“I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now…come further up, come further in!” ― C.S. Lewis, The Last Battle
A few people loved it. However, not everyone liked it. I realized quickly that when talking about controversial topics, not everyone will hear a new opinion. Especially, if that new opinion challenges their ethos.
The following week, the newspaper released two “letters to the editor” in response to my article. What fascinated me is that their critiques had nothing to do with my actual argument. They built strawman to tear down.
If these two critiques read my article with open eyes and ears, they would have found a call to vote with intelligence, research, and conviction. My article was not simply about presidential candidates, but about every elected official. I did not tell them to vote for Joe Biden. I did not diss Donald Trump. They read between the lines and made assumptions.
We seem to look for ways for others to offend us. We don’t have the habit of listening to learn or understand. Rather, we listen to respond.
This miscommunication happens in so many forms; typically when we aren’t talking face to face.
My first goal, as a Christian, is to love everyone I come into contact with. We do not have to agree on a single thing for me to show you God’s love. I want to care for your humanity first. Part of caring for your humanity is to learn from the other’s experiences. As I hear your story, I can connect it to my journey with God.
Ultimately, I want a conversation. I want to engage in thought. Israel, the name of God’s people in the Hebrew Bible, means “to wrestle.” I want to wrestle with thoughts together rather than coming in claiming solutions. I don’t have all the answers about God or how to live perfectly as a Christian. I do claim the intention of listening for God to surprise me with a new perspective through each conversation. Admittedly, it may take me a while to absorb that lesson in order to adjust my thoughts and actions.
My summary of the whole article-writing-experience is to remain open to dialogue. Listen, consider, converse, listen some more and adjust.
May the Spirit of God continue to reach our hearts and minds. May we be susceptible to changing our minds when God gives us a chance to grow.
Message Title: Risky Business Theme: Waiting on God Season: Advent Main Text: Isaiah 40:1-11; Scripture Reading: Mark 1:1-8 RCL Scripture: Isaiah 40:1-11; Psalm 85:1-2, 8-13; 2 Peter 3:8-15a; Mark 1:1-8 Focus: God speaks of a future peace for Judah.Function: To commit to a life of peace-bringing and search out ways to bring peace. Other Notes: Traditional themes each week: Hope, Peace, Joy, Love
SCRIPTURE READING: Mark 1:1-8 The beginning of the good news about Jesus Christ, God’s Son, 2happened just as it was written about in the prophecy of Isaiah: Look, I am sending my messenger before you. He will prepare your way, 3a voice shouting in the wilderness: “Prepare the way for the Lord; make his paths straight.” 4John the Baptist was in the wilderness calling for people to be baptized to show that they were changing their hearts and lives and wanted God to forgive their sins. 5Everyone in Judea and all the people of Jerusalem went out to the Jordan River and were being baptized by John as they confessed their sins. 6John wore clothes made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist. He ate locusts and wild honey. 7He announced, “One stronger than I am is coming after me. I’m not even worthy to bend over and loosen the strap of his sandals. 8I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
Check in: How’s your Luke read through? (should be at ch 6 by now)
Longest road a person can travel (also most dangerous road)
What was your longest road trip?
PHOTO: Drive to Kokomo, Dec 2017- was supposed to be 12 hours became 18 hours because of ice & a moving van that topped out at 55mph. Yup, 18 hours in 24 hours.
How many states have you been to?
MAPS: Family has driven through all but 5 of the states together
My story: so frequently the first image that comes to our mind when we think of family trips is the repetitive questions from kids: “Are We There Yet? When can we eat? How much longer? I’m bored!”
PHOTO: Well, one of my strongest road trip memories, apart from traveling to Indiana four Decembers ago, was when my parents left me in the Grand Tetons. I joke that they tried to get rid of me. My parents are still mortified.
I can’t remember for certain but I *think* I was 9.
My family, my aunt & uncle, cousins, and my grandparents were on a camping trip together. Before we arrived at the campground, our caravan stopped at a bathroom. I left my grandparents’ car, told them I was going to ride with my parents, and went to the bathroom. When I came out of the bathroom, all three cars were gone. Little did I know, they were just about a mile up the road checking into the campground and hadn’t realized that I was not in any of the vehicles.
TRANSITION: Waiting for my parents to come back to get me felt like forever. In our text for today, Judah hears words of comfort as they are waiting to return from exile.
SCRIPTURE & EXPLAINATION: Isaiah 40:1-11 –God speaks of a future peace for Judah.
