Author's posts listings
Original post at http://bethquick.blogspot.com/2011/03/lectionary-notes-for-first-sunday-in.html
Readings for First Sunday in Lent, 3/9/14:Genesis 2:15-17, 3:1-7, Psalm 32, Romans 5:12-19, Matthew 4:1-11Genesis 2:15-17, 3:1-7:
- I love the story-telling quality of this text. Growing up, going to Camp Aldersgate, the then-director Rick Stackpole used to tell this story about the creation of the world, about how the turtle had to swim to the bottom of the water to pick up sand to make the land. I loved those stories, and loved camp, and was shaped by experiences there. So then, I read this story, with phrases like, "now the serpent was more crafty than any other," and I can just hear the intonation of a story-teller sharing this with people thousands of years ago. And no doubt, as we have it to read today, this story shaped the people, and their faith, as they sought to understand God at work in their world.
- For other great creations stories, check out two of my favorite C.S. Lewis books: The Chronicles of Narnia: The Magician's Nephew and from the space trilogy: Perelandra.
- Read closely and carefully: compare what the snake says God says, with what Eve says God says, with what God actually says. It's like a game of telephone, where the truth gets slightly altered in each telling.
- Nakedness. Today, perhaps it seems no one has shame in nakedness, if we look at media images... but emotional nakedness - perhaps we fear that now more than ever. What does it mean to be naked before God? What are you ashamed of God seeing?
- Watch for the change of voice in verse 8-9. It threw me off for a couple minutes. First the psalmist is talking to God, then God to the psalmist. "I will counsel you with my eye upon you," says God. What an image! Being a Lord of the Rings fan, the big eye of Sauron comes to mind first, but that's not exactly how I like to imagine the eye of God! Think perhaps instead of those pretty "God's Eye" craft projects you might have completed in elementary school.
- There's a Hide and Seek theme going on here. The psalmist talks about hiding and not hiding our sinfulness from God. But the psalmist also talks about God being our hiding place.God is the one seeking us. We can hide from God or hide in God. Which will it be? God will cover our sin.
- Note the theme of clean slates - God is wiping out our sins.
- Make sure to read the beginning of chapter 5 to pick up Paul's whole conversation here.
- Paul is taking about Jesus being the one through whom grace comes, just as through Adam our sin comes. I have questions about original sin and substitutionary atonement for myself, but what I like is this verse: "the free gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died through one man's trespass, much more surely have the grace of God and the free gift in the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ." (emphasis added) It always makes the most sense to me to hear about the limitless nature of God's gift of grace. That "much more surely" phrase is repeated in this passage. With God, with Christ, it is always much more surely that we are given!
- "one man" is another phrase Paul repeats here. He says if one man's actions leads to death, so also one man's righteousness leads to life. Obviously he's speaking of Adam and Christ, but I think we can also apply this to ourselves: one person's actions can have significant impact, for bad or for good. We can control what kind of actions we want to share with the world: what results do you want your influential behavior to have?
- Good to compare this passage with Luke and Mark's version of the temptation - Matthew has some different order to the trials, and he also fleshes out some of the scriptures that are quoted. You can decide if the differences are significant!
- Jesus is tempted by the devil. It's easy to get caught up in an argument about who the devil is, if the devil exists, if the devil is a being, etc. But I think if we get stuck in that argument, we miss the actual point of the story. Point is, Jesus went through a time of testing and tempting and trial before he began his ministry. Point is, Jesus could have chosen many paths of action that would have left him better off, but instead he chose God's path. Point is, Jesus, a human, faced the same tough decisions we face, and remained faithful - so, so can we.
- Jesus is tempted in three ways: in the first, he resisted using his powers to meet his own needs. In the second, he resists putting God to the test, demanding of God to meet his needs. In the third, he resists using his power to be a dynamic leader of the type that seeks fame and glory.
- It's interesting - the devil tempts Christ by using the scripture from Psalms. He takes the words of the Holy Book and twists them into a wrong meaning. It's not just bad theology when we do the same things with "proof-texting" and other abuses of God's Holy Word - it's actually evil when we use the word in this way!
