product so they are frees to report the news without biased. The other source that gives us a faithful perspective is Sojourner Magazine. They read the new through the perspective of our Christian faith and
what the Bible says about this. This gives us a handle on how to begin to wrestle with these tough issues before us.
The beatitudes is not just about being nice, but there is an edge to them, that the presence of the rule of God brings. It fills us with hope when we are empty. But it also calls us to action to deal with the inequities in our world and the marginalization of neighbors over the excessive enhancement of others.