Is Christianity Stuck in the Past?

originally preached on 3/21/2021

Message Title: Is Christianity stuck in the Past?
Theme: Record Breakers & Redemption
Season: Lent
Main Text: Jeremiah 31:31-34;
Scripture Reading: John 12:20-33
RCL Scripture: Jeremiah 31:31-34; Psalm 51:1-12 or Psalm 119:9-16; Hebrews 5:5-10; John 12:20-33
Focus: God establishes a new covenant with his people.
Function: To see the complexity of our faith and In the midst of our convictions, we can have space for differences of opinion.
Other Notes: Guinness Records in Indiana https://www.indystar.com/story/life/2014/10/09/guiness-book-world-records-hoosiers/16960841/

SCRIPTURE READING: John 12:20-33 20 Some Greeks were among those who had come up to worship at the festival. 21 They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and made a request: “Sir, we want to see Jesus.” 22 Philip told Andrew, and Andrew and Philip told Jesus. 23 Jesus replied, “The time has come for the Human One[e] to be glorified. 24 I assure you that unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it can only be a single seed. But if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25 Those who love their lives will lose them, and those who hate their lives in this world will keep them forever. 26 Whoever serves me must follow me. Wherever I am, there my servant will also be. My Father will honor whoever serves me. 27 “Now I am deeply troubled.[f] What should I say? ‘Father, save me from this time’? No, for this is the reason I have come to this time. 28 Father, glorify your name!” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” 29 The crowd standing there heard and said, “It’s thunder.” Others said, “An angel spoke to him.” 30 Jesus replied, “This voice wasn’t for my benefit but for yours. 31 Now is the time for judgment of this world. Now this world’s ruler will be thrown out. 32 When I am lifted up[g] from the earth, I will draw everyone to me.” (33 He said this to show how he was going to die.)

WORLD RECORD: Batman Memorabilia-

  1. AUDIENCE ENGAGEMENT: Do you collect anything? What do you collect? What started the collection?
  2. A few weeks ago we had heard about Indiana’s temporary world record for longest high five chain, Today’s world record is another one of the past.
  3. Largest collection of Batman memorabilia from 2013-2015
    1. Set: Oct. 25, 2013. (surpassed in 2015 by Brad Ladner of Roswell Georgia with 8226 items)
    2. About the record: Kevin Silva of Indianapolis has 2,501 pieces of Batman memorabilia. Silva’s collection includes a lunch box he carried to kindergarten and a child’s black, felt cowl paired to a purple satin cape. Sorry, no Batmobile.
  4. Sources:
    1. https://www.guinnessworldrecords.com/news/2015/10/record-holder-profile-video-welcome-to-kevin-silva%e2%80%99s-bat-cave-of-memorabilia-399999
    2. https://www.guinnessworldrecords.com/world-records/99621-largest-collection-of-batman-memorabilia

TRANSITION: It’s easy to live off of our former glories or cling to memorabilia from the past rather than living in the present or planning for the future. But continually focusing on the past without considering the present or the future leads to painting the past with a biased lens.

In our text for today, we will hear about God doing something new. God establishes a new covenant in Jeremiah 31. As we dive into this *new* covenant from the *old* testament, I want us to consider the preconceived ideas we carry with us about scripture specifically and Christianity as a whole.

SCRIPTURE: Jeremiah 31:31-34 31The time is coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and Judah. 32It won’t be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt. They broke that covenant with me even though I was their husband, declares the Lord. 33No, this is the covenant that I will make with the people of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put my Instructions within them and engrave them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. 34They will no longer need to teach each other to say, “Know the Lord!” because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord; for I will forgive their wrongdoing and never again remember their sins.

EXPLAINATION:

  1. Background: I want to take a moment to zoom out from this passage and discover the context for these words.
    1. Audience: (northern or southern kingdom?)
      1. is speaking to the southern Kingdom of Judah. The northern kingdom of Israel was destroyed about a hundred years ago.Only the kingdom of Judah remains, yet they still struggle to be faithful to God. King Josiah (at the beginning of Jeremiah) tried to turn the people back to God but that was short lived.
    2. Chart of Prophets & Kings – 2
  2. Jeremiah told them exile was coming as a consequence of their actions (and he wasn’t the only prophet at that time saying the same thing: Zephaniah, Nahum, Joel, Ezekiel, Daniel, Obadiah, and Habakkuk All have timelines that overlap Jeremiah.). But that didn’t stop them.
    1. Even though they were experiencing consequences and exile, God was promising them that redemption & restoration were coming.
    2. The covenant God started with Moses & the Israelites on Mount Sinai wasn’t working. Israel had broken that covenant so many times, God acknowledged that covenant was broken. But God’s intention of keeping God’s promises wasn’t over.
    3. God says, I’m going to establish a new covenant to fulfill my promises.
  3. The New Thing: God is looking back and maintaining promises to be fulfilled in a new way.
    1. “I will put my instructions within them”
      1. Connection to Deut 6—the Shema was a prayer & instruction for Israel to write God’s word on their hearts, now God is the one doing it.
    2. “I will be their God”
      1. Repeating the words of the covenant in the 10 commandments.
      2. God is still maintaining God’s promises.
      3. God claims them first.
    3. “No longer need to teach…”
      1. No need for priests as mediators? (different than the conversation between Moses, God and the Israelites where they begged for a mediator for fear that God would smite them)
      2. God will be present with you God will be the priest.
    4. “I will forgive their wrongdoing and never again remember their sins.”
      1. No longer need to sacrifice or be made “pure” to meet God.
      2. God is changing the way the measure of righteousness will be fulfilled.

INTERPRETATION: To see the complexity of our faith and In the midst of our convictions, we can have space for differences of opinion.

  1. The prophecy of Jeremiah is a book with famous passages in the Christian faith. However, we frequently take these famous passages out of context or misconstrue their meaning with our bias.
    1. Example: Jeremiah 29:11 “I know the plans I have for you…” (big quote people use about hope or for graduates to say that there is a purpose you are on this earth and God will bless you with those plans.) We write this passage to say God has a great plan or purpose four our life.
      1. HOWEVER: God was sending them into exile but God wasn’t going to abandon them. Nor was God going to leave them in exile forever.
      2. God tells them to not put their life on hold waiting to return to the Promise Land. Live, work, marry, have babies. Get settled in, you’ll be here a while. (verse reference)
      3. This passage is about comfort in the midst of consequences.
  2. Nostalgia, Memories, & Memorabilia and twist our interpretation of scripture.
  3. Our interpretation of Jeremiah 31:31-34 follows that of Jeremiah 29:11. We take that passage out of context and point only to Jesus. We see the hope of the messiah in this passage, and it leads us to what we’ve been taught about salvation. This thought or reading impacts our answers to different questions:
    1. Questions about salvation:
      1. Who is saved?
      2. What is the path to salvation?
      3. What about the Jews? Does God give up on them?
    1. THOUGHT EXERCISE: I want to take a moment to reflect on the implications of reading this passage this way (and ignoring the rest of ch 31). Here are some questions that popped up:
      1. Can God change God’s mind about the plan for salvation & sin? (God doesn’t compromise God’s goals, God modifies the route to get to those goals for humans).
      2. Can we change God’s mind the plan for salvation & sin? (scripture suggests yes, Abraham & Moses talk to God and God changes the plan. However more frequently than not, prayer is about us aligning with God’s desires rather than God aligning with our desires.)
      3. Did God give up on the Israelites/Jews(God’s promise to Abraham) and look for a new people( to be Abraham’s offspring)? (If you read all of Jeremiah 31, you will quickly see that God repeatedly says, he will not give up or abandon Israel. Even though the northern Kingdom of Israel is already wiped off the earth).
        1. Would God be a merciful, just, loving God if God transferred his commitment from the Jews to Christians? What about the people that lived before Jesus or the people who live their entire lives never hearing the name of Jesus?—answers to these questions speak about God’s character not about the character of humanity.
      4. Do we have a choice in God’s love(salvation)? –theological answer different depending on the denomination
        1. Depending on your faith family tree, your answers to these questions will be different.
          1. Calvinists & Arminians/Free Evangelicals
          2. Perhaps you can be a rebel and say, maybe there is space for both of these schools of thought to happen?
      5. Christians don’t agree on the details of salvation apart from the connection to Jesus.
  4. Jeremiah knew nothing of Jesus when this passage was written. Jeremiah wasn’t speaking about a Christian hope, but a Jewish hope. God would fulfill God’s covenantal promises to Abraham, Moses, and Israel.
    1. This time, God says, “I’m gonna do a new thing.”—these promises are old but the path may be different.
    2. God doesn’t ditch the Jews nor is God saying to ditch the Old Testament when Jesus shows up on the scene. Jesus even says he doesn’t come to abolish the law(10 commandments/Torah) but to fulfill the law. God maintains God’s expectations and God brings about the fulfillment of those expectations through Jesus.
    3. God is fulfilling God’s promises through Jesus. Jesus is God keeping the promises of the OT.
  5. How we read scripture impacts the teachings of the Church.

APPLICATION: To see the complexity of our faith and In the midst of our convictions, we can have space for differences of opinion.

  1. As I look at this very familiar passage and my mind goes into default mode when interpreting. I have to recognize that the scope of Christian belief about salvation is wide and complex.
    1. Clinging to nostalgia teachings without analyzing them in the Spirit, can be detrimental.
      1. When I think I’ve got God all figured out, God teaches me a new lesson.
    2. Israel spent centuries ignoring the teachings and instructions of God and only listening to the voices of generations past. They experienced the consequences of their actions through exile.
  2. Salvation Gatekeeping: Christian Selective nostalgia is a real problem when looking back at Christian history and scripture.
    1. We pick and choose what we like
      1. OT Laws (some) & Judgement
      2. Ditch the jews (except to defend their right to the land of Israel)
      3. Jesus represents love, mercy, and salvation (but only for the repentant who have prayed a salvation prayer).
    2. We do salvation gate keeping.
  3. America has this problem with our selective memory about our history: “good ole days” for who?
    1. Asian Americans building railways or in internment camps during WWII. All Asians getting lumped into one category, disregarding their different cultures, languages, and ethnic roots. (this also led to them all being treated poorly during WWII)
    2. Native Americans lost their land to settlers and a government who continually breaks promises to them. “reservations” are the worst land.
      1. SD boarding schools- Shaved heads & beat their language out of them
    3. African Americans -slavery, segregation, “separate but equal,” civil rights movement, BLM
    4. Mexican Americans & Tejanos- you can be here only if you speak our language and work the jobs we don’t like. Yes, I know we moved the border of Mexico on you but get with the program.
  4. The Good Ole days is a biased interpretation of the past.
    1. Do I love the Andy Griffith Show? Of course! Mayberry is great. Bu tit also isn’t a full picture of America.
    2. Not saying we cancel our favorite things of the past but to look at them with a bigger understanding of the story.

CONCLUSION:

  1. Lent Season Wrap up: Today is the last Sunday in Lent proper. Next week is Palm Sunday and the beginning of Holy week. Though we are wrapping up this season of Lent, we aren’t our commitment to live intentionally.
    1. Perhaps you started a new practice for the season of lent. what is the next step of diving deeper into your walk with God?
      1. Traditional practices: Fasting , Charitable giving, Confession & Repentance, Incorporate a new spiritual practice
      2. Unconventional practices: Joy Jar
    2. Perhaps you are still considering your commitment card or lost it and need a new one. No worries, we’ve got some in the foyer. What are your next steps for fulfilling this commitment?
  2. Though this official season of reflection is ending, we are still called to grow deeper with God. As we look forward to Easter, we can also look forward to what God is doing new in our lives and in this world. God is keeping God’s promises.
  3. If we let ourselves only stick to the familiar nostalgic things, we may never grow deeper into who God built us to be. Nostalgia can prevent growth. However, nostalgia can also be a gift to help us remember God’s faithfulness and give us strength to step into something new.
    1. It’s time to ask God: Where to next?