Permanent link to this article: http://methoblog.com/3_0/2014/03/lectionary-notes-for-first-sunday-in-lent-year-a/
Original post at http://bethquick.blogspot.com/2013/02/lectionary-notes-for-ash-wednesday.html
Readings for Ash Wednesday, 3/4/14:Joel 2:1-2, 12-17, Psalm 51:1-17, 2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10, Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21Joel 2:1-2, 12-17:
- "Rend your hearts and not your clothing." This verse ties into Psalm 51's theme: it is our heart, our inside, our soul that God wants us to worry about most - not sacrifices, not outward signs. (theme of the gospel as well) Inside, not outside.
- "[God] is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and relents from punishing." I like these descriptions, especially in the midst of the Old Testament, which can have a different image of God.
- "Sanctify the congregation; assemble the aged; gather the children, even infants at the breast." Joel urges the people to gather together, to plead to God as a community for forgiveness. When do we do that? Gather as a community and ask God to have mercy on us?
2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10:
- Ah, a favorite psalm. And like Joel, an element of confession. This psalm is one I'm mostly likely to use if I'm feeling the need to come before God in a confessional mode. Do you have a confessional prayer in church every week? We do not, and I think as Protestants, we sometimes get nervous about confession, even corporate. But even if we don't share sins with a priest, confession is a necessary part of our relationship - any healthy relationship, really.
- Where I disagree with the psalmist, (thought to be David writing after the sin with Bathsheeba) is in his claim: "against you, you alone, have I sinned." Rarely do our sins only affect God - that's the worst about them - our sin hurts others. David's sin, for instance, resulted in a man's death, and a child's death, according to scriptures.
- "the sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise." Inside, not outside. Rituals are meaningless to God if they are not accompanied by real change in who we are and how we live!
Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21:
- "an acceptable time" - The Greek word here is one of my favorites, one I learned during my freshman year of college when I felt like I had just uncovered one of the great mysteries of the world: kairos, or "God's right time for action" as Dr. Emmanuel Twesigye taught. This is as opposed to chronos, regular ol' time.
- Paul describes a paradox/contradictory state - impostors yet true, unknown yet know, dying yet alive. Sometimes being a disciple can feel like this: pulled constantly between to states of being you never thought could go together.
- Paul gives himself quite a list of things that make him and colleagues "servants of God." Stuff like this is always what makes me think Paul has such a boastful side. Oh well, I guess he's entitled a fault...
- Again the Lenten theme: God wants our insides, not our outsides.
- Interesting, isn't it, to compare Jesus' words to our current practices of worship - we still like to "sound the trumpet" when we give, we like to pray with fancy words in long winded ways. We like to be rewarded, preferably instantly, for our good and holy behavior.
- "Where you treasure is, there your heart will be also." Notice that it is not where you heart is, there you will find your treasure. But first look to what you treasure - and that's where your heart, your whole person is. So what do you treasure? Possessions? Then that is what you are: your things.
