Tag Archives: Christ-like life

The Church Learns to Open Doors, Hearts & Minds

Sermon given on Sunday, June 12, 2015

Scripture connection: Luke 7:36-8:3, NLT

 

Jesus Anointed by a Sinful Woman

36 One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to have dinner with him, so Jesus went to his home and sat down to eat.[a] 37 When a certain immoral woman from that city heard he was eating there, she brought a beautiful alabaster jar filled with expensive perfume. 38 Then she knelt behind him at his feet, weeping. Her tears fell on his feet, and she wiped them off with her hair. Then she kept kissing his feet and putting perfume on them.

39 When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know what kind of woman is touching him. She’s a sinner!”

40 Then Jesus answered his thoughts. “Simon,” he said to the Pharisee, “I have something to say to you.”

“Go ahead, Teacher,” Simon replied.

41 Then Jesus told him this story: “A man loaned money to two people—500 pieces of silver[b] to one and 50 pieces to the other. 42 But neither of them could repay him, so he kindly forgave them both, canceling their debts. Who do you suppose loved him more after that?”

43 Simon answered, “I suppose the one for whom he canceled the larger debt.”

“That’s right,” Jesus said. 44 Then he turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Look at this woman kneeling here. When I entered your home, you didn’t offer me water to wash the dust from my feet, but she has washed them with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You didn’t greet me with a kiss, but from the time I first came in, she has not stopped kissing my feet. 46 You neglected the courtesy of olive oil to anoint my head, but she has anointed my feet with rare perfume.

47 “I tell you, her sins—and they are many—have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love.” 48 Then Jesus said to the woman, “Your sins are forgiven.”

49 The men at the table said among themselves, “Who is this man, that he goes around forgiving sins?”

50 And Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

 

Women Who Followed Jesus

8 Soon afterward Jesus began a tour of the nearby towns and villages, preaching and announcing the Good News about the Kingdom of God. He took his twelve disciples with him, along with some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases. Among them were Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons; Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s business manager; Susanna; and many others who were contributing from their own resources to support Jesus and his disciples.

 

 

Looking over a large crowd, the observer begins to make some mental notes about who is there. The first visual scan seeks any familiar face—someone you might call a friend or maybe someone you know just a little bit. The crowd at Annual Conference is much the same.

Among the faces are those who are some very close friends, some you know pretty well from other meetings or trainings, and some are complete strangers. Among the speakers are those familiar faces who take the podium year after year. The milling around gives everybody an opportunity to reconnect or to be introduced for the first time.

The church really is the people who attend and serve together side by side. Church is not just a building where people gather, church is wherever God’s work and fellowship is going on. Church may be worship on Sunday morning or maybe it is Saturday or Wednesday evening. Church is static, not constant.

One of the most delightful parts about conference is reconnecting with friends who share the same belief foundations. The stories shared by other laity members, other local pastors, elders and deacons encourage each other. The face-to-face conversations provide new ideas or rehash issues that continue to frustrate the denomination. The learning time opens up new ideas and shares the lessons that hopefully help other churches.

The church is filled with people who no longer look the same, either. This annual conference marked the 200th Missouri yearly conference. Not only did it mark that anniversary, but it marked the 60th anniversary of the full ordination of women clergy. And personally, I marked 10 years attending conference. In Missouri, the churches are filled with diversity and are continuing to move towards full reconciliation with all minority sectors of humanity. The church is the people.

When Jesus joined Simon, the Pharisee, for that dinner, he was placed in an awkward position. The Pharisees were still trying to figure out just who he was. This meal positioned Jesus in a more relaxed setting than in the Temple, but surely he was acutely aware that he was being scrutinized.

If I compare Jesus’ situation with attending Annual Conference, I can see how each opportunity I had to talk with others could either make or break a relationship by my position on various issues. I was in a position that the leaders of our denomination could question or ridicule my efforts. I was also in a position that potentially could improve my efforts. At those times, I am so preoccupied that I miss other people passing around me. Therefore, I can understand how the significance of the woman at my feet would not take me away from the conversation I was having with the host.

The “Sinful Woman” came to Jesus to serve him with all that she had. He accepted her loving attention; but all knowing, he also knew of her sin. The Pharisee could not see beyond what was happening. He could not understand how Jesus seemed so unconcerned. The Pharisee judged the Sinful Woman and did not think it was appropriate:

39 When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know what kind of woman is touching him. She’s a sinner!”

 

But Jesus did know. The Pharisee did not jump up and tell her to leave. In fact the scripture shares that this thought was said to himself, not out loud to others.

