In our Epistle reading for August 2nd, we read in Romans about the relationship between Jew and Gentiles and the failure of the Jews to accept Jesus as the Messiah. Paul struggles with this dilemma.
We all want to be accepted and acceptable. It's natural. But what about when the situation calls for going against what is accepted and acceptable? Prophet Jeremiah did this regularly and Jesus teaches his missionary disciples about accepting the unacceptable.
Jeremiah not only steps out in challenging what is accepted and acceptable from his position as a royal prophet to the king, he is often instructed by God to demonstrate it in some way. On this occasion, when Judah has been conquered by the Babylonians, has had its great Temple looted and destroyed, and its best people carted off to Babylon, Jeremiah is told to wear a yoke around his neck. The message is that the yoke of Babylonian subjugation is God's punishment of Judah for its sins.
Another royal court prophet, Hananiah, has a different prophecy, one that is far more accepted and acceptable. It is a bit nuts, suggesting that Judah revolt to overthrow the Babylonians, that God will set the people free and have their losses restored in a short period of time. The priests of the court think this is great!
Jeremiah begs to differ, intoning God's prophecy to him that the yoke of Babylon must be worn and that lessons need to be learned. See how this plays out.
Jesus's missionary discourse is closing in Matthew 10. Here he counsels his mission-going disciples about how they will be doing what those in power will find unacceptable. Those who assist them may be called out for supporting their work and become endangered. For the community for which Matthew is writing, this is meant to encourage the faithful who have been experiencing persecution in Matthew's own time. There is reward for those who support the Kingdom-building mission of Jesus.
Get the whole story in the service video below.
This week, we were able to add music from Doogie in a Prelude and Postlude. Enjoy!
This is a new feature starting this week. A link will be emailed to you so that when you watch the service video, you will have the Fairfielder available - here as a PDF since folks had trouble re-sizing, displaying, and printing a graphic attached to the email.
Pastor Bea will also be posting an Order of Worship next week as well as a Fairfielder. Look for the link to those downloads later next week via email from her.
For this week, click on the file name 06-28-20-ff below and download the Fairfielder PDF.
Fairfielder image: "Oh, look, they put in new windows, but didn't quite catch the replacement idea."
Have a plan. Think it through. Maintain control. Until ... it all goes out of control. Now what? People of faith know that God hasn't been absent. Abraham teaches faith when faced with an impossible situation. Jesus teaches faith to his disciples going out in mission.
Space missions are incredibly complex. Despite the best plans by the brightest minds, things go wrong, fast and in a big way. Mission control - pictured - tries its best when the mission goes out of control.
These become lessons of faith for people of faith. Abraham has God's promise of a child. Maidservant Hagar bears him a son when wife Sarah cannot. Problem solved? Then Sarah has a son, and now there are two sons. But only one can be heir according to the rule of PRIMOGENITURE. Now the situation has become an unsolvable mess. God assures Abraham that it will all work out and Abraham once again has faith in the promise of God.
As Jesus prepares to send out his disciples on their first mission trip, he warns them about the problems they will face and the unsolvable choices that will confront tghem. Their faith must lead them.
Let these stories teach you in the sermon video and in the downloads below the video panel.
You really have to laugh when someone does or says something really preposterous, or pokes fun at the preposterous things we do and say all the time. But preposterous stuff comes in God-sized packages, too. Sarah laughs at the prediction of her senior pregnancy. Jesus instructions to his disciples may seem preposterous, too, but he is serious.
Yes, I chastise the congregation for being the worst audience for a stand-up pastor. You try saying something funny, and even when you land a good one, they habitually stifle their laughter. It's a tough, tough house for any comedy gig.
Old Sarah hears her name mentioned when visitors come by and are chatting with husband Abraham. Her ears pick-up her name in the conversation. She hears clearly as the visitor promises that upon his return, Sarah will be pregnant. Say WHAAAT? She bursts into a deep guffaw before she can catch herself. She recalls the visitor having stated to the stunned Abraham, "Is anything too hard for the Lord?" Uh-oh.
Now that's God-sized preposterous.
Taking a page from his Abba, Jesus has these ideas about what disciples should do that may seem preposterous. Teach the Kingdom, heal the sick, raise the dead, cast out evil is a short-list for the broader, 'Do all the things that I've been doing.' It looks ridiculously impossible - preposterous! - but Jesus is serious.
Get the whole story in the sermon video below.
The video camera quit before I had finished the scripture reading, so forget about any sermon video this week - a battery issue, I'm sure. I have posted it anyway - all 4 minutes - so you can see me doing my thing with a mask. No, no sermon video this week. Sorry.
While it is Trinity Sunday on the church calendar, the notion of the Trinity - the three persons of God in Father/Creator, Soon, and Holy Spirit - is never better described than as "a mystery." This seems like a nice way of saying that you can talk about until you're blue in the face and conclude nothing more. Quite frankly, it's a distraction.
With this Sunday's scripture readings associating with Trinity Sunday, it is a distraction with further distractions built into the main distraction.
For example, we look at day six in the First Creation Story - the story that features God, a calendar, and everything created in contrast with the Second Creation Story with a garden, a serpent, and naked humans which is lots more fun.
The distractions come from the words "subdue" and "dominion" in the text. These expressions have been regularly used to justify the wanton exploitation and destruction of our natural environment supposedly for the betterment of humanity. A close and contextual reading makes it clear that such corrupt interpretations are completely wrong. They misread the whole text and how God intends the human creation to regard the creation which God has entrusted to our wise, judicious, and righteous stewardship.
The full explanation is in the sermon text - downloadable below as a PDF.
Another distraction comes in the so-called Great Commission at the end of Matthew's gospel. The expression there - "make disciples of all nations" - has often been used to launch crusades, to make it a priority to convert everyone to Christianity, to save their hell-bound sinful soul. In fact, it doesn't mean that at all and is a monumental distraction created by people not named Jesus who have a domination thing of their own going on. Jesus wanted us to do what he did - it's that simple. He did not run around trying to 'convert the heathen.' He never told anyone this is what you should do, either.
Like a good distraction, this misguided missionary impulse distracts from engaging the things which Jesus did want his disciples - his students - to learn and do. Things like feeding the hungry, freeing those in bondage, working for reconciliation and peace, embracing each one as sister and brother, practicing incredible grace and forgiveness, reaching out in healing brokenness, seeking justice for the oppressed and exploited, and a whole lot more.
To dig a bit deeper into this, try downloading the sermon by clicking on the PDF link below - yes, the second link - and giving it the once over. We'll try to get the video piece right next week. Again, sorry.