Permanent link to this article: http://methoblog.com/3_0/2014/03/lectionary-notes-for-ash-wednesday/
Original post at http://bethquick.blogspot.com/2014/03/sermon-seven-habits-of-highly-effective.html
Seven Habits of Highly Effective Disciples: Committed “As members of the body of Christ and in this congregation of The United Methodist Church, we will faithfully participate in the ministries of the church by our prayers, our presence, our gifts, our service, and our witness, that in everything, God may be glorified through Jesus Christ.” Today, we finally come to the close of our sermon series on the Seven Habits of Highly Effective Disciples. We started out talking about our purpose: what is the purpose of our life? Our church? What’s our life’s mission statement? Our thesis? And then, we spent several weeks figuring out how our life would give supporting evidence that proves our thesis. How do we prove our purpose – and in the collective sense our denomination says our purpose is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world – how do we prove our thesis in our prayers, our presence, our gifts, our service, and our witness? Those are the vows we’re asked to make, the ways in which we commit to engaging in the life of this community when we become part of this congregation. And so today, to finish our series, reflect on our thesis and supporting paragraphs, we come to our conclusion as we ask ourselves: Are we in? Will we commit to this? Recommit for some of us. Commit for the first time for others. Commit more fully. Commit with a better understanding of what we’re saying. Are we in? Are we committed to the purpose of following Jesus? Today we find ourselves in the gospel of Mark, in a passage that I hope sounds familiar, because Aaron and I have preached on this very scripture several times since we’ve been here with you. And we’ve talked about the theme of commitment before too. It’s not because we’re forgetful worship planners, and we can’t remember what scriptures and themes we’ve used before! No, this text and theme was chosen on purpose. Way back in September, when we spent the month particularly focusing on our purpose, when my Uncle, Bill Mudge, and Bill Gottshalk-Fielding came to share in worship with us – this passage was our scripture text back on that Sunday in the beginning of September. And we spent a lot of time asking why we were here doing this thing called church, why it seemed important that we keep doing it, why we wanted to invite others to join in with us. At the beginning of our text, we find Jesus travelling with the disciples, and on the way, he asks them about how people see him. Who are they saying he is? The disciples tell him: some are saying he is John the Baptist, some Elijah, or another of the prophets. But then Jesus is more direct. And who do you say that I am? Peter answers boldly, rightly: You are the Messiah. But then Jesus begins to talk about what that means, his being the Messiah. He tells them about the suffering he’s about to go through, his death, and his ultimate resurrection. Somehow, though, Peter, who just called him Messiah, didn’t understand what that title would mean. He rebukes Jesus, and in turn, Jesus says, “Get behind me, Satan.” Then Jesus turns to the crowds and says, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life?” If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. It’s been a long time since I had to take math in school. I loved math, but I stopped taking it after 10thgrade to focus on other classes, and my college didn’t require a single math class (although I had to take three dreaded science courses in college!) But even though it has been a long time, and even though when I talk to my 6 year old nephew Sam about how he learns math at school and I have no idea what he’s talking about, I still do remember some things. I especially always loved logic statements in math. If-then statements. If x equals this then y equals that. These if-then statements are conditional. One thing is only true if another thing is true. For example, if p = students do an extra credit project for a class and q = students will receive bonus points on their grade, the conditional logic statement tells us that q is only true if p is true. Students will only receive bonus points if they do the extra credit project. Every time I read this gospel lesson from Mark, I can’t help but think of this type of conditional logic statement. If you want to follow Jesus then deny yourself, take up the cross, and follow. If, then. The implication, as I read it, is that if you don’t deny yourself, and take up the cross, you will have a hard time proving that you are, indeed, a follower of Jesus. In a way, this fits right in with the theme: we’ve been talking about showing the evidence that supports our claimed purpose. As it turns out, Jesus is looking for our evidence too. Peter, voicing what most of the disciples were probably thinking, seems to like the idea of following Jesus, but not some of the hard stuff that comes with it. But Jesus says it doesn’t work that way: if this, then that. If p, then q. If you want to follow, then deny yourself, and take up the cross. Jesus is saying discipleship takes commitment. So what are we ready to commit to? We’ve recently learned that we’ll be going through a significant transition as a congregation. As you know, now, Pastor Aaron and I will transition into new ministry roles in