Vs 1-2 Comfort, comfort my people! says your God. 2Speak compassionately to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her compulsory service has ended, that her penalty has been paid, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins!
Exile is fresh in ch 40
Hoping back in time from the text of last week
Ch 39 was the end of a section of judgement and harshness, now we hear a word of hope.
Time of hope (you’re in exile but not forever)
Vs 3-8 3A voice is crying out: “Clear the Lord’s way in the desert! Make a level highway in the wilderness for our God! 4Every valley will be raised up, and every mountain and hill will be flattened. Uneven ground will become level, and rough terrain a valley plain. 5The Lord’s glory will appear, and all humanity will see it together; the Lord’s mouth has commanded it.” 6A voice was saying: “Call out!” And another said, “What should I call out?” All flesh is grass; all its loyalty is like the flowers of the field. 7The grass dries up and the flower withers when the Lord’s breath blows on it. Surely the people are grass. 8The grass dries up; the flower withers, but our God’s word will exist forever.
God doesn’t want to punish Judah. God wants to restore God’s people. Clear the way! It’s gonna happen.
Think of the song I posted on our FB group: “Ain’t not mountain high enough / ain’t no valley low enough / ain’t no river wide enough/ to keep me from getting to you”
Jesus said in the Gospels- “even the rocks will cry out” if God’s people don’t praise him. (Luke 19)
Judah needs consequences for their actions. Judah needs to follow the covenant commitment.
It has been GENERATIONS since the 10 commandments given at Sinai
Each generation has struggled to maintain the covenant.
vs 9-11 9Go up on a high mountain, messenger Zion! Raise your voice and shout, messenger Jerusalem! Raise it; don’t be afraid; say to the cities of Judah, “Here is your God!” 10Here is the Lord God, coming with strength, with a triumphant arm, bringing his reward with him and his payment before him.11Like a shepherd, God will tend the flock; he will gather lambs in his arms and lift them onto his lap. He will gently guide the nursing ewes.
Now if you were to continue reading in this chapter, the imagery of comforting Judah continues to the famous quote of “rising up on wings like eagles.” God will care for God’s people.
Judah has received the consequences of their actions, and now God calls them to obedience and a future peace.
Judah appears much like a lost puppy during exile. A loss of identity, as they are separated from their people, their land, and their God. They are lost without their identity.
Does this sound like 2020 or what? Digital church, no normal family holidays, quarantined from society.
God wants our flourishing and gives us opportunities for peace. However, we frequently reject those opportunities.
We are the ones needing to shift our focus from us to God.
God’s life leads to flourishing.
Back to the Intro: As soon as my parents realized I was gone they sent a car back to pick me up. While I was waiting a family sat with me and waited for someone to return.
Road trips are frequently not
ACTION/APPLICATION: To commit to a life of peace-bringing and search out ways to bring peace.
Real Peace vs. “being nice”- Not the same as being nice or avoiding problems or conflict.
Real peace gets messy and risky: Loving people gets messy. Loving people is an act of vulnerability/exposure. You put yourself at risk. But God calls us to those risky places.
As we talked about last week, loving people is hard.
Bringing peace is unpopular. Media and entertainment thrive on disputes.
Real peace leads to social faux pas and being counter cultural.
Not a license to tell gay people they are going to hell
Not a license for denominational wars or telling someone their denomination’s theology is bad
Not a license to play the martyr when someone disagrees with you
Practical reality of living 10 commandments is flourishing of relationships. Can we think of examples without getting legalistic?
God says God will level the mountains & fill in the valleys to make this peace come. We are his peace-bringers. What if God hands us a shovel and a pickaxe rather than snapping a finger and making it happen? We are the ones called to fill in the valleys and level the mountains to make God’s highway wide.
