Archive for February, 2018


Betrayal

Sermon-Slide-Wk2When we hear the word betray and people who remind us of this, we usually think of only a few. The betrayal of Caesar by Brutus, et tu brute? The political betrayer in Benedict Arnold. And certainly, Judas Iscariot, as he betrays Jesus with a kiss.

The scene is another garden in Jesus’ ministry, this time the garden of Gethsemane. Immediately after the Seder supper which was shared with his disciples, Jesus brings Peter, James, and John with him to the garden to pray. It is around midnight and Jesus is feeling the agony of the plan coming to fruition. He tells his friends to keep awake while he goes to pray. After a short time of prayer, Jesus comes back to find his friends sleeping. Now, if we think about this meal as a 4-5 hour celebration full of food and wine, then we can understand why the disciples would have been tired. I know I would have been tired.

Jesus leaves them again to pray a couple more times, each time returning to find them asleep on the job. So when I think about betraying Jesus, I do see Judas’ actions as a betrayal, but I wonder about Peter, James, and John. I find language interesting and after looking up the word used for “betrayed,” describing Judas’ actions, I found that the word in Greek “paradidomai” was also used in 1st Corinthians and is translated as “abandon.”

I find that Peter, James, and John also betrayed Jesus in their abandonment in the times when Jesus needed them the most. They abandoned him mentally by falling asleep, and then later they abandoned Jesus physically by running away right after he was arrested. Peter even took it a step further by denying that he even knew him three times.

So the question becomes, when have we been like the disciples in our abandonment of Jesus? When have we been spiritually asleep? When have we run away from God? I think that everytime we find ourselves not wanting to go and do the things God is asking us to, when we are inactive in ministry, when we have an uncaring attitude, when we are selfish, and even when we are full of pride and not wanting God’s help or guidance in our lives, this is when we are spiritually asleep. We may call ourselves “Christian” but we are asleep. We are going through the motions, but our hearts aren’t in it. This is the emphasis on much of Jesus’ ministry. He was concerned with not only what was on the outside, but more importantly, what was on the inside.

We also betray Jesus when we run away from him and from his calling on our lives. We can see this in sin, when we miss the mark of God’s desire. When we don’t love our neighbors or care for others. When we turn our backs on the church, thinking that we can worship in solitude only. This also comes in our prodigal moments. We feel we know better and don’t need God to live our lives, so we go off and do what we want, only to realize later that we truly need a Savior.

So, here’s the good news for you today. We find Jesus’ response to the betrayals at the end of the Gospel of Mark. Here we find Jesus doing two things. First, he rebukes them and their behaviors. But I don’t see this as a scolding, more of an expression of disappointment. But then he tells them to get to work. He gives them commands to go out into the world and make disciples. With this command, I see forgiveness, just as Peter is reinstated and forgiven for his denials, the rest of the disciples are forgiven and given the task of taking Jesus’ message out to the world.

Whether you find yourself spiritually asleep, or running away from God at this moment, know that God has not abandoned you. Throughout scripture, we are given promises. God never sleeps or slumbers. He will never leave you or forsake you. He loves you and wants to welcome you home. In fact, he runs to meet you, even when you were far away. He sees you and runs to you, and then throws a big party, celebrating the fact that you have returned home.

Advertisements

The Last Supper

Sermon-Slide-wk1Last Wednesday was the beginning of the Lenten season with the remembrance of Ash Wednesday, when we remember that we came from dust and that we will return to dust. We remember our own mortality and begin a journey over the next forty days as we move towards Easter. This is a time of reflection, a time of searching, and a time of self-denial.

We at Lanark United Methodist Church have begun a worship series where we will explore the last 24 hours of Jesus’ life. This will focus on Thursday at 6pm through Friday afternoon. So, the next few weeks we will focus on that here as well.

We begin our journey with a celebration meal celebrated on Thursday evening. We find through some of the gospel accounts that it is time for Passover celebrations. Venues are arranged, tables are set, and the meal is prepared. But this is no ordinary meal. This is a narrative told through a meal. Now, if you think some of your dinners can take a while to serve and eat, think about this; the Passover meal can take up to five hours or more to complete. But we must see that this is not just a meal, it’s a retelling of a story.