Yet Luke goes on with the story to show that Jesus did know who she was:

,” Jesus said. 44 Then he turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Look at this woman kneeling here. When I entered your home, you didn’t offer me water to wash the dust from my feet, but she has washed them with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You didn’t greet me with a kiss, but from the time I first came in, she has not stopped kissing my feet. 46 You neglected the courtesy of olive oil to anoint my head, but she has anointed my feet with rare perfume.

47 “I tell you, her sins—and they are many—have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love.”

 

The Pharisee was the student in this case. He was not shouted at, not scolded, nor kicked out of the denomination. Jesus used the situation to teach about forgiveness. The methods that Jesus shared with the disciples are still used today.

The last 12 years, Bishop Robert Schnase has lead the Missouri conference teaching pastors and laity of both large and small churches how to be fruitful. He has not waivered from the practices that John Wesley developed over 300 years ago. In fact, he has removed much of the hierarchical rhetoric that can destroy churches focusing more on the methods to share God’s word with all who are hungry, so to speak.

Who the church is depends on how Christ-like members are. This means being inclusive to both genders, to all ages, to all races, and to all sinners. Churches have the responsibility to open its doors to include all who seek God. Congregations have the responsibility to open hearts to all who are hurting and seek God’s love. Each individual Christian has the responsibility to open minds to all the ways that can share God’s word.

Jesus knew what was in the Pharisees mind:

40 Then Jesus answered his thoughts. “Simon,” he said to the Pharisee, “I have something to say to you.”

“Go ahead, Teacher,” Simon replied.

41 Then Jesus told him this story: “A man loaned money to two people—500 pieces of silver[b] to one and 50 pieces to the other. 42 But neither of them could repay him, so he kindly forgave them both, canceling their debts. Who do you suppose loved him more after that?”

43 Simon answered, “I suppose the one for whom he canceled the larger debt.”

 

The Pharisee was learning from Jesus. We must continue to learn from Jesus, too. We are and have been so fortunate to have Bishop Schnase who has taught us to apply Jesus’ lessons yet today. Regardless of where a congregation meets, the doors must be open, the hearts must be open, and the minds must be open if we are to follow Jesus’ model of loving one another.

Closing prayer

Dear Loving and All-Knowing Father,

Thank you for the gift of your Son, the Master Teacher,

Thank you for the leadership of Bishop Schnase.

Thank you for the leaders of our church, past and present.

 

Moving forward in ministry may not be easy

But with the lessons learned

And with open doors, hearts, and minds,

We continue to share your word.

 

Guide us through Your Word.

Guide us by the example of Your Son.

Guide us by the Holy Spirit.

 

May we open our hearts and minds

So others may find our doors

To your love, forgiveness, and salvation.

 

In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, amen.

 

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Remembering and Trusting in God’s Promise

 

 given on Sunday, May 29, 2016

Scripture connection: Revelation 21:3-7, NLT

I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them.[a] He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.”

 

And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!” And then he said to me, “Write this down, for what I tell you is trustworthy and true.” And he also said, “It is finished! I am the Alpha and the Omega—the Beginning and the End. To all who are thirsty I will give freely from the springs of the water of life. All who are victorious will inherit all these blessings, and I will be their God, and they will be my children.

Reflection:

Memorial Day Weekend: our culture has decided this opens summer. The kids are out of school, vacations are planned, family reunions begin, and for a few days work is not a priority. The enormous rains from this week even have the farmers stepping away from the fields.

Yet, Memorial Day was created to remember those who served our country. Our country’s history developed due to the sacrifices of its citizens. War birthed the nation, and the battles that have preserved its declaration of independence and its constitution have filled cemeteries from coast to coast. The red in the flag reminds us of all the blood shed through this country’s history.

The historical significance of Memorial Day is dwindling, though, and it is important for us to remember that the veterans who have died and those still with us answered a call to serve at the risk of their own lives in order that we may live safely as Americans.

Sadly, the Church’s significance is dwindling, too. This Memorial Day Weekend can also serve to remind us of the saints who have also remained faithful to God’s call to love one another. Cemeteries around this world are filled with the bodies of those who died for their faith. Some are martyrs whose death was violent, vicious, unprovoked, or silent while sitting in prisons.