July, and new pastors will come and lead you in ministry here at Liverpool First. Pastoral transitions bring uncertainty and confusion, and grief and angst and sadness – all those things. And I think the temptation, in the midst of this, is to say, “Committed? How can we talk about the theme of commitment when everything is changing?” How is now a good time to talk about commitment? Who wants to make a commitment when you don’t know what exactly you’re committing to? In my newsletter article this month, which you probably just received this past week, I wrote: In the midst of change, I can tell you that the thing that would hurt me most, as your pastor who loves and cares for you, would be if mine and Pastor Aaron’s leaving caused others to stop in their tracks, so to speak, in the work of the church, in the work of discipleship. We have talked a lot together about God’s hopes and dreams for Liverpool First and our community. My deepest wish is for all of those plans and hopes and dreams to still unfold in God's time for us. How our commitment will unfold, the details, the specifics – that’s something that we learn over time. It varies from person to person – what following Jesus looks like for you is going to play out differently for me and for the person next to you, overlapping and diverging in different places. But despite different variations on the theme, we really only have one commitment to make: to follow where Jesus leads us. That’s really the only commitment we need to worry about. And it’s true – we might never know where we’ll end up when we follow Jesus. But we’ll always know who we’re with. And Jesus knows where he’s going – we just have to follow. And in so doing, in losing our life to the way of Christ, we save it. This Wednesday, the season of Lent begins. And we’ll be focusing in, studying deeply the journey to the cross. Jesus asks the disciples to go with him, to make a commitment, in the midst of turmoil and change. Maybe we can relate, just a little bit. But I hope we’ll commit anyway. Because if p, then q. If disciples, then the cross, then follow. I want to leave you with a poem written by Pastor Michael Coffey, a reflection on this text. It’s called “Lose yourself along the way.” this road you pave with your words and your broken body and blood poured it is not on the lustrous map I bought on Amazon the Travel Channel has not done a feature on the highlights and hot spots there is no restaurant tour with stops for every palate and no kitschy giant dinosaurs to stop and take snapshots with the kids this way that you speak of with mouth wide open is every dark dream we ever feared might be true and all that we wish we could fix about our lot and the sum of all we reject and hide in the mind’s black box hoping we will never lose control and crash into the jungle and have its contents played for all to hear but you say this path, this bumpy road, this crooked cross highway is the way of life itself, the gift hidden inside the ugly truth that we will indeed know suffering no matter our resistance but oh, letting it befriend us we finally have something to live for something bigger than ourselves, so trembling we submit and sink into your eddy of mercy and welcome the news we live only when we have something we are willing to die for when we know that our lives in their short span were spent for love
Permanent link to this article: http://methoblog.com/3_0/2014/03/sermon-seven-habits-of-highly-effective-disciples-committed-mark-827-38/
Original post at http://bethquick.blogspot.com/2011/02/lectionary-notes-for-eighth-sunday.html
Readings for 8th Sunday After Epiphany, 3/2/14:
Isaiah 49:8-16a, Psalm 131, 1 Corinthians 4:1-5, Matthew 6:24-34
- Compare these words of promise with the gospel lesson for today.
- "I have inscribed you on the palm of my hands." Do you have any tattoos? Any scars? What stories to these markings tell? I think there's something about permanency here. And intimacy. Made part of God's body forever, so to speak.
- How could God forget us, when we are like a child being nursed by God? I love the precious and sweet nature of that image.
- How high have you lifted your eyes? How high is too high? What is too great to even be looked at by you?
- What do you do to calm and quiet your soul?
- Do you hope in the Lord? What is your hope? What do you hope for?
- "stewards of God's mysteries." What a fabulous phrase! How do you care for the mysteries of God?
- Paul, always confident, admits God may have reason to judge him, but can't really think of any reason... :)
- Who do you judge? Yourself? Others? Do you feel God's judgment of you? Others' judgment toward you?
- What master do you serve?
- Chris Haslam says that the Greek word here is merimnate, which means more literally to “be preoccupied with or be absorbed by.”
- Sometimes I wonder how Jesus can tell us not to worry. Is he just oversimplifying? An idealist? How do you tell people who are hungry and naked and homeless not to worry? But, I think, more likely, Jesus is tying his words back to him comments about more than one master. When we worry, we tend to make an idol of the object of our worry, because we're putting something else in a more important place than God.
- I think I worry about everything. And then I worry about worrying too much! What do you worry about? How does worry affect your life?
- "Strive first for the kingdom of God." I love this phrase, and the word 'strive'.
