Tag: Sermon Illustrations

Stop Doing Bad Stuff, Start Doing Good Stuff

Isaiah.the.prophet

Sometimes Scripture is complex and difficult to understand. But, sometimes it’s just simple. Isaiah 1:1, 10-20 is an example of the simple. Isaiah says to the nation of Judah, “…stop doing wrong. Learn to do right…” Pretty simple, and amazingly difficult. Here’s the audio of my sermon last Sunday from this passage. It’s titled, “Stop doing bad stuff, start doing good stuff.” Can’t get simpler than that!

 

The New Living Dead

night40dvdb

First it was vampires, now zombies. Our appetite for the bizarre and scary seems to know no end. Of course film-wise, it all started in 1968 when George Romero directed the cult classic, Night of the Living Dead. Even the Library of Congress has recognized that film as a giant in its genre, and selected it for the National Film Registry.

However the Apostle Paul may have been the first to write seriously about the living dead. In Colossians 3:1-11, Paul reminds the Colossian Christians that they not only “have been raised with Christ” but they have also died to their previous way of life. In other words, first century Christians were the new living dead–alive to Christ, but dead to the world out of which they had been saved.

Paul lists specific behaviors to which the Colossians should have been dead: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires, and greed. If those aren’t enough, he adds more like anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language. When we look at that list, our spiritual pride tells us we are not as bad as the Colossians. But before we get too self-righteous, we need to realize that Paul was simply reminding the Colossian Christians that before they came to Christ they acted like everybody else in their society. In Roman culture, sexual mores were lax by Christian standards, and society prized the strong, the rich, and the powerful. The Colossian Christians weren’t worse than we are, like us they had just been doing what everyone else was doing.

For Christians then and now, to be dead to our old life means to stop living like the culture around us lives. To be alive in Christ means to live as Christ enables, with new values, new ethics, and new behaviors.  In this new society driven by the ethics of the Sermon on the Mount, there are no ethnic, political, or social divisions — “no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all and in all.”

Christians are the new living dead in the 21st century. It doesn’t take long to realize that our Western culture glorifies casual sex, worships at the cult of personality, and values material possessions as trophies of success. As the new living dead, Christians should be like dead people to the culture in which we find ourselves. We might be immersed in it, but we should not be enmeshed in a culture that is at odds with the Kingdom of God.

However, just because Christians are dead to culture doesn’t mean we are not a pervasive presence. Our living essence is salt and light, preserving and illuminating the world that God created and is redeeming.

The next time you watch a zombie flick, just remember: there are some experiences more amazing than horror film accounts of the dead who come back to life. The real living dead are followers of Jesus Christ who have been raised with Christ, but who are dead as mackerels to the culture around them.  Pretty incredible stuff when you think about it.

Entertaining Angels: Open to the Numinous

Entertaining Angels:  Open To The Numinous

2Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it. — Hebrews 13:2 NIV

Where Were We?

Our return to worship today after two weeks out due to snow reminds me of those old serialized radio shows that were so popular back in the 1930s and 1940s.  Before we got our first TV, I remember sitting at the kitchen table listening to The Lone Ranger on the radio. As each new episode began, the voice-over to the action went something like this —

When we last saw our hero, he was trapped in a burning building with no way to escape.  Will he survive, or is this the end of the Lone Ranger?

Or something like that.  Anyway, the point was to bring the listener up-to-date on the action.  So, let me do the same today.

The last time we met, which was January 24, 2010, I had just begun a series of sermons on angels.  Here’s what we covered so far:

— On January 3, we started off with the first sermon titled, “Who Are Angels and Why Do We Need Them?”

— On January 10, we looked a “Angels as the Servants of Christ.”

— Then, on January 17, after the earthquake devastated Haiti, I addressed that tragedy with a sermon titled, “Who Sinned? The Problem of Human Suffering.”

— On January, 24, we thought about “Angels as the Messengers and Armies of God.”

So, that’s where we’ve been.  We have filled in the gaps from Sundays on Wednesday nights as we shared our own stories of God’s supernatural intervention in our lives.  Interestingly, most of us had some kind of story, that either happened to us or someone close to us, of an encounter with angels.  Or, at least, that’s how we each interpreted those events.

So, today, we’re back, but I’ve had to do some rearranging of the topics I intended to cover because I want to finish this series before February 28, when we will have the privilege of hearing our Baptist association’s furloughing missionaries, Rev. and Mrs. Ed Ridge, for WMU Focus Sunday.  By then we’ll be in the season of Lent, and preparing for Holy Week and the resurrection of Christ on Easter.  Time, as they say, waits for no man.  Or even angels.

Which brings me to our topic today.  This series of sermons on angels is titled, “Entertaining Angels.”  Each week the subtitle reveals where we’re going for that Sunday, and today is no exception.

Today, we’re looking at Hebrews 13:2, from which I took the series title, and we’re thinking about being “Open to the Numinous.” What, you might ask, is “the numinous?”

Well, according to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, “numinous” means —

Main Entry: nu·mi·nous
Pronunciation: \ˈnü-mə-nəs, ˈnyü-\
Function: adjective
Etymology: Latin numin-, numen numen
Date: 1647

1 : supernatural, mysterious
2 : filled with a sense of the presence of divinity : holy
3 : appealing to the higher emotions or to the aesthetic sense : spiritual

So, that’s what we’re thinking about today, and that was really one of the main reasons I wanted to do this series on angels — to get us to thinking about the fact that God is still active in our world, and that his messengers, God’s holy angels, are still ministering today just as they did before any human beings were around to encounter them.  That’s what the numinous is — an encounter with the divine, the holy.  Like the stories we told about our encounters with angels.

But too often we treat those “angel stories” as the exception, when in the Bible and in the Hebrew tradition that ranges back over 3500 years, encounters with God and God’s angels were expected, anticipated, and cherished.

Entertaining Angels Unawares

I like the old way the King James Version of our Bible translates the passage we read this morning —

2Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. — Hebrews 13:2 KJV

There’s a quaintness to the King James’ English that is in itself mystical:  “…some have entertained angels unawares.”