Message Title:God, You’re Late Theme: Waiting on God Season: Advent Main Text: Isaiah 64:1-9; Scripture Reading: Mark 13:24-37 RCL Scripture: Isaiah 64:1-9; Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19; 1 Corinthians 1:3-9; Mark 13:24-37 Focus: Isaiah asks God to provide Judah’s hope of restoration. (the People are blaming God) Function: To pick up our Gospel responsibility and leave God’s responsibilities to God. – To wait, trust, and hope in God’s promises Other Notes: Traditional themes each week: Hope, Peace, Joy, Lov
Scripture reading: Mark 13: 24-2724“In those days, after the suffering of that time, the sun will become dark, and the moon won’t give its light. 25The stars will fall from the sky, and the planets and other heavenly bodies will be shaken. 26Then they will see the Human Onecoming in the clouds with great power and splendor. 27Then he will send the angels and gather together his chosen people from the four corners of the earth, from the end of the earth to the end of heaven. 28“Learn this parable from the fig tree. After its branch becomes tender and it sprouts new leaves, you know that summer is near. 29In the same way, when you see these things happening, you know that he’s near, at the door. 30I assure you that this generation won’t pass away until all these things happen. 31Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will certainly not pass away. 32“But nobody knows when that day or hour will come, not the angels in heaven and not the Son. Only the Father knows. 33Watch out! Stay alert! You don’t know when the time is coming. 34It is as if someone took a trip, left the household behind, and put the servants in charge, giving each one a job to do, and told the doorkeeper to stay alert. 35Therefore, stay alert! You don’t know when the head of the household will come, whether in the evening or at midnight, or when the rooster crows in the early morning or at daybreak. 36Don’t let him show up when you weren’t expecting and find you sleeping. 37What I say to you, I say to all: Stay alert!”
Intro to New Series: Waiting on God (an Advent Series) – This series will explore waiting for the Messiah from an Old Testament perspective. Advent is frequently misconstrued as a season of darkness. Rather, let’s picture it like dawn, the light is coming. (Photo) Dawn also coordinates with the colors of advent. Color: Blue/Purple & Pink
Advent is about the building anticipation for the Birth of Jesus & getting ready for the fulfillment of God’s promises. (Standing on the promises of God *song)
Decorate: get yourself a nativity- I’ve found a few printable ones with cut out figures. Set out the stable and progressively (each week) add more things. Don’t add Mary or Joseph until Christmas eve and don’t add Jesus until Christmas day.
Tell the story: read the Gospel of Luke each day until Christmas. You’ll get through all of Jesus’ ministry by day 24.
TRANSITION: The broad theme for Advent is waiting with anticipation. Now, I know that as 2020 survivors, we’re sick of waiting. Perhaps, this season can be a healing salve to that wound. So, let’s focus on waiting from a joyful vantage point.
WAITING: I want to hear your thoughts on anticipating a baby.
Engage the Audience:
What do we traditionally do to prepare for a baby?
Hospital bag- What did you pack? What did you wish you pack, but you didn’t?
Do you feel you were fully prepared for the extent of parenthood?
Expectations VS. Reality
It’s common that before you became a parent, you build ideas of what you will or won’t do to be the best parent possible. How many of you broke your own rules/expectations?
As a family prepares for a baby, preparations are expected to happen while waiting for the “time to come.” However, often we are surprised by the reality of life with babies. Yes, I am saying this as a woman without kids. Expectations and Reality don’t always line up.
Preparation: Finances, house safety updates, supplies, medical/birth plan, etc
Reality: not just about rosy cheeks, bodily fluids, pain, healing, crying, sleepless nights, nursing struggles, etc.
TRANSITION: In our text for today, we are returning to Isaiah to hear a word on expectant waiting.
Reminder of the story of Isaiah: If you remember, we were just in Isaiah in October. We looked at Isaiah 5, 25, & 45. We will get a few more glimpses into Isaiah during this series, along with another Old Testament text. (Ch 64, 40, 61).
Here’s a refresher on what we know about the book of Isaiah:
2 kingdoms: Isaiah is speaking to Judah. Israel is going to get wiped out before the end of this book. Babylon will take Judah into exile.
66 chapters in this book, 150ish years covered.
Scholars consider Isaiah split into 3 sections (and three authors): Pre-exile (announced coming judgement), Exile, Post Exile/Hope of return.
CHART- where we are in the timeline
SCRIPTURE: Isaiah 64: 1-9If only you would tear open the heavens and come down! Mountains would quake before you 2like fire igniting brushwood or making water boil. If you would make your name known to your enemies, the nations would tremble in your presence. 3When you accomplished wonders beyond all our expectations; when you came down, mountains quaked before you. 4From ancient times, no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any god but you who acts on behalf of those who wait for him! 5You look after those who gladly do right; they will praise you for your ways. But you were angry when we sinned; you hid yourself when we did wrong. 6We have all become like the unclean; all our righteous deeds are like a menstrual rag. All of us wither like a leaf; our sins, like the wind, carry us away. 7No one calls on your name; no one bothers to hold on to you, for you have hidden yourself from us, and have handed us overto our sin. 8But now, Lord, you are our father. We are the clay, and you are our potter. All of us are the work of your hand. 9Don’t rage so fiercely, Lord; don’t hold our sins against us forever, but gaze now on your people, all of us:
EXPLAINATION: Isaiah asks God to provide Judah’s hope of restoration. (the People are blaming God)
The Text: Isaiah offers a prayer to God that sounds like an accusation, depending on the translation you read. The Jewish translation accuses God for humans’ sin by making a system impossible to follow.