The Passover meal, sometimes referred to as the Seder supper, retells the story that the Jewish people have shared generation to generation. It is the story of slavery to freedom, oppression to liberation. It is the story of Moses leading the people away from the oppression and slavery they faced in Egypt under Pharaoh. But it could also be our story. We find ourselves in slavery to any number of things in this world. Then God offers us deliverance.

During the Seder Supper, the participants read, eat, celebrate, and remember. They retell their story, the story of the Jewish faith and the covenant which God made with them. Different elements that are found within the supper retell certain parts of the story. There is the lamb which reminds them of the sacrifice that was made and marking the doorposts with its blood allowing the final plague to Passover their house. A bowl of salt water retells of the tears shed during their oppression as well as deliverance through the Red Sea from the Egyptians and Pharaoh.

Then there were four cups of wine. These were symbols of the four promises of God from Exodus 6:6-8. It was during one of those cups of wine that Jesus does something new. He breaks tradition within this supper as he shares a new covenant with his disciples. Jesus shares words that are so familiar to us today. As he takes the unleavened bread and breaks it, he shares; “This is my body, which is broken for you.” Then he holds one of those four cups of blessing and shares these powerful words; “Take and drink, this is my blood of the new covenant which has been poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins, do this as often as you drink of it in remembrance of me.”

Jesus makes a new covenant during this special meal with his disciples, but its more than that. Its more than just a covenant with those present, it is a new covenant for all of us. Every time we celebrate this sacrament, we remember what Jesus has done for us. We celebrate with others around us. We give thanks for the sacrifice made on our behalf. And as we celebrate a foretaste of what it will be like at that final meal, we receive that grace of Jesus Christ.

There is so much wrapped up in this special meal that we should never take it for granted, just thinking it’s another ritual from the church. It is so much more. This is one of those moments that we truly enter into the presence of our Lord and Savior through the power of the Holy Spirit, and partake in a spiritual refueling, an awakening, a soul feeding, grace filled moment especially meant for all of us. The table is set, the host is present, come and feast at the table of our Lord.

Website-Sermon-Slide-Wk4This week we conclude our series of topics based on Christian clichés or what we have been calling ‘half-truths.’ These are phrases that we should probably strike from our vocabulary altogether. They may have some truth to them, but I can see how they would hurt more than help those who are on the receiving end of the comment.

Our phrase today is “God said it, I believe it, that settles it.” And on the outside, it might not seem like there is that much wrong with this statement, but when explored a bit deeper, we can see how detrimental this can be. Let’s break it down a bit.

When we hear ‘God said it’ we are almost always referring to the Bible, God’s word. Now you may be asking yourself, I thought we were supposed to following what the Bible says? This sacred book is full of God’s commands and I thought we were supposed to follow those? I would offer you this answer; yes, and no. You see, there are a few problems with this. If we truly take this literally, than we need to follow all of the Bible’s commands or laws, but we may not want to.

Scripture contains passages that I’m sure we wouldn’t want to follow anymore. There are verses that talk about punishments for adultery and a rebellious child as being death. There are rules about what we can eat which eliminates favorites like bacon, shrimp, and lobster. According to another passage, we should not have any tattoos or trimmed beards. And this doesn’t even touch the topic of women being silent in church. God said it, I believe it, that settles it? We need to be careful with how we look at scripture and not make it overly simplistic, unless you want to use Jesus’ comment about which law is the greatest. He said that all the law is summed up in two commandments; love God with all your heart, soul, and mind, and to love your neighbor as yourself. That is a verse I can get behind!

As for the rest, I suggest that we read it within its context. Don’t ‘proof-text’ by pulling a single verse out of scripture and placing a full belief in it without understanding the context of the story this verse is found. It may be absolutely true, but then again, in a particular context it may have a completely different meaning than the one you are trying to prove by using it.