When Alan Jones, the former Dean of Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, made a trip to Egypt several years ago, he visited the Coptic Monastery of St. Macarius the Egyptian.  Macarius was one of the legendary “Desert Fathers” — Christians of the fourth and fifth centuries after Christ who retreated to the desert to escape the decadence of urban life, and the lack of spiritual vitality in the Church of their day.  So, even after 1500 years, some things don’t change!

Jones said that when he arrived at the monastery, he was greeted by an old monk named Father Jeremiah.  Father Jeremiah’s long beard and friendly manner captivated Jones.  What struck Alan Jones the most was that here he was, an Episcopal priest of some considerable standing, visiting a Coptic monastery, and yet he was welcomed without a word of discussion or debate about the differences between the two traditions.

Father Jeremiah gave him a tour of the grounds, including the tombs of John the Baptist, and the Old Testament prophet Elisha.  Ancient tradition said that the two great prophets of God — one of the Old and one of the New Testament — were buried side-by-side.  Their remains, called relics, had been venerated for generations, and had been moved to Alexandria at one time.  But in 1976, the remains of both had been brought back and re-buried at the monastery.

After Father Jeremiah related that story, he paused for a moment.  He smiled and said,

“Of course, it does not matter whether you believe any of this or not.  All that matters here is brotherly love.”

Jones said that as his visit concluded, Father Jeremiah presented him with three gifts — a handful of flowers and herbs gathered from the monastery gardens, a meal to refresh and sustain him, and 3 vials of oil for healing.  All three gifts were presented without introduction or explanation, as though they could speak for themselves.

When Jones commented on the hospitality of the monastery, Father Jeremiah replied with a laugh —

“We always treat guests as angels, just in case!”

Our Ministry to Angels

And, that’s my point today.  When we think of angels, we usually think about what they do.  They deliver God’s messages to humankind.  They protect us.  They deliver us.  They watch over us.  They do battle for us.  They minister to us.

But what about our ministry to the angels?  Do we have one?  And, if so, what is it?  How do we go about ministering to angels?  And, how will we know when we have done it?

Well, our scripture today gives us some help.  The author of Hebrews is concluding his letter to the band of believers in chapter 13.  In the first verse he says —

1Keep on loving each other as brothers.

Then in the verses that follow verse 2, he says —

3Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.

And right away, we’re reminded of the ministry of Jesus.  Jesus taught the disciples to love each other, so much so that he said to them, “Greater love has no one than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”

But, he also taught them to care for others.  In that important passage in Matthew 25, as the angels have come at the end of time to help Christ in the final judgment, Jesus commands the angels to separate the sheep from the goats.  The sheep are those who have heard the Good Shepherd, and the goats are those who have not.

And what did the sheep do that pleased Jesus?  You know this passage —

35′For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

Paul echoes the words of Jesus in his last instructions to these Jewish Christians — love each other, entertain strangers, visit the prisoners, and care for the suffering.  And when you do those things, you might be entertaining angels, whether you know it or not.

Receiving Others as God’s Messengers

We most often think of angels making an appearance like the angels who appeared when Jesus was born.  Apparently their presence was so dazzling and glorious that the shepherds who were tending their flocks that night were terrified.  And so the angels said, “Fear not, for behold we bring you good tidings of great joy!”

And while there are other passages where the first words out of the mouths of angels are “Fear not”, there are also stories of angels appearing to people, but they look like ordinary men.  Three angels appear to Abraham and Sarah, telling them that Sarah will have a child.  Sarah laughed at that news because she was in her 90s and Abraham was close to 100.

Way back on January 3, when we began this look at angels, we said that angels are the messengers of God.  We need to be open to those who might be God’s messengers to us, who might teach us something we need to know about ourselves and about God’s love.

When we lived in Tennessee, we attended a large church whose membership consisted largely of professionals — doctors, lawyers, business executives, university professors, and research scientists.   But the church was a warm and welcoming congregation, and there was also an open door for those who were not career professionals.

One of those people was a man named Harrington.  Harrington was probably in his 50s, with grey hair and a short grey beard.  It was apparent that Harrington had some challenges.  His speech pattern was halting and words came with some difficulty.  Debbie and I had been asked to host the class for prospective church members, which met for 13-weeks in the church fellowship hall.  Harrington was one of our regulars.  If he wasn’t there for the entire session, he usually came in toward the end, and he would stick around while we were cleaning up to talk to me.

Frankly, Harrington made me a little nervous.  I wasn’t sure about him, and tried to keep my conversations with him as brief as possible.  I asked the pastor about Harrington, and was told that he had suffered some difficulty at birth, but that his family had been a wealthy and respected family in the Nashville area.  That put me somewhat at ease, but I still wondered about him.

One day, Harrington approached me at church with a pen and his notebook in hand.  He handed me both and said, “Write down your address.”  That was the sum total of his request, no explanation, no reason given.  All sorts of thoughts ran through my mind — Why does he want our address?  Is he going to come to our house?  How can I not do this?

But, in the 3-seconds it took me to think those thoughts, I couldn’t come up with any way to avoid fulfilling his request.  So, reluctantly and with great concern, I wrote our address in his book.  I noticed others had done the same, so I figured that Harrington had made the rounds of his church friends with the same request.  That was in November.

Nothing happened.  No Harrington appeared at our home uninvited, and I forgot about the experience.  About a week before Christmas, I went to get the mail, and there were several Christmas cards for us.  Not surprising, since Christmas was around the corner.

As we looked at the Christmas cards, there was one with no return address.  We opened the envelope, and the card to see who had sent it.  Inside, signed in a halting hand, were the words, “Merry Christmas, Harrington.”

And right then I felt like the worst person on earth.  Harrington wanted our address to send us a Christmas card.  I am sure it must have taken him weeks to prepare and mail the cards to all his friends at church.  What came so easily to us, came with great effort to Harrington.  Which made the card that much more special.

