“Renewal, Revival, and Rejoicing”


This is the message that I gave at Grannie Annie’s Kitchen (Grace UMC, Newburgh) on Saturday, October 19th, for the 22nd Sunday after Pentecost (Year C). The Scriptures for this Sunday were Jeremiah 31: 27 – 34, 2 Timothy 3: 14 – 4: 5; and Luke 18: 1 – 8; I focused primarily on the passage from Jeremiah but used thoughts from the other two readings as well.

When I thought about the title for this message, my first thought was something like “Destruction, Desolation, and Despair.” But that is a rather depressing title and neither the direction that I wanted to take the message nor indicative of the Scriptures for this weekend. So I looked again at the Scriptures and I thought about it and came up with “Renewal, Revival, and Rejoicing.”

But you have to realize that from destruction, desolation, and despair, to renewal, revival, and rejoicing, you have to think about what was happening to the Israelites some 3000 years ago and again some 2000 years ago and in this country some 200 or so years ago and perhaps even today.

The Old Testament reading comes at a time when the people of Israel are returning home after exile in Babylon. But they are returning to a country that has been completely and totally destroyed. The best and brightest of the Israelite society have been taken away and it would seem that there is no way that the country can be rebuilt. Amidst the desolation and destruction, there is only despair; there is no hope.

It was that way when during the time of Jesus’ ministry. Perhaps there wasn’t much destruction since the country had been rebuilt but there certainly had to be desolation and despair. The country was occupied by a foreign power and was governed by a group of political and religious authorities who were more interested in their own power and sought favor from the Roman occupiers. Many of the people felt that there was no hope, no mercy, and certainly no justice unless, of course, one had money and power.

And two hundred years ago in this country, amidst the destruction and desolation that followed the American Revolution, there had to be a degree of despair. Because of the revolution, many of the clergy affiliated with the Anglican Church, the state church of the colonies and England, had left for the safety of England rather than stay through the struggles. This left many in this country without pastoral leadership.

In these three eras of history, there was clearly destruction and desolation and most certainly there was despair. To see hope and promise was very, very difficult if not even seemingly possible. And today, when there are still homeless, there is still hunger and sickness, it is quite easy to sense the despair amidst the destruction and desolation in the land that many see as the 21st century Promised Land, the “land of milk and honey.”

But against that background, against the attitude that perhaps there is no hope, no promise for a better tomorrow and no future, there is hope, there is a promise. It began with Jesus walking the roads of the Galilee, speaking about the promise and not just speaking but offering hope through healing, feeding, and prayer. It continued with Paul offering advice to Timothy, his successor.

Paul told Timothy to stick with what he, Timothy, had been taught and not get caught up with the spiritual junk food that so many other preachers of that time were offering. You know those type of preachers, they are still with us today.

They speak with smooth tongues and syrupy sweet voices, offering untold riches if you will send them your money. Maybe that would be the way to go, after all when they have your money they go out and buy expensive suits and fancy cars for themselves. I don’t think that is what is in the Gospel.

And I don’t trust those preachers who tell you that all the problems of the world are somebody else fault and that there is no hope for you, a lost sinner. I’ve heard these preachers before and all I know is that they do not speak the same words that Jesus spoke nor is what they offer what God offered me.

A God who would send His son to the world to save me from my sins because He loved me would not send a preacher to say there is no hope. Nor would He have His Son, Jesus, tell us that it was easy to get into heaven.

Paul told Timothy to keep preaching the Gospel, preach it with intensity and challenge the people. He reminded Timothy that it would be hard work and it would be difficult but it would be worth it when it was all said and done.

The call for mercy, justice, and hope can never be quieted. Jesus told the people about the persistent widow, who would call for justice and mercy from a judge corrupt beyond belief.

Just like the people who heard Jesus tell this story, we know how this story turns out. But Jesus said that the judge will ultimately grant the widow justice because it was the right thing to do.

For us today, in a world perhaps without hope or promise, we have to understand that God will not forget us; we have to understand that God will respond to our cries for help. But those who call out must continue to watch, listen, and work towards the outcome. Too many people today call out for God, “Help me, God!” and turn away when He does not answer immediately.