Promise Breakers & Weird Record Makers

originally preached 3/14/2021

Message Title: Promise Breakers & Weird Record Makers
Theme: Record Breakers & Redemption
Season: Lent
Main Text: Numbers 21:4-9
Scripture Reading: John 3:14-21
RCL Scripture: Numbers 21:4-9; Psalm 107:1-3, 17-22; Ephesians 2:1-10; John 3:14-21
Focus: God keeps God’s promises
Function: To stop wishing for Egypt and look forward to breaking cycles by stepping forward with God
Other Notes: Guinness Records in Indiana https://www.indystar.com/story/life/2014/10/09/guiness-book-world-records-hoosiers/16960841/

SCRIPTURE READING: John 3:14-21 14Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so must the Human One be lifted up 15so that everyone who believes in him will have eternal life. 16God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him won’t perish but will have eternal life. 17God didn’t send his Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through him. 18Whoever believes in him isn’t judged; whoever doesn’t believe in him is already judged, because they don’t believe in the name of God’s only Son. 19“This is the basis for judgment: The light came into the world, and people loved darkness more than the light, for their actions are evil. 20All who do wicked things hate the light and don’t come to the light for fear that their actions will be exposed to the light. 21Whoever does the truth comes to the light so that it can be seen that their actions were done in God.”

INDIANA/WORLD RECORD: most “rump jumps”

David Fisher from Westfield, In holds the world record for the most “rump jumps” in a minute.

If you have neve seen a “rump jump” … you aren’t alone. Here’s a photo from Indy Star of David in action.

  1. Set: July 8, 1998.
  2. About the record: David Fisher, who recently moved to Indianapolis, set the record for the most revolutions turned while pushing off and landing only on his backside in one minute. Fisher rump jumped 56 times.
  3. Sources:
    1. https://www.indystar.com/story/life/2016/01/08/ever-wonder-what-rump-jumps-let-rope-warrior-explain/76942898/
    2. https://champaign.org/event/the-rope-warrior-1795942
    3. https://www.rocknropewarrior.com/story
    4. https://www.indystar.com/story/life/2014/10/09/guiness-book-world-records-hoosiers/16960841/

TRANSITION: Yes, this is a strange type of world record to establish. Unlike the longest high-five chain, I don’t think many are attempting to break this record.

In our text for today we will see an equally weird interaction between God and the Israelites. Much time has passed since our passage from last week. In fact, this is a completely new generation. Could this generation be more faithful to the covenant with God than the last? Let’s see…

SCRIPTURE READING: Numbers 21:4-9 4They marched from Mount Hor on the Reed Sea road around the land of Edom. The people became impatient on the road. 5The people spoke against God and Moses: “Why did you bring us up from Egypt to kill us in the desert, where there is no food or water. And we detest this miserable bread!” 6So the Lord sent poisonoussnakes among the people and they bit the people. Many of the Israelites died. 7The people went to Moses and said, “We’ve sinned, for we spoke against the Lord and you. Pray to the Lord so that he will send the snakes away from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. 8The Lord said to Moses, “Make a poisonous snake and place it on a pole. Whoever is bitten can look at it and live.” 9Moses made a bronze snake and placed it on a pole. If a snake bit someone, that person could look at the bronze snake and live.

EXPLAINATION: God teaches a lesson using snakes.

  1. Who: Moses and the 2nd generation of Israelites; this is the first generation AFTER slavery. They were not enslaved.
  2. Where: In the desert/wilderness on their way to the Promise Land; going AROUND the land of Edom.
  3. Action: This generation resented wandering in the wilderness and being raised on manna. The spoke out against God who rescued their parents/grandparents from slavery and provided them food AND the spoke out against Moses who led them.
  4. Consequences: God sent “poisonous snakes,” they bite people, a bunch of people die,
  5. Repentance: the Israelites actually acknowledge that they spoke wrong of God and of Moses and ask God to help them. 
  6. Redemption:  God helps them by having Moses build a Snake Pole that the people look at and are healed.

INTERPRETATION: God teaches a lesson using snakes.

  1. Inherited Bias: The second generation inherited an attitude from the previous generation with out question or reflection.
    1. Examples today: Sports teams or comfort food
      1. Serious examples: politics, religion, or world view.
      2. The previous generation passed on their experiences, knowledge, and inherited beliefs/bias and want you to receive without bias.
    2. “I wanna go back to Egypt”
      1. Kids! You never were in Egypt. You are echoing the words of your parents & grandparents before you.
      2. This generation has carried on the wrong tradition from their ancestors. Instead of passing on a faithfulness to God they passed on a lack of gratitude and perspective.
    3. “And we detest this miserable bread”—The Hebrew here suggests that they detest this food so much that they gag or retch at the thought of eating it. This magical bread that God provided them since their infancy.
      1. God provided mercy and grace to the previous generation through manna and quail. They were ungrateful and complained about this food. The next generation was raised to be ungrateful for this blessing from God.
        1. Their parents and grandparents weren’t allowed to enter the promise land because of their inability to be faithful.
        2. Why would you want to copy the bitterness and brokenness of the previous generation?
        3. Do you want to walk in to the same consequences as that generation?
  2. Recognizing our Inherited Bias: We’re gonna have a little exercise. As we talk about the next thing, I want you to be aware of your internal reactions.
    1. God’s consequences—God gave the weirdest consequences for this sin by sending poisonous snakes.
      1. “poisonous snakes” à hebrew “fiery snakes” à “fiery seraphim” à dragons 😉 (WP)
        1. https://biblehub.com/text/numbers/21-6.htm
        2. https://biblehub.com/hebrew/8314.htm
          1. “I. שָׂרָף noun masculineIsaiah 14:29 a serpent, usually venomous (possibly from above v, from burning effect of poison); — absolute ׳שׂ Numbers 21:8 (J E; on Arabic parallels see JacobArabic Dichter ii. 93, iv. 10 f.), apposition ׳נָחָשׁ שׂ Deuteronomy 8:15, plural הַנְּחָשִׁים הַשְּׂרָפִים Numbers 21:6; a flying serpent, or dragon, שָׂרָף מְעוֺפֵף Isaiah 14:29Isaiah 30:6.”
          2. “II. [שָׂרָף] noun masculineIsaiah 6:2 plural שְׂרָפִים seraphim (probably akin to I. ׳שׂ, as beings originally mythically conceived with serpents’ bodies (serpent-deities, compare Isaiah 14:29Isaiah 30:6), or (CheComm.) personified of lightning, compare arts. SERAPHIM, StrachanHast. DB CheEncy. Bib.; Di Marti and others compare also Egyptian guardian-griffins, called Šerref; see also כְּרוּב; on Assyrian Šarrapu (-bu), epithet of god Nergal, connected by DlWB with √ שָׂרַף, see שָׁרָב, ZimKAT 3. 415); — in OT. majestic beings with six wings, and human hands and voices, attendant upon ׳י Isaiah 6:2,6.”
    2. The Christian hope has changed.
      1. If we dive into scripture, the Christian hope isn’t in heaven but in Christ returning and restoring creation. If the Christian hope was in heaven, we would be excited to die. But something deep inside of us wants to live.
      2. The church shifted the Christian hope over centuries.
        1. In the Victorian era we saw a shift of religion being a masculine field to a feminine field. We also saw Angels become cute chubby babies with wings that could not defy gravity.
        2. War and mortality changed the way the church preached. And we haven’t pushed back for generations.
      3. Heaven isn’t the goal. Christ’s return and the restoration of the earth is the Christian hope.

APPLICATION: To stop wishing for Egypt and look forward to breaking cycles by stepping forward with God

  1. Time of Reflection with music
    1. What is our Egypt: What are we looking back on with rose colored glasses?
    2. What is God asking us to step away from?
    3. What is God asking us to step towards?
    4. What has this path lead us “around”?

CONCLUSION:

  1. God’s mercy also came by a snake.
    1. I picture this and think of the symbols for the EMT and Doctors- but their symbols are both rooted in Greek mythology.
    2. God used weird & miraculous means to heal the people.
    3. God was committed to his promise to Abraham. Abraham’s descendants would live in the Promise Land.
  2. Post Script: I wish I could tell you that the Israelites were faithful from this point forward, but they weren’t. They continued to struggle with their faithfulness & obedience to God for generations.
    1. They “committed” to the covenant (the 10 commandments) of their parents/grandparents. They claimed God as their God and said the 10 commandments was their law…. But continued to struggle with faithfulness for generations.

God is faithful. We are called to be faithful, not a carbon copy of the previous generation. May we inherit a strong faith but let the stubborn pride or cranky attitudes fade with time.

Laws Made To Be Broken

Originally preached on 3/7/2021

Message Title: Laws Made to Be Broken
Theme: Record Breakers & Redemption
Season: Lent
Main Text: Exodus 20:1-17;
Scripture Reading: John 2:13-22
RCL Scripture: Exodus 20:1-17; Psalm 19; 1 Corinthians 1:18-25; John 2:13-22
Focus: God makes a covenant with Israel through Moses.
Function: To separate ourselves from the legalism of religion and enter into the spiritual journey of a faith focused on Christ.
Other Notes: Guinness Records in Indiana https://www.indystar.com/story/life/2014/10/09/guiness-book-world-records-hoosiers/16960841/

SCRIPTURE READING: John 2:13-25 13 It was nearly time for the Jewish Passover, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 He found in the temple those who were selling cattle, sheep, and doves, as well as those involved in exchanging currency sitting there. 15 He made a whip from ropes and chased them all out of the temple, including the cattle and the sheep. He scattered the coins and overturned the tables of those who exchanged currency. 16 He said to the dove sellers, “Get these things out of here! Don’t make my Father’s house a place of business.” 17 His disciples remembered that it is written, Passion for your house consumes me.[a] 18 Then the Jewish leaders asked him, “By what authority are you doing these things? What miraculous sign will you show us?” 19 Jesus answered, “Destroy this temple and in three days I’ll raise it up.” 20 The Jewish leaders replied, “It took forty-six years to build this temple, and you will raise it up in three days?” 21 But the temple Jesus was talking about was his body. 22 After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered what he had said, and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken. 23 While Jesus was in Jerusalem for the Passover Festival, many believed in his name because they saw the miraculous signs that he did. 24 But Jesus didn’t trust himself to them because he knew all people. 25 He didn’t need anyone to tell him about human nature, for he knew what human nature was.

WORLD RECORD: longest high-five chain

  1. Temporary Record Holders: From September 2nd of 2014 to November 30th of 2016, Indiana State University held a world record for the Longest High-Five Chain. About the record: 1,647 participants gathered at Indiana State University’s Hulman Center in Terre Haute to set the record. The event, sponsored by High-5 for The Kids, doubled as a fundraiser for the United Way.
  2. Current Record Holder: Indiana only held this record for 2 years before a group from Arizona surpassed the record by more than double the participants.
    1. The longest “high five” chain measures 3,473 participants, and was achieved by Fiesta Bowl and UnitedHealthcare (USA) in Avondale, Arizona, USA, on 30 November 2016. The third to eighth graders attempting the record were Playworks students; participants in a non-profit program focused on encouraging active play in schools.
  3. “Record Breakers” – I was told that the term “record breaker” was coined because they used to literally break the record of the previous champion when a new record was created. To be a record breaker was to literally break the record. Now I tried to find a source to prove this was more than anecdote but unfortunately was unsuccessful. Please let me know if you can find a source to prove the history of the term “Record Breaker.”
  4. Sources:
    1. https://www.tribstar.com/news/local_news/world-record-for-longest-high-five-chain-set/article_8f908f88-1e27-592d-908b-aaf5b3b9573c.html
    2. https://www.guinnessworldrecords.com/world-records/longest-high-five-chain

AUDIENCE ENAGEMENT: COVID has made greetings and physical affection weird. Hugs, handshakes, and high fives used to be our social norm for greetings. Now I see awkward smiles or fist bumps or people wondering what is an acceptable greeting.

  1. What type of greeting do you wish would make a comeback after COVID-tide?
  2. What type of greeting do you wish would go away forever after COVID-tide?

TRANSITION: We make records to break records. However, it seems the only records easily broken are the ones easily accomplished? Do you think we could surpass 3500 people for a high five chain?

In our text for today, we will see a new covenant established. This covenant builds expectations of humans perpetually breaking the contract. As we dive into this covenant, I want to look at God’s design rather than dissect the route to perfect holiness.