“if only you would….”
“If you would…”
“When you accomplished…”
“for you have hidden yourself… handed us over”
“Don’t hold our sins against us forever…”
Break down: Judah is returning from an exile in a foreign land. They were away from God’s holy land as a consequence for their actions.
Their sins: Basically, ignoring the 10 commandments entirely.
disloyalty to others: Judah was ignoring the poor, widow, foreigner, oppressed, etc.
disloyalty to God: Befriending other nations and worshipping their gods
Their actions made their borders become vulnerable & Babylon oppressed them
Isaiah’s words in response to God’s actions
Acknowledged their sins
Called out for deliverance
Waiting on God to show up
INTERPRETATION: Isaiah asks God to provide Judah’s hope of restoration. (the People are blaming God)
Consequences: Not following God’s commands has consequences. No, not God giving us a spanking. The consequences break up relationships between us, God, and others. We sabotage ourselves.
Ownership for not living God’s Word
(inspired by EBC) Are we in the cycle of sin because of our own actions or because God won’t save us?
Jewish translation of Isaiah’s words: It’s all God’s fault. I’ll continue to do my thing until God rescues me. God’s people are skilled at wanting praise or rewards, not so great at ownership of actions or receiving of consequences. “Lord, have mercy! They made me do it!” or “you made me this way!”
Orthodoxy vs orthopraxis: Time to stop blaming God and take ownership for our actions.
Time to act the way we speak. God’s people were good at knowing the words to say but bad at living them.
APPLICATION: Act on This– To pick up our Gospel-responsibility and leave God’s responsibilities to God.
We love to play God. But it’s God’s job to be God. It’s our job to be God’s people. We have joint responsibility in the Gospel story. God’s job is Gods. Our job is ours. We need to stop waiting on God to solve immediate problems.
As we expectantly wait for the celebration of Christmas, we remember we are expecting Christ to return again.
Our job is not to sit idly by. Our job is to tell people of the love of God.
Call to action:
Take ownership: Stop language that blames God for the consequences of your actions
Take Action: Love God, Love People
Matt 28:18-2018Jesus came near and spoke to them, “I’ve received all authority in heaven and on earth. 19Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20teaching them to obey everything that I’ve commanded you. Look, I myself will be with you every day until the end of this present age.”
Acts 1:9-119After Jesus said these things, as they were watching, he was lifted up and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10While he was going away and as they were staring toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood next to them. 11They said, “Galileans, why are you standing here, looking toward heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way that you saw him go into heaven.”
1Cor 11: 26 26Every time you eat this bread and drink this cup, you broadcast the death of the Lord until he comes.
2 Peter 3: 8-10 8Don’t let it escape your notice, dear friends, that with the Lord a single day is like a thousand years and a thousand years are like a single day. 9The Lord isn’t slow to keep his promise, as some think of slowness, but he is patient toward you, not wanting anyone to perish but all to change their hearts and lives. 10But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. On that day the heavens will pass away with a dreadful noise, the elements will be consumed by fire, and the earth and all the works done on it will be exposed.
How will your Christmas season and the end of 2020 be impacted by your commitment to God?
Ways to help people in poverty:
Kokomo Rescue Mission is serving & delivering meals for Christmas
Jubilee with Liberty
United Way buddy bags
Tipton School buddy bags
Jackson St Commons
Ways to help people know about Jesus
Invite people to enjoy this stream.
Video Chat with friends and talk about your lives—don’t just get interested in them to rack up “Saved Points” but invest in their lives.
Enter a mentoring or accountability relationship with another believer. Share your lives together. Listen for God together.
CONCLUSION: Loving people gets messy. Doing our Gospel-job is not always easy, much like the expectations of having a baby don’t exactly match reality.