But as they are turning away, there is God reaching out. It isn’t that God didn’t respond; it is that we were not looking when the help was offered. Here the words of Jeremiah again,

Be ready. The time’s coming”—God’s Decree—“when I will plant people and animals in Israel and Judah, just as a farmer plants seed. And in the same way that earlier I relentlessly pulled up and tore down, took apart and demolished, so now I am sticking with them as they start over, building and planting.

These words were spoken to a people amidst the destruction of their country, amidst the despair of a life without hope. These were the words of God saying there was the promise of renewal and revival, of rejoicing in a new beginning.

And when the people of this country cried out for pastoral leadership, John Wesley sent the circuit riders to preach and teach among the people of this country. His actions, by the way, were in defiance of the religious leaders who would not respond to the cries of the people.

And so here we are today, hearing the words of God, seeking to renew our lives and revive our spirits, rejoicing in the thought that through Christ we are saved. In the darkness of times we know that we have not been forgotten, that we are not lost but have been found and if we accept Jesus Christ as our own personal Savior, we have hope for the future.

We have that single opportunity today to renew our lives, revive our spirit and rejoice in Christ. Amen!

Advertisements

“A Nonconformist In A Nonconforming World”


This is the message that I gave at Grannie Annie’s Kitchen (Grace UMC, Newburgh) on Saturday, October 12th, for the 21st Sunday after Pentecost (Year C). The Scriptures for this Sunday were Jeremiah 29: 1, 4- 7; 2 Timothy 2: 8 – 15; and Luke 17: 11 – 19; I focused primarily on the passage from Timothy but used thoughts from the other two readings as well.

Last Sunday I got a note about an interesting book written back in the late 1960s. It was entitled “How To Be A Nonconformist: 22 Irreverent Illustrated Steps to Counterculture Cred from 1968”. It was written and illustrated by a 12-year old girl over in Connecticut. There were two things that were interesting about this book and its author; the author would go on to lead a decidedly nonconforming life and it was the only book that she wrote by herself.

At the end, after listing and illustrating the various rules that one needed to follow, she wrote “Now, you are ready to be a nonconformist.” You turned to the next page and there it read, “just like everyone else.”

I think that 1) that was a pretty good description of our society back then and 2) it still applies today. We seek to be an individual who does his or her own thing yet we end up looking and acting like everyone else. We find our individuality in the common things we share with each other. I am not sure that is being a nonconformist.

I would like to suggest that being a Christian today, in the greatest sense of the word, is to be a nonconformist. In fact, I know that many individuals, Christian and non-Christian today, who would object to that description because they are anything but nonconforming.

And yet, when you look at the work of Jesus as walked the roads of the Galilee you are looking at an individual who did not conform to the rules and regulations of His society. How many times did Jesus heal the sick by touching them, in direct violation of normal rules of society? How many times did He include women and children in His group, again a direct violation of normal behavior? If Jesus’ ministry was anything, it was nonconforming.

And Paul, whose instructions to Timothy are the center of today’s message, was just as much a nonconformist as Jesus was. As Saul, he would seek to persecute Christians because they went against the accepted norms of society. He was very much the conformist, seeking to arrest, persecute, and execute anyone who offered any view that didn’t conform with his society.

But, as Paul, he would continue the preaching the Gospel message that Jesus began and quickly became a nonconformist. And he was sufficiently nonconforming, sufficiently against the standards of society to warrant arrest and persecution. That’s why we heard in the passage this morning that Paul was writing from jail.

Even the early Methodist church was nonconforming; it represented an alternative way of life to the self-indulgence, hedonism, and social fragmentation of society. In a society where admission into God’s Kingdom was believed to be based on who you were and your status in life, the early Methodist church said that all were welcome.

Just as Jeremiah told the people of Israel, returning to their homeland destroyed by war and invasion, when many of what may call the best and brightest were taken away in captivity and slavery, that God had not forsaken them, that there was hope and that they would be able to rebuild their broken lives, so too did the early Methodist church speak out against the norms of society that said hope was impossible for all but a select few.

But we live in a world today where it seems that not much has changed. It is a world where it seems as if people no longer have any hope, that lives cannot be rebuilt and should just be thrown away, where your admittance into God’s Kingdom is still based on the statistical things and not one’s character.

