Courage to Do the Difficult
August 4, 2019
Theme: Jesus made the difficult decision to leave Galilee and go to Jerusalem where he would face certain death. He chose to do what was difficult.
We most usually attempt to divide our lives in to sacred and secular. Activities that have to do with church likeprayer, scripture reading, worship are sacred, but everything else in our lives is secular –family, job, hobbies, community activities. In reality there is no such dualism all of life is sacred. When we look in the mirror, we need to look at every part of our lives.
If we give ourselves to a time of intense self-examination, we might discover all kinds of things about our life. We might discover we need to face our addiction or help a friend or family member face their addictions. We might discover we can’t ignore the unethical practice at the office any longer. We might discover we’re trapped in a dead in job and need more education or learn new skills. We might discover we need to be parents and not our children’s best friend.
The list of what we might discover is infinite and is as individual as we are. The question becomes do we have the courage to do the difficult task of addressing the issues.
A time of looking in the mirror is important for us as individuals but also for congregations. Do we have the courage to do the difficult as a congregation? Can we do the difficult thing of looking at new ways of doing ministry that speaks to culture that is drastically different than just a few years ago.
Nehemiah 4:1-5 – Now when Sanballat heard that we were building the wall, he was angry and greatly enraged, and he mocked the Jews. 2 He said in the presence of his associates and of the army of Samaria, “What are these feeble Jews doing? Will they restore things? Will they sacrifice? Will they finish it in a day? Will they revive the stones out of the heaps of rubbish—and burned ones atthat?” 3 Tobiah the Ammonite was beside him, and he said, “That stone wall they are building—any fox going up on it would break it down!” 4 Hear, O our God, for we are despised; turn their taunt back on their own heads, and give them over as plunder in a land of captivity. 5 Do not cover their guilt, and do not let their sin be blotted out from your sight; for they have hurled insults in the face of the builders.
Luke 13:31-35 – 31 At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.” 32 He said to them, “Go and tell that fox for me,[a]‘Listen, I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my work. 33 Yet today, tomorrow, and the next day I must be on my way, because it is impossible for a prophet to be killed outside of Jerusalem.’ 34 Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! 35 See, your house is left to you. And I tell you, you will not see me until the time comes when[b]you say, ‘Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.’”
Courage to Go a Different Direction
August 11, 2019
Theme: As we look in the mirror, we might discover that we as individuals and congregations need to go in a different direction. “Repent” is a familiar word to most all church folks. We routinely define repent as to go a different direction. Brian McLean gives the word a slightly different definition. He defines it as “to radically rethink.” I like that definition, because we must radically rethink the direction we are going before we can go a different direction.
It may or may not mean as individuals and congregations we were going in the wrong direction along. It may mean that for individuals our life situation has changed, and we need to radically rethink the future direction for our life. For congregations it doesn’t mean that what we have done before was all wrong, but that as our culture changes, we must radically rethink how we offer ministry to the community and discover we need to go a different direction.
Luke 13:1-9 – At that very time there were some present who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. 2 He asked them, “Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were worse sinners than all other Galileans? 3 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as they did. 4 Or those eighteen who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them—do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others living in Jerusalem? 5 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did.”The Parable of the Barren Fig Tree6 Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and found none. 7 So he said to the gardener, ‘See here! For three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree, and still I find none. Cut it down! Why should it be wasting the soil?’ 8 He replied, ‘Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig around it and putmanure on it. 9 If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’”
Courage to Be Welcoming
August 18, 2019
Theme: What makes this story powerful is when we understand some of the cultural dynamics behind the story. Both the younger son and the father acted contrary to their Jewish culture.
It was expected even demanded that children would stay with their families to work the land and care for their parents. So for the younger son to ask for his inheritance was completely unheard of, it was greatly offensive to the father. It was an insult and shameful to ask for the inheritance. It was like saying to the father I wish you were dead. However, it was even more out of character that the father would agree to give him the inheritance. Any other father would have told the son your out of your mind, get back to work.
This would have been a land-based economy. A family’s wealth would have been their land. The land would have been sacred. So, the father would have divided the land gave the younger son his portion which he promptly sold again a great insult to the father, one’s whole life and identity was tied to the land. To sell the land was to completely reject one’s family identity. He then took the money squandered it away in the foreign land. So, for the father to receive the young son back with such a welcome would have been a grace filled moment, a moment of scandalous grace.
This parable would have been shocking to the Jesus’ hearers, it would have been so out of character to be almost unbelievable.
In the Parable of the Prodigal Son Jesus is addressing the Pharisees who are complaining about him welcoming and eating with sinners. In this parable preachers usually focus on the younger son or the father. We like to identify with the younger son, that regardless of how far we have strayed the father will welcome us home. In light of the context, I believe the older son is the main character in this story. The older son represents the Pharisees. He will not go in to the party for his younger brother. He does not approve of his brother’s behavior not of the father’s acceptance. The parable ends and we are left wondering if the older son ever went into the party. The takes great courage to be welcoming!
Joshua 2:1-7 – Then Joshua son of Nun sent two men secretly from Shittim as spies, saying, “Go, view the land, especially Jericho.” So they went, and entered the house of a prostitute whose name was Rahab, and spent the night there. 2 The king of Jericho was told, “Some Israelites have come here tonight to search out the land.” 3 Then the king of Jericho sent orders to Rahab, “Bring out the men who have come to you, who entered your house, for they have come only to search out the whole land.” 4 But the woman took the two men and hid them. Then she said, “True, the men came to me, but I did not know where they came from. 5 And when it was time to close the gate at dark, the men went out. Where the men went I do not know. Pursue them quickly, for you can overtake them.” 6 She had, however, brought them up to the roof and hidden them with the stalks of flax that she had laid out on the roof. 7 So the men pursued them on the way to the Jordan as far as the fords. As soon as the pursuers had gone out, the gate was shut.
Luke 15:1-2, 11-32 – Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. 2 And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.”
11 Then Jesus[b]said, “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.’ So he divided his property between them. 13 A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and traveled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living. 14 When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need. 15 So hewent and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs.
16 He would gladly have filled himself with[c]the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything. 17 But when he came to himself he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! 18 I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.”’ 20 So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him.
21 Then the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’[d]22 But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly, bring out a robe—the best one—and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; 24 for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ And they began to celebrate.25 “Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on.
27 He replied, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound.’ 28 Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him. 29 But he answered his father, ‘Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!’ 31 Then the father[e]said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.’”
Courage to Follow
August 25, 2019
Theme: According to the prophet, God was about to do a new thing. Israel had been in exile of a long longtime. However, when Cyrus king of Persia conquered Babylon he allowed the exiles to return. God was about to do a new thing for them by allowing to return to rebuild the city and the temple. It took a great deal of courage to trust and follow God into a new thing. According to Episcopal bishop Mark Dyer God does a new thing in the life of the church every five hundred years. We are at one of the five hundred-year marks and God is about to do a new thing in the church. Will we have the courage to follow.
Isaiah 43:15-21 – Thus says the LORD,who makes a way in the sea,a path in the mighty waters,17 who brings out chariot and horse,army and warrior;they lie down, they cannot rise,they are extinguished, quenched like a wick: 18 Do not remember the former things,or consider the things of old.19 I am about to do a new thing;now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.20 The wild animals will honor me,the jackals and the ostriches; for I give water in the wilderness,rivers in the desert,to give drink to my chosen people,21 the people whom I formed for myself so that they might declare my praise.
Matthew 4:18-22 – 18 As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. 19 And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” 20 Immediately they left their nets and followed him. 21 As he went from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John, in the boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, and he called them. 22 Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him.