Message Title: Farm Animals & Kings Theme: Christ the King Sunday Season: ORDINARY Main Text: Matthew 25:31-46 Scripture Reading: Psalm 100 RCL Scripture: Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24; Psalm 100; Psalm 95:1-7a; Ephesians 1:15-23; Matthew 25:31-46 Focus: Jesus’ parable calls for action, not just pretty words. Function: To get involved in the messiness of the Gospel by loving people that are hard to love. Other Notes: thanksgiving//CHRIST THE KING Sunday
SCRIPTURE READING: Psalm 100 Shout triumphantly to the Lord, all the earth! 2Serve the Lord with celebration! Come before him with shouts of joy! 3Know that the Lord is God—he made us; we belong to him. We are his people, the sheep of his own pasture. 4Enter his gates with thanks; enter his courtyards with praise! Thank him! Bless his name! 5Because the Lord is good, his loyal love lasts forever; his faithfulness lasts generation after generation.
Audience Engagement: Holiday traditions
What holiday season comes directly after Halloween?
Do you decorate for Christmas before Thanksgiving comes?
What about Christmas music or movies?
What are your favorite Christmas Hymns?
It wasn’t until I was in seminary that I even knew that there was a difference between Christmas hymns and Advent hymns.
Honestly, until about 4 years ago, I had a poor attitude towards Christmas. Not Christmas, celebrating Jesus’ birth but Retail Christmas. I had worked retail. Retail can definitely suck the joy out of the holiday season.
I haven’t decorated yet, but do intend to this week! Yes, Christmas décor before thanksgiving!
Intro: Today is a unique holiday that you won’t see marketed by Hallmark or Amazon. Today is Christ the King Sunday also called Reign of Christ Sunday.
Today is the last Sunday in the church calendar. This holy day was instituted by Pope Pius the XI(11th) in 1925. Though it wasn’t celebrated on the last Sunday in the year until 1970.
War can leave us full of fear and searching for stability or comfort. The Pope believed that after WWI ended, the world needed to be reminded of the One True King and the hope our King brings.
So, Today we celebrate Christ as our King who reigns forever!
TRANSITION: In our text for today we are going to focus on Jesus’ words. He shares a parable of a king with unique expectations for his subjects that includes scary consequences for those that don’t comply. Should we be filled with fear? Let’s see what the Reign of Christ brings.
SCRIPTURE: Matthew 25:31-46
31“Now when the Human Onecomes in his majesty and all his angels are with him, he will sit on his majestic throne. 32All the nations will be gathered in front of him. He will separate them from each other, just as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33He will put the sheep on his right side. But the goats he will put on his left. 34“Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who will receive good things from my Father. Inherit the kingdom that was prepared for you before the world began. 35I was hungry and you gave me food to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger and you welcomed me. 36I was naked and you gave me clothes to wear. I was sick and you took care of me. I was in prison and you visited me.’ 37“Then those who are righteous will reply to him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you a drink? 38When did we see you as a stranger and welcome you, or naked and give you clothes to wear? 39When did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40“Then the king will reply to them, ‘I assure you that when you have done it for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you have done it for me.’ 41“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Get away from me, you who will receive terrible things. Go into the unending fire that has been prepared for the devil and his angels. 42I was hungry and you didn’t give me food to eat. I was thirsty and you didn’t give me anything to drink. 43I was a stranger and you didn’t welcome me. I was naked and you didn’t give me clothes to wear. I was sick and in prison, and you didn’t visit me.’ 44“Then they will reply, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison and didn’t do anything to help you?’ 45Then he will answer, ‘I assure you that when you haven’t done it for one of the least of these, you haven’t done it for me.’ 46And they will go away into eternal punishment. But the righteous ones will go into eternal life.”
Human One- a title used in Daniel
Read Daniel 7:9-14
Some of your translations may say Son of Man.
Merging of the Jewish messiah with the Davidic king.
Action of the King
Separates sheep from goats
Sheep/ the ones on the right/ the righteous
fed, clothed, cared for, & visited those in need
Goats/the ones on the left/ receivers of terrible things
Did not feed, cloth, care for, or visit those in need
INTERPRETATION: Jesus’ parable calls for action, not just pretty words.
Gospel Writer: Matthew (Jewish writer to a Jewish audience)
Scripture’s Audience: Disciples (Matt 24:3)
Up until entering Jerusalem, Jesus used calculated language. With a few exceptions in other gospels, Jesus doesn’t directly call himself the messiah. As you continue to read the Gospel of Matthew, the closer Jesus gets to Jerusalem, the more bold his words become.