There is absolutely no way to prove to the skeptics the promises shared in the Bible. There is no way to guarantee that certain statements of faith or even lifestyles assure us that life is eternal. Yet, the words captured in the Bible, first shared orally and now translated and printed in every language found in our world, continue to tell us that God does offer us life everlasting even though our bodies do not.

John’s book, Revelation, challenges today’s readers’ perception of God’s promise. The imagery teases us with the beauty promised, but the surrealistic images also cause us to question the truth of the words because they do not match our understanding of reality. Yet we are drawn to read and understand what John is telling us.

Understanding the words depends on our willingness to trust that God speaks to us through these words, but also through our experiences and even those of others. Memorial Day can be one more time that we remember God’s promises while remembering those in our lives who have done all they could for others in all kinds of ways.

In John’s words shared in Revelation 21:3, we hear a promise:

I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them.

 

These words provide hope for the living. This weekend we hear those words and know that God is with us as we travel the highways, as we work the fields, as we clean our homes, and battle the tiresome routines of living. Our faith in God provides us hope in managing all that we do.

As we remember all those who have lived and died in our lives, we can see example after example of those whose faith made it possible to manage all the trials and tribulations of living. We can take courage in knowing that they lived with God, and even now are still living with God.

Today, celebrate the living by living with God in your lives. Celebrate those who you loved and even those in the generations before you who lived with God in their lives. Celebrate Jesus, too. God did whatever he could to make our faith real. He even stepped down beside us in the flesh as Jesus to demonstrate how easy it really can be to live a Christ-like life, a God-driven life.

We have witnessed faith in others, and we know we can live with faith, too. The trials and tribulations, even the battlefield’s trials and tribulations, can be managed with our faith and the hope that God’s promise of eternal life will erase all the negatives of the here and now.

The words from Revelation 21 continue:

He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.”

 

Tears may well be part of this Memorial Day Weekend as we feel the loss of family and friends, but the promise that God provides and has provided throughout history wipes away the tears and the sorrow.

In the study notes from the Life Application Bible, we hear hope in words that share an understanding of John’s revelation:

Have you ever wondered what eternity will be like? The “Holy City, the New Jerusalem” is described as the place where God will “wipe every tear from their eyes.” Forevermore, there will be no death, pain, sorrow, or crying. What a wonderful truth. No matter what you are going through, it’s not the last word—God has written the final chapter, and it is about true fulfillment and eternal joy for those who love him. We do not know as much as we would like, but it is enough to know that eternity with God will be more wonderful than we could ever imagine.

 

We do not know the reality of life eternal, but we have faith in those who have learned the reality. This Memorial Day Weekend is the perfect time to remember that God loved us so much that he gave his only son Jesus Christ so that we might have life eternal, too.

I have had family and friends who wanted me to believe, and I only hope that those in my life know I want them to believe, too. How I share that news may not be as open and honest as it should, but John did not hesitate to share what God shared with him in his revelation:

And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!” And then he said to me, “Write this down, for what I tell you is trustworthy and true.” And he also said, “It is finished! I am the Alpha and the Omega—the Beginning and the End. To all who are thirsty I will give freely from the springs of the water of life. All who are victorious will inherit all these blessings, and I will be their God, and they will be my children.

 

The promise is shared. The promise gives life purpose. The promise is the reason for living and for remembering all those saints who now know that God is the Alpha and the Omega. The saints we honor this weekend are those who now share the cup and the bread with God, the father, the son and the Holy Spirit along with the multitude of saints already there.

Closing prayer:

Dear God, the Alpha and the Omega,

 

Wipe away the tears of those who suffer,

Who feel the pain of loss and loneliness.

Wipe away the tears of those struggling

To understand the promise of life eternal.

 

Use us today to share your love

To provide hope to the hopeless.

Use us today to share your love

To ease the pain and suffering.

 

Give us the words to assure the questioning

That living Christ-like lives gives purpose

To our daily lives and all its ups and downs

And will lead to the ultimate life eternal.

 

Thank you for all of creation.

Thank you for the gift of unfailing love.

Thank you for the saints in our lives.

Thank you for the blessing of life eternal.

 

In your name, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, amen.

 

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God sent us a lifesaver

given on Sunday, May 15, 2016–Pentecost Sunday

Scripture connection: Romans 8:14-17, NLT

The law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature.[c] So God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins. . . .