Permanent link to this article: http://methoblog.com/3_0/2014/02/lectionary-notes-for-eighth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-a/
Original post at http://bethquick.blogspot.com/2011/02/lectionary-notes-for-seventh-sunday.html
Readings for 7th Sunday After Epiphany, 2/19/14:
Leviticus 19:1-2, 9-18, Psalm 119:33-40, 1 Corinthians 3:10-11, 16-23, Matthew 5:38-48
- I love the repeated, "I am the Lord" refrain throughout this passage as an explanation for each command. Almost like when a child asks, "Why?" and a parent says, "Because I said so." Why do we have these commands? Because God is God.
- "You shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great." Elsewhere in scripture, we certainly get the sense of God's partiality for the poor and oppressed. But I get the sense here that we're not to act unjustly in order to favor the poor in a situation unfairly. What do you think?
- "You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people" - oops. How good are you at this? Any grudges you need to think about?
- "but you shall love your neighbor as yourself" - Sometimes I think we forget and believe that talk about loving neighbors only happens in the New Testaments. It's all here though!
- I like this excerpt, because for once, the requests to God seem reasonable, and less about asking God to smite enemies. What does the psalmist want? To learn and understand.
- Look at the language: Teach me. Give m understanding. Lead me in your commandments. Turn my heart to your decrees. Give me life in your ways. Your ordinances are good. I have longed for your precepts. In other words: I want to learn, learn, learn how to follow you.
- What do you think happened that the psalmist wrote this? A particular event where the lack of learning and understanding God's commands was displayed? A time of study where the student loves learning, wants to learn more?
1 Corinthians 3:10-11, 16-23
- As with last week's text, again this passage has me particularly thinking about clergy who serve before and after you in a church. Do you feel competitive with them? Collaborative?
- Who are the people who have built your foundation? Built you up in your life? Have you helped others build a foundation in Christ and built them up? How?
- Dr. Larry Welborn, one of my DMin professors, wrote a book about Paul and his fool imagery. It seems like Paul's tent-making might have actually been more of theatre-set-designer, so when you read about the "fool" in Paul's letters, think of what you know about the fool in theatre, like in Shakespeare.
- Jesus continues, as in last week's text, to use the "You have heard that it was said . . . but I tell you" format.
- "If anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also." I think we read passages like this and immediately wonder, "How literal is Jesus being? Does he really mean it?" Followed by, "could I actually do that?" I wonder - would I turn the other cheek? If Jesus doesn't mean it literally, what does he mean? It is easy to say Jesus is speaking metaphorically whenever his words are particularly challenging to us!
- "sends the rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous" - I know questions of why bad things happen to good people, and vise versa, really seem to trouble people, challenge people - but Jesus doesn't seem to need to offer further explanation here - just "they way things are" in a sense.
- "Be perfect." A tall order, right? John Wesley had a clearly developed doctrine of Christian perfection. When United Methodists are ordained still today, we have to answer "Yes" to the questions: "Are you going on to perfection? Do you expect to be made perfect in love in this lifetime?" Wesley's understanding of perfection is one of my favorites in his theology.