This passage is during Holy Week. Jesus had already entered the city triumphantly. And now Jesus turns his language up to 11 on the controversial scale. At the time of this passage, Jesus is in Jerusalem and days away from being crucified. So he starts to make the statements that he knows will lead to his arrest and crucifixion.
Jesus had been preaching to crowds in the Temple. Then Jesus walked to the Mount of Olives and the disciples pulled him aside to ask more questions.
Jesus will be crucified as a treasonous blasphemer by the church and state. His statements became more overtly political. More overtly about the system being broken and pointing to the One True Kingdom.
It would be easy to get hyper focused on the questions about sheep & goats (Picture) Is Jesus saying literally that sheep are better than goats? Unfortunately, we’re not talking about the literal animals today.
If you listen, we qualify as both sheep and goats.
“done it for one of the least of these, you have done it for me”
“haven’t done it for one of the least of these, you haven’t done it for me”
Ignoring 1 opportunity means you’re a goat.
But is this passage supposed to make us scared? No. We’re called to action.
APPLICATION: To get involved in the messiness of the Gospel by loving people that are hard to love.
What is interesting about this passage is Jesus seems to contradict himself (from the other gospels). In John 3:17, Jesus tells Nicodemus that the Son came not to condemn the world but to save the world through himself. Now, Jesus is painting himself in to the judgement seat.
Jesus is simultaneously our judge and our savior. He is the one setting the standard, and he is the one fulfilling the standard.
Our actions do not save us. No one can meet these standards laid out by the king, Jesus meets them for us.
But does that mean we don’t even need to try?
Ownership of our faith: I want to take a moment to get our brains active. Everyone should have a note card and a writing utensil. Raise your hand if you don’t, we’ll get some for you.
Notes cards: write down your answers rather than shouting them out.
Who are the people that seem to have “lost their way” to you?
Whose salvation do you worry about?
Congratulations, You’ve just made a starter list of “the least of these.”
How will you love them this holiday season?
*Notice* the King didn’t say
Tell these people they are horrible sinners and unworthy of love.
Tell these people they’re so lucky to receive your kindness.
The king says, those “least of these” – they’re me. Treat them like you would treat me.
Confession: “Things we’ve done and things we’ve left undone.”
People: Most merciful God, we confess that we are by choice sinful and unclean. We have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done and by what we have left undone. We have not loved You with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We justly deserve Your judgement. For the sake of Your Son, Jesus Christ, have mercy on us. Forgive us, renew us, and lead us, so that we may delight in Your will and walk in Your ways to the glory of your Holy Name. Amen.
Pastor (Declaration of Grace): “In the mercy of almighty God, Jesus Christ gave himself to die for us, and for His sake God forgives us all our sins. To those who believe in Jesus Christ, He gives the power to become the children of God and bestows on them the Holy Spirit. May the Lord, who has begun this good work in us, bring it to completion in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Crazy idea: for 5-10 minutes after church we’ll have discussion time for those wanting to iron out parts of the service that left them puzzled. We will have our benediction and then if people have questions, they can stay and ask questions and I’ll respond as best I can. I won’t guarantee solving the world’s problems but I can offer more clarity.