. . . That’s why those who are still under the control of their sinful nature can never please God.

But you are not controlled by your sinful nature. You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you. (And remember that those who do not have the Spirit of Christ living in them do not belong to him at all.) 10 And Christ lives within you, so even though your body will die because of sin, the Spirit gives you life[d] because you have been made right with God. 11 The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you.

Reflection:

Surely you have heard the adage, If someone offers you a breath meant, take it.” From our perspective, we may not think we have bad breath, but from those around us, the truth may be different—we may have bad breath.

If you are on a boat, you are expected to wear a life preserver. If someone offers you one, you put it on. You may not need it, but the life preserver protects you from any unfortunate trial while on the boat. The friends who offered you the life preserver are doing whatever possible to protect you.

God sent his son Jesus Christ as our personal lifesaver. How can we possibly ignore this gift? Much less, God went one step farther in assuring that we are never alone—he sent a personal advocate, the Holy Spirit. Once we accept Christ as our redeemer, we also accept the responsibility to live Christ-like lives. We are to offer life preservers to others.

Observing Pentecost in today’s worship service reminds us of the responsibility we have to live Christ-like lives at all times. This is tough work. We do not always anticipate what God wants us to do, but living our faith out loud provides others models of God’s life-saving love for us.

Others also witness how we accept the responsibility to love one another, as we want to be loved. This means we will do whatever we can for whomever we can whenever we can, just like John Wesley asks us to do. This operating system is not simple so thank goodness God sent us the life preserver also known as the Holy Spirit.

The chorus in, Let Them See Me clearly explains that others are watching us and we need to make sure that what others see how God works through us:

Let them see You in me let them hear You when I speak
Let them feel You when I sing
Let them see You, let them see You in me

Each verse in the hymn serves as a reminder of how God want us to live. Even when all the trappings in our lives are removed and we are stripped back to the very core of who we are, others should see God in us.

Studying the book of Revelation through the insight of N. H. Wright, the connection to the Holy Spirit and God’s expectations for our life mission—singularly and as a community—is inseparable. God hates evil and he commissioned us to do all we can possibly do to eradicate evil. Evil hovers at the edge of our lives just waiting for an opportunity to step in and destroy our God-centered life filled with grace and love and beauty.

As complicated as Revelation’s figurative and symbolic language is to us today, the message never changes. God placed upon his human creation the responsibility to care for the entire world he placed us in. He is not giving up on us; he just equips us for the job. The Holy Spirit, the breathe of God, is the fuel, the skills, the language, and the drive we need to be God’s representative right here, right now:

Let them see You in me let them hear You when I speak
Let them feel You when I sing
Let them see You, let them see You in me

These words echo in our minds as we turn our lives over to God and he breathes on us. God offers us a lifesaver, an Advocate, known as the Holy Spirit. We even recognize him in others regardless of their heritage, their language, or their station in life because the Holy Spirit is love.

Have you accepted Jesus in your life? Maybe you are asking yourself if saying it means it is true. Accepting Jesus means living the Christ-like life God asks you to live. Do you live knowing that you have been given a life preserver? Do you live a life that reflects God’s grace and love so others “can see God in you”? Do your words sound like Jesus’ words of compassion, grace, healing, and love?

The story of Pentecost as described in Acts 2, may defy our human understanding, but the Holy Spirit can make us able to find ways to share God’s message and to do God’s work in ways that others can “see him” in us. The Holy Spirit does not segregate, either. The Holy Spirit erases the differences of gender, age, culture, economics, and education. The Holy Spirit is for everybody who accepts Jesus’ sacrifice for our sins.

Accept God’s gift of the Holy Spirit and then depend on it. The gift is not a quick fix for all the struggles we face in our lives, but the Holy Spirit equips us for those struggles. Our responsibility is to be disciplined in our Christian faith. We are to worship, to study the Word, to stay in conversation with God through our prayers, and we are to reach out to others in all the ways that we can. Living our lives so others see God in us will battle evil that threatens to destroy God’s world.

Closing prayer

Dear God,
Thank you for loving us so much you sent Jesus to save us.
May we live so others see you.

Thank you for trusting us to do your work.
May our actions show others your love.

Thank you for equipping us with the Holy Spirit.
May we live so others may experience your saving grace. –Amen

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