Thursday, March 22, 2007

Sermon Notes March 18, 2007

A New Creation

People like new things. This may be most evident in advertising. How many times do you see the word “new” on packaging of familiar products? You might expect, “new & improved” or “new ingredients” even “new flavor” how about “new technology” but we also get “new size” and “new package design.”

In a society so obsessed with the new, how is that reflected in our relationships with other people? Do we find some people to be as disposable as a worn out television? If someone’s life is a bit of a mess do we toss them away like a disposable towelette? What regard to we have for those who are older? Do we really believe “older is wiser?”

What lessons can we take from this great parable of the man with two sons? We rejoice with the son when we are told of the father’s overly gracious welcome home. Yet, we also find sympathy with the older son who is mad as hell that his stupid little brother has been welcomed home after causing so much strife for the family. The older brother doesn’t want to party, the older brother just wants things back they way they were.

Most of you have had an experience of grace that changed your life. At some point you were asked if you wanted to be a Christian. It might have been asked of you at a Baptism, or you might have responded to an call to accept Christ.

How would you like the older son to respond? What if the older son celebrated with everyone else? What if the elder son filled the younger one in on all the news since the time he left? What if the elder son began showing the younger some of what he knows about being happy and successful on the family farm?

We must continue to change because we all know people who are the younger brother. We know people who are lost in the muck and see no way out. We know people who need a measure of God’s grace. Can we respond like the father instead of the older brother. Can we continue to nurture others in faith? Can we be the brother or sister of faith that we wish the older brother had been?

Monday, March 12, 2007

Sermon Notes March 11, 2007

Monday Isaiah 55:1-9
Isaiah suggests that our relationship with God is the richest treasure we can have and that God is eager to be in relationship with us. What might you need to change in order to accept God’s abundant pardon?

Pray for those who have trouble loving themselves.

Tuesday Psalm 63:1-8
The Psalmist describes dependence upon God. Do you have a moment in your spiritual journey where praise for God was especially meaningful?

Pray for people planning meaningful worship services.

Wednesday I Corinthians 10:1-13
Paul suggests that there are events brought into our life that we might be tested. One response to these moments is to be stronger in faith. What times in your life strengthened your faith in God?

Pray for those enduring difficult times.

Thursday Luke 13:1-9
Jesus refers to a couple of tragedies that befell the people and then calls upon everyone to repent or to perish. How might you be able to live abundantly in repentance?

Pray for the survivors of tragedy.

Penance is practice of doing an action in order to better understand God’s forgiveness. Prayerfully consider and act of penance as a means of Grace. What can you do for another as an act of free love this weekend?

Pray for those who need someone to say, “I love you.”

Repent or Die.

When tragedy strikes people are often led to ask, “If God exists how can this have happened?” It is a nice way of ignoring human responsibility in human events. Does God start wars? Does God make buildings unable to stand fierce storms?

In the Gospel of Luke we have this account of people coming to Jesus concerned about an apparent act of Pilate against some Galileans. Jesus responds by reminding them of another tragedy that would have been well known to the people. He then says, unless you repent, you will perish as they did. The obvious implication is that without repentance there is nothing but death.

Some of you may understand repentance to be some act of deep sorrow and regret. I believe that repentance must be more than wallowing in regret. It seems to me that wallowing in regret is close to the death that Jesus wishes for us to avoid.

Perhaps, repentance should also be understood as a moment of great joy! What if to be repentant was to fully live? To live as if each moment held meaning and opportunity.

Isaiah’s word may have seemed scandalous to the original hearers. Here are people in dire straights following the defeat of Israel at the hand of the Babylonians and Isaiah is telling the people to buy wine and milk. He’s telling them to delight in rich food, how dare he! Of course Isaiah isn’t talking only of these things, he is talking of a rich relationship with God.

Isaiah seems to be suggesting to the people that while we may not always have all that we want, we have what we need and that is enough. So take delight in what we have. Delight in your relationship with God, Delight in the simple pleasures of life, Delight in all the gifts that God has given you.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Sermon March 4, 2007

Citizens of Heaven

Citizens of Heaven, today I call upon you to claim who you belong to. Today I call upon you to cast aside the labels that others put upon you to cast aside those who falsely lay a claim to you, to renounce any claim of your identity except that, you are a Child of God. You belong to God, you live in God’s kingdom, your loyalty remains with God as we live together in God’s grace.

For too long people have claimed citizenship to that which is inferior to God’s kingdom. Our very Bible records the difficulties people have had in claiming that they belong to God. The ancestor of our faith Abraham (and the faith of Jewish and Muslim people) understood he belonged to God. The covenant that God established with him continues to be a blessing for those who will live understanding the promise that God makes, “I am yours and you are mine.”

Yet frail people began to want more than a promise of relationship, they wanted land, they wanted security. God continues to remind us that our security comes in relationship not political power, yet we do not listen. God warned the people when the clamored for a King. (I Sam. 8) God warns them, kings like power, kings raise armies, kings are not all that they are built up to be. Yet the people get what they want. They get kings, and wars, death, and destruction.

Citizens of Heaven unless we too put our security in relationships instead of political power we will live with war, death and destruction. Citizens of heaven, you are all created equal in God’s eyes. The rich among you are no greater than the poor. In God’s eyes we are not American or Iraqi, Russian or Chinese, Shiite or Sunni, Baptist or Methodist, Democrat or Republican, Conservative or Progressive, Cougar or Husky, Gay or Straight. These divisions we create only lead to destruction.

Paul knew this when he was writing to the small church of Philipi two thousand years ago. Those who do not live knowing God’s grace through Christ perish, “Their end is destruction; their god is the belly and their glory is in their shame; their minds are set on earthly things.”

We have all been guilty of setting our mind on earthly things, we create great joy in it. As a youth one of my favorite moments in sports was the 1980 winter Olympics, I can still hear the chants, USA, USA, USA, and the great line from Al Michaels, “Do you believe in Miracles?” I have aligned myself with false citizenship to many idols. When I was a child I was a fan of the University of Washington, and my sin is ever before me. (When I attended Washington State University I turned from that evil.) As an American Youth I cheered, yes I cheered when General Norman Schwarzkoph showed video of missiles striking their targets with fantastic accuracy in the first Gulf War.

Citizens of Heaven we must be careful with our allegiances.
When I was a youth students who wanted to run for the Associated Student Body council would create political campaigns. Posters would be painted, gossip would be spread and of course speeches would be made. Inevitably the winning speech would be the one that was most convincing around the ambiguous idea of, “School Pride.” “We need more School Pride” the candidates would declare. We would cheer and then we would vote. Then we would ask ourselves, “what the heck is school pride anyway?” Our sports teams were not spectacular, it was always fun when teams and individuals did well, is that school pride? When I remember those school days, I don’t remember the teams as much as I remember my relationship with those who I went to school with.

Citizens of Heaven as humans we have a need to belong to groups. Some of our groups are small, some of our groups are large, but we have a need for identity within groups. This in itself is normal and healthy. Groups are places where we learn to live in relationship. I submit to you today that the purpose of our very existence is to be in relationship, relationship with one another, relationship with the created world, relationship with God. These relationships form our existence and without them we perish.

I implore you to seek relationships that build up the kingdom of God and to cast aside the labels that lead to destruction. You do not need to call yourself, American, or Washingtonian, you do not need to be Republican or Democrat your identity is not dependent upon false labels. Your identity is simply that you are a child of God. God love you. Your ability to live in that love, to share that love with others, that will form your identity that others will remember. They will not so much care about what teams you played sports with, or what city or state or nation you were from, they will remember the way in which you were able to express God’s love.

As a citizen of heaven I know you are working to share God’s grace. It is our patriotic duty to love the Lord our God and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. You are a sign of God’s grace when you assist a neighbor in need, when you volunteer your time for others, when you give your money to the poor, when you stand up for justice, when you pound on the doors of legislators, when you pray for healing, when you hold hands with someone you love, you are a sign of God’s grace.