Originally preached on 11/15/2020 at Liberty Baptist Church in Tipton, In
Title:Forest Roots: A Bonus Episode Theme: KNOW YOUR ROOTS Season: ORDINARY Main Text: Judges 4:1-7 Scripture Reading: Matthew 25:14-30 RCL Scripture: Judges 4:1-7; Psalm 123; Zephaniah 1:7, 12-18; Psalm 90:1-8, (9-11), 12; 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11; Matthew 25:14-30 Focus: Israel forgets the dependable character of God. Function: To be a Christian requires us to know the history of our faith and our community. Other Notes:
SCRIPTURE READING: Matthew 25:14-30 14“The kingdom of heaven is like a man who was leaving on a trip. He called his servants and handed his possessions over to them. 15To one he gave five valuable coins, and to another he gave two, and to another he gave one. He gave to each servant according to that servant’s ability. Then he left on his journey. 16“After the man left, the servant who had five valuable coins took them and went to work doing business with them. He gained five more. 17In the same way, the one who had two valuable coins gained two more. 18But the servant who had received the one valuable coin dug a hole in the ground and buried his master’s money. 19“Now after a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. 20The one who had received five valuable coins came forward with five additional coins. He said, ‘Master, you gave me five valuable coins. Look, I’ve gained five more.’ 21“His master replied, ‘Excellent! You are a good and faithful servant! You’ve been faithful over a little. I’ll put you in charge of much. Come, celebrate with me.’ 22“The second servant also came forward and said, ‘Master, you gave me two valuable coins. Look, I’ve gained two more.’ 23“His master replied, ‘Well done! You are a good and faithful servant. You’ve been faithful over a little. I’ll put you in charge of much. Come, celebrate with me.’ 24“Now the one who had received one valuable coin came and said, ‘Master, I knew that you are a hard man. You harvest grain where you haven’t sown. You gather crops where you haven’t spread seed. 25So I was afraid. And I hid my valuable coin in the ground. Here, you have what’s yours.’ 26“His master replied, ‘You evil and lazy servant! You knew that I harvest grain where I haven’t sown and that I gather crops where I haven’t spread seed? 27In that case, you should have turned my money over to the bankers so that when I returned, you could give me what belonged to me with interest. 28Therefore, take from him the valuable coin and give it to the one who has ten coins. 29Those who have much will receive more, and they will have more than they need. But as for those who don’t have much, even the little bit they have will be taken away from them. 30Now take the worthless servant and throw him out into the farthest darkness.’ “People there will be weeping and grinding their teeth. LORD’S PRAYER
Intro: I have good news and bad news—The bad news, you may have noticed already, our guest speaker had to return to Miami, Fl and won’t be with us today. Good news? You get a bonus ROOTS! Who’s excited?
OUR ROOTS: Apostles’ Creed We have explored our covenant for three weeks, now I want to introduce another document that is foundational to Christian belief.
The Apostles’ Creed:
Sources say this popped up around 390 AD (Wiki)
Church tradition says that each of the 12 disciples helped form part of this creed, though history/anthropology doesn’t back up that claim. (wiki)
Most basic summary of Christian tenants
Historically used to teach early converts about Christianity
A source of unity for believers
Read the Creed: I believe in God the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth. I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord. He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. Under Pontius Pilate, He was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended to the dead. On the third day he rose again. He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.
Baptists & The Creed: What is fascinating is thatBaptists haven’t always been big on the Apostles’ Creed because of the phrase “the holy Catholic Church” and assuming we’re talking about Roman Catholics. The reformation era really made Baptists skeptical of anything Catholic. If only we were able to acknowledge that “catholic” little “c” means unified or whole.
Baptists have actually had a tradition of rejecting “tradition”… Well, as long as “tradition” points to Catholicism…We love the tradition of hymns or pews or our specific order of service or celebrations.
But our tradition of rejecting tradition has become the greatest weakness for Baptists. Our habit to disassociate with the bigger picture of the church leads us to forget where we came from or where we’re going.
TRANSITION: In our text for today we will see that the Israelites have lost sight of their roots and have become vulnerable to other kingdoms.What could they have learned from their own history? How could that have prevented these atrocities from happening?
SCRIPTURE: Judges 4:1-7
Context: Era of Judges PHOTO
After Joshua is Othniel (40 years) à Ehud (80 years)à Deborah (40 years)
Sprinkled in with outside influences between each judge.
Judges = Balance of law enforcer and pastor
After Ehud had died, the Israelites again did things that the Lord saw as evil. 2So the Lord gave them over to King Jabin of Canaan, who reigned in Hazor. The commander of his army was Sisera, and he was stationed in Harosheth-ha-goiim. 3The Israelites cried out to the Lord because Sisera had nine hundred iron chariots and had oppressed the Israelites cruelly for twenty years.4Now Deborah, a prophet, the wife of Lappidoth, was a leader of Israel at that time. 5She would sit under Deborah’s palm tree between Ramah and Bethel in the Ephraim highlands, and the Israelites would come to her to settle disputes.6She sent word to Barak, Abinoam’s son, from Kedesh in Naphtali and said to him, “Hasn’t the Lord, Israel’s God, issued you a command? ‘Go and assemble at Mount Tabor, taking ten thousand men from the people of Naphtali and Zebulun with you. 7I’ll lure Sisera, the commander of Jabin’s army, to assemble with his chariots and troops against you at the Kishon River, and then I’ll help you overpower him.’”