The church must exist as a alternative to that world, it must not conform to the ways of society, it has to be a light to the world and a beacon of God’s coming kingdom that reaches beyond race and class, economic standards and social norms. The church through its people must show the love of God in a world where there is no love. The church through its people must show its concern for and friendship with the poor, the despised and vulnerable people of the world. It has to announce to all that God is present among all the people, including the marginalized, the abused, and the outcast and not just on a Sunday morning at a given hour of the day.

The church through its people must show a moral integrity and commitment to justice that is a prophetic witness to God’s holiness and righteousness. In all that is said and done, the people of the church must stand as an alternative to a society that relies on success, prestige, wealth and power as a means to happiness and salvation.

Paul was preparing Timothy to lead the church when he gave those instructions to him that we read this morning,

Warn them before God against pious nitpicking, which chips away at the faith. It just wears everyone out. Concentrate on doing your best for God, work you won’t be ashamed of, laying out the truth plain and simple. Stay clear of pious talk that is only talk. Words are not mere words, you know. If they’re not backed by a godly life, they accumulate as poison in the soul.

What is that Paul is saying here? He is saying that how we act has a lot to do with where Christ is in our lives and where we are in Christ. If our words are not backed by our actions, then our words are hollow. If we speak of God’s love but have no love, then we do not mean what we say. You cannot say “this is mine and you can’t have it!”

Now, here comes the “tricky” part. The Gospel reading for this weekend is the story of the healing of the ten lepers. The healing of the lepers was one of those acts that literally got Jesus in trouble because it violated so many of society’s (not God’s) rules. Jesus healed ten lepers, ten outcasts, and brought them back into society. And yet, only one of the ten truly understood what had transpired and he came back to say thank you.

I am sure that the other nine were healed just as well as that tenth one was but I wonder how long they stayed healed and cured. It is our nature to take something and not respond; ours is a society where it is me first and no one else (in part, I think that is why Paul was talking about what Timothy had to do).

What happened to those nine lepers who were healed by Jesus but didn’t come back and say thank you? Who knows? They were happy to have been healed and given a chance to get back into society. But the odds are that they didn’t change the way they lived and probably found themselves with the disease again as a result.

Society doesn’t require that they say thank you; God doesn’t ask for a thank you either. God’s grace is free and unlimited to everyone and you can do with it whatever you wish. He gives us His Grace freely and openly; we are the ones who need to be saying thank you, in our words, our thoughts, our deeds, and our actions to God for what He has done for us.

Each day, we are given the opportunity, to accept God’s grace and change the way we live. Instead of being one who tries to be a nonconformist by confirming to the wishes and desires of society, we can find our individuality and soul by being one with Christ.

The challenge for each one of us is to make that decision – shall I accept Christ or shall I continue along the path that I have walked. The first choice gives me the opportunity to be who I am; the second just makes me one of the crowd. The choice is yours today.

Questions To Ask Your Representative and Senators


I know that the following will make some people mad because they want to direct their anger and/or displeasure with the occupant in the White House but here are some questions that should be directed to your Congressman and Senator, no matter what party they belong to?

  1. Why are members of Congress getting paid during the “shutdown”?
  2. Who determines who is an essential employee and who is a non-essential employee?
  3. Why are we, the taxpayers, not allowed to have a voice in the salaries of Representatives and Senators?
  4. Why are Representatives and Senators eligible for full pensions even after serving one-term?
  5. And finally, why are we not allowed to have the same health care benefits that Representatives and Senators have? As plans go, it is a far cry better than anything conceived or offered to the public.

I know it is a lot to ask but why is it that we are suppose to struggle to get by and like it while our elected representatives can live a style that they think that have a right to live in?

Bringing Peace To An Often Violent World


Micah Royal (“Progressive Redneck Preacher”) is doing a series of posts on peace and the Christian’s call to find peace with justice.  I hope that you will follow what he is writing because the more that we focus on finding peace with justice the more likely we are to eliminate war and violence as a means of solving this world’s problems.