When we saw Harrington at church the next Sunday, we thanked him for his card.  Later, he invited us to have lunch with him at the restaurant where he worked.  Harrington became a good friend, one whose conversations I looked forward to.  Harrington was God’s angel, delivering a powerful message from God  — “I am one of God’s children, too.”

An Ancient Celtic Prayer

There is an ancient Celtic prayer that Debbie and I have read many times.  This version appears in the book, Celtic Daily Prayer, and it reads —

Christ, as a light

illumine and guide me.

Christ, as a shield

overshadow me.

Christ under me;

Christ over me;

Christ beside me

on my left and my right.

This day be within and without me,

lowly and meek, yet all-powerful.

Be in the heart of each to whom I speak;

in the mouth of each who speaks unto me.

This day be within and without me, lowly and meek, yet all powerful.

The idea that Christ is present in “the mouth of each who speaks unto me” is the idea that God’s messengers, God’s angels, come to us unexpectedly at times.  And they may come without us being aware of who they are.

After Father Jeremiah had told Alan Jones that the monks at St. Macarius Monastery always treated guests like angels, “just in case,” Jones later wrote —

“Being willing to explore the possibility of entertaining angels seemed to me to be both compassionate and perceptive, because it challenges the believer to live in a constant state of expectancy, openness, and vulnerability.”  — Soul Making: The Desert Way of Spirituality, Alan Jones, pg. 14.

“Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.”

Oh, and Harrington, well he’s still at it, delivering God’s messages. This past week in the church newsletter this announcement appeared —

YOU ARE INVITED –  Harrington would like to invite all church members, family, and friends to the church on this Wednesday.  Harrington will give a talk titled “My New Home,” about the assisted-living home, where he lives now.  Everyone is welcome!”

Easter sermon: He Is The One

 

Empty Tomb
Empty Tomb

I’m preaching from Acts 10:34-43 for Easter Sunday, April 12, 2009.  I hope you have a wonderful Easter and that the story of Jesus is told in new and powerful ways in every church on Easter Sunday morning.  He is risen. He is risen indeed!

He Is The One
Acts 10:34-43 NIV

34Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism 35but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right.”

36“You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, telling the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all.

37You know what has happened throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached— 38how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.”

39“We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a tree, 40but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen. 41He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen—by us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. 42He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. 43All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

A Christmas Story at Easter

Paul Hiebert, the late missiologist and teacher, told this story of an experience he had when he served as a missionary in India:

It was Christmas time, and in the little village in South India where he had gathered with Indian Christians in the modest church there, the villagers had put on a Christmas play, the Christmas story.

The boys dressed as shepherds had come stumbling out onto the the stage, acting drunk.  Apparently shepherds in that part of India were notorious for their drinking, and so the villagers howled with laughter at the boys’ comical portrayal of the Biblical story with a local twist.

But then the angels appeared and shepherds and villagers sat in rapt attention at the announcement of the birth of Jesus.  Wise men soon appeared, making their way to Herod’s court where they enquired as to the exact location of the birth of the new King of the Jews.  Everything seemed to be going according to plan as the play went along.

As the Biblical story came to its conclusion, Hiebert thought the play was ending.  But just at that moment, the stage curtain was pulled back to reveal Santa Claus with gifts for everyone!  Hiebert was shocked.  At first he thought that these new Indian Christians were guilty of syncretism — blending in Christianity with their own myths and ancient beliefs.

But then he realized that the missionaries themselves had brought two stories of Christmas.  The first, the Biblical story of Mary and Joseph, and baby Jesus born in a stable in Bethlehem.  In that story, the setting was not far from India itself, and the climate was subtropical.  Palm trees and deserts formed the landscape, and sheep, goats, shepherds, and wisemen were the characters.

The second story was the story of Saint Nicholas, Santa Claus, the giver of gifts with Mrs. Santa Claus, the elves, and reindeer as the supporting cast.  Santa was the giver of gifts, and lived in a climate of snow and ice, where it was always cold and wintry.

Hiebert realized that while the missionaries had brought two stories of Christmas, the villagers in South India had combined them into one great Christmas story of Jesus and shepherds and sheep, along with Santa and reindeer and elves.  Both wonderful stories, but each with a very different point.

You might wonder why I’m telling a Christmas story here at Easter.  Here’s my point:  we have to be careful about how we tell the stories of God.  And the Easter story is no exception.

The Story of Spring Is Not The Story of Easter

Of course, Easter has some of the same wonderful folk stories that Christmas has.  At Easter time, we look for the Easter bunny with baskets of candy and eggs.  We dye eggs multiple colors, hide them from each other, and then make a great game of hunting for these prize eggs outdoors among the rest of nature.

We no longer believe the ancient mythic tales of strange gods and goddesses, and of the rites of spring, or other such nonsense.  The Easter bunny and Easter eggs have been given a whole new story — a story of fun, of springtime, of a harmless and exuberant children’s activity.  And, that’s exactly as it should be.

But, here today, we know there is a difference in the Easter bunny and in Jesus, just as we know there is a difference in Santa and Jesus.  It does not hurt us at all to believe in jolly old men who bring gifts, or to believe that as a sign of spring the Easter bunny distributes eggs just for our amusement and enjoyment.  But, we know that one story is not the other, that there is a difference in the Easter story in the Bible and the Easter sale at the mall.

Okay, so we aren’t like the villagers in South India who confused two very different stories.  But we still must be careful when we tell the story of Easter, because even if we know the story of Easter is not the story of the Easter bunny, we still tell the wrong story sometime.

The Story of Church is not the Story of Easter

One of the stories we tell at Easter is the story of church.  And, many people put on their Easter best and come to church on Easter Sunday.  That’s a good thing to do.  But it’s not the Easter story.

Like many of you, I grew up in the South.  And in the South, we have a way of making language mean what we want it to.  We say things like, “Ya’ll come to see us,” when we don’t really mean it.  And we use phrases to qualify our gossip, like when we say “bless his heart.”  That conversation usually goes something like this:

“Did you hear that Billy Smith was out drunk again last night?”

