Tag Archives: Mary

Moms know faith handles changes

 

given on Sunday, May 10, 2015–Mothers Day

Lectionary Scriptures:

I John 5: 1Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ[a] has become a child of God. And everyone who loves the Father loves his children, too. We know we love God’s children if we love God and obey his commandments. Loving God means keeping his commandments, and his commandments are not burdensome. For every child of God defeats this evil world, and we achieve this victory through our faith. And who can win this battle against the world? Only those who believe that Jesus is the Son of God.

And Jesus Christ was revealed as God’s Son by his baptism in water and by shedding his blood on the cross[b]—not by water only, but by water and blood. And the Spirit, who is truth, confirms it with his testimony.

Ladies: Hold up your purses. Now, look around at each other’s purses and/or bags. Do they look the same or are they each different? Could you divide them up into similar categories? Does each bag show the personality of the one holding it?

If we are all being totally honest, we like our bags more than we need them. Plus, we do have to admit that the styles of the bags seem to identify our ages and/or our personality.

How does this pertain to Sunday morning worship? Well, this Sunday it does. A woman’s purse or bag has long been a symbol of preparedness, at least in our society. It serves as a means of carrying supplies, identity, currency, and sometimes a snack, medicines, or even emergency repair items. Kids quickly learned to turn to mom if they needed something and odds were that it was in that bag.

Going over this, I wondered what does that design and contents of purses/bags tell us. Could it identify the personality, the age, or the person’s role in life? Does the choice of the purse/bag change as our lives change? That lead to the next question: Do we wear our faith like we carry our purses/bags? What in or on that bag shows how important our faith is to us?

A few months ago, a Christian retail company sent a sample devotional, Woman of God: Joy in the Journey (which, by the way, is small enough to carry in a bag). Five different mothers in the Bible are the subjects of the devotions targeting 21st century life. The mothers include Sarah, Ruth, Deborah, Mary and Martha.

The stories of these five individuals are extremely different, but each one shares as examples of how God led to such joy for each one of them despite all their different, trying, real-life experiences. The first one is about how Sarah’s faith helped her withstand the emotional drain of not having children in a society that believed children was evidence of God’s favor.

Sarah remained faithful. The devotional puts this in very real perspective:

For years she and Abram had waited and prayed for a child. . . .Still, [at the age of 60] Sarah waited. She waited another 25 years? She went through menopause, maybe even holding her breath when decreasing hormone levels interrupted her monthly cycle. Still, no baby. Little by little, her joy seeped away.

 

Sarah’s faith survived all the issues and late, very late in life, she gave birth to a son. Her faith sustained all the ups and downs in her life, and God never forgot her, either.

The story of Ruth, found generations later in the Old Testament, is a story of loss. She learned of God’s love through her marriage, but her husband died. She was in a foreign land with no family except her mother-in-law Naomi. Returning to her home would have distanced her from the faith that sustained her through her losses.

By living in a faith-based community, despite all the poverty and loss that Ruth found Naomi and herself living, God remembered them and Boaz served as God’s loving arms to care for them. Marrying Ruth, Boaz also accepted the care of Naomi, too. And even more, Ruth then gave birth to a son who was part of Jesus’ lineage.

The third woman is Deborah. Her story is found in Judges 4 and 5. The description of Deborah is very different as she was a prophetess and a judge for the Jewish people. In today’s society, she would be one who broke the “glass ceiling” in the male-dominated world. She stepped out of the ancient stereotypical female role.

Her role may be an easier one to relate to in our lifetime since our culture includes many female leaders. Still, the devotional states that despite her community role, she considered herself a mother and the Israelites turned to her even in battle:

            . . .the spirit-wounded Israelites lived immobilized by fear. They needed to turn to their Lord in faith and rekindle their confidence in his love. They needed Mother Deborah.

            What a job for that woman of God! Mothering one screaming toddler or stubborn teen exhausts any mom, yet Deborah joyfully took on an entire nation, especially their army. Where did she find the strength?

            Debra drew her power from the Lord.