For me, the idea of peace is not just something on an international level but often times within the boundaries of our own country and within the boundaries of our cities.  It is what we do at that level which will do much to bring the promises echoed in the readings from Jeremiah for the next weeks to fruition.

And then there is the Congress.  To find peace, you must be aware of the injustice that comes from confrontation.  The Senate this morning was very bluntly reminded of the tasks before them.  The following was in an e-mail that I received this morning:

Senate Chaplain Shows His Disapproval During Morning Prayer

By JEREMY W. PETERS

Published: October 6, 2013

WASHINGTON — The disapproval comes from angry constituents, baffled party elders and colleagues on the other side of the Capitol. But nowhere have senators found criticism more personal or immediate than right inside their own chamber every morning when the chaplain delivers the opening prayer.

“Save us from the madness,” the chaplain, a Seventh-day Adventist, former Navy rear admiral and collector of brightly colored bow ties named Barry C. Black, said one day late last week as he warmed up into what became an epic ministerial scolding.

“We acknowledge our transgressions, our shortcomings, our smugness, our selfishness and our pride,” he went on, his baritone voice filling the room. “Deliver us from the hypocrisy of attempting to sound reasonable while being unreasonable.”

So it has gone every day for the last week when Mr. Black, who has been the Senate’s official man of the cloth for 10 years, has taken one of the more rote rituals on Capitol Hill — the morning invocation — and turned it into a daily conscience check for the 100 men and women of the United States Senate.

Inside the tempestuous Senate chamber, where debate has degenerated into daily name-calling — the Tea Party as a band of nihilists and extortionists, and Democrats as socialists who want to force their will on the American people —  Mr. Black’s words manage to cut through as powerful and persuasive.

During his prayer on Friday, the day after officers from the United States Capitol Police shot and killed a woman who had used her car as a battering ram, Mr. Black noted that the officers were not being paid because of the government shutdown.

Then he turned his attention back to the senators. “Remove from them that stubborn pride which imagines itself to be above and beyond criticism,” he said. “Forgive them the blunders they have committed.”

Senator Harry Reid, the pugnacious majority leader who has called his Republican adversaries anarchists, rumps and hostage takers, took note. As Mr. Black spoke, Mr. Reid, whose head was bowed low in prayer, broke his concentration and looked straight up at the chaplain.

“Following the suggestion in the prayer of Admiral Black,” the majority leader said after the invocation, seeming genuinely contrite, “I think we’ve all here in the Senate kind of lost the aura of Robert Byrd,” one of the historical giants of the Senate, who prized gentility and compromise.

In many ways, Mr. Black, 65, is like any other employee of the federal government who is fed up with lawmakers’ inability to resolve the political crisis that has kept the government closed for almost a week. He is not being paid. His Bible study classes, which he holds for senators and their staff members four times a week, have been canceled until further notice.

His is a nonpartisan position, one of just a few in the Senate, and he prefers to leave his political leanings vague. He was chosen in 2003 by Senator Bill Frist, a Tennessee Republican who was the majority leader at the time, from a group of finalists selected by a bipartisan committee. Before that he ministered in the Navy for nearly 30 years.

“I use a biblical perspective to decide my beliefs about various issues,” Mr. Black said in an interview in his office suite on the third floor of the Capitol. “Let’s just say I’m liberal on some and conservative on others. But it’s obvious the Bible condemns some things in a very forceful and overt way, and I would go along with that condemnation.”

Last year, he participated in the Hoodies on the Hill rally to draw attention to the shooting death of Trayvon Martin. In 2007, after objections from groups that did not like the idea of a Senate chaplain appearing alongside political figures, he canceled a speech he was scheduled to give at an evangelical event featuring, among others, Tony Perkins of the conservative Focus on the Family and the columnist and author Ann Coulter.

Mr. Black, who is the first black Senate chaplain as well as its first Seventh-day Adventist, grew up in public housing in Baltimore, an experience he draws on in his sermons and writings, including a 2006 autobiography, “From the Hood to the Hill.”

In his role as chaplain, a position that has existed since 1789, he acts as a sounding board, spiritual adviser and ethical counselor to members of the Senate. When he prays each day, he said, he recites the names of all 100 senators and their spouses, reading them from a laminated index card.