The Holy Spirit helps us with this as we pray for guidance in our reading. The Bible is a living word for us and we need the Spirit’s guidance in determining its meaning for us today. Paul did this as he was confronted by the issue of circumcision as Gentiles were coming to faith and the Jewish people pointed out that the Old Testament law commands circumcision for acceptance among the covenant people. Paul discussed that God was not that caught up in this, but more in restoring the relationship that was lost.

Interpretation and understanding is incredibly important, and must be approached with the Spirit’s help. But here’s something else I know. If we look throughout scripture and our lives today, we come to the question of what is the Word of God? Or maybe the better question would be; who is the Word of God? The Gospel of John tells us that the “Word of God became flesh and dwelt among us.”

Jesus Christ is the Word of God! All we read in scripture should be read in light or through the lens of Jesus. Case in point; Old Testament law commands that an adulterer be stoned to death. But Jesus, when faced with a woman who was caught in the act of adultery, tells the Pharisees and others gathered that whoever was without sin, cast the first stone. Boulders dropped to the ground and everyone walked away. Jesus told the woman that her accusers had left and that he didn’t accuse her either, go and sin no more.

I hope you can see that the phrase ‘God said it, I believe it, that settles it’ is a phrase that is best left alone. Yes, we are a people of one book, but we must remember that the true Word of God is our personal Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. And he told us two commands; love God and love your neighbor. So go and love!

Sermon-Slide-Wk3Ever hear this phrase; “God won’t give you more than you can handle?” Ever say it? Why do we use phrases like this, when do we usually hear them? I think most of the time we hear them when we are facing some difficult struggles in our lives. Whether it’s the loss of a loved one, a relationship, or any of countless other times when we find ourselves in places in our lives which are not at all comfortable.

This is another one of those phrases that we refer to as half-truths. It sounds alright when you say it or when someone tell this to you, but how true is it? Will God truly not give you more than you can handle? My suggestion is that we remove this phrase from our vocabulary and try to find something better to say, or maybe we just need to be present with those struggling. Let me explain why I think this.

The origins of this phrase were believed to come from a passage from 1 Corinthians, chapter 10 where we are told that God won’t allow us to be tempted beyond our ability. And I guess at a quick glance, this might seem similar to our first phrase of God won’t give you more than you can handle. But really, they are not even close.

First of all, this passage is talking about temptations and I don’t know about you, but when I lost my job a while ago, I didn’t feel like that was a temptation, that was a crisis situation. The other part of this passage tells us not that God won’t tempt us, because he doesn’t, but that he won’t allow us to be tempted. That’s a big difference. So, I don’t think this passage matches up at all with the phrase.

There are a couple of other things that I want to bring up with this phrase as well. Because there are a couple of implications that we hear. First, if we are to believe this statement, then God causes bad things to happen. In this phrase we are saying that God is the source of all our problems; “God won’t give you.” God doesn’t cause these bad things to happen.

Second is this, if we are to believe this phrase, then we are on our own. You see, it tells us more than YOU can handle. There is no implying that anyone else is with us, we need to handle it on our own. This most certainly is false. Throughout scripture we hear the words fear not, don’t be afraid, do not fear. Why are we told not to fear, because God is with us, always. Do not fear is mentioned over 140 times in the Bible and many times it is followed immediately by another phrase; “for I am with you.”

The last thing I want to bring to your attention comes from the last part of the phrase; “more than you can handle.” Have you ever been there, where you have had more than you can handle, and you needed help? I think we all have at some point. We’re not alone in this. Some of the biggest names in the Bible had to deal with times like this. Jeremiah wanted to have the day that he was born cursed. Moses wanted God to kill him right where he was. Job had everything taken away from him. These people reached points in their lives when they felt they couldn’t go on, by themselves. But thankfully, God was with them, just as he is with us.

So when you think of this phrase, and it almost comes off your lips during a tense situation, I want you to think of rephrasing it so that it becomes true and may offer some real comfort. What I would like you to do is change this phrase from; “God won’t give you more than you can handle” to God will help you with all you’ve been given.” Because God will help you, and he will walk with you, every step of your journey.