“Well, yes, I did.  Bless his heart, he’s not ever going to amount to anything.”

So, the “bless his heart” kind of softens the gossipy part, and makes us sound really concerned for poor old worthless Billy.

Well, we did the same thing with this business of church and faith.  I remember as a primary boy, when you walked down the aisle most of the time we called it “joining the church.”  Which is exactly what part of that decision was, but not all of it.  Somehow, we in the South just couldn’t bring ourselves to say, “He became a Christian today.”  Or, “She became a disciple of Jesus today.”  No, we talked about the part of that experience that was less difficult.  We said, “He joined the church today.”

Now, before you get too concerned, I know we meant to include the full meaning.  You joined the church because you had professed faith in Christ, because you had asked Jesus to forgive your sins, because you had repented of all the bad things you had done, even if you were only 6 years old.  I know we understood it meant all of that, but mostly all we could say was, “He joined the church.”

The story we were telling then was the story about church.  And, here’s how the rest of that story went:

  • You joined the church by walking the aisle at the end of the service.
  • Then the church (if you were Baptist) voted to receive you into its membership upon your baptism.
  • Then you were baptized.
  • Then you were expected to take your place as a good church member, which meant coming to church, serving where you could, giving to the church, and doing some other things like reading your Bible and praying.  And when you came to church, they even helped train you to do all of that.

And that was the story about church.  We really thought it was the story about being a Christian, but in our Southern culture and minds both of those stories were the same.

I’m reading a fascinating book titled, The Death of Christian Britain.  by Callum Brown, who is professor of religious and cultural history at the University of Dundee in the UK.  Brown examines the decline of the Christian church in Britain where now less that 7% of the population attends religious services, even though The Church of England is the official state church.

Brown looks at the popular theories for church decline in England.  He examines the theory of the “wicked city” which is the theory that urban centers broke ties to family and friends as the population migrated from the rural countryside to the cities during the Industrial Revolution. But Brown actually demonstrates that during the period of manufacturing increase, more people joined churches than ever before.

He also looks at the theory of the Industrial Revolution itself as a contributing factor to the decline of churches, but again the data show that during the 19th and 20th centuries, up to the 1960s, church attendance and participation in Britain actually continued to increase, and at times increased sharply.

Brown concluded that neither the growth of urban centers, nor the rise of manufacturing were the causes of the decline of the church in England.

His conclusion was that the English simply began telling themselves a new story about church.  Let me explain.  The old story they told themselves about church, as did we in America, is that good people go to church, church is a good influence on growing children, respectable people live according to Christian principles, and that being a church member was a good thing.  You were baptized into the church as an infant, confirmed in the church as a pre-adolescent, married in the church as a young adult, and buried by the church when you died.  Your life was woven into the fabric of the church.

But some time in the 1960s, during the rise of the Baby Boom generation, a lot of social narratives were being called into question.  Women were finding a new place in society, young people were rebelling against their parents and the system, and society was in turmoil.  We experienced the same thing here in America, with similar results.

But, in England people began to tell themselves that you can be good and not go to church.  You don’t have to be baptized, or confirmed, that life isn’t much different for those who are than for others.  That you don’t have to do what the church tells you to do, and you can get along very well without all that religious fuss.  And church attendance began a steady decline that is unabated to this day.  Part of the point of Brown’s book is that there is a point at which Britain ceases to be Christian at all, and the church becomes totally irrelevant.

So, the story of Easter can’t be the story of the Church, because it’s easy to explain away the need for the institution of church itself.

The Story of Heaven Isn’t The Story of Easter

We have often told the story of Easter this way:  Jesus died on the cross and was resurrected so that we can all go to heaven when we die.  Now, there is truth in that statement, but that is not the story of Easter.  Actually, if you read all of the accounts of the Easter story, and of what the disciples experienced on that first Easter morning, there is nothing about going to heaven when you die in those accounts.

There is wonder, and mystery, and sadness, and surprise, and unbelief, and incredulity, but not much talk about heaven or our own death.  Now, we have come to understand that a result of the death and resurrection of Christ is our own salvation which includes being in the presence of God eternally, but the story of heaven isn’t the story of Easter, either.

The Story of Easter is the Story of Jesus

In our passage today, Peter is speaking to Cornelius.  Cornelius is a Roman centurion who lives in Caesarea.  Amazingly, Cornelius, even though he was in the unit known as the Italian Regiment, was a believer in the God of the Jews.  He was well-known and respected by the Jewish community.  One day in prayer, Cornelius saw an angel who told him to send for a man named Simon, who was also called Peter.  The angel told Cornelius Peter was staying in a house in Joppa, about three days’ journey away.

Cornelius dispatched 2 servants and a soldier to bring Peter to Caesarea.  As they were approaching the house where Peter was staying, Peter had a vision.  A large sheet was let down from heaven filled with all kinds of animals, birds, and reptiles.  The voice told Peter, “Get up, Peter.  Kill and eat.”

Peter objected that he had never eaten anything unclean.  Jewish dietary laws prohibited the consumption of certain animals, or meat prepared in certain ways.  But the vision persisted three times.

Then the Spirit told Peter, “There are some men looking for you. Go with them.”

Peter does, and arrives at the house of Cornelius, where he is well-received.  Peter then begins to address Cornelius, and he tells him the story of his vision.  Then he begins with the passage we read today.

Peter tells this story:

  • God doesn’t show favoritism, but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right. (Cornelius is a God-fearer.)
  • God sent the good news of peace to the Jews through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. (Not Caesar, who thinks he is Lord of all.)
  • You know the story of Jesus, how he preached in Galilee, was baptized by John.
  • You know that God anointed Jesus of Nazareth (Christ means Messiah which means the anointed one).
  • You know the ministry of Jesus who went about doing good, and healing (saving) those who were under the power of the devil because God’s power was with Jesus.
  • We, the apostles, are witnesses of everything Jesus did in the country of the Jews, but they killed him by hanging him on a tree (OT prophecy).
  • But God raised him up from the dead on the third day (more prophecy) and caused him to be seen (this was no secret).
  • He wasn’t seen by everybody, but by the witnesses whom God chose.
  • We ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.
  • He commanded us to preach to the people and testify that he is the one who God appointed to judge the living and the dead.
  • All the prophets testify about him, that every who believes in him has forgiveness of sins through his name.

So, Peter tells the story of Jesus.  Not the story of the church, or the apostles, or the things that have happened to him.  Peter tells this centurion who seeks God, the only story that matters, God’s story, the story of Jesus.
When we tell God’s story, Paul Hiebert says, “We must begin with the King, for it is the King who defines the kingdom.  The central message of the gospels is the coming of Jesus Christ as King and Lord over all Creation.”

Hiebert goes on, “In the end Jesus was tried for treason by the Jewish and Roman courts and executed as all insurrectionists were — on a cross.  The high court in heaven found Jesus innocent, and Satan and humans wicked.  Jesus rose from the dead and ascended to his lawful throne, and cast out the principalities and powers that had opposed him.  Ironically, his death, which looked like defeat to humans, was the means by which God wrought salvation for those who turn to him in repentance.  In the end, every knee, in heaven and on earth, [and under the earth] will bend before the King.

With the King comes the kingdom.  Within the kingdom is the body of Christ, the church.  And the mission given to the church is to tell the story of Jesus.  Not the story of an institution, not the story of a myth or legend, but of Jesus.

Peter says, “He is the one God appointed…”

  • He is the one born of a virgin, God incarnate.
  • He is the one who grew in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man.
  • He is the one who made blind eyes see, lame legs walk, deaf ears to hear.
  • He is the one who said, You have heard, but I say unto you — re-imagining the law of God in new, loving ways.
  • He is the one who forgave the woman at the well, the woman caught in adultery, the cheating tax collector, and the thief on the cross.
  • He is the one who taught love for God and neighbor as the summary of the Law and the Prophets.
  • He is the one who wept at the grave of a friend, and then called him forth from the dead.
  • He is the one who broke bread with his disciples and said, This is my body broken for you.
  • He is the one who prayed in the garden, Not my will but Thine be done.
  • He is the one who walked into the night after that Passover meal, knowing it was a walk to his own death.
  • He is the one who was abandoned by friends, rebuked by the religious, mocked by the soldiers, taunted by the crowd.
  • He is the one whose hands and feet were nailed to the cross.
  • He is the one whose side was pierced and whose heart was broken.
  • He is the one who cried, Father forgive them for they know not what they do.
  • He is the one who gave up his own life, and died the innocent victim of the Roman system of capital punishment.
  • He is the one whose body was laid in the grave.
  • He is the one whom God raised on that first Easter morn.
  • He is the one who comforted his disciples, breathed the Holy Spirit onto them, and sent the Spirit to empower them.
  • He is the one who ascended back to the Father.
  • And He is the one who is coming again.

The story of Easter is the story of Jesus.  It is the story the world needs to hear, and we need to tell.  It is the story in which we find our place, for it is our story.  It is a story that goes on, it lives because He lives.

Sermon: The Eyes of a Servant

Here’s the sermon I’m preaching tomorrow, Sunday, November 16, 2008.  The text is Psalm 123.  I hope your day is a good one. 

The Eyes of A Servant

Psalm 123 NIV

 1 I lift up my eyes to you, 
       to you whose throne is in heaven. 

2 As the eyes of slaves look to the hand of their master, 
       as the eyes of a maid look to the hand of her mistress, 
       so our eyes look to the LORD our God, 
       till he shows us his mercy.

 3 Have mercy on us, O LORD, have mercy on us, 
       for we have endured much contempt.

 4 We have endured much ridicule from the proud, 
       much contempt from the arrogant.

Dinner at Ernie’s in Santa Fe

I don’t know if Ernie’s restaurant on Canyon Drive in Santa Fe is still open or not.  Debbie and I ate there nearly 30-years ago on one of our first trips to our Baptist conference center in Glorieta, New Mexico.  I was leading a conference at Glorieta, and as I told you last week, we skipped a session one night to go into Santa Fe to have a really nice dinner.  I can’t remember if it was our anniversary or not.  We did spend our 10th anniversary in Glorieta, along with about 30-folks from our church that were with us.  We went out to dinner that night, too, and when we returned and had settled in, we heard the musical sounds of our group serenading us from outside our window.  But that’s a story for another time.

So, I don’t remember why we had gone to Ernie’s to eat.  Actually, the choice of Ernie’s was random, I think.  We had been to several art galleries on Canyon Road, and Ernie’s was right there, too.  At that point in our young lives, with two kids, and me still in seminary, we did not eat out a lot, and when we did it wasn’t any place fancy.  The What-a-Burger next to the church was a favorite stop, as were  a couple of chain restaurants in Irving, Texas where we lived.  But, fine dining was something other folks did.  

Ernie’s was a really nice restaurant.  We could tell right away because the utensils were not wrapped up in a paper napkin.  Real silverware, real cloth napkins, and not one, but two waiters per table.  I remember I ordered the pan-fried trout.  Debbie remembered I ordered the trout, too, so the trout made a big impression on us.  

As we were in the process of eating, I had sweetened my tea and laid the empty sugar packet on the table.  I have a thing I do with sugar packets: I tear the top off, empty the sugar into my glass, then insert the piece of the sugar packet back into the empty pack, and fold it up.  I don’t know why I do this — some obsessive-compulsive disorder, I am sure — but that’s what I do.  Makes a neat compact piece of trash.  

So, I had performed that little ritual and laid the rolled up packet on the table.  Before I knew it, the waiter slid by, and in one smooth motion picked up the empty packet and kept going.  Well, Debbie did the same thing, without all the tearing, rolling, and so forth that I did.  She laid her empty sugar packet on the table.  The waiter again, glided by, scooping up the sugar packet without saying a word.  

We were very young, and at this point, very unsophisticated.  Not like we are today.  We got tickled at the glide-by-waiter.  So, I took a pack of crackers, unwrapped it and laid the cellophane wrapper next to my plate.  Guess what — Mr. Waiter-on-the-Spot swooped by again, picking up the wrapper.  This time I think he was slightly annoyed, as we were visibly giggling as he passed by.  

Now, my point of that whole story is not to tell you how unsophisticated we were in our late 20s, even though we were.  My point is that the waiter was watching us.  Even before we needed something, he anticipated what we were about to need, and was there to refill our glasses, pickup our salad plates, and clean up all the sugar and cracker packets we were tossing about.  His eyes were always watching for the next thing we might need.

Psalm 123

Which brings us to our text today, Psalm 123.  This psalm is a song of mild lament.  The psalmist is looking to God — I lift up my eyes to you, to you whose throne is in heaven.  His request, his prayer, is that God will have mercy on his people for they have endured contempt and ridicule from the arrogant and proud.  

In all probability, this song goes with others written during the Babylonian captivity.  Like Psalm 137 which laments —

 By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept 
       when we remembered Zion.

 2 There on the poplars 
       we hung our harps,

 3 for there our captors asked us for songs, 
       our tormentors demanded songs of joy; 
       they said, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”

 4 How can we sing the songs of the LORD 
       while in a foreign land?

The writer of Psalm 123 was feeling much the same quiet shame and humiliation.  But in verses 2 and 3, he says 

2 As the eyes of slaves look to the hand of their master, 
       as the eyes of a maid look to the hand of her mistress, 
       so our eyes look to the LORD our God, 
       till he shows us his mercy.

 3 Have mercy on us, O LORD, have mercy on us, 
       for we have endured much contempt.

The people of God are looking to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob for mercy.  

The Eyes of Servants

Friday night Debbie and I attended the ordination of David Smith, chaplain at Chatham Hall, to the order of deacon in the Episcopal Church.  David will be ordained as a priest in the Episcopal Church in a few months, but the route to priesthood requires that one be ordained a deacon first.  

The bishop of this diocese commented that deacon means servant, and that David was to serve his Master, Jesus Christ, with humility and obedience.  

In the first century church, the Seven were chosen to do the work of service, to look after the care of widows especially, so that the apostles could devote themselves to prayer and the ministry of the Word.  The idea of servanthood is both an Old and a New Testament idea.  

Servants Look to Their Masters

The point of the psalm is to remind God’s people that their only hope is to look to God, as a servant looks to his master, or a handmaid looks to her mistress.  

Servants watch their masters for indicators of how they, too, are to live.  A good servant sees the habits and lifestyle of his master and seeks to incorporate those qualities into his own life.  Jesus both taught and demonstrated how his followers, his servants, were to live.  

Jesus taught that we were to turn the other cheek, to not return insult for insult, even physical insult.  He demonstrated that teaching when arrested and ridiculed.  When the temple guard arrests him in the Garden, Peter draws a sword and in a wild swinging motion, severs the ear of the high priest’s servant.  We often picture that scene as everyone standing around and Peter acting alone in desperation.  But, I think it was chaos.  Lots of pushing and shoving and yelling and cursing — sweaty guards grappling with now-awake disciples for possession of Jesus.  But, Jesus calms both sides, heals the servant’s wound, and goes willingly with the guard.  

Later, as the Roman centurions plucked out his beard, spit in his face, railed at him blasphemously, the Bible says that he did not respond or answer them.  He has become, in Paul’s words, “obedient unto death, even death on a cross.”  

The question we must ask ourselves is — Are we watching Jesus when conflict, war, and discord present themselves to us?  Our Anabaptists friends, the Mennonites and Amish, practice a lifestyle of peacemaking that puts us as Southern Baptists to shame.  Why do we not turn our eyes to Jesus to watch how he responds to violence and conflict in his world?

But, we also look to Jesus to see how he treats the poor, the sick, the widow, the orphan — the weakest in his society.  In every instance, when we look at what Jesus does, our eyes see him feeding the five thousand, healing the sick, touching lepers, making blind eyes see, and caring for those who are on the margins of society.  

Those not in church, those who do not claim to be followers of Christ, see this care for the poor and marginalized more clearly than we do.  Ask most of the unchurched what they think the “church” ought to be doing and the answer you will most likely receive is feeding the hungry, caring for the poor, helping those least able to help themselves.  They get it, but do we?  If our eyes were really turned to Jesus we would see how he lived and how much he thought the poor, the weak, and the marginalized needed his care.

Matthew 25 quotes Jesus in the clearest language —

31“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. 32All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. 34“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

 37“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

 40“The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’

 41“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

 44“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

 45“He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

 46“Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

Could that be more clear?  The righteous, the right with God, are those who feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the prisoners, welcome the strangers, and care for the sick.  They are welcomed into life eternal, those who have not done these things are not.

Looking to the World or To Jesus

But, the argument for not looking to Jesus for guidance, for clues about how we are to live, is that we live in the real world.  A world where the weak are taken advantage of, the powerful rule the day, and unless you want to get run over, you’d better look out for yourself.  In other words, we find the practical world more appealing as a master.  

Because when this world is our master, and we look to its ways, we can follow our own reactions.  When someone hits us, we can hit them back.  And, if we don’t do that, then we are considered weak and cowardly. 

Or, we can take the attitude that the poor, the marginalized, don’t deserve our help.  That they are on their own, and can make their own way.  It’s interesting that there are two words used for the poor in the Bible. One means a man who is reduced to begging and is not respectable.  The other means a person who is poor, but still lives frugally and respectably — in other words, the undeserving and the deserving poor.  But in the Sermon on the Mount, guess which word Jesus uses when he blesses the poor?  You guessed it, the undeserving.  Those who are at the bottom of the pile, perhaps even because of their own choices.

So, if we take our attitudes from the world system — the system of power, and of strength, and of dominance — then we are looking to our master, but our master is not Christ.  

Now, if all this sounds really tedious, and difficult, and unpleasant, here’s the point.  Jesus came to change things.  

I’m reading Journeying Out: A New Approach to Christian Mission, by Ann Morisy.  Morisy says that the church, even when it is doing good, can be very much like the world.  We want to meet needs.  And so we organize need-meeting ventures: we feed people, clothe people, shelter people.  But, our focus can easily slide into the focus of any helping organization — number of meals served, number of beds occupied, numbers of coats given away.  No different than an organization that does not claim that Jesus is its master.

Rather, Morisy suggests, than adopt a strictly needs-meeting approach, we should look to Jesus.  Jesus not only fed people, he sat and talked with them, he engaged them in conversation.  He knew their names and their stories, and he let them participate by offering a few loaves and a few fish to the effort.  

Jesus not only healed people, but he touched lepers, he explained that a blind man was not blind due to sin but so that God’s power could be revealed.  He engaged the blind man by asking him what he wanted.  The decision to see was the blindman’s, not Jesus’.  

Morisy says that three principles should guide our venturesome love — love that steps outside its comfort zone to engage with all those around us:

  1. We must recognize the importance of struggle to the kingdom of God and the well-being of the children of God.
  2. We must take seriously the mysterious part which those who are poor and marginalized have in the purposes of God.
  3. We must take seriously the implications of the fact that we are all brothers and sisters with the same Heavenly Father.  — Journeying Out, Ann Morisy, p. 37-39

So, when we turn out eyes to Jesus, we see that Jesus came to —

  • To change worship from a perfunctory performance to a real encounter with God.  
  • To change righteousness from a term that could only be applied to the rich, powerful, and well-placed, to a condition of the heart, a child-like state of trust and hope.
  • To change society from its devotion to power, to embrace love as it’s operative principle.
  • To change his disciples from servants of the world, to servants of God.

Like our waiter at Ernie’s, our eyes should always be watching Jesus, anticipating what he might want us to do next.  Moving to do that which he calls us to do.  To change our world, to live as though the kingdom of God has come, to be an outpost of heaven here on God’s earth.  

When I was a teenager, I attended church camp, as I did just about every year.  One night at the end of the worship service, we all stood to sing, Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus.  Something changed in my life that night. I was already a Christian, I had professed faith in Christ and followed him in baptism when I was 6 years old.  But, I had not really grasped what it meant to follow Jesus, to turn my eyes, my heart, my attitudes toward him.  To be like him, to be conformed to his image.  To serve him with my whole life.  That night started me on that journey.  A journey that has brought me this far.  The failures along the way have been mine, the victories his.  

I lift up my eyes to you, to you whose throne is in heaven.  Amen.

Sermon: The Mind of Christ

This is the sermon I’m preaching tomorrow, Sunday, September 28, 2008.  

The Mind of Christ

Philippians 2:1-13 NIV
1If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. 3Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. 4Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.  

 5Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: 
 6Who, being in very nature God, 
      did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 
 7but made himself nothing, 
      taking the very nature of a servant, 
      being made in human likeness. 
 8And being found in appearance as a man, 
      he humbled himself 
      and became obedient to death— 
         even death on a cross! 
 9Therefore God exalted him to the highest place 
      and gave him the name that is above every name, 
 10that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, 
      in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 
 11and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, 
      to the glory of God the Father.

 12Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.

False Identities 

We live in an interesting culture.  I ran across a website this week called “Fake Name Generator.”   The idea is that when you need to fill out an online form on the internet, but really don’t want to give your real name, you can get a fake identity by using “Fake Name Generator.”  So, of course, I tried it.  Guess what?  You are now looking at James Y. Baptiste.  No kidding!  A Baptist named Baptiste.  I thought that was pretty cute.
 
And as they say on the Ginsu knife commercial — But wait, that’s not all!  
I also received…
  • a fake address
  • a fake phone number
  • a fake website all my own
  • a fake email address
  • a fake social security number
  • a fake mother, whose maiden name was “Berry” 
  • a fake credit card number
  • a fake birthday (although they made me 5 years older than I really am)
  • and, a fake UPS tracking number.  I have no idea why..
Of course, it’s all in good fun, I suppose, but the internet is known as the place you can be whoever you want to be.  Don’t like your name, choose a nickname.  Don’t like the way you look, choose someone else’s photo.  Don’t like what you weigh, or how tall you are, or your age — pretend to be someone else.
 
Of course, pretending to be someone else isn’t just confined to the internet.  The recent case of Clark Rockefeller, whose real name is Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter, illustrates how easy it is for someone pretending to be someone else can fool lots of people, including the woman he married.
 
Pretending to be someone else is usually reserved for actors and politicians, but that brings us to Paul’s letter to the Philippians where he encourages them to act like someone else.
 
Like-Mindedness
You might remember that last week Paul had told the Philippian Christians that they not only got to believe on Christ, but they had the privilege of suffering for Christ also.  And, Paul reminds them that he is in prison for the Gospel and tells them to stand firm and live a life worthy of the Gospel.  Here in chapter 2, Paul is cheering them on in their attempt to stand firm and live worthy lives.
In Philippians 3:1-2, Paul goes through a laundry list of reminders to give them hope.
  • If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, 
  • if any comfort from his love, 
  • if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion,
  • 2then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.
For Paul, the thing that will make him joyful is for the Philippians to be like-minded.  He goes on to explain that like-mindedness means having the same love, the same spirit, and the same purpose.  Paul has already told them in 1:7 that “It is right for me to feel this way about you.”  The Greek word the NIV translates “feel this way” is from the root verb phroneo, which means “mindset” — the way one thinks about something, or our predisposition to something.
 
It is the same word Paul uses here to encourage them to be like-minded.  It is the same word he will use when he says “Let this mind (attitude) be in you that was also in Christ Jesus…”
It is also the same word he will use in Phil 4:2 when he encourages two women in the church, Euodia and Syntyche, who are quarreling, to be of the same mind — to agree with each other.
 
This idea of “like-mindedness” is important to Paul.  Paul sees it as the key to unity in the church in Philippi. The church has been riven with the same problems of any church — facing difficulty, different people have different perspectives, different viewpoints, and they are dividing the church community.
 
Paul pleads with them — “If you have any encouragement from being united in Christ, any comfort from his love, any fellowship with the Spirit, any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded.”
Paul is pulling out all the stops here to get them to come together.  He lays a subtle guilt-trip on them, like only a mother can — “If all I’ve done for you means anything, please be nice to your brother.”  Your mother ever do that to you?  Any sentence that starts with “After all I’ve done for you…” is a guaranteed guilt-tripper.  But, Paul is a little more subtle than that.  And, to give them some help, he shows them how they can be of one mind.
The Example of Jesus
Paul, Phil 1:30,  has previously appealed to his suffering — “Since you’re going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have.”  Paul wants the Philippians to know that he understands what they’re going through.  He understand persecution and what it means to stand firm.  He understands how difficult it is to live a life worthy of the Gospel.  He is an example to them.
But, then Paul also wants them to make his joy full and complete as their community becomes like-minded. And, so Paul gives them the ultimate example to follow — the example of Christ.
I like the King James here —  “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:”-Phil 2:5
In other words, be like-minded with Christ.  Have the same attitude, the same mindset, the same predisposition to others.  Have the mind of Christ.
 
Now, how do you have the mind of Christ?  How do you have the same attitude Jesus had?  Our own attempts at having the mind of Christ are as doomed to fail as the Clark Rockefeller’s false identity.  We can’t be Christ…or can we?
 
In their extraordinary book, Saving Paradise, Rita Brock and Rebecca Parker tell us that early in the life of the Church, there was the idea of theosis — the possibility of Christians partaking of the divine nature of Christ.  This idea began with the Creation story, as God creates humankind in God’s own image.  But, the idea that followers of Christ were partakers of his divinity is echoed in 2 Peter 1:3-4, where Peter contends,

3His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. – 2 Peter 1:3-4

The idea of theosis was not primarily individual, it belonged to the community.  As the church was the body of Christ, partaking of the divine nature was the experience of the community of faith, not just privileged individuals.  And, theosis expressed itself in very real ways.  Tertullian said that Christians created “an alternate social order” that was different from the social order of the Roman empire.  Theosis expressed itself as Christians acted –

“…to support the destitute, and to pay for their burial expenses; to supply the needs of boys and girls lacking money and power, and of old people confined to the home…we do not hesitate to share our earthly goods with one another.”  
– Saving Paradise, page 178.

Paul also gives the Philippians concrete instruction on what the mind of Christ is.  Paul says that Christ
  • did not “grasp” or hold onto his heavenly position for personal benefit;
  • made himself nothing — literally, “emptied himself” in the image of pouring out a bottle until it is empty;
  • took a servant’s form, human likeness;
  • humbled himself;
  • became obedient unto death, even death on a cross.
So, if you want to know what mindset Jesus had it was giving up, letting go, pouring out himself for others.  
Paul goes on to say that because of that mindset, God highly exalted Jesus, giving him a name above every name, and that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow in heaven, in earth, and under the earth.  In other words, because Jesus had the attitude he did, the mindset, God placed him in the highest place, and all of heaven, all the world of the living, and all the world of the dead recognize that Jesus the Messiah is Lord to the glory of God the Father.
 
Jesus mindset, lived out in his life of humility, service, and sacrifice, gained the acknowledgement of the entire creation that Jesus the Christ is Lord.  Not Ceasar, not empire, not wealth, not power, not privilege, not prestige, but Jesus is Lord.
A Fable
 
In his book, How (Not) To Speak of God, Peter Rollins tells this story:
There was once a princess who grew up in a kingdom that had been ravished by decades of famines, war and plague.  One night, as the princess slept she had a dream.  In this dream she was walking through the market that lay by the sea, when a young beggar looked up, but before their eyes could meet the dream ended and the princess awoke.  As the dream faded a haunting voice arose in her mind that informed her that if she were ever to meet this young man, he would shower her with riches beyond her wildest dreams.
This dream etched itself so deeply on the princess that she carried the vision deep in her heart, until one day, years later, as she walked through the market, her gaze caught hold of the same man who had visited her in her dreams all those years ago.  Without pausing she ran up to him and proceeded to relay the whole vision.  Never once did he look up, but when the princess had finished her story he reached into an old sack and pulled out a package.  Without saying a word, he offered it to the princess and asked her to leave.
 
Once the princess reached her dilapidated castle she ripped open the package and, sure enough, there was a great wealth of pure gold and precious diamonds.  That night she placed the package in a safe place, and went to bed.  But her mind was in turmoil and the long night was spent in sleepless contemplation.  Early the next morning she arose, retrieved the treasures and went down to the water’s edge.  Once there she summoned all her strength and threw the riches deep into the sea.  After watching the package sink out of sight, she turned and without looking back went searching for the young beggar.
Finally, she found him sitting in the shade of an old doorway.  The princess approached, held out her hand and placed it under his chin.  Then she drew his face towards hers and whispered, “Young man, speak of the wealth you possess which allows you to give away such worldly treasure without a moment’s thought.”  – pg.50-51, How (Not) To Speak of God by Peter Rollins.
 
That is the mind of Christ.  That is the mind possible for the followers of Christ.  ”Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.”  Amen. 

Some thoughts to tide you over

The community center is coming along nicely, and we are about 75-days away from getting the keys.  Which means a lot of work ordering furnishings, contacting utility companies, planning the opening, and so on.  All seems to be piling in at once, plus the continuing change-orders, additions, and problem-solving that go with building a 16,000-square foot building.  But, it’s going well, just fast and furious.  Which explains my lack of posts this week.  So, until I get my sermon for Sunday up, here’s some good stuff I’ve been reading:

More later.