SCRIPTURE READING: Exodus 20:1-17 Then God spoke all these words: 2I am the Lord your God who brought you out of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. 3You must have no other gods beforeme. 4Do not make an idol for yourself—no form whatsoever—of anything in the sky above or on the earth below or in the waters under the earth. 5Do not bow down to them or worship them, because I, the Lord your God, am a passionate God. I punish children for their parents’ sins even to the third and fourth generations of those who hate me. 6But I am loyal and gracious to the thousandth generationof those who love me and keep my commandments. 7Do not use the Lord your God’s name as if it were of no significance; the Lord won’t forgive anyone who uses his name that way. 8Remember the Sabbath day and treat it as holy. 9Six days you may work and do all your tasks, 10but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. Do not do any work on it—not you, your sons or daughters, your male or female servants, your animals, or the immigrant who is living with you. 11Because the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and everything that is in them in six days, but rested on the seventh day. That is why the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. 12Honor your father and your mother so that your life will be long on the fertile land that the Lord your God is giving you. 13Do not kill. 14Do not commit adultery. 15Do not steal. 16Do not testify falsely against your neighbor. 17Do not desire and try to take your neighbor’s house. Do not desire and try to take your neighbor’s wife, male or female servant, ox, donkey, or anything else that belongs to your neighbor.

EXPLAINATION: The 10 commandments

  1. Moses got them on a mountain (Mt Sinai)
    1. Not the first time we see something significant happen on the top of a mountain.
    2. Moses first interacted with God on the top of a mountain (burning bush).
    3. Moses continually communed with God on a mountain.
    4. Mountains were considered high holy places.
  2. Covenant for the people of Israel-
    1. Eventually the Jewish laws expanded to 613 (Footnotes)
    2. Jesus simplified the laws into two categories: “Love God” and “Love Others.”
      1. Matthew 22:34-40
      2. Mark 12:28-34
      3. Luke 10: 25-28

INTERPRETATION:

  1. Jesus has not gotten rid of the Law (10 Commandments)
    1. Matthew 5: 13-20 God’s people live the law to be an example for the world
    2. But the law isn’t a gradebook.
  2. Guidelines for how to live: God gave us the 10 Commandments to show us how to flourish in relationship with others and with God. However, these laws became a grading book to determine the holiness/righteousness level of God’s people.
    1. We love a grading scale, don’t we? “Yeah, you love me God, but am I better than that person?”
    2. These aren’t easy laws to follow but standards to strive towards because they lead to a fulfilling life.
      1. Jesus spends time in the gospels pointing to the root of the laws (Do not murder à do not hate. Do not commit adultery à don’t even lust)
        1. Don’t use God’s name in vain is not about avoiding saying G-D or Oh My God! Don’t put words in God’s mouth. Don’t make promises on God’s name and then not fulfill them.
  3. God doesn’t find joy in grading our behavior or plotting consequences. God wants our flourishing. We forget that the essence of the law is about God’s intention for creation when we follow the letter of the law. The letter gives us a score card to judge each other on. The essence of the law gives us stronger relationships with God and with our community.

APPLICATION: To separate ourselves from the legalism of religion and enter into the spiritual journey of a faith focused on Christ.

  1. Lent is a time of reflection and re-centering our lives around Christ. Two weeks ago, we talked about the different ways you could participate in Lent. How has your reflection time been going?
    1. Audience engagement: Have you tried to incorporate one of the Lenten practices?
      1. Fasting
      2. Charitable giving
      3. Confession/repentance
      4. Incorporating a new spiritual practice
      5. Unconventional: Joy Jar
    2. Deconstruction: Sometimes as you are reflecting, meditating, or praying, you may discover parts of your faith that you struggle believing, don’t believe any more, or trigger painful memories.
      1. Naked Pastor- “Deconstruction is the erosion or crumbling of our beliefs. It is unlearning. It clears space for wisdom.”
      2. Lent can be a season of deconstructing beliefs (maybe even decluttering) to bring us back to the truth of Christ. Don’t be afraid as questions arise.
      3. Don’t be scared if you consider setting down some old teachings or practices.
        1. Jesus simplified the laws into: Loving God and Loving Others.
        2. Sometimes our faith gets over complicated and needs to be brought back to the truth of Christ.
    3. Encouragement to try to engage your faith spiritually.
      1. AUDIENCE ENGAGEMENT: What are other ways we can love our neighbors or love God that don’t show up on the 10 commandments?
  2. COMMUNION: Jesus set an example in his life. Jesus removed the grade book with his death and resurrection. We remember his life through communion and the life we are called to live.
    1. Invite a deacon to pray over the elements.

CONLUSION

  1. The Law isn’t about legalism. The law is about setting us free to love more fully and experience enriched lives.
    1. As you continue to dive into your faith and examine things during the season of lent, share with us ways we can support you.
    2. Follow up on commitment cards – if you didn’t hear this last week, hear this now: These cards are not a gradebook or score card. They are a commitment to practice a new aspect of your faith. They are a way for me & the deacons to encourage you as you grow.

Fancy Titles & Big Gestures

Originally preached on 2/28/2021

Message Title: Fancy Titles & Big Gestures
Theme: Record Breakers & Redemption
Season: Lent
Main Text: Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16
Scripture Reading: Mark 8:31-38
RCL Scripture: Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16; Psalm 22:23-31; Romans 4:13-25; Mark 8:31-38 or Mark 9:2-9
Focus: God makes a covenant with Abram & Sarai and seals it with a sign.
Function: To return God’s commitment with a commitment of our own.
Other Notes: Guinness Records in Indiana https://www.indystar.com/story/life/2014/10/09/guiness-book-world-records-hoosiers/16960841/

SCRIPTURE READING: Mark 8:31-38 31 Then Jesus began to teach his disciples: “The Human One must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and the legal experts, and be killed, and then, after three days, rise from the dead.” 32 He said this plainly. But Peter took hold of Jesus and, scolding him, began to correct him. 33 Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, then sternly corrected Peter: “Get behind me, Satan. You are not thinking God’s thoughts but human thoughts.” 34 After calling the crowd together with his disciples, Jesus said to them, “All who want to come after me must say no to themselves, take up their cross, and follow me. 35 All who want to save their lives will lose them. But all who lose their lives because of me and because of the good news will save them. 36 Why would people gain the whole world but lose their lives? 37 What will people give in exchange for their lives? 38 Whoever is ashamed of me and my words in this unfaithful and sinful generation, the Human One will be ashamed of that person when he comes in the Father’s glory with the holy angels.”

WORLD RECORD: Michael Jackson—King of Pop –Michael Joseph Jackson was born in Gary, Indiana in 1958. You would have to live under a rock to have not heard of the King of Pop.Though his story is full of controversy, scandal, and pain, there is no denying the musical talent he contained.

At one point in time, Michael Jackson held 24 world records. Some have since been broken by new artists. As of 2020, Jackson currently holds 16 Guinness World Records, including best-selling album of all time and most expensive music video.

YearNominee / workAward
1984ThrillerBest-selling album of all time
1984Michael JacksonMost Grammy wins in one night
1996Scream” (Shared with Janet Jackson)Most expensive short film[52]
1997ThrillerBest-selling album by a male soloist in the UK
1999Michael Jackson and Janet JacksonMost successful siblings[53][54]
2000Michael JacksonMost charities supported by a pop star[55][56][57]
2002Making Michael Jackson’s ThrillerBest-selling music video
2006You Are Not AloneFirst vocalist to enter the US single chart at No. 1  
2009Michael JacksonMost simultaneous charted singles in the UK charts in a year 
2002Michael JacksonMost American Music Awards won by a male artist[59][h]
2010Michael JacksonHighest-earning deceased artist[60]
2011Michael Jackson’s This Is ItHighest-grossing concert film of all time
2011Michael JacksonLongest span of US top 40 singles[63][j]
2015Black or WhiteLargest TV audience for a video premiere[k]
2015 Michael JacksonHighest annual earnings for a celebrity ever [64]
2016Michael JacksonHighest-earning dead celebrity [65]
source: wiki (yes i realize that’s not really a scholarly source)

AUDIENCE ENGAGEMENT: What is your favorite Michael Jackson song? Even if you have to reach back to the Jackson 5.

TRANSITION: Michael Jackson may be the “King of Pop” but in our text for today, Abram is given the title of “Father of Many Nations” by God. Let’s dive into the covenant between Abram & God.

SCRIPTURE READING: Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16 When Abram was 99 years old, the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am El Shaddai. Walk with me and be trustworthy. I will make a covenant between us and I will give you many, many descendants.” Abram fell on his face, and God said to him, “But me, my covenant is with you; you will be the ancestor of many nations. And because I have made you the ancestor of many nations, your name will no longer be Abram but Abraham. I will make you very fertile. I will produce nations from you, and kings will come from youI will set up my covenant with you and your descendants after you in every generation as an enduring covenant. I will be your God and your descendants’ God after you. … 15 God said to Abraham, “As for your wife Sarai, you will no longer call her Sarai. Her name will now be Sarah16 I will bless her and even give you a son from her. I will bless her so that she will become nations, and kings of peoples will come from her.”

EXPLAINATION: God makes a covenant with Abram & Sarai and seals it with a sign.

  1. Abram was 99 when this covenant was established.
  2. God tells Abram God’s name is El Shaddai (some translate this as Almighty God but it could also be God on the Mountain.)
  3. Covenant details:
    1. Abram’s Covenant responsibilities to commit to God and be trustworthy.
      1. Sign of the covenant: circumcising all the males in his household. Any male committing to this covenant will have that sign on their body.
    2. Reward: Abram will have many descendants (in a time when a family tree was basically a sign of wealth & prosperity.)
      1. God promises Abram that he will be a great nation & changes his name to Abraham.
        1. Kings will come from the line of Abraham.
      2. God commits not just to Abraham, but to Sarah and their offspring for generations.
        1. Kings will come from Sarah’s line.
        2. This covenant description is different from God’s previous mention of this promise to Abram in Genesis 12 and 15.
        3. This promise isn’t just for Abram/Abraham, but for Sarai/Sarah too. (WP)

INTERPRETATION: God makes a covenant with Abram & Sarai and seals it with a sign.

  1. God is claiming to be Abraham & Sarah’s God and the God of their future generations.
    1. God is changing religion for that time era. Much has changed from Adam & Eve to Noah to Abram & Sarai. Humans did not walk with God as Adam and Eve. Humans didn’t listen to God. And then, during the time of Abram & Sarai, deities were tribal or national.
      1. Your family gods were yours and not the same as the other tribes’ family gods. Your gods protected you and their gods protected them. Sometimes they would even have to fight it out to see who was the stronger family god.
        1. Think Egyptians, Greeks, or Romans as national gods.
        2. Think Chinese Dynasties as family gods that become national gods.
        3. Think of indigenous tribes and their gods.
    2. God takes this moment and promises Abraham & Sarah will be ancestors of NATIONS and that God will be the God of their ancestors. God is shifting things from a tribal religion. God is bringing creation back to God’s intentions.
  2. Previous portions of the Covenant:
    1. Genesis 12: 1-3 The Lord said to Abram, “Leave your land, your family, and your father’s household for the land that I will show you. 2I will make of you a great nation and will bless you. I will make your name respected, and you will be a blessing. 3I will bless those who bless you, those who curse you I will curse; all the families of the earth will be blessed because of you.”
      1. They go but Abram struggles with trusting God and regularly does things his own way (or his wife’s way). I.e., Egypt & Pharaoh.
    2. Genesis 15: 4-6, 18-21 4The Lord’s word came immediately to him, “This man will not be your heir. Your heir will definitely be your very own biological child.” 5Then he brought Abram outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars if you think you can count them.” He continued, “This is how many children you will have.” 6Abram trusted the Lord, and the Lord recognized Abram’s high moral character. … 18That day the Lord cut a covenant with Abram: “To your descendants I give this land, from Egypt’s river to the great Euphrates, 19together with the Kenites, the Kenizzites, the Kadmonites, 20the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, 21the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites, and the Jebusites.”
      1. God promises Abram & Sarai off spring & land. Sarai is barren, so they take advantage of their slave Hagar to provide Abram a son. Once again trying to take things into their own hands to fulfill God’s promises.
  3. This third time speaking the covenant to Abram, God changes Abram’s name and says that Sarai is part of the promise. She, too, will have a biological child.
    1. Abraham pleads that Ishmael, his son by Hagar, would count as the heir but God’s redemption story includes Sarai and does not include taking advantage of Hagar. However, God doesn’t abandon Hagar or Ishmael and they receive a blessing to become a great nation as well.
  4. God’s redemption plan will be done in God’s holy and righteous way. God once again reestablishes this covenant with Abraham, explicitly including Sarah this time, and calls Abraham to walk with God and live a trustworthy life.
    1. The sign that Abraham is committing to the covenant is circumcision.
  5. God asked for a mutual commitment from Abraham. There was an event to signal the commitment and a behavior that changed permanently as a result of that commitment.
    1. At one point in time, it was easy to see by looking at a group of people what tribe, religion, or political group they affiliated with.
      1. In Jesus’ time, well after Abram & Sarai, you could see a person’s loyalties based on their dress.
      2. A modern-day example would be the headdress worn by Arabic men. This headdress goes by different names depending on the region you are from but the meaning remains the same. The pattern of the fabric and the way it is tied signifies where you are from and sometimes even your political party.
        1. Example: Palestine, Yemen, Jordan
  6. AUDIENCE ENGAGEMENT: How do we show our loyalties?
    1. Examples: Sports teams;Coke, soda, pop; Firefly or lightning bug
      1. I joke that drawing the lines for the Midwest would be a good divisive activity.
    2. Those are all fun loyalties to consider; it gets less fun when we talk about religion, politics, or economic status.
  7. When Abram’s name was changed to Abraham, God was not just changing his name but changing his will. God was saying, “I know you’ve got a plan Abram, but mine is even more fulfilling.”