Israel’s cycle of unfaithfulness: Remember how I said that the people would be faithful during the lifetime of Joshua & the leaders just after Joshua? Yeah that’s over now. Israel is now in a cycle of:
Israel did evil in the eyes of the Lord
The Lord gave them over to their desires
Consequences of their desires (usually being oppressed by another nation)
They call out to God for help
God rescues them
They are faithful… for a while
The Judge: Deborah, a married woman and judge over Israel
Prophet and wise council
Her Message: God will team up with you to overthrow Israel’s enemy.
Barak is scared to go on his own, so he asks Deobrah to go with him.
She agrees but says the defeat of Sisera will be by the hands of a woman
Cue Metal Bible story: Jael and her tent peg. She defeats the enemy with hospitality and household objects.
For this brief moment in time, Israel was faithful to God after being rescued, yet again, but they did not learn from their past. It wouldn’t be long before their ears would clog again and they would need rescuing.
INTERPRETATION: Knowing our history impacts our future
Israel was stuck in a cycle of unfaithfulness. We’re only a few Judges into the Post-Joshua era but Israel has already forgotten that God is dependable. They became cowards and bent to the instructions of threatening outside nations.
Imagine how their behavior would have changed if they remembered the God of their ancestors.
We need to listen & learn from their story
The importance of knowing our church covenant but also the heritage of Christianity, like the Apostles’ Creed, is the root system of support we have to move be faithful to the life God calls us to live. We have bravery to get up and serve God each day, knowing God is faithful. We can see it through the centuries of church history. God’s people may continue the cycle of Israel from Judges 4, but God keeps showing up.
Part of being a follower of Christ is being connected to a church community. Community enables us to be faithful.
Think about it, if Barak had KNOWN the stories of the God of Israel, he would have gone into battle with confidence: “I know the God who provides for God’s people! This God says he’s with me, I don’t need to fear!”
Being faithful and holding onto belief isn’t easy. I’m guessing I’m not the only one who has had days where I think “ Is this really true? Is it really worth the struggle? Is there an easier way?”
There is nothing wrong with questions, especially when you have a community to support you through the questions.
Nadia & The Creed: Nadia Bolz-Weber is an ELCA pastor and rather untraditional in her appearance & expression as a Christian but her words are rooted in scripture and tradition:
She was interviewed by Krista Tippet for the On Being special for NPR. Nearing the end of their interview she talked about faith and the significance of a church working together to remain faithful.
Let me paraphrase:
“Faith is not given in sufficient quantity to individuals, faith is given in sufficient quantity to communities. God will not give you more than a COMMUNITY can bear.
Nadia Plays out a conversation:
I can’t say the Apostles’ Creed because I don’t believe every line of it…
Oh My God, nobody believes every line of the creed. But in a room of people, each line of the creed, somebody believes it, so we’re covered, Right?
Nadia believes that the Apostles’ Creed is not your individual creed that you believe 100% of the time all on your own. She believe the creed is given to a community to believe together.
For Nadia, church is about continuing the actions of faithful living, even when we don’t mean it because God can transform our hearts. We support each other through the questions, doubts, or dry spells, and lean on the history that God is faithful and will show up. We help each other remember that.
Tree System: Nadia’s image of church reminds me of an amazing natural phenomenon.There is a “forest” that is considered one of the oldest “TREEs” on earth. Yes, a forest = 1 tree.
The Pando tree system is Aspen tree “forest” that is actually one whole tree & root system. It is not separate trees but a single root system that has continued to sprout fresh shoots in different places.
The trees look separate but are connected.
APPLICATION: To be a Christian requires us to know the history of our faith and our community.
Consider your place in the church:
Who did you inherit your faith from? Who taught you about Jesus?
What is the history or heritage of this church?
Is this a community you can walk with?
Ways of making commitment:
A traditional church way: Baptism – a public declaration that you believe in Jesus and a commitment to continue to grow in your faith with a community.
Some traditional Liberty ways: Getting involved and contributing time or resources to the missions of the church.
Liberty people can correct me if they disagree. The way I’ve seen commitment recognized the most in this community is rolling up your sleeves to volunteer.
Actions where your beliefs are.
CONCLUSION: I cannot guarantee tomorrow will come but I can guarantee that God will be faithful tomorrow. I cannot guarantee how long we will be fighting COVID and adapting our services but I can say that God hasn’t given up. God’s still here with us. Scripture, history, tradition tells me so.
In this midst of uncertainty, let’s remember the God we follow.
Recite the Apostles’ creed together.
I believe in God the Father almighty, Creator of heaven and earth. I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord. He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. Under Pontius Pilate, He was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended to the dead. On the third day he rose again. He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen