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“No other foundation…”

February 23, 2014 –– Seventh Sunday after Epiphany

Lectionary Scriptures:

Leviticus 19:1-18

The LORD spoke to Moses, saying: 2Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them: You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy. 3You shall each revere your mother and father, and you shall keep my sabbaths: I am the LORD your God. 4Do not turn to idols or make cast images for yourselves: I am the LORD your God. 5When you offer a sacrifice of well-being to the LORD, offer it in such a way that it is acceptable on your behalf. 6It shall be eaten on the same day you offer it, or on the next day; and anything left over until the third day shall be consumed in fire. 7If it is eaten at all on the third day, it is an abomination; it will not be acceptable. 8All who eat it shall be subject to punishment, because they have profaned what is holy to the LORD; and any such person shall be cut off from the people.9When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the very edges of your field, or gather the gleanings of your harvest. 10You shall not strip your vineyard bare, or gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and the alien: I am the LORD your God.
11You shall not steal; you shall not deal falsely; and you shall not lie to one another. 12And you shall not swear falsely by my name, profaning the name of your God: I am the LORD. 13You shall not defraud your neighbor; you shall not steal; and you shall not keep for yourself the wages of a laborer until morning. 14You shall not revile the deaf or put a stumbling block before the blind; you shall fear your God: I am the LORD. 15You shall not render an unjust judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great: with justice you shall judge your neighbor. 16You shall not go around as a slanderer among your people, and you shall not profit by the blood of your neighbor: I am the LORD. 17You shall not hate in your heart anyone of your kin; you shall reprove your neighbor, or you will incur guilt yourself. 18You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.

Psalm 119:33-40

ה He (5th letter of the hebrew alphabet)

33 Teach me, O Lord, the way of Your statutes,
And I shall keep it to the end.
34 Give me understanding, and I shall keep Your law;
Indeed, I shall observe it with my whole heart.
35 Make me walk in the path of Your commandments,
For I delight in it.
36 Incline my heart to Your testimonies,
And not to covetousness.
37 Turn away my eyes from looking at worthless things,
And revive me in Your way.[a]
38 Establish Your word to Your servant,
Who is devoted to fearing You.
39 Turn away my reproach which I dread,
For Your judgments are good.
40 Behold, I long for Your precepts;
Revive me in Your righteousness.

1 Corinthians 3:10-11, 16-23
10According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building on it. Each builder must choose with care how to build on it.
11For no one can lay any foundation other than the one that has been laid; that foundation is Jesus Christ. 12Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— 13the work of each builder will become visible, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each has done. 14If what has been built on the foundation survives, the builder will receive a reward. 15If the work is burned up, the builder will suffer loss; the builder will be saved, but only as through fire.
16Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? 17If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.
18Do not deceive yourselves. If you think that you are wise in this age, you should become fools so that you may become wise. 19For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their craftiness,” 20and again, “The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.”
21So let no one boast about human leaders. For all things are yours,22whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all belong to you, 23and you belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God.

Matthew 5:38-48
38“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; 40and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; 41and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. 42Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.
43“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. 46For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Comments
In 1996 the Historical Committee of the Mennonite Church (Old Mennonite) published a commemorative fraktur for the 500th anniversary of the birth of Menno Simons. At the bottom of the fraktur, printed on the sturdy stones, is the Bible verse from First Corinthians 3:11:
11For no one can lay any foundation other than the one that has been laid; that foundation is Jesus Christ

This Bible verse was said to be Menno Simons’ favorite. The Mennonites were named after Menno Simons. He was one of the early Anabaptist leaders in Europe who survived persecution and lived long enough to have his name associated with the Anabaptist movement, sometimes referred to as the radical wing of the Great Reformation. Menno was born in 1496 and died peacefully in 1561. He became a Catholic priest in the Netherlands at the age of 28 and over the next dozen years or so he wrestled with the corruption of the church, the interpretation of the scriptures, and the social and nationalism movements of his day. His commitment to the reforms of the peaceful Anabaptist movement solidified when his brother, Peter Simons, was killed by authorities. Peter was part of a group who took over a monastery and attempted to hold it by force. Menno did not agree with using violence to bring about reform and changes but he sympathized with need to reform the church.
Author Phyllis Tickle believes the church is going through another period of upheaval similar to the Great Reformation of the 1500’s. In her book The Great Emergence (Baker, 2008) she notes that significant changes tend to come every five hundred or so years, including the coming of Christ in the first century, approximately 500 years after the destruction of the Jewish temple in Jerusalem. The temple was replaced by a different form of Judaism more centered in synagogue and scripture. The Jesus movement reinterpreted that understanding and the Christian church emerged. With the decline of the Roman Empire the church consolidated under Gregory the Great in the fifth and sixth centuries. Tickle argues that the pattern continues with the Great Schism of the 11th century which generated the Catholic and Orthodox streams, and the Reformation of the 16th century which generated many tributaries. From this historical trend, Tickle deduces that, here in the 2000s, we’re poised for another such seismic change. She calls it The Great Emergence.
What is at stake in these times of upheaval has been the question of authority. Where does the buck stop? Our denomination, the new Mennonite Church USA is engaged with that question with the latest round of discussions and actions related to how we deal with sexual minorities in the church. Some are convinced that the authority of the scripture says one thing. Some are convinced that the authority of scripture says something else. Some say the authority of the church documents are what we agree to follow. Others say, no, they are not those kind of documents. Where does the buck stop on this topic?
In some ways, the texts for this Sunday are foundational assertions. The Deuteronomy texts invoke the commandments given to Moses as authoritative. Psalm 119 affirms and celebrates the following of the law. The New Testament texts, of course, turn to Jesus the Christ as the foundation of faith.

The Apostle Paul declares to the church that they are the dwelling place of God. We have used this image in a more individualistic way to feel guilty about using our bodies in self-destructive ways – smoking, excessive eating, drinking, sexual excess and the variety of other ways we indulge our bodies in harmful ways. We have this idea that God’s temple should be a place of purity, holiness and moderation. Whether Paul is talking about our individual bodies or about the church, the community of Christ-followers, there is still a sense of intimacy with God’s Spirit that is conveyed. We are in union with God, a central truth of the Christian faith. This union leads to unconditional love and Paul’s words about that kind of love are expressed eloquently a few chapters later in his letter to the Corinthian church – “If I do not have love, I am nothing.”
The text from Matthew’s Gospel offers the teaching of Jesus on the everyday implications of living in union with God and expressing love for all, including enemies.
Walking in the way of Jesus, in union with God, led by God’s Spirit and driven by divine love, is a demanding standard for our individual lives and for the church. Is it the cornerstone of our faith?

“An Upright Heart”

February 16, 2014 –– Sixth Sunday after Epiphany

Deuteronomy 30:15-20
15See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, death and adversity. 16If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God that I am commanding you today, by loving the Lord your God, walking in his ways, and observing his commandments, decrees, and ordinances, then you shall live and become numerous, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to possess. 17But if your heart turns away and you do not hear, but are led astray to bow down to other gods and serve them, 18I declare to you today that you shall perish; you shall not live long in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess. 19I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live,20loving the Lord your God, obeying him, and holding fast to him; for that means life to you and length of days, so that you may live in the land that the Lord swore to give to your ancestors, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.

Psalm 119:1-8 (3)
1Happy are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the Lord.
2Happy are those who keep his decrees, who seek him with their whole heart,
3who also do no wrong, but walk in his ways.
4You have commanded your precepts to be kept diligently.
5O that my ways may be steadfast in keeping your statutes!
6Then I shall not be put to shame, having my eyes fixed on all your commandments.
7I will praise you with an upright heart, when I learn your righteous ordinances.
8I will observe your statutes; do not utterly forsake me.

1 Corinthians 3:1-9
And so, brothers and sisters, I could not speak to you as spiritual people, but rather as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. 2I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for solid food. Even now you are still not ready, 3for you are still of the flesh. For as long as there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not of the flesh, and behaving according to human inclinations? 4For when one says, “I belong to Paul,” and another, “I belong to Apollos,” are you not merely human?
5What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you came to believe, as the Lord assigned to each. 6I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. 7So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. 8The one who plants and the one who waters have a common purpose, and each will receive wages according to the labor of each. 9For we are God’s servants, working together; you are God’s field, God’s building.

Matthew 5:21-37
21“You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not murder’; and ‘whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.’ 22But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, ‘You fool,’ you will be liable to the hell of fire. 23So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you,24leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift. 25Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are on the way to court with him, or your accuser may hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. 26Truly I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.
27“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’28But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to go into hell. 31“It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32But I say to you that anyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
33“Again, you have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but carry out the vows you have made to the Lord.’ 34But I say to you, Do not swear at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. 37Let your word be ‘Yes, Yes’ or ‘No, No’; anything more than this comes from the evil one.

COMMENTARY

The Deuteronomy text emphasizes choosing life, God’s way, as the people settle in a land with settled ways. Those settled ways demand allegiance and loyalty, perhaps even worship. The freedom of desert ways is often forgotten in the markets and thoroughfares of the empire’s systems. The ways of empire violate human dignity and nature’s ability to maintain equilibrium. When we are weighed down with empire living and its systems of oppression we find it find it difficult to manage shorelines, power grids, food security and wetlands. Our fears and concerns consume us and we forget the simplicity of communing with God.

Psalm 119 celebrates the vision of living in communion with God and remaining focused on Godly living. I often find the psalms to be hymns of confidence and yearning. “I will praise you with an upright heart…do not utterly forsake me.”

The Apostle Paul’s letter to the church at Corinth counsels the congregation to stay focused on allegiance to God and not to be distracted by church politics and personalities. The agricultural metaphors help us think systemically. It is more productive to think of our spiritual journey and the life of the church in organic ways. The last sentence essentially is saying that we, as Christ-followers, have a synergistic relationship with God’s activity in the world.

Matthew’s Gospel gives us Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount where, as usual, he digs deeply into human motivation. Reconciled, restored human relationships is top priority. Retribution is not an option. Violence is out of the question. The adversarial court system is not the way to settle disputes. Not seeing women as human beings is a severe dysfunction. Women are not property, they are covenant partners. Relational covenants are to be taken very seriously. It should be troubling for men to hear Jesus’ words addressed only to men. We are called to keep our word without having to swear an oath or put our hand on a Bible.

Aside

The Environmental Church and the Death of Christianity

 

UNIQUE PICTURE: Earth as seen from the outer S...

UNIQUE PICTURE: Earth as seen from the outer Solar System (Photo credit: Icarus Kuwait)

The Environmental Church and the Death of Christianity

 

Sermon 082612 by Pastor Bill

This sermon is published online at mennonitepreacher.wordpress.com by the people of Peace Mennonite Church of Columbia, MO. It is not intended to be an accurate and complete record of the sermon for this Sunday service, but we hope it is reasonably close.

 In particular, the sermon may have been supplemented by the preacher as they spoke, or cut in some manner. The reaction and discussion of the congregation is also not recorded here, and those responses are the most important.

 Scripture:

Genesis 1

Nehemiah 9:6

Psalm 96:10-13

John 13:35

We have spoken many times before, I think, about the relationship of the church (any church, this church) to the environment. I think that is an important discussion to have—to discuss what the Bible says about the environment, what Christians have said and wrote and felt about the environment, but that is not exactly the discussion I’d like us to have this morning. There are reasons to avoid having a discussion about what the Bible says about the environment.

 

For one, there may be good reason to assert that the ‘environment’ is a concept only recently invented by mankind. Of course, humans have always lived on land, drank clean water, and had food to eat (whether harvested from the wild or

cultured in an agricultural system).

 

But the idea of the environment is different from having an environment or living in an environment. When you make up a new word or a new name, the thing you name becomes a thing apart. Looking at it this way, it is likely that people seldom looked at the environment as a system apart from the self. People in the Middle Ages, let’s say, might not have been sitting around the pub and discussed what to do about the environment. Instead, like most of us, they instead just said ‘It rained today. I couldn’t plow’ or ‘Since it has frozen outside, it will be safe to eat rabbits. The frost kills worms in the rabbits’. The environment, as unnamed as it was then, was an always implied part of the human beings who considered it in the context of their own humanity, of their own ‘making a living’.

And since humans have begun now to name the environment, and to consider what we should do to protect this thing called ‘the environment’, Christians have begun to look through the Bible for environmental theology, which is sort of like God’s and Jesus’ official environmental policy.

The problem is there’s no ‘Book of the Environment’ or Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, the Environment, Deuteronomy’….etcetera. We are left with what I think is no clear statement on the environment in the entire Bible. Sure, Jesus liked being outdoors, it appears, but he never said so. I know of no time Jesus said he had any particular stance regarding the environment, like we should expect no comprehensive idea of population control in the Bible. These are problems that have arisen, and been named by Christians in the 2,000 years since Jesus was executed.

But we can get a very clear idea of God’s idea of the environment, called by the name ‘the earth’. (We should clarify however, that we all tend to call this place of human affairs by the name of the ‘world’ and usually we think it is evil, but the environment is called the ‘earth’.)

We believe that God created all of this thing we call ‘reality’. This is the basic idea of Christianity, Judaism and Islam.

Let’s look quickly at our beginnings with God: Genesis 1.

Genesis 1

New King James Version (NKJV)

The History of Creation

1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was[a] on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.

Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. So the evening and the morning were the first day.

Then God said, “Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.” Thus God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament; and it was so. And God called the firmament Heaven. So the evening and the morning were the second day.

Then God said, “Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear”; and it was so. 10 And God called the dry land Earth, and the gathering together of the waters He called Seas. And God saw that it was good.

11 Then God said, “Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb that yields seed, and the fruit tree that yields fruit according to its kind, whose seed is in itself, on the earth”; and it was so. 12 And the earth brought forth grass, the herb that yields seed according to its kind, and the tree that yields fruit, whose seed is in itself according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. 13 So the evening and the morning were the third day.

14 Then God said, “Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs and seasons, and for days and years; 15 and let them be for lights in the firmament of the heavens to give light on the earth”; and it was so. 16 Then God made two great lights: the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night. He made the stars also. 17 God set them in the firmament of the heavens to give light on the earth, 18 and to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. 19 So the evening and the morning were the fourth day.

20 Then God said, “Let the waters abound with an abundance of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the face of the firmament of the heavens.” 21 So God created great sea creatures and every living thing that moves, with which the waters abounded, according to their kind, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. 22 And God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” 23 So the evening and the morning were the fifth day.

24 Then God said, “Let the earth bring forth the living creature according to its kind: cattle and creeping thing and beast of the earth, each according to its kind”; and it was so. 25 And God made the beast of the earth according to its kind, cattle according to its kind, and everything that creeps on the earth according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.

26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all[b] the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. 28 Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

29 And God said, “See, I have given you every herb that yields seed which is on the face of all the earth, and every tree whose fruit yields seed; to you it shall be for food. 30 Also, to every beast of the earth, to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, in which there is life, I have given every green herb for food”; and it was so. 31 Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good. So the evening and the morning were the sixth day.

The Holy Bible, New King James Version Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.

 

Questions:

How does God feel about her creation?

How many times in this selection from genesis does God say ‘It was good.’?

How do you feel about God’s creation?

Have you ever written or sung about your love for the environment or your presence in the environment?

Nehemiah 9:6

New King James Version (NKJV)

You alone are the Lord;
You have made heaven,
The heaven of heavens, with all their host,
The earth and everything on it,
The seas and all that is in them,
And You preserve them all.
The host of heaven worships You.

The Holy Bible, New King James Version Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.

In Nehemiah there is an inescapable unity between God, the creator, and creation, which includes earth, the environment, the universe and everything outside the universe and ….so on ad infinitum.

Do you know the difference between macro– and micro–  Macro—means very very big and micro means very very small. The closing line of this verse from Nehemiah speaks of this inescapable unity—that God creates and is created. And the environment is smack-dab in the middle of this all.

Define ‘environment’?

Does ‘environment’ include God?

Does ‘environment’ include you?

Does ‘God’ include you?

Does ‘you’ include God?

Psalm 96:10-13

New King James Version (NKJV)

10 Say among the nations, “The Lord reigns;
The world also is firmly established,
It shall not be moved;
He shall judge the peoples righteously.”

11 Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad;
Let the sea roar, and all its fullness;
12 Let the field be joyful, and all that is in it.
Then all the trees of the woods will rejoice before the Lord.
13 For He is coming, for He is coming to judge the earth.
He shall judge the world with righteousness,
And the peoples with His truth.

Question: What kind of feelings are expressed in these verses?

 

The Environment Barnstar. This barnstar can be...

The Environment Barnstar. This barnstar can be awarded to Wikipedians who have made significant contributions towards environment-related articles, raising environmental awareness in Wikipedia, or assisting in Wikipedia:WikiProject Environment. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

How would you describe the feeling of unity felt by disciples and believers? By mystics?

Now, there is so much more to consider, as we inform our own feelings about the environment with the Biblical record of God’s love for the environment, and the unity of God-humankind-nature. I don’t want us, however,  to reduce all these statements of ‘god-unity-humankind to simple statements of God-humankind-nature as the sum total of Christianity, because even though there is a unity, humankind struggles against it, and the unity gets forgotten every day—and religion and spirituality are never that simple.

But we have moved forward into this subject as much as time allows today. Next week, and for weeks thereafter we’ll have the opportunity to discuss this all further. But, to show us the way ahead, I’ll bring up what the conclusion of all this is…..when Jesus asks us to do impossible things, (and promises we can ask God and the Holy Spirit for help when we ask in His name,) Jesus is really determining the course of what Christianity has failed to do in the 2,000 years since his death.

John 13:35 says:

Jesus said that people will know us.

35 By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

It’s been 2,000 years now! Do people know us by the way we love one another? Has Christianity taken care of the poor, the orphaned, the homeless and those in prison.

A friend who has spent considerable time in India tells me that homelessness, poverty, and the orphaned crowd even the best cities. In one city that has become the preacher’s missionary base for trips to India is so crowded with the poor and hungry begging for life. The dead lie for days on the streets, human and animal feces cover the ground, flies fill the air so one has trouble breathing. People have no shoes, and I recall one story of making sandals from used plastic water bottles!

Basically, every country in the world is poor unless it spends billions on its armed forces to keep the internal and external, and to control wealth and decide to whom it belongs.

As the world’s population runs toward 7 Billion people we see more disease, more hunger, poverty, thirst and more crime. (At least in prison sometimes one eats.)

If love is how the world knows us, where and who are we? What people love the earth and its life so much, as God’s creation that they work at solving all these problems, and the world will know that Christians love one another, and took care of the poor, the hungry and the homeless because we love Jesus.

If one had to sit and watch a movie 2,000 years long of how well Christians have done at doing what Christ commanded of his disciples (to love and care for one another) how long would you watch this movie before you gave up and left the movie?

It is my prediction that Christianity will die and fade away unless people come to know us because of the way we love one another. It is my contention that now, the crisis in the quality of the earth’s environment will cause even more drought, famine and war and that even more of human life and all life on earth will suffer. Is this how we show the world who we are? Is this how we show the world how we love one another?

Christianity is in danger of not just failing and disappearing, but worse—Christianity may continue to be seen as irrelevant.

This is not a subject for theology, or for further endless debate and discussion. At a certain point Christianity has to put up: do we love another, and can we let the world know we do….by the way we love one another. It is time to end hunger, poverty and war, and to protect the environment that shares its water, food and joy with us all.

You will note that I didn’t use the word ‘salvation’ even once. I’m not promising you the benefits of heaven while we are responsible for the hell on earth. For now, if we are to love one another, we are disciples of Christ. That’s all. And I am arguing that if Christianity wishes to survive at all (along with all life on earth, that is) we have to acknowledge that loving one another means only to care for the environment with careful love, recognizing that we are part of the environment, and that we love the environment (and do not hate all life).

We know what we have to do, what we need to correct. Let’s get started today.

 

 

SERMON 011512

SERMON 011512

Good morning, all! A blessed Lord’s Day to each of you. Get some rest today, and enjoy the presence of the Lord!

This is today’s sermon, more or less, from Peace Mennonite Church in Columbia, MO

Pray for peace

brother Bill

English: Resurrection of Christ

Image via Wikipedia

Luke. 6:12-13

Now during those days he went out to the mountain to pray; and he spent the night in prayer to God. And when day came, he called his disciples and chose twelve of them, whom he also named apostles:

Hebrew 5:12,14

For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic elements of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food; But solid food is for the mature, for those whose faculties have been trained by practice to distinguish good from evil.

1 Tim. 4:7-8

Have nothing to do with profane myths and old wives’ tales. Train yourself in godliness, for, while physical training is of some value, godliness is valuable in every way, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.

The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

 

The Imitation of Christ 011512

 

 

This morning I want to continue the general theme we have undertaken, and that is the general theme of spiritual formation and almost as generally Christian spiritual formation.

 

Janet preached last week on the subject of prayer, and that is always our beginning, once we have realized there is a God, and that God is one who wishes continued or continual relationship with each of us individually. The ultimate goal of Christianity is therefore ‘unity with God’. This is not the usual theme of salvation, which many people believe is the end of Christian belief. Instead, salvation is seen as the beginning of spiritual formation, and the ultimate goal is one of unity with God, which we may never reach in our own lifetime even—we may have to die to reach this level of spiritual formation, I don’t know.

 

If we look at Christianity this way, I’m sure you recognize that we are looking back quite a ways in Christian history to much earlier periods of Christian belief and practice. In pursuing spiritual formation, we are delving I believe into the area of Christian belief that is called Christian mysticism. Christian mysticism, some say, is the very foundation of all Christianity. It is said that Christianity now believes it is not important that you and I have varying degrees of experience of unity with God. It is enough instead to only be aware that someone had experienced such unity. With Anabaptism and Mennonites it became again a personal matter. We did not accept the proxy relationship of the priest with God for us. Instead, we seek a personal, individual relationship with God.

 

A second important point to remember is that we are to help each other in this process of seeking a personal relationship with God. It is not the case that Janet and I as pastors are to help you in your search for unity with God. Instead we all should help each other in our individual seeking of God. The community of Christ functions sort of like a priest used to function; now God speaks through a community of Christ with the Holy Spirit instead of the prior reliance on a prophet or a special priest.

 

Now, when we begin to see our journey this way, the whole range of possibilities for Christian disciples changes. People are often pretty small and limited in their idea anyway of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ, and few Christians have much of an ongoing idea of what it means to be a disciple, and the things we’re talking about this morning make discipleship even more amazing and surprising. Listen to this diary entry by Frank Laubach, Letters by a Modern Mystic:

April 22, 1930  This morning I started out fresh, by finding a rich experience of God in the sunrise. Then I tried to let Him control my hands while I was shaving and dressing and eating breakfast. Now I am trying to let God control my hands as I pound the typewriter keys…..There is nothing we can do excepting to throw ourselves open to God. There is, there must be, so much more in Him than he can give us…..It ought to be tremendously helpful to be able to acquire the habit of reaching out strongly after God’s thoughts and to ask, “ God, what have you to put into my mind now if only I can be large enough?” That waiting eager attitude ought to give God the chance he needs.

 

May 14, 1930 Oh, this thing of keeping in constant touch with God, of making him the object of my thought and the companion of my conversations, is the most amazing thing I ever ran across. It is working. I cannot do it even half a day —not yet, but I believe I shall be doing it some day for the entire day. It is a matter of acquiring a new habit of thought. Now I like God’s presence so much that when for a half hour or so he slips out of mind—as he does many times a day—I feel as though I had deserted him, and as though I had lost something very precious in my life.

 

Now from this quote we realize that this is a much different approach to Christ and to God than we normally find, but this is the material of spiritual formation and of Christian mysticism. It is exciting and it is very, very personal. One of the printed resources for spiritual formation we should look at is Connecting with God, A Spiritual Formation Guide from the Renovare group, including Richard Foster. I’ll hand this around so we can look at it, but the Table of Contents reads like this:

  1. Living With God
  2. Talking With God
  3. Meeting God In Scripture
  4. Listening To God Through The Creation
  5. Hearing God Through Other People
  6. Perceiving God In Circumstances
  7. Seeking God In Silence
  8. Seeing God In Dreams And Visions
  9. Sensing God’s Presence
  10. Encountering God’s Messengers
  11. Wresting With God
  12. Walking With God

So, the traditions of Christian discipleship are more diverse and more amazing than ‘Pray’. Jesus practiced more disciplines than prayer and we’re being invited to share in all this.

 

A recommended start to the development of Christian disciples has been a straightforward and simple study of a book titled ‘The Imitation of Christ’ by Thomas a Kempis.

 

`a Kempis was born Thomas Hammerlein, from the town of Kempen, about 40 miles north of Cologne, Germany. He was born about 1380 and spent the last 70 years of his life as a monk, copying manuscripts, reading and composing. The Imitation of Christ has become a book almost as popular as the Bible, and is sometimes analyzed as a carpet of phrases and ideas from the Bible and also from early church Fathers (and Mothers!).

 

It is a short, short book but when you read it, you are somehow changed forever, and we hope for the better. It describes the personality of Jesus better than any other source. I do question, as the eternal skeptic how anyone knew the persona of Christ as well as this book describes. This book is very specific and descriptive about the personality of Jesus.  How did Thomas a Kempis or anyone know the actual personality of Christ with such specificity. It seems to me to be somewhat more specific than the Bible, so where did they get it?

 

Another reason for the popularity –the shortness of the book—is also an advantage for us. We can find the book for free online, and print it out or read it online for free or cheap (the cost of paper).

The Seventh Chapter, Book One

Avoiding False Hope and Pride

VAIN is the man who puts his trust in men, in created things.

Do not be ashamed to serve others for the love of Jesus Christ and to seem poor in this world. Do not be self-sufficient but place your trust in God. Do what lies in your power and God will aid your good will. Put no trust in your own learning nor in the cunning of any man, but rather in the grace of God Who helps the humble and humbles the proud.

If you have wealth, do not glory in it, nor in friends because they are powerful, but in God Who gives all things and Who desires above all to give Himself. Do not boast of personal stature or of physical beauty, qualities which are marred and destroyed by a little sickness. Do not take pride in your talent or ability, lest you displease God to Whom belongs all the natural gifts that you have.

Do not think yourself better than others lest, perhaps, you be accounted worse before God Who knows what is in man. Do not take pride in your good deeds, for God’s judgments differ from those of men and what pleases them often displeases Him. If there is good in you, see more good in others, so that you may remain humble. It does no harm to esteem yourself less than anyone else, but it is very harmful to think yourself better than even one. The humble live in continuous peace, while in the hearts of the proud are envy and frequent anger.

We’ve spoken before of how it is difficult for us to become Christian disciples in one hour or so per, and we’ve also talked of how time-consuming to be a Christian, We have to have time to read, to pray, to meditate and to help others less fortunate than ourselves. Our purpose in discussing these facets of Christian spiritual formation is not to do the whole practice for us—it needs to take more time than we have and to be spread across more days, but our discussions of spiritual formation give us directions and alternatives for spiritual practice. I pray for us all, that God provides the direction for our discipleship.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The People Who Walked In Darkness Have Seen A Great Light 122411

English: Our beloved Lady Saint Mary with Her ...

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This blog comes to you from the people at

Peace Mennonite Church of Columbia, MO

www.peacemennonitechurch.net

Peace Mennonite Church keeps a prayer list for those in need. If you need prayer, or want to e-mail our pastor, e-mail billd @ peacemennonitechurch.net (Take out the extra spaces to use this e-mail—the spaces confuse spam generators).

Copyright 2011. All rights reserved. Peace Mennonite Church of Columbia, MO Permission is granted for one-time non-commercial use with proper attribution.

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Dec 24    Nativity of the Lord I

Isaiah 9:2-7

Psalm 96

Titus 2:11-14

Luke 2:1-20

The People Who Walked In Darkness Have Seen A Great Light 122411

2The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness— on them light has shined.

This is first verse of Isaiah 9, our first reading for today. The sharp change in us when we moved from darkness into the great light of Jesus Christ know what thissimple sentence really says. For me, it recalls when I lived in darkness, then came to know Jesus Christ. An unspeakable and great joy began to glow and burst forward in me….it continues to grow, to fill me with joy, and to be really unspeakable. But I suspect that all Christians know and feel this same joy, or something like it…..and our joy is too great to speak of it.

This Christmas Eve, we expect Jesus to be born once more. Once more you and I are to be reborn in Jesus Christ in the morning, and the light will begin to return.

Pray for peace

(brother) Bill

 

Isaiah 9:2-7

2The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness— on them light has shined. 3You have multiplied the nation, you have increased its joy; they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest, as people exult when dividing plunder. 4For the yoke of their burden, and the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor, you have broken as on the day of Midian. 5For all the boots of the tramping warriors and all the garments rolled in blood shall be burned as fuel for the fire. 6For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7His authority shall grow continually, and there shall be endless peace for the throne of David and his kingdom. He will establish and uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time onward and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.

Psalm 96

1O sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth.

2Sing to the Lord, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day.

3Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples.

4For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; he is to be revered above all gods.

5For all the gods of the peoples are idols, but the Lord made the heavens.

6Honor and majesty are before him; strength and beauty are in his sanctuary.

7Ascribe to the Lord, O families of the peoples, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.

8Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; bring an offering, and come into his courts.

9Worship the Lord in holy splendor; tremble before him, all the earth.

10Say among the nations, “The Lord is king! The world is firmly established; it shall never be moved. He will judge the peoples with equity.”

11Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice; let the sea roar, and all that fills it;

12let the field exult, and everything in it. Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy

13before the Lord; for he is coming, for he is coming to judge the earth. He will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with his truth.

Titus 2:11-14

11For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all, 12training us to renounce impiety and worldly passions, and in the present age to live lives that are self-controlled, upright, and godly, 13while we wait for the blessed hope and the manifestation of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. 14He it is who gave himself for us that he might redeem us from all iniquity and purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds.

Luke 2:1-20

2In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3All went to their own towns to be registered. 4Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. 5He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. 6While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. 7And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

8In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: 11to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. 12This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” 13And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, 14Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!” 15When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. 17When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; 18and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. 19But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. 20The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

 

Sing a New Song 122211

Frank Tengle, an Alabama sharecropper, and fam...

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Peace Mennonite Church of Columbia, MO

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Peace Mennonite Church keeps a prayer list for those in need. If you need prayer, or want to e-mail our pastor, e-mail billd @ peacemennonitechurch.net (Take out the extra spaces to use this e-mail—the spaces confuse spam generators).

Copyright 2011. All rights reserved. Peace Mennonite Church of Columbia, MO Permission is granted for one-time non-commercial use with proper attribution.

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Psalm 96

Zephaniah 3:8-13

Romans 10:5-13

Sing a New Song 122211

It is no small thing to learn an old song, and to actually to sing any song is great. But Psalms today asks us to sing a new song to God.

And it is incredibly difficult. To actually open our mouths and lungs, to trust God, and to express our wonder and love for God in music tones is amazing.

Yet, by trusting God, we can do it! I do prefer an empty barn, or a large empty field to sing any song, but they are also good for these new songs!

Have you ever tried singing a silly made-up tune to your children, grandchildren and great grand children? If they’re awake they usually laugh at me, and that’s great, but sometimes it comforts the little ones, and they sleep.

So, if its okay to sing to babies and infants, why not to God?

Pray for peace,

(brother) Bill

 

Psalm 96

1O sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth.

2Sing to the Lord, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day.

3Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples.

4For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; he is to be revered above all gods.

5For all the gods of the peoples are idols, but the Lord made the heavens.

6Honor and majesty are before him; strength and beauty are in his sanctuary.

7Ascribe to the Lord, O families of the peoples, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.

8Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; bring an offering, and come into his courts.

9Worship the Lord in holy splendor; tremble before him, all the earth.

10Say among the nations, “The Lord is king! The world is firmly established; it shall never be moved. He will judge the peoples with equity.”

11Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice; let the sea roar, and all that fills it;

12let the field exult, and everything in it. Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy

13before the Lord; for he is coming, for he is coming to judge the earth. He will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with his truth.

Zephaniah 3:8-13

8Therefore wait for me, says the Lord, for the day when I arise as a witness. For my decision is to gather nations, to assemble kingdoms, to pour out upon them my indignation, all the heat of my anger; for in the fire of my passion all the earth shall be consumed. 9At that time I will change the speech of the peoples to a pure speech, that all of them may call on the name of the Lord and serve him with one accord. 10From beyond the rivers of Ethiopia my suppliants, my scattered ones, shall bring my offering. 11On that day you shall not be put to shame because of all the deeds by which you have rebelled against me; for then I will remove from your midst your proudly exultant ones, and you shall no longer be haughty in my holy mountain. 12For I will leave in the midst of you a people humble and lowly. They shall seek refuge in the name of the Lord— 13the remnant of Israel; they shall do no wrong and utter no lies, nor shall a deceitful tongue be found in their mouths. Then they will pasture and lie down, and no one shall make them afraid.

Romans 10:5-13

5Moses writes concerning the righteousness that comes from the law, that “the person who does these things will live by them.” 6But the righteousness that comes from faith says, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’” (that is, to bring Christ down) 7“or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). 8But what does it say? “The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); 9because if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved. 11The scripture says, “No one who believes in him will be put to shame.”

12For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him. 13For, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Imitation and Worship 122011

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This blog comes to you from the people at

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Peace Mennonite Church keeps a prayer list for those in need. If you need prayer, or want to e-mail our pastor, e-mail billd @ peacemennonitechurch.net (Take out the extra spaces to use this e-mail—the spaces confuse spam generators).

Copyright 2011. All rights reserved. Peace Mennonite Church of Columbia, MO Permission is granted for one-time non-commercial use with proper attribution.

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Luke 1:46b-55

1 Samuel 1:19-28

Hebrews 8:1-13

 

Imitation and Worship 122011

In this particular week, the week of Christmas, one can deepen one’s spiritual formation, and come ever closer to God and Jesus.

The past few days I’ve begun reading the Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis. Written 500 years ago, the book has become a primer of sorts for those interested in spiritual formation. The insights provided by the book have made our worship different and new. This comes in part it seems, from meditating on the insights in the book.

There seems to be a common thread that runs from worship to knowledge to imitation, and by imitating Christ in our lives, we worship, and we learn.

Follow this path in your prayer and worship. Come closer to Christ.

Pray for peace

(brother) Bill

 

 

 

 

Luke 1:46b-55

46And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, 47and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 48for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; 49for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. 50His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. 51He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. 52He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; 53he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. 54He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, 55according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”

1 Samuel 1:19-28

19They rose early in the morning and worshiped before the Lord; then they went back to their house at Ramah. Elkanah knew his wife Hannah, and the Lord remembered her. 20In due time Hannah conceived and bore a son. She named him Samuel, for she said, “I have asked him of the Lord.” 21The man Elkanah and all his household went up to offer to the Lord the yearly sacrifice, and to pay his vow. 22But Hannah did not go up, for she said to her husband, “As soon as the child is weaned, I will bring him, that he may appear in the presence of the Lord, and remain there forever; I will offer him as a nazirite for all time.” 23Her husband Elkanah said to her, “Do what seems best to you, wait until you have weaned him; only—may the Lord establish his word.” So the woman remained and nursed her son, until she weaned him. 24When she had weaned him, she took him up with her, along with a three-year-old bull, an ephah of flour, and a skin of wine. She brought him to the house of the Lord at Shiloh; and the child was young. 25Then they slaughtered the bull, and they brought the child to Eli. 26And she said, “Oh, my lord! As you live, my lord, I am the woman who was standing here in your presence, praying to the Lord. 27For this child I prayed; and the Lord has granted me the petition that I made to him. 28Therefore I have lent him to the Lord; as long as he lives, he is given to the Lord.” She left him there for the Lord.

Hebrews 8:1-13

8Now the main point in what we are saying is this: we have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, 2a minister in the sanctuary and the true tent that the Lord, and not any mortal, has set up. 3For every high priest is appointed to offer gifts and sacrifices; hence it is necessary for this priest also to have something to offer. 4Now if he were on earth, he would not be a priest at all, since there are priests who offer gifts according to the law. 5They offer worship in a sanctuary that is a sketch and shadow of the heavenly one; for Moses, when he was about to erect the tent, was warned, “See that you make everything according to the pattern that was shown you on the mountain.”

6But Jesus has now obtained a more excellent ministry, and to that degree he is the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted through better promises. 7For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no need to look for a second one. 8God finds fault with them when he says: “The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah; 9not like the covenant that I made with their ancestors, on the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; for they did not continue in my covenant, and so I had no concern for them, says the Lord. 10This is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my laws in their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 11And they shall not teach one another or say to each other, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. 12For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.” 13In speaking of “a new covenant,” he has made the first one obsolete. And what is obsolete and growing old will soon disappear.

The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

 

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