APPLICATION: To return God’s commitment with a commitment of our own.

  1. Much like Abraham shifted his plans to meet God’s, Being children of Abraham & followers of Christ means joining the covenant. We aren’t getting God to join our plans, rather we are joining God’s plans.
    1. Think about the fact that the Lord’s prayer doesn’t say “My will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” It says “Thy will be done.” – God’s will.
  2. AUDIENCE ENGAGEMENT: If we were to designate a covenantal sign for Christ followers, what would it be?
    1. No longer is circumcision necessary as a sign of the covenant. If you’re curious, that was discussed in Acts 15. Also, only God would know about that commitment…. I mean we aren’t checking.
    2. The reality is that the Christian faith is a large spectrum of humans. It’s not as easy to get us to agree on how to perform baptism much less design a universal symbol of our faith. Plus, so many signs have baggage or connotations behind them.
    3. I.e.—have you ever thought what Jesus would think if he came back and saw that we use crosses in our worship décor? You know, the thing used to sentence him to death? I know that is the point. A brutal thing becomes converted to a symbol of love… but at the same time, I gotta wonder what Jesus would say.
  3. So as we think about it in genuine terms, How do we show our loyalty to God both in publicly visible and invisible ways?
    1. Answer: with our words and our actions. Symbols can be misinterpreted or meanings can change BUT our words and our actions can be a constant testimony to our commitment to God.  
  4. Liberty Commitment Card: deacons pass out and collect after service.
    1. Tangible commitments in current church practice:
      1. Child dedication/ family dedication
      2. Baptism or recommitment to baptism
      3. Membership
      4. Volunteering/committee
      5. Tithing/pledge

CONCLUSION: Even after death, Michael Jackson is still maintaining his title as King of Pop with 16 Guinness World Records. Through life, death, and eternity we are able to claim the title as Children of God. We don’t perform actions as a way to earn that title but we respond to the gift we’ve been given with our life.

Does God Break Promises?

Originally preached on 2/21/2021

Message Title: Does God Break Promises?
Theme: Record Breakers & Redemption
Season: Lent
Main Text: Genesis 9:8-17
Scripture Reading: Mark 1:9-15
RCL Scripture: Genesis 9:8-17; Psalm 25:1-10; 1 Peter 3:18-22; Mark 1:9-15
Focus: God makes a covenant with all creation through Noah.
Function: To set our minds for the season of lent and a renewed dependance on God.
Other Notes: Guinness Records in Indiana https://www.indystar.com/story/life/2014/10/09/guiness-book-world-records-hoosiers/16960841/

SCRIPTURE READING: Mark 1:9-15 9About that time, Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and John baptized him in the Jordan River. 10While he was coming up out of the water, Jesus saw heaven splitting open and the Spirit, like a dove, coming down on him. 11And there was a voice from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I dearly love; in you I find happiness.” 12At once the Spirit forced Jesus out into the wilderness. 13He was in the wilderness for forty days, tempted by Satan. He was among the wild animals, and the angels took care of him. 14After John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee announcing God’s good news, 15saying, “Now is the time! Here comes God’s kingdom! Change your hearts and lives, and trust this good news!”

Intro to Series: Record Breakers & Redemption

  1. Over the season of Lent, we will explore passages in the Old Testament that touch on God’s covenants. These are stories of God’s promises with and for humanity.
  2. While we explore these big promises, we will also explore some impressive feats! As we count down to Easter, we will also learn about some Guinness World Records made in Indiana.

AUDIENCE ENAGEMENT: If you became famous for breaking a world record, what would that record be?

GUINNESS INDIANA RECORD: Largest Paint Ball--It’s amazing what humans can do when they set their mind to it. Michael Carmichael of Alexandria Indiana is no exception.

  1. In Alexandria, Indiana Michael Carmichael started the world’s largest ball of paint.
    1. The center of the ball is a baseball attached to a hook.
    2. They add about 2 coats of paint every day.
    3. There is over 26k coats.
  2. It now weighs over 2.5 tons & has a circumference of over 14 ft.
  3. Sources.
    1. https://www.roadsideamerica.com/story/9792
    2. https://www.indystar.com/story/life/2014/10/09/guiness-book-world-records-hoosiers/16960841/
    3. https://radio-indiana.com/20151208/all-indiana-it-happened-here-guinness-world-records/
    4. https://www.guinnessworldrecords.com/world-records/most-layers-of-paint

TRANSITION: In our text for today, God will paint the sky rather than a baseball. Perhaps this artistic expression will give us a sense of purpose, much like Michael Carmichael’s determination to maintain his record.

SCRIPTURE: Genesis 9:8-17 8God said to Noah and to his sons with him, 9I am now setting up my covenant with you, with your descendants, 10and with every living being with you—with the birds, with the large animals, and with all the animals of the earth, leaving the ark with you. 11I will set up my covenant with you so that never again will all life be cut off by floodwaters. There will never again be a flood to destroy the earth.” 12God said, “This is the symbol of the covenant that I am drawing up between me and you and every living thing with you, on behalf of every future generation. 13I have placed my bow in the clouds; it will be the symbol of the covenant between me and the earth. 14When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow appears in the clouds, 15I will remember the covenant between me and you and every living being among all the creatures. Floodwaters will never again destroy all creatures. 16The bow will be in the clouds, and upon seeing it I will remember the enduring covenant between God and every living being of all the earth’s creatures.” 17God said to Noah, “This is the symbol of the covenant that I have set up between me and all creatures on earth.”

EXPLAINATION: God makes a promise with Noah and all creation.

  1. Genesis 1-11 are considered pre-history chapters.
    1. Most historians don’t date this section of scripture because it is in Hebraic poetry form. Some Christians call this our origin myth, while the word myth makes others uncomfortable.
    2. For some Christians it is super important that Creation happened literally exactly as it unfolds in Genesis 1 and that Noah’s Ark literally happened exactly as is. For other Christians, this is a prologue to scripture. Genesis 1-11 sets the stage and introduces you to God.
    3. God created all of creation, and it was very good. It didn’t take long, with human choice, for things to grow corrupt. God wiped the slate clean and start over with a specific family, Noah’s family.
      1. This loss was an enormous cost. God promised not only Noah and his family, but the rest of creation that he would not use a great flood of destruction to bring about redemption.
        1. Did God regret exercising judgement in this form?
  2. What we learn from this account
    1. “am now setting up my covenant,”
      1. Covenant means a commitment or legal contract. This is a vow that has consequences if broken. Though God doesn’t define here what the consequences would be if God didn’t keep God’s promise.
    2. “I will set up my covenant with you so that never again will all life be cut off by floodwaters,”
      1. And here we have the specific covenant with Noah, his family, and all of creation.
      2. God isn’t gonna do the flood thing again.
    3. “I have placed my bow in the clouds,”-
      1. “bow”–the word used in Hebrew, think archery weapon not rainbow.
      2. God’s weapon of war and death (the bow) is laid aside in the clouds and becomes the sign of peace and life assured in the covenant. (Footnotes)
    4. “I will remember”- this is a mutual reminder. God calls for justice and holy living, but this is his way of reminding himself of this promise

INTERPRETATION: To set our minds for the season of lent and a renewed dependance on God.

  1. AUDIENCE ENGAGEMENT: Does God need reminders? Why do you think he said “I will see it and remember”?
    1. It’s an odd thing to think that God would need help remembering not to destroy all of creation in a flood again. Honestly, it makes me think of the problem of decorating a nursery in a Noah’s ark theme. Yes, it’s a story with a bunch of animals which is cute. But also, it’s a violent story of God seeing evil people and sentencing them to death by drowning. Not just humans experienced consequences of these actions. Plants & animals also suffered.
    2. I think God places that reminder there because his justice is so strong. He sets down his weapon of war in the sky and reminds himself to hold off on judgement & justice. God does not choose to repeat the form of justice
  2. Biblical Waters
    1. Waters of the flood were violent and destructive.
    2. Waters of Jesus’ baptism were about giving life.
      1. But does that mean OT God is angry and vengeful while the NT God (Jesus) is all about love and peace?
  3. God keeps God’s promises. God doesn’t compromise God’s expectations.
    1. God created the world and made it good.
    2. God created humans in God’s image. They chose not to reflect God’s image.

Back to the Intro:

APPLICATION: To set our minds for the season of lent and a renewed dependance on God.

  1. Traditional practices during the season of lent help us enter the holy life to which God has invited us.
    1. Fasting is most famous! (From ash Wednesday to Easter it’s 40 days of fasting b/c we skip fasting on Sundays.) Fasting could happen continually or perhaps you want to try to do a full day fast (I recommend making sure your doctor says you’re healthy enough for that).
      1. The goal of a fast is to experience the void of that thing and spend that time with God. This could manifest in many ways.
        1. I.e.: giving up 1 hour of television/entertainment a day for mental and spiritual development.
    2. Charitable giving (not just money but acts of service)
      1. Pointing the focus away from yourself and towards others.
    3. Confession & Repentance– owning up to your active or passive sins and changing your behavior. This could look like direct acts of healing with the person you’ve wronged but that isn’t always possible. Confession and Repentance can also be a journey between you and God or you and a counselor.
    4. Incorporate a new spiritual practice: Prayer, meditation, bible study
  2. On Ash Wednesday, I suggested doing something unconventional for Lent. I suggested a Joy Jar: taking time to find joy in the mundane little things in life. We have given up many things in the last year and during COVID.

CONCLUSION: You are invited to find creative ways to remember our hope is in God during the season of lent. You may choose a traditional path or perhaps discover something non-traditional.  Humans can accomplish a lot when they are committed. Imagine what we can accomplish committed to our covenant with God and with each other. Let’s break a record in love!

Jesus Gets A Makeover

Originally Preached on Feb 14th, 2021

Message Title: Jesus Gets a Makeover
Theme: Flopped Inventions & New Discoveries
Season: Epiphany
Main Text: Mark 9:2-10
Scripture Reading: Psalm 50:1-6
RCL Scripture: 2 Kings 2:1-12; Psalm 50:1-6; 2 Corinthians 4:3-6; Mark 9:2-9
Focus: Jesus is transfigured before Peter, James, & John.
Function: To acknowledge how we have changed the image of Jesus & Christianity to fit our preferences and correct the gaze of our ministry.
Other Notes: Madame CJ Walker & Annie Turnbo Malone

SCRIPTURE READING: Psalm 50:1-6 From the rising of the sun to where it sets, God, the Lord God, speaks, calling out to the earth. 2From Zion, perfect in beauty, God shines brightly. 3Our God is coming; he won’t keep quiet. A devouring fire is before him; a storm rages all around him. 4God calls out to the skies above and to the earth in order to judge his people: 5“Bring my faithful to me, those who made a covenant with me by sacrifice.” 6The skies proclaim his righteousness because God himself is the judge. Selah

INVENTOR: Madame CJ Walker & Annie Turnbo Malone

  1. AUDICENCE ENGAGEMENT: How many of you love a good before and after pictures?
    1. What’s your favorite type of before and after photo? (home reno, car, yard, weight loss, fashion makeover, hair makeover)?
      1. Weight loss
      2. Home reno
      3. Before, during, after deployment
      4. Car remodel
  2. Before and after photos tell a story. They show the passage of time and transformation of the subject. Our invention today highlights the story of before & after pictures but we must focus on two women today.
    1. Netflix recently released a mini series titled “Self-Made” and it is a historical fiction story that is loosely based off of the stories of Madam CJ Walker and Annie Turnbo Malone.
      1. History has dubbed Madam CJ Walker, born Sarah Breedlove, the first woman millionaire in the US. However, much like the light bulb and the car, the invention of a particular formula of hair care products has a debated origin.
      2. Both women claim to be the inventor of their hair growth product but the recipe has ties to use by African women 100+ years prior.
  3. Thanks to these women a few inventions & cultural implications came about:
    1. Black/African hair care products like the hot comb & hair care treatments
    2. Thriving cultural & educational opportunities for desegregated and segregated areas
      1. (Walker) Indianapolis
      2. (Malone) St Louis & Chicago
    3. A business structure that would be copied by Avon, Mary Kay, It Works, Pampered Chef and many more.
  4. Hoosiers, specifically, were impacted by Madam CJ Walker as her headquarters were in Indy. She contributed to Indy’s YMCA and helped to fund desegregated cultural events.
  5. Sources:
    1. https://www.biography.com/inventor/madam-cj-walker
    2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Madam_C._J._Walker
    3. https://www.history.com/topics/black-history/madame-c-j-walker
    4. https://historicmissourians.shsmo.org/historicmissourians/name/m/malone/
    5. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Annie_Turnbo_Malone
    6. https://www.vox.com/the-goods/2019/2/15/18226396/annie-turnbo-malone-hair-entrepreneur-trump-black-history

TRANSITION: Today is a special holiday. And I’m not referring to Valentine’s day. Today is Transfiguration Sunday, the day we remember a specific account in scripture. Jesus is gonna get a makeover… but it isn’t from Madam CJ Walker or Anne Turnbo Malone.

SCRIPTURE: Mark 9:2-10 2Six days later Jesus took Peter, James, and John, and brought them to the top of a very high mountain where they were alone. He was transformed in front of them, 3and his clothes were amazingly bright, brighter than if they had been bleached white. 4Elijah and Moses appeared and were talking with Jesus. 5Peter reacted to all of this by saying to Jesus, “Rabbi, it’s good that we’re here. Let’s make three shrines—one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” 6He said this because he didn’t know how to respond, for the three of them were terrified. 7Then a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice spoke from the cloud, “This is my Son, whom I dearly love. Listen to him!” 8Suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus. 9As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them not to tell anyone what they had seen until after the Human One had risen from the dead. 10So they kept it to themselves, wondering, “What’s this ‘rising from the dead’?”

EXPLAINATION: Jesus transfigures before Peter, James, & John and reveals his divine state.

  1. Setting:
    1. When- “Six days later”
      1. After what: Predicting his death and “get behind me Satan” to Peter.
      2. Lots of time has passed since Jesus’ ministry started (last week we were in chapter 1/16… we’re now in chapter 9/16)
    2. Who- Jesus took Peter, James, & John
    3. Where- top of a very high mountain
      1. Jewish traditional place for God to meet people
        1. (law & prophets affirm Jesus)
          1. Both guys interacted with God on a mountain
      2. “High places” were places where heaven & earth overlapped (think Greek god’s of Olympus)
  2. Story:
    1. Jesus transformed – bright clothes
    2. Elijah & Moses appeared & talked to Jesus
      1. Did the other guys hear what they were saying?
      2. What could have been the topic?
    3. Peter’s response: I like this, let’s make 3 tents/shrines
      1. My interpretation: Lets deem this moment holy and this location holy by setting up a monument like they used to do in Moses’ day
    4. Narrator “for peter did not know what to say”
      1. Connected to passage just before
    5. Voice from above “This is my son, listen to him”
      1. Echo of his baptism from the beginning of ministry
      2. Connected to passage just before
    6. Jesus responds – keep this secret until I rise from the dead
      1. PJ&J- Ugh WHAT?!?!

INTERPRETATION: We place expectations on Jesus.

Disclaimer: I wrestled with this topic and ask you to wrestle with me.

  1. When you picture Jesus, how often do you picture Jesus looking like a glow stick? You know what, Let’s take a moment to illustrate Jesus together.
    1. AUDIENCE ENGAGEMENT: If you were to draw a picture of Jesus (when he isn’t a glow stick), what would he look like?
      1. Think about context: Jesus was from the middle east, yes, a diverse area of land but likely Jesus looked more like a modern day Arab than the renaissance paintings we have of Jesus
      2. AI picture of Jesus & Forensic Jesus-
        1. https://www.patheos.com/blogs/religionprof/2020/07/jesus-according-to-ai.html
        2. https://www.archyde.com/they-recreate-the-image-of-jesus-with-artificial-intelligence-unusual/
        3. https://www.ancient-origins.net/news-general/reconstructing-jesus-using-science-flesh-out-face-religion-004942
    2. AUIDENCE ENGAGEMENT: If Jesus was here now, how do you think Jesus would compare to the Jesus we teach in Sunday School? What would his parables be focused on?
      1. Could we have modified Jesus to fit our preferences?
  2. The Disciples & their faith:
    1. If you read the different Gospels next to each other you will notice little differences. Mark’s gospel presents the disciples as clueless people.
      1. Look at Peter’s response to glowstick Jesus- Woah! Let’s build some tents!
      2. The narrator says “he didn’t know what he was saying”
        1. Matthew 17:1-8 – doesn’t make this notation, Peter has a Jewish response. Let’s build a sacred space for this sacred thing.
        2. Luke 9:28-36 – does claim Peter didn’t know what he was saying, Jesus’ goal was to head to Jerusalem and Peter wasn’t ready for what was coming.
        3. Frequently, in the other gospels, the disciples get background information that others don’t get. They seem to get “secret knowledge” that puts them ahead of the crowd. However, in Mark’s gospel the disciples struggle.
      3. In Mark’s gospel the disciples struggle to follow Jesus’ teachings and show their faith. Just after this scene, they rejoin the rest of the disciples who weren’t able to perform miracles. Honestly, Mark’s version of the disciples seems very human.
  3. Jesus’ ministry is defined by God not by human expectations.
    1. Jesus is different than we picture him & his ministry goals look different than humans would plan. I think, if Jesus were here today, humans would work Jesus to death answering small prayers. We would be satisfied with individual stories of healing instead of looking for the greater systemic healing.
      1. Last week, Jesus took some time to rest and moved on to the next city EVEN THOUGH there were still more needs in Capernaum. Jesus could have spent his entire life in Capernaum and never actually fulfilled his ministry.
    2. The transfiguration is a transitional point in Jesus’ ministry between teaching, healing, and casting out demons AND the Great Healing on the cross. (PF)
      1. “My Dad, a pastor, always felt that the Trans            figuration was a “trigger event” and readying for the journey to Jerusalem. He also saw the baptism as the “trigger event” for the ministry on earth.” (FB)

APPLICATION: To acknowledge how we have changed the image of Jesus & Christianity to fit our preferences and correct the gaze of our ministry.

  1. In what ways could our image of Jesus hold us back from our own growth as Christians?
    1. My Burden
    2. Focusing on the things that will not spread the hope of Christ.
      1. I know some people who are no longer believers or don’t attend church because Christians focus on the wrong thing while ignoring the tenants of our faith.
    3. Not focusing on the healing needing to happen in this world.
      1. Sometimes, earthly healing is needed for people to hear the message of God & discernment.
  2. We make God in our own image instead of remembering that we are made in God’s image. We have also made Christianity fit our own image.
    1. We focus on some parts of the scriptures and ignore other parts.
      1. We eat shrimp and pork. We eat dairy and meat together. Sorry, bible says no cheeseburgers. Especially not bacon cheese burgers because pork isn’t kosher. Neither is mixing dairy with meat.
      2. Men shave their beards & side burns
      3. Our fabrics are mixed.
      4. Women, when was the last time you pitched a tent outside when you were on your period?
    2. We choose some laws to maintain and judge others by while ignoring laws in the same list.

CONCLUSION:

Jesus may not have needed the magical hair products available from Madam CJ Walker and Annie Turnbo Malone but he still was transfigured and this transformed his ministry. The disciples saw a fuller picture of Jesus. This new perspective changed the trajectory of ministry for the disciples.

God Invented Rest

Message Title: God Invented Rest
Theme: Flopped Inventions & New Discoveries
Season: Epiphany
Main Text: Mark 1:29-39
Scripture Reading: Psalm 147:1-11, 20c
RCL Scripture: Isaiah 40:21-31; Psalm 147:1-11, 20c; 1 Corinthians 9:16-23; Mark 1:29-39
Focus: Amid Jesus’ ministry, he took time to rest.
Function: To accept the gift of rest and find time to recharge our own metaphorical batteries.
Other Notes: Alfred L Cralle (a black graduate of an ABHMS seminary) & inventor https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alfred_L._Cralle

SCRIPTURE READING: Psalm 147:1-11, 20c Praise the Lord! Because it is good to sing praise to our God! Because it is a pleasure to make beautiful praise! 2The Lord rebuilds Jerusalem, gathering up Israel’s exiles. 3God heals the brokenhearted and bandages their wounds. 4God counts the stars by number, giving each one a name. 5Our Lord is great and so strong! God’s knowledge can’t be grasped! 6The Lord helps the poor, but throws the wicked down on the dirt! 7Sing to the Lord with thanks; sing praises to our God with a lyre! 8God covers the skies with clouds; God makes rain for the earth; God makes the mountains sprout green grass. 9God gives food to the animals—even to the baby ravens when they cry out. 10God doesn’t prize the strength of a horse; God doesn’t treasure the legs of a runner. 11No. The Lord treasures the people who honor him, the people who wait for his faithful love. …20c Praise the Lord!

INVENTION: Ice Cream Scoop – Alfred L. Cralle

  1. AUDIENCE ENGAGEMENT:
    1. What is your favorite flavor of ice cream? What is the best brand of ice cream?
    2. Who dishes their ice cream with any spoon they can find? Who prefers to use an actual ice cream scoop?
  2. Alfred L. Cralle has impacted each of our lives in ways you may not realize. Cralle worked as a porter for a hotel & drug store in Washington, DC. On Feb 2nd 1897, he changed our lives. That was the day the patent office officially registered his invention.
    1. What was his invention, you ask? The “Ice Cream Mold & Disher,” you heard me right. He invented the ice cream scoop. If you were paying attention, that means just last week we celebrated 124 years of the ice cream scoop! Aren’t our lives so much better?
  3. Cralle’s invention isn’t the only cool thing connecting his story to ours. Alfred L. Cralle is important to Baptist history too! No, not just because his invention of the ice cream scoop makes our pitch-ins easier.
    1. “Cralle was sent to Washington D.C. where he attended Wayland Seminary, a branch of the National Theological Institute, one of a number of schools founded by the American Baptist Home Mission Society immediately after the Civil War to help educate newly freed African Americans.”
    2. Booker T. Washington (Virginia Union University)
  4. Sources.
    1. https://www.blackpast.org/african-american-history/cralle-alfred-l-1866-1920/
    2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alfred_L._Cralle
    3. https://www.nba.com/pacers/video/this-day-in-black-history-alfred-cralle
    4. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wayland_Seminary

TRANSITION: Our story today may not include the sweet creamy goodness of ice cream, but we may still find some joy or reprieve from the stresses of this world through the stories of Jesus.

SCRIPTURE: Mark 1:29-39 29After leaving the synagogue, Jesus, James, and John went home with Simon and Andrew. 30Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed, sick with a fever, and they told Jesus about her at once. 31He went to her, took her by the hand, and raised her up. The fever left her, and she served them. 32That evening, at sunset, people brought to Jesus those who were sick or demon-possessed. 33The whole town gathered near the door. 34He healed many who were sick with all kinds of diseases, and he threw out many demons. But he didn’t let the demons speak, because they recognized him. 35Early in the morning, well before sunrise, Jesus rose and went to a deserted place where he could be alone in prayer. 36Simon and those with him tracked him down. 37When they found him, they told him, “Everyone’s looking for you!” 38He replied, “Let’s head in the other direction, to the nearby villages, so that I can preach there too. That’s why I’ve come.” 39He traveled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and throwing out demons.

EXPLAINATION: Amid Jesus’ ministry, he took time to rest.

  1. As we follow the story of Jesus in Mark, you may notice that Jesus’ ministry begins in the northern part of Israel. He hangs out in the Galilee region for a while.
    1. In today’s text, we’re still in Capernaum. We know from the other John’s Gospel that Simon, Andrew, and Philip are all from Capernaum.
  2. Jesus leaves the synagogue after teaching & casting out a demon.
    1. Then James, John, Simon-Peter, and Andrew went with Jesus to Simon’s house. His mother-in-law was sick and Jesus healed her.
    2. Jesus stayed in the same area of Capernaum healing people.
  3. But eventually, Jesus took time to rest. Jesus went into solitude and rested.
    1. Yes, there were still people begging for his attention and demanding of his talents. But he paused and rested.
  4. After resting, he got up and continued on with his work. He didn’t stay in one town but continued traveling on teaching, healing, and casting out demons along the way.

INTERPRETATION: Amid Jesus’ ministry, he took time to rest.

  1. Jesus & Sabbath: The healing stories and exorcism stories are fascinating in this passage, but believe it or not, that’s not the thing that stands out to me. Instead, I notice Jesus practicing the very Jewish practice of Sabbath.
  2. Jews & Sabbath: Honestly, the others are also practicing the sabbath, but Jesus is on a different rotation.
    1. Just before this, Jesus was in the synagogue teaching and casting out demons, right? They’re celebrating the Sabbath for a day of rest.
      1. Sabbath is from sundown to sundown the following day. Starting Friday and ending Saturday evening.
    2. God established sabbath: The sabbath was given to humans as a gift. God designed creation with rest in mind.
      1. Genesis 1: 31-2:4–God set an example.
        1. 31 God saw everything he had made: it was supremely good. There was evening and there was morning: the sixth day. The heavens and the earth and all who live in them were completed. On the sixth [a] day God completed all the work that he had done, and on the seventh day God rested from all the work that he had done. God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all the work of creation.[b] This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created.
      2. Exodus 20: 8-11–God made that a guideline in the 10 commandments.
        1. Remember the Sabbath day and treat it as holy. Six days you may work and do all your tasks, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. Do not do any work on it—not you, your sons or daughters, your male or female servants, your animals, or the immigrant who is living with you. 11 Because the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and everything that is in them in six days, but rested on the seventh day. That is why the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
      3. Jesus practiced the Sabbath in his life & challenged the sabbath laws made by humans.
    3. Humans hate vague rules: Humans have always struggled with vague rules. We like things concrete and clear. It is easier to score our successes and judge others as failures that way. In my perspective, the story of sabbath laws portrays humans perfectly.
      1. The people of Israel struggled with what it meant to “honor the sabbath and keep it holy.” So, they added amendments (my word not theirs) to God’s laws to spell out exactly what they could and couldn’t do. God had built the law with space for freedom and interpretation, but humans wanted the law to be rigid.
      2. I’ve mentioned before that the 10 commandments became 613 laws. The 1 commandment about the sabbath developed into 39, that have even more specifications within each of those categories based on the interpretations of individual rabbis.
        1. 39 Melachot: thirty-nine categories of activity which Jewish law identifies as being prohibited by biblical law on Shabbat, the Jewish Sabbath. Many of these activities are also prohibited on the Jewish holidays listed in the Torah, although there are significant exceptions that permit carrying and preparing food under specific circumstances on holidays.”
          1. You could only take a certain number of steps.
          2. There is practically a flowchart of how you can help your cattle on the sabbath if they get into certain predicaments.
          3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/39_Melachot
        2. Shevut– rabbinic sabbath rules:
          1. The Rabbinic prohibitions fall into several categories: activities not in the spirit of Shabbat; activities which closely resemble a forbidden activity; activities which could lead one to perform a prohibited activity; or activities whose biblical permissibility is debated, so avoiding the activity allows one to keep Shabbat according to all Rabbinic opinions.”
          2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rabbinically_prohibited_activities_of_Shabbat
        3. Today in Israel on the sabbath:
          1. Hotels program elevators to stop at every floor b/c pushing a button on the sabbath is work.
          2. Hotel cooks prepare food for the sabbath the day before because cooking on the sabbath would be work.
    4. The story of the Sabbath is our story. It is easier to make life black and white than to consider the shades of gray. It is easier to feel validated as a child of God if we can condemn someone else for something we do well.
      1. The story of the sabbath laws is the story of all of the 10 commandments. In Matthew & John’s Gospels, Jesus says the 10 commandments are simplified into “Loving God and loving others.” We over complicate things.
    5. Our problem: We justify over working ourselves and consider it righteousness.
      1. It’s easier to think we can earn God’s favor than to think that God gives it to everyone.
      2. It’s easier to feel in control than to cling to God’s grace.
      3. Ephesians 2:8-10 You are saved by God’s grace because of your faith.This salvation is God’s gift. It’s not something you possessed. It’s not something you did that you can be proud of. 10 Instead, we are God’s accomplishment, created in Christ Jesus to do good things. God planned for these good things to be the way that we live our lives.

APPLICATION:

  1. The economy of God has no scarcity, but the economy of the world sees you as a commodity.
    1. Midwestern work ethic- pull yourself up by your boot straps.
  2. AUDIENCE ENGAGEMENT:
    1. What is something you like to eat or drink as a reward for hard work?
    2. What is something you like to do to rest? How do you recharge your “batteries”?
  3. Sabbath-No matter what you hear in this moment, hear this: Jesus has set a precedent for rest.
    1. The Son of God had a-mile-long list of asks. People wanting him to heal them or cast out demons or solve their problems. The requests didn’t go away, but Jesus took time to rest. He didn’t wait until the to-do list was over. He rested.
    2. Meme- satan is a bad role model
      1. Satan wants you tired and grumpy.
      2. Tired servant doesn’t spread the hope of christ
  4. Ice cream scoops & rest.
    1. Find tools that will help you work efficiently and ethically, but also, rest.
    2. God gives us laws not as a burden but to help us flourish. Work is good but so is rest. Take time to rest and recharge so that you can continue the good work of God.

CONCLUSION: you have permission to rest and it won’t change God’s opinion of you. Rest, recharge, and continue God’s good work of loving God and loving others.

COMMUNION: Ask a deacon to pray for the elements.

  1. Communion is a reminder of the gift of rest God gave us.
  2. Communion is a reminder that the score card is on Jesus’ shoulders, not ours.
  3. Communion is a reminder that we are to encourage each other to rest NOT work until our fingers bleed.
  4. Communion is God’s grace.

Can We Really Know?

Service originally recorded on 1/24/2021

Message Title: Can We Really Know?
Theme: Flopped Inventions & New Discoveries
Season: Epiphany
Main Text: Mark 1:14-20
Scripture Reading: Psalm 62:5-12
RCL Scripture: Jonah 3:1-5, 10; Psalm 62:5-12; 1 Corinthians 7:29-31; Mark 1:14-20
Focus: Mark depicts Jesus calling his first disciples different from John’s Gospel.
Function: To find peace in the exploration of scripture by acknowledging our questions and considering different angles of a passage to enable God to speak to our hearts.
Other Notes:

SCRIPTURE READING: Psalm 62:5-12 5Oh, I must find rest in God only, because my hope comes from him! 6Only God is my rock and my salvation—my stronghold!—I will not be shaken. 7My deliverance and glory depend on God. God is my strong rock. My refuge is in God. 8All you people: Trust in him at all times! Pour out your hearts before him! God is our refuge! Selah 9Human beings are nothing but a breath. Human beings are nothing but lies. They don’t even register on a scale; taken all together they are lighter than a breath! 10Don’t trust in violence; don’t set false hopes in robbery. When wealth bears fruit, don’t set your heart on it. 11God has spoken one thing—make it two things—that I myself have heard: that strength belongs to God, 12 and faithful love comes from you, my Lord—and that you will repay everyone according to their deeds.

INVENTION: The first automotive–Elwood Haynes vs Ford

As someone who did not grow up a Hoosier, it came to a surprise to me to learn that Kokomo claims to be the place where the first car was invented. One of the first things I learned about after moving to Indiana was that Kokomo was considered the city of firsts.

“On July 4, 1894, “The “Pioneer,” as he called it, was ready for its first test run. The car was towed by a horse and buggy (to avoid frightening horses on the busy Kokomo streets) out into the countryside on the Pumpkinvine Pike. With Haynes at the controls, the car traveled about six miles at a speed approaching six or seven miles per hour – becoming one of the first cars in the country to achieve such a feat.”

Henry Ford’s first automobile, the “Quadricycle” was test driven on June 4th; 1986.

Haynes’ design was not the first gas powered automobile, there were German designs that predated his. Pioneer was one of the first automobile built intending to be automatic instead of pulled by horses.  The official title of “first car” was not given to Haynes because of “Pioneeer” but the design Haynes created with the Apperson brothers. Elwood Haynes along with Elmer & Edgar Apperson were credited with building the first commercial American car.

Sources:

  1. https://www.haynesintl.com/company-information/our-heritage/elwood-haynes
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elwood_Haynes
  3. https://www.indianalandmarks.org/2017/12/elwood-haynes-pioneer/
  4. https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/henry-ford-test-drives-his-quadricycle

TRANSITION: Much like the lightbulb, the automobile’s timeline is quite fuzzy. I don’t know if I would have ever heard of Haynes or the Apperson brothers if I had not moved to Indiana.

Our scripture for today has a similar confusion when compared to last week’s text.

SCRIPTURE: Mark 1:14-20 14After John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee announcing God’s good news, 15saying, “Now is the time! Here comes God’s kingdom! Change your hearts and lives, and trust this good news!” 16As Jesus passed alongside the Galilee Sea, he saw two brothers, Simon and Andrew, throwing fishing nets into the sea, for they were fishermen. 17“Come, follow me,” he said, “and I’ll show you how to fish for people.” 18Right away, they left their nets and followed him. 19After going a little farther, he saw James and John, Zebedee’s sons, in their boat repairing the fishing nets. 20At that very moment he called them. They followed him, leaving their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired workers.

EXPLAINATION: Mark depicts Jesus calling his first disciples different from John’s Gospel.

  1. We’re in the Gospel of Mark, not John today! Let’s compare the calling of Jesus’ disciples in Mark with John. In Mark’s Gospel, after John baptized Jesus and Jesus went into the wilderness, he returned and gathered disciples.
    1. By this time, King Herod had already arrested John the Baptist. Some other Gospels place John’s arrest (and execution) at a later date.
    2. Mark says that Jesus’ ministry started AFTER John’s arrest.
  2. Jesus calls Andrew and Simon together.
    1. Anyone remember last week? How did Andrew & Simon come into the picture? Andrew was a disciple of John the Baptist and then got his brother Simon to check out the messiah.

INTERPRETATION: Mark depicts Jesus calling his first disciples different from John’s Gospel.

  1. Can I share with you my thoughts? I like the idea that Jesus may have asked Andrew and Simon more than once. Perhaps it took a bit of building trust before they were willing to leave behind their successful & family-owned fishing business.
    1. In some circumstances, maybe the historians wrote down different details of one event. For example, the description of Jesus’ baptism is different in each of the Gospels. Who was there? Who spoke from the clouds? Who heard the voice? Did the dove come or was it a symbol?
    2. In other circumstances, I like the idea of the Gospels stacking up. Maybe Jesus didn’t just feed one group of 5000 people? Maybe he did that multiple times and that’s why the ‘who, what, where’ are different?
    3. It would have been logical for a traveling rabbi to repeat his lessons in each town. Perhaps the ‘Sermon on the Mount’ and the ‘Sermon on the Plains’ are actually examples of Jesus preaching the same words to different people?
  2. It’s easy to get zoomed in on one topic and miss the rest of the details. Sure, there is a question of the order of invitation or exactly how Jesus first invited Andrew and Simon. But I wonder if we miss the point when we splice hairs over that debate?

APPLICATION: To find peace in the exploration of scripture by acknowledging our questions and considering different angles of a passage to enable God to speak to our hearts.

  1. As we consider this passage today, we aren’t going to consider the spiritual implications of how John and Mark record this story differently. Instead, I want us to consider how we approach scripture. This will give you a little taste of what comes from Wednesday Night Bible Study.
    1. Bible Study: February 3rd, we will be starting our Bible Study for 2021. Last year we went through a handful of amazing different topics. This year we are starting out the season with a study equipping you to study scripture yourself!
      1. Can you build questions and do research?
      2. Do you know how to find reputable sources, as opposed to someone’s opinion?
      3. AND How do you dwell in the beauty of scripture without approaching it like a task to accomplish?
      4. Please note: this group is used to asking questions, sometimes it can make people uncomfortable. Our goal is to open up to what God can say to our questions, not shame people for asking or wondering.
  2. To get you started:
    1. Finding the translation for you– each bible translation has a goal in mind with their version of scripture. Some want to contemporize the words (MSG, NLT, CEB), some want you focusing on the themes (MSG, Living, Paraphrased, etc), some want to be the most literal translation of words (KJV, NASB, etc). Depending on what you want to do, it may be beneficial to have a few different Bible translations.
      1. Bible apps are a great & affordable way to have many translations at your fingertips.
      2. If you would like to look at my collection of translations and get a feel for a physical copy, come up front after service or send me a message online.
    2. Different approaches– There are tons of different ways to engage with scripture. Some develop our spirit, some develop our mind, others will do both. Depending on the moment, each type can serve its purpose.
      1. Influential book for Spiritual Disciplines and developing your faith
        1. Spiritual Disciplines Handbook by Adele Ahlberg Calhoun
      2. Bible memorization- A classic but doesn’t always work for every brain or moment in our lives.
      3. Lectio Divina–where prayer meets study. Repetitive reading and meditation. Listening for what stands out.
      4. Journaling Scripture– reflecting and writing your thoughts down. I think this is great for reflecting on how the passage affects your daily actions and words.
      5. Manuscript– coloring scripture, my favorite, is to print off passages and look for themes.
      6. https://www.biblegateway.com/blog/2019/03/14-great-ways-to-engage-with-gods-word/
    3. Hear other voices: It’s great to find other voices speaking on scripture to help you see another angle of the passage you’re investigating.
      1. The Bible Project– Website & Youtube
      2. My podcasts: Strangely Warmed, Pulpit Fiction, Working Preacher
      3. Great books on Scripture
        1. Reading the Bible from the Margins by Miguel A De la Torre
        2. The Bible Tells Me So by Peter Enns
        3. How the Bible Actually Works by Peter Enns
        4. Inspired by Rachel Held Evans
        5. What Does the Bible Say About Suffering by Brian Han Gregg
        6. God Behaving Badly by David T. Lamb

CONCLUSION:  Perhaps you enjoy going down the rabbit hole of car history. You may discover a new inventor that impacted the vehicles on the road today! Imagine having a passion for scripture as we do our particular hobbies! We can investigate scripture from both a spiritual and academic angle that enables us to grow as believers.

A Message from Beyond — quarantined service

Service from 1/31/2021: I was contact traced during COVID and required to stay home for 10 days (incubation time) until I could test negative. This service was broadcast on Facebook live from my home.

Message Title: A Message from Beyond
Theme:
Flopped Inventions & New Discoveries
Season: Epiphany
Main Text: Mark 1:21-28
Scripture Reading: Psalm 111
RCL Scripture: Deuteronomy 18:15-20; Psalm 111; 1 Corinthians 8:1-13; Mark 1:21-28
Focus: Jesus casts out a demon who knows Jesus’ divinity and others recognize Jesus’ authority.Function: To recognize the need to get back to the core of the message of Jesus by letting go of our own stigmas about Christianity.
Other Notes
:

ORDER OF WORSHIP

Announcements & Happy Dollars
Call to Worship
Doxology: Praise God from whom all blessings flow, Praise Him all creatures here below, Praise Him above ye heavenly host, Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen

SCRIPTURE READING: Psalm 111 Praise the Lord! I thank the Lord with all my heart in the company of those who do right, in the congregation. 2The works of the Lord are magnificent; they are treasured by all who desire them. 3God’s deeds are majestic and glorious. God’s righteousness stands forever. 4God is famous for his wondrous works. The Lord is full of mercy and compassion. 5God gives food to those who honor him. God remembers his covenant forever. 6God proclaimed his powerful deeds to his people and gave them what had belonged to other nations. 7God’s handiwork is honesty and justice; all God’s rules are trustworthy— 8they are established always and forever: they are fulfilled with truth and right doing. 9God sent redemption for his people; God commanded that his covenant last forever. Holy and awesome is God’s name! 10Fear of the Lord is where wisdom begins; sure knowledge is for all who keep God’s laws. God’s praise lasts forever!

LORD’S PRAYER: Our Father, who art in Heaven hallowed be thy name, thy Kingdom come thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven, give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us, lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil, for thine is the Kingdom and the power and the glory forever, Amen.

Sermon: Flopped Inventions & New Discoveries
A Message from Beyond Mark 1:21-28

NOTE ON AUDIENCE ENGAGEMENT: Now because of the lag that exists in live videos, I may ask questions and you may thoughtfully type out an answer but feel like the moment has passed. Send it anyway. We may not be super fluid in our conversation but we may reach some good topics.

INVENTION: Thomas Edison & Spirit phone

Audience engagement: If you could pick up the phone and call someone who has passed away, who would be your first call?

  • I would love to talk to my paternal grandmother again. I didn’t get to say goodbye.

I found the invention I want to tell you about this morning to only be a rumor. The ‘Spirit Phone’ was an experiment of Thomas Edison through a series of interviews and a recovered journal. Journalists recorded Thomas Edison’s Spirit phone would not require “any occult, mystifying, mysterious, or weird means, employed by so–called “mediums” in order to function. Historians and credible sources still debated if Thomas Edison was pulling the legs of interviewers with these details or if he genuinely was exploring the spirit realm.

Sources:

  1. https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/dial-a-ghost-on-thomas-edisons-least-successful-invention-the-spirit-phone
  2. https://www.forbes.com/sites/kristintablang/2019/10/25/thomas-edison-bc-forbes-mystery-spirit-phone/?sh=658521d429ad
  3. https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/602456/thomas-edison-nikola-tesla-spirit-phone
  4. https://science.howstuffworks.com/10-inventions-thomas-edison.htm
  5. https://play.history.com/shows/10-things-you-dont-know-about/videos/edisons-spirit-phone

TRANSITION: text today will examine the Spirit realm through a story of exorcism.

SCRIPTURE: Mark 1: 21-28 21Jesus and his followers went into Capernaum. Immediately on the Sabbath Jesus entered the synagogue and started teaching. 22The people were amazed by his teaching, for he was teaching them with authority, not like the legal experts. 23Suddenly, there in the synagogue, a person with an evil spirit screamed, 24“What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are. You are the holy one from God.” 25“Silence!” Jesus said, speaking harshly to the demon. “Come out of him!” 26The unclean spirit shook him and screamed, then it came out. 27Everyone was shaken and questioned among themselves, “What’s this? A new teaching with authority! He even commands unclean spirits and they obey him!” 28Right away the news about him spread throughout the entire region of Galilee.

EXPLAINATION:

  1. In the Gospel of Mark, after Jesus called his disciples, he went to teach in the nearest synagogue. (cool coloring page on the bulletin if you printed it off).
  2. While Jesus is teaching, a man possessed with demons comes, calls Jesus by name, and identifies him as from God.
    1. Jesus silences the demon & casts the demon out of the man. In the Gospels there is a thing called the “messianic secret” that Jesus regularly prevents people from saying too much about him being the Messiah. That’s something to reflect on after our service today, I won’t give you an answer 😉
  3. After all of this unfolds, the people acknowledge Jesus differs from other traveling teachers or leaders of Moses’ law. He has an authority unlike the others.

TRANSITION: I am sure many of you would like concrete terms of what the spiritual realm looks like or have a glimpse into spiritual warfare. While I have some personal stories, I could share on this topic, that won’t be our focus today. This is the season of Epiphany. Epiphany is a season of revelation or discovery. I want us to take some time to have a revealing conversation about this world instead of focusing on the abstract nature of the spiritual world.

INTERPRETATION: *Prepare the audience* I want to talk about something difficult. And because we’re interacting digitally, it is very easy to turn off the screen or sound if I were to say something you don’t like, understand, or disagree with. Instead, I encourage you to ask questions or dig deeper into the conversation. You can follow the instructions on the bulletin for a way to reflect or contact me for a conversation. I cannot guarantee I can/will answer every question in the chat, but I will connect with you afterwards if you feel your question is unanswered. The only way to grow as humans is to engage, not to shut down, when we hear something difficult.

I want us to take time to ponder a different type of exorcism.

As I was preparing for this sermon, I was studying and pondering the spiritual implications of Jesus’ actions. I was off in the ethereal, considering abstract thoughts. My fellow pastor friend brought me back down to earth with a hard statement:

The American church needs an exorcism.

OK. Take a deep breath. There’s a good chance you gasped at those words and may still be holding your breath. Take a moment to loosen your muscles and ponder different angles of this statement. What could it mean metaphorically?

A puzzled look on your face would be logical as a first reaction. Especially when entertainment depicts demon possession and exorcism in such graphic ways. Cinematics can unconsciously build our expectations in weird ways.

If you can join me in sitting aside the weird images of The Exorcist, Annabelle, or The Conjuring, we may be able to unpack this thought in a helpful way.

AUDIENCE ENGAGEMENT: What could an exorcism metaphorically mean for the church?

  • We’ve lost our way, Gotten off track or topic, Worshiping the wrong thing

APPLICATION: To recognize the need to get back to the core of the message of Jesus by letting go of our own stigmas about Christianity.

  1. I want to consider where the church is and where we should be.
    1. AUDIENCE ENGAGEMENT
      1. How would you depict or define a Christian? – what does a Christian look like in actions, words, beliefs, etc?
      2. What are the non-negotiable pieces of Christianity? Think about the connecting points between all Christian denominations of all cultures.
  2. Sometimes creeds or statements of beliefs are used but the more detailed we get the more spliced we get. We splinter and point fingers at other believers and question their faith because of x, y, or z.  Words they use, Habits they have, Clothes they wear, Who they call family, How they vote.
  3. Human thoughts or ideas don’t limit God. Our God can do extraordinary things—like casting out demons. *Christ followers* look different depending on their culture.
    1. Current day example of culture changing: My grandmother expected me to act like a lady, dress like a lady, speak like a lady, and use good table manners. My brothers couldn’t wear hats at the dinner table.
      1. Can we admit that manners are cultural and change over time?
      2. In France to get the waiters attention you raise your hand, snap your fingers and make a “tsk tsk” noise.
      3. In Japan, its an honor to the chef to slurp your noodles loudly and drink the broth from the bowl. Eating quickly honors the effort of the cook to eat it hot.
    2. Examples: Christians in Africa
  4. Christianity doesn’t have one image. Christianity isn’t American. Nor are the majority of Christians living in America.
  5. American Christianity is not Christianity:
    1. We don’t need a message from The Great Beyond to learn that Christianity doesn’t have one image. We don’t have to be English speaking Americans with a 40 hour work week to be a believer in Jesus.
      1. Don’t hear what I’m not saying in this next sentence:
        1. American patriotism and the phrase “God Bless America” are American ideals but not Christian.
      2. While these are common ideals in American Christianity, they are not distinctly Christian. A Christ follower is loyal to God above any flag, pledge, or nation. If that offends you, you may be worshipping the wrong god.
    2. In Jesus’ time, symbols of the government were not allowed in the Temple nor was Roman coin accepted for tithes. If you wanted to tithe you first had to convert your roman coins to temple coins. Ceasar claimed to be god, his image was not to be brought into God’s house.
      1. Acts 15:  Defining Christianity was discussed in scripture in the book of Acts. If you have ever wondered why Christians weren’t Jewish …because … I mean …Jesus was Jewish, turn to Acts 15. The readers’ digest of this chapter asks the question if all Christ followers have to become Jewish. They decided no. You could stay part of whatever culture you grew up in and follow Jesus.
      2. 1 Corinthians 8: Paul expands on this later in his first letter to the Corinthians. Paul spends that letter talking to them about setting aside certain behaviors from their culture or changing their mindset about the culture. He even tells them that eating food sacrificed to other gods is fine; (because, you know, they aren’t real so its not like the food is contaminated or anything). We can participate in our culture yet recognize we are distinct from our culture. Paul encourages the Corinthians to give up any aspect of their culture that may prevent others from hearing about Jesus. If eating idol food prevents them from listening, give up meat entirely.
    3. I think Jesus would be surprised at the hills American Christians will die on while sacrificing the true tenants of his teachings. We’re willing to question someone’s faith because of their stance on abortions, homosexuals or the consumption of adult substances but we don’t question their faith on things that truly are at the heart of Jesus’ message.
      1. We are majoring on the minors.

CONCLUSION: While the word exorcism seems quite extreme for the state of American Christianity—I do think American Christians need a “come to Jesus” moment about our loyalties.

We need to honestly reflect on our definition of Christianity and filter that through the teachings of Jesus Christ.

He alone is the one with the authority to decide who is a genuine believer. Our job isn’t to fill Jesus’ shoes but to love others as Jesus’ hands and feet.

BACK TO THE BEGINNING: what messages would you hope to hear from someone in the Spiritual realm?  Jesus left us an entire book—are we willing to let go of our own ideas so that Jesus’ message rings true?

* Notes about digging deeper on bulletin*–If you find the link to the bulletin, there are instructions on how to continue worship, prayer, and study after this video ends.

If you want to consider American Christianity with me, I encourage you to call, text, email or send a homing pigeon. We grow as Christians when we discuss together. Keep the conversation going, keep the light glowing.

Blessed Be the Tie: Blest be the tie that binds our hearts in Christian love; the fellowship of kindred minds is like to that above

Benediction: God help us to cling to you first. A child of God first. A Christ follower first. Help us to let THAT identity define all other aspects. Give us wisdom to see when we place something higher than you. Give us stamina to change our stubborn hearts to match your will. Amen.

Illuminated Discoveries

Message Title: Illuminated Discoveries
Theme: Flopped Inventions & New Discoveries
Season:  Epiphany
Main Text: John 1:43-51
Scripture Reading: Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18
RCL Scripture: 1 Samuel 3:1-10, (11-20); Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18: 1 Corinthians 6:12-20; John 1:43-51
Focus: Nathaniel, the skeptic, becomes a disciple of Jesus.
Function: To review the changes of the church over time and recognize the dawn of change to come.
Other Notes: MLK jr birthday

SCRIPTURE READING: Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18 Lord, you have examined me. You know me. 2You know when I sit down and when I stand up. Even from far away, you comprehend my plans. 3You study my traveling and resting. You are thoroughly familiar with all my ways. 4There isn’t a word on my tongue, Lord, that you don’t already know completely. 5You surround me—front and back. You put your hand on me. 6That kind of knowledge is too much for me; it’s so high above me that I can’t reach it. 13You are the one who created my innermost parts; you knit me together while I was still in my mother’s womb. 14I give thanks to you that I was marvelously set apart. Your works are wonderful—I know that very well. 15My bones weren’t hidden from you when I was being put together in a secret place, when I was being woven together in the deep parts of the earth. 16Your eyes saw my embryo, and on your scroll every day was written that was being formed for me, before any one of them had yet happened. 17God, your plans are incomprehensible to me! Their total number is countless! 18If I tried to count them—they outnumber grains of sand! If I came to the very end—I’d still be with you.

INVENTION: As we are in the season of epiphany, a season of discovery and “ah-ha! moments,” it felt appropriate that the next invention we would talk about would be the light bulb.

  1. ENGAGE THE AUDIENCE: Who invented the light bulb?
    1. Technically, this is a trick question.
    2. PHOTO
    3. ANSWER:  Thomas Edison did not invent the light bulb like our history teachers’ claim.
  2. Invention of the Light Bulb
    1. PHOTO: The beginning designs for gas lighting, lamps, and light bulbs started in the late 1700’s, well before Edison’s time.  
    2. In fact, 22 inventors paved the way for inventors Joseph Swan or Thomas Edison to make progress in this field.
    3. Thomas Edison actually bought a patent from a team of inventors and changed it before making his own patent. 
  3. Thomas Edison was noted for many failures along the process of inventing a more efficient light bulb. Some notes from his journal say he was stuck testing 6000+ filament materials for an extended amount of time.
  4. Thomas Edison wasn’t the first to design a light bulb. Historians note that Thomas made the most efficient bulb of his time. Manufacturers could modify his design slightly for commercial reproduction.
    1. Sources:
      1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Incandescent_light_bulb
      2. https://www.livescience.com/43424-who-invented-the-light-bulb.html
      3. https://www.fi.edu/history-resources/edisons-lightbulb
      4. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J66e1X_w6i0
      5. https://www.energy.gov/articles/history-light-bulb
      6. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Q4rQDN6Z4s

TRANSITION: In our text for today, we see an illuminating conversation that may not lead to commercial reproduction but to a changed life. As we explore this passage, I want us to consider the commitment of a disciple of Christ.

SCRIPTURE: John 1:43-51 43The next day Jesus wanted to go into Galilee, and he found Philip. Jesus said to him, “Follow me.” 44Philip was from Bethsaida, the hometown of Andrew and Peter. 45Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law and the Prophets: Jesus, Joseph’s son, from Nazareth.” 46Nathanael responded, “Can anything from Nazareth be good?” Philip said, “Come and see.” 47Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said about him, “Here is a genuine Israelite in whom there is no deceit.” 48Nathanael asked him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered, “Before Philip called you, I saw you under the fig tree.” 49Nathanael replied, “Rabbi, you are God’s Son. You are the king of Israel.” 50Jesus answered, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these! 51I assure you that you will see heaven open and God’s angels going up to heaven and down to earth on the Human One.”

EXPLAINATION: Nathaniel, the skeptic, becomes a disciple of Jesus.

  1. This morning we are in the Gospel of John. This is an important thing to note because of how different John’s gospel unfolds compared to Mark. We will spend a lot of time in Mark of over the course of 2021 and maybe you’ll be able to hear the difference between his voice and the other gospels by 2022.
    1. Does anyone remember the goal of John’s gospel?
      1. to show Jesus is God made flesh or Jesus is divine (Meriah’s answer: different from the image of Roman gods coming to earth to mess with humans.)
  2. In the gospel of John, right after Jesus’ baptism, he calls disciples.  By this point in John’s narrative, Jesus has already called Andrew and Peter. Andrew was one of John the Baptist’s disciples.
  3. Philip, from the same town as Andrew & Peter.
    1. Word gets around in a small town… I feel like those might be lyrics to a John Mellencamp song?
    2. Bethsaida was small, think Groomsville size. So small that archeologists are not confident of its location. Different sources will tell you different things.
    3. Philip knew Andrew & Peter and was willing to listen to what they had to say.
  4. Nathaniel- Philip was quickly convinced, so he grabbed Nathaniel to share the news.
    1. He was skeptical at first
    2. It swayed Nathaniel to believe when Jesus said he saw him under the fig tree.
      1. What about this changed his mind?
  5. Jesus calls Nathaniel on his easily persuade opinion
    1. Jesus pauses to teach Nathaniel in this moment. This wasn’t some simple starry-eyed or awe filled fantasy. This commitment to be Jesus’ disciple was life changing.
    2. Jesus has these same hesitations in the next chapter of John with a crowd
    3. John 2: 23-25 23While Jesus was in Jerusalem for the Passover Festival, many believed in his name because they saw the miraculous signs that he did. 24But Jesus didn’t trust himself to them because he knew all people. 25He didn’t need anyone to tell him about human nature, for he knew what human nature was.

TRANSITION: Something illuminated in Nathaniel’s mind, and he was ready to leave everything behind and follow Jesus. His life would never be the same. But Jesus was calling him to a deeper belief.

  1. Following Christ was more than a starry-eyed belief in a magic trick or fortune teller. Following Christ was a lifelong commitment to a different way of thinking, speaking, and living.

INTERPRETATION: Churches experience change over time, but the message stays the same.

  1. LIGHT BULBS: It took at least 22 people and thousands of experiments to produce a commercially reproducible light bulb. After all of that time, we don’t use the Edison Bulb anymore.
    1. Perhaps you have purchased some stylistic light bulbs that mimic the Edison Bulb. However, the time of the Edison Bulb is long gone. It is no longer efficient, nor is it as cost effective.
    2. Lighting has changed to fit the times.
  2. State of the Church: We cannot continue to do the same thing but expect different results. Nor can we expect to ‘go back’ when we have ‘enough’ people. Ministry will continue to move forward and adapt, as the church always has. 
    1. Because of COVID numbers are low in ALL churches
    2. Because of 2020 church culture is changing
    3. Because of divide in politics churches are splintering
  3. The Church (unified) has had a history of adapting.
    1. After Jesus’ ascension, the disciples and early Christians had to worship and learn in alternative ways. Gentile Christians typically met together in houses. Some still identified as Jews who followed Jesus, the Jewish Messiah, and therefore still went to the Temple, a tabernacle or synagogue. 
    2. As the first few generations of Christians aged, the political climate in the Roman empire changed. Christians worshipped in secret, using symbols and word of mouth to find the location of a gathering. 
    3. Emperor Constantinian had a religious experience and attributed it to Christ. He claimed his victories in war were because Christ was on his side. The Holy Roman Empire developed out of this. They merged church and government in this period. Christians worshipped in public but the message got mixed up in politics.
    4. As the unified church splintered over disagreements– about theology, politics, or what they considered scripture– things became more bloody. 
      1. Christians didn’t need enemies anymore, Christians killed Christians in the name of Jesus.
      2. RELIGION TREE – Flash forward centuries to today. The major branches of religion have split so many times that we have to make it look like a tree to illustrate our lineage
        1. 2nd photo – Baptists take up about 1/8 of the tree. Baptists are so bad at getting along with other Baptists that we keep making a different type of Baptist.

APPLICATION: To review the changes of the church over time and recognize the dawn of change to come.

  1. The Church needs to adapt as the times change. The message doesn’t change, but perhaps the ministry or worship setting changes.
  2. AUDIENCE ENGAGEMENT:
    1. What are some changes we have experienced in church worship styles since your childhood? (Before 2020)
    2. What are some fresh developments you’ve seen in churches or ministry in 2020?
  3. Liberty has adapted & changed from its organization in 1854 until 2021.
    1. History of gathering:
      1. Met in houses
      2. Log cabin
      3. White building
      4. Brick Church that burned
      5. New Church
    2. I remember rumors that women and men used to sit separately during the service.
    3. Women were not part of leadership or even in attendance at business meetings.

CONCLUSION: Liberty has adapted and grown over the years. I don’t want us to go into 2021 full of fear about the possibilities of change. I want us to hold strong to the promises of Jesus with confidence that God will guide us into the next chapter.

As we look back at the changes to light bulbs or even the history of the church, I hope we find peace. Change is a constant companion of the living. As we continue to grow in our faith, we will see transformations occur in ourselves and in our communities.

Faithfulness to Jesus includes a willingness to set aside our goals and listen for the Spirit’s guidance. Perhaps these things we listed will be in our future, or perhaps other innovative ministries are coming our way, but God’s love and salvation remains the same.