 

The model of how faith gives us the strength to manage our difficult lives reaches beyond the Old Testament right into the New Testament with the story of Mary, the mother of Jesus. Many Mothers’ Day articles and sermons would naturally seem to relate to the story of Mary, but today her personal story demonstrates the power of faith.

Mary was a teenager, raised in a devout Jewish family of Levites priests. Naturally she had to question how this could happen, but when reassured by Gabriel that nothing is impossible through the power of the Holy Spirit, she believed. Her faith in God, through the Holy Spirit, could do anything, and that gave her the strength to carry out her role in the birth of God as the human son Jesus.

The Old Testament shares the changes in the role of women, but the New Testament continues the story. Faith in God is so important to manage all the various roles women must manage. Yes, the demands life places before us tire us—men and women both.

The final story in the devotional is Martha’s story. We have heard someone described as ‘a Martha.’ The reference is to the way a person attends to all the details of serving meals, keeping house, preparing for visitors, and making sure the visitors’ needs are met.

And like Martha, the need to make sure everything is perfect for the guests, makes us so frustrated with others who do not help. We complain that no one cares; we gripe because we have more details we have to get done before we can join in the visiting.

But Jesus loved Martha and kindly told her to let go of all the business in being the hostess. He knew that her stress was interfering with the love of God. He slowed her down and loved her so she could receive the joy of knowing God.

The irony of Martha’s story is that once she did slow down, she was able to reduce her stress and recharge so she could do more. That sounds like the advice we all need today. We need to spend time with Jesus in order to reduce our stress and recharge to serve.

What changes have mothers had? Or, maybe there really are no changes in mothers. The women of the Old and New Testament have lived with the same issues and problems as today’s women. There really is no change, the change is in knowing God.

Granted, the handbag demonstration may have seemed a little corny, but it shows us how fashion or purpose affects the choice of different purses/bags. The stories of the five women are each different, too. Yet there is this one unifying key: faith. God created us in his or her image. The physical changes in men and women today may be evidenced through various data, but faith in God is as important today as it has been since the beginning.

Today’s scripture follows the crucifixion. The fact that the man Jesus was no longer present was a definite change for the earliest believers, but the presence of God did not change.   The presence of God is always available and available to everyone:

1Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ[a] has become a child of God. And everyone who loves the Father loves his children, too.

The stories of the Bible include five mothers who struggled with all the same problems we have yet today. And despite everything, the only thing they needed was to love God and receive God’s love:

Loving God means keeping his commandments, and his commandments are not burdensome. For every child of God defeats this evil world, and we achieve this victory through our faith. And who can win this battle against the world? Only those who believe that Jesus is the Son of God.

 

These verses from I John were written after Jesus’ resurrection from the tomb. We must know that they are words for today, too. None of us know when the second coming of Jesus will be, but just as mothers have known throughout the generations, God defeats evil as long as we believe.

I guess the most important thing to carry in my bag is my faith and maybe a way to read the Bible so I can spend some time with him as I learn to model the faithful who have lived before me.

Closing prayer

Dear God,

The stresses in life drain us

So thank you for sharing the stories

Of your faithful followers.

With each story, we find you.

In our own lives,

We have stories of mothers

Who also managed challenges

by their faith in you.

Thank you for them

And for the others

who model faith for us.

Guide us in our own lives

To spend time with you

Through words of the Bible,

Prayer, song and meditation

So we, too, can manage life

And all its changes with joy

And the strength you provide.

–Amen

Closing words from scripture:

 

The lectionary scripture from John 15 are too valuable when talking about how faith works, especially in the context of mothers, to ignore. Therefore, these words are shared in part as a benediction for each and every person who is facing life challenges.

 

John 15:“I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. 10 When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. 11 I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow! 12 This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. 13 There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me. 16 You didn’t choose me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using my name. 17 This is my command: Love each other.

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The Reality of Christmas: in history and yet today

This is the script with leading descriptors and scripture which was used during the annual Christmas Gathering.  No full essay/sermon, just thoughts to share and discuss supported by scripture.  By including the hymns, one can see connections to all elements of the service portion of the evening.

Share the “The Reality of Christmas”

  • Look at what God saw when the prophets began announcing the coming of the Messiah
  • Consider what the faithful believed would happen
  • How did time affect the faithful

 

The Words of the Prophet (NLT)

Psalm 2 (1,000 years before Christ was born)

Why are the nations so angry?
Why do they waste their time with futile plans? . . .

But the one who rules in heaven laughs.
The Lord scoffs at them.
Then in anger he rebukes them,
terrifying them with his fierce fury.
For the Lord declares, “I have placed my chosen king on the throne
in Jerusalem,[a] on my holy mountain.”

The king proclaims the Lord’s decree:
“The Lord said to me, ‘You are my son.[b]
Today I have become your Father.[c] . . .

10 Now then, you kings, act wisely!
Be warned, you rulers of the earth!
11 Serve the Lord with reverent fear,
and rejoice with trembling.
12 Submit to God’s royal son,[e] or he will become angry,
and you will be destroyed in the midst of all your activities—
for his anger flares up in an instant.
But what joy for all who take refuge in him!

Isaiah (about 750 years before Christ was born)

7:13-56       13 Then Isaiah said, “Listen well, you royal family of David! Isn’t it enough to exhaust human patience? Must you exhaust the patience of my God as well? 14 All right then, the Lord himself will give you the sign. Look! The virgin[f] will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God is with us’). . . .

9: 1-2           . . . in the future he will honor Galilee of the nations, by the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan—

The people walking in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
a light has dawned.

Answers to the prophets found in the New Testament

Luke 2:4-6            So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born,

Hymn 230           O Little Town of Bethlehem

Matthew 1:17       17 All those listed above include fourteen generations from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the Babylonian exile, and fourteen from the Babylonian exile to the Messiah.

Luke 2:1-7           In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while[a] Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register.

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

Hymn 217           Away in the Manger (with Kids leading in Chilhowee)

 

The Reality of Christmas is now:

  • Jesus, the baby, arrives and the present begins.
  • Time is a human determination, not God’s
  • Look at the world through God’s eyes and ask: Are we faithful? Why are the nations so angry (like in Psalms 2)? Have we exhausted God’s patience (like in Isaiah)?
  • The reality is that God did send his savior, a very real man who walked on the earth, who demonstrated the ideals God had for his children.
  • We carry the Word from generation to generation, from country to country, from one home to the next home . . . and the Word lives.

 

Hymn 242           Love Came Down at Christmas

 

New Testament shares the Word:

Luke 2:8-12          That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, 10 but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. 11 The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! 12 And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”

Hymn 238           Angels We Have Heard on High

 

The Reality of Christmas is now.

  • The wise men knew the story.
  • The prophecies are fulfilled.
  • We know the message to share.
  • We hold on to love and to justice.

 

The New Testament shares the Wise Men’s story

Matthew 2:1-6 and 10-12        Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the reign of King Herod. About that time some wise men[a] from eastern lands arrived in Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose,[b] and we have come to worship him.”

King Herod was deeply disturbed when he heard this, as was everyone in Jerusalem. He called a meeting of the leading priests and teachers of religious law and asked, “Where is the Messiah supposed to be born?”

“In Bethlehem in Judea,” they said, “for this is what the prophet wrote:

‘And you, O Bethlehem in the land of Judah,
are not least among the ruling cities[c] of Judah,
for a ruler will come from you
who will be the shepherd for my people Israel.’[d]

. . . 10 When they saw the star, they were filled with joy! 11 They entered the house and saw the child with his mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasure chests and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

12 When it was time to leave, they returned to their own country by another route, for God had warned them in a dream not to return to Herod.

The reality of Christmas is . . .

  • God never gives up on his children
  • What happened before Jesus’ birth is the past, but Jesus is the promise of now and forever.
  • As long as we live a life holding on to love for one another and to hold on to justice, the Word lives and Christmas continues day after day, year after year, and on into eternity.

 

Hymn 246           Joy to the World

 

Hymn 234           Silent Night

 

The Benediction

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