It is not uncommon for him to have 125 people at his Bible study gatherings or 20 to 30 senators at his weekly prayer breakfast. He officiates weddings for Senate staff members. He performs hospital visitations. And he has been at the side of senators when they have died, most recently Daniel K. Inouye of Hawaii in December.

He tries to use his proximity to the senators — and the fact that for at least one minute every morning, his is the only voice they hear — to break through on issues that he feels are especially urgent. Lately, he said, they seem to be paying attention.

“I remember once talking about self-inflicted wounds — that captured the imagination of some of our lawmakers,” he said. “Remember, my prayer is the first thing they hear every day. I have the opportunity, really, to frame the day in a special way.”

His words lately may be pointed, but his tone is always steady and calm.

“May they remember that all that is necessary for unintended catastrophic consequences is for good people to do nothing,” he said the day of the shutdown deadline.

“Unless you empower our lawmakers,” he prayed another day, “they can comprehend their duty but not perform it.”

The House, which has its own chaplain, liked what it heard from Mr. Black so much that it invited him to give the invocation on Friday.

“I see us playing a very dangerous game,” Mr. Black said as he sat in his office the other day. “It’s like the showdown at the O.K. Corral. Who’s going to blink first? So I can’t help but have some of this spill over into my prayer. Because you’re hoping that something will get through and that cooler heads will prevail.”

Working Toward Peace in a World of War


It is so easy to think that we can solve all of our problems in the same manner that caused them We never consider the cost of war.
Thanks to Micah for putting this peace up.

progressiveredneckpreacher

Recently I was reminded of the costs of war. First, as I mentioned recently, seeing terrorist violence break out in the city of Nairobi, near where the young lady my wife Kat and I hosted as an international exchange student goes to school shook me up making the real costs of war come home to me. Someone’s son or daughter always is threatened, and often dies in the face of war.

As I mentioned in an earlier blog post, hearing and watching that news made me think of this White Lion song:

Yet also recently encountered the cost of war on soldiers as well. This side is one I saw first hand while pastoring a church in Fayetteville, NC, a military town that supports Fort Bragg, NC. I had parishioners whose partners and family members came home scarred and damaged by the physical scars of war. More than one person…

View original post 2,542 more words

Musical Definitions


My daughter, a band director, passed these along to me. Hope you enjoy them!

MUSICAL TERMS (With A Twist)

A PATELLA — Accompanied by knee-slapping

ACCIDENTALS — Wrong notes

AUGMENTED FIFTH — A 36-ounce bottle

COUNTERPOINT — Type of Baroque punishment

CUT TIME — When you’re going twice as fast as everybody else

DETACH? — An indication that the trombones are to play with their slides removed

ENGLISH HORN — Woodwind that got its name because it’s neither English nor a horn (not to be confused with French Horn, which is German)

FLUTE FLIES — Tiny insects that bother transverse flute players at outdoor gigs

GREGORIAN CHANT — Singing in unison, invented by monks to hide snoring

INTONATION — Singing through one’s nose; considered highly desirable in singing medieval music

METRONOME — Short person who lives in the city

PIZZICATO — A small Italian pie garnished with cheese, anchovies, etc.

SPRITZICATO — Indication to krummhorn players to produce a bright and bubbly sound

What Is A Methodist?


Considering that I have to take courses in the history and polity of the United Methodist Church, this is a pretty good list to have available.

irreverendmike

I’m a Meth-head

Wait. That doesn’t sound right….

I’m a Methodist nerd, how about that? Specifically, I’m a John Wesley nerd. I think that Methodism, at its very core, has incredible things to offer this world. Our way of understanding the gospel, and sharing the love of God, is incredibly applicable to the world we find ourselves in.

Alas, so many Methodists do not know what it means to have inherited this rich heritage, passed onto to us through the past 229 plus years.

I’ve begun a new members class at my church and have opened it to current members as well. The whole point is to teach people about what Methodist Christians believe and how we live this out, or at least how we should.

To help spread my methodistness (methodisticity? methodistasticness?) I wrote a newsletter article that went through the sixteen points John Wesley made about Methodist identity…

View original post 848 more words