Permanent link to this article: http://methoblog.com/3_0/2014/02/lectionary-notes-for-seventh-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-a/
Original post at http://bethquick.blogspot.com/2014/02/sermon-seven-habits-of-highly-effective_19.html
Seven Habits of Highly Effective Disciples: Service “As members of the body of Christ and in this congregation of The United Methodist Church, we will faithfully participate in the ministries of the church by our service.” Today as we continue in our series on the seven habits of highly effective disciples, we’re looking at the vow we make to participate in the ministries of the church by our service. We started by looking at our purpose, our reason for being as ourselves and as a congregation. And then we moved to talking about each supporting area – prayers, presences, gifts, and now service. Service can be tricky – how is it different than gifts, exactly? Of course, as Laurel shared with us last week, gifts certainly connects to our financial giving in particular, our stewardship, our generosity, and Laurel helped us think about a life that we share freely with others, as we share everything that we have, remembering that what we have is just entrusted to us by God. Isn’t service the same thing? Using our spiritual gifts, perhaps? Sharing our gifts of time or using our talents and abilities in giving time and energy in the life of the church? I think, though, that service can mean so much more. My first district superintendent, when I was pastor in Oneida in the Mohawk District, was Rev. Carl Johnson, and I really admired his deep wisdom. I remember in particular how much one word irritated him – volunteer. He hated it when people referred to participants in ministries of the church as volunteers. There’s no such thing as volunteers in our journey to follow Jesus, he would say. There’s disciples. Students of Jesus who have committed to learning more about him, learning how better to live like Jesus. But there’s no volunteering in discipleship, as if we elect to bestow an hour here or an hour there in the journey with Christ. I certainly think service has a deeper meaning than volunteering. Volunteering is so – optional – isn’t it? Something we can choose to do or not to do. But I don’t think that’s what service is all about. I’m continuing to chug away at writing my Doctor of Ministry paper. The main theme of my Doctor of Ministry research is how to help us think about our Outreach ministry more as the work of justice, less as acts of charity. In our research sessions, I explained one of the key differences between charity and justice like this: charity is optional, and justice is required. When it comes to charity, those of us with financial means are the ones in control. We can choose to give, or choose not to. When we do give, then, because it is optional, a choice, we, the giver, are considered benevolent and generous. But although the scriptures mention individual acts of charitable goodwill, what God demands for the downtrodden, the oppressed in the scriptures is not charity, but justice. Justice, as we’ve talked about, is when what happens in the world is set right, set in line with God’s vision for the world. And things are not set right when people are poor and hungry and abused and alone and hurting. And God’s justice isn’t optional or up to us to control. Certainly, sometimes justice is slow to unfold, as sinful humankind acts unjustly toward one another. But justice is God’s and it is required, because God’s vision for our world is inevitable. And that’s a vision we want to be a part of, so we’re trying to teach ourselves to long for and work for justice, rather than settling only for charity and patting ourselves on the back for it. When I think about charity versus justice, I think about volunteering versus servanthood. Volunteering is something we can add on in our spare time as we see fit. But servanthood is a way of life. Our gospel lesson today comes from the gospel of Mark. Just before this, a man approached Jesus asking what he had to do to inherit eternal life. Jesus talked to him about the commandments, which the man said he kept, and then Jesus told him he should sell all his possessions and give the money to the poor and then follow Jesus. And the men went away grieving, since he was very wealthy. Jesus then talked about how difficult it was to enter God’s kingdom, and the disciples wonder how anyone could enter the kingdom. Jesus tells them that with God, nothing is impossible, but that the last will be first and the first will be last. Somehow, just after this, apparently not absorbing the previous conversation, we encounter James and John saying to Jesus, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” Jesus presses them, asking if they could really handle all that is implied – if they could face what Jesus will face in order to claim those honored seats – and they insist that they can. Naturally, their claim to seats of honor causes a fight among the twelve, who are mad at James and John. But Jesus says to them, ““You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.” “Whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve.” Well over half of the times that you read the word “servant” in our modern Bible translations, the actual Greek word means slave, not servant. The word servant conjures up for me a maid or a butler, someone lower class serving someone upper class, but still, a person who receives a wage, who is working maybe not as their dream job, but still an option that could be chosen, even if the other choices were not as good as choosing to be a servant. But slave implies something different, doesn’t it? A slave is not getting a paycheck, or time off they can spend with their family. A slave belongs to the master. In Jesus’ day, both slaves and servants – those who might fill one specific task – had less freedom than the maids in a good Jane Austen novel. They were not in charge of the course of their own lives. What happened to them was up to the master of the household. I can understand why translators opt for “servant” instead of “slave” in many cases in the scripture. It sounds better, doesn’t it? Does God want us to be slaves? With our own country’s horrifically abusive system of slavery as part of our history, with the ways that the horrors of slavery still leaves its mark, its pain on our society today, we’re right to hesitate, at least, when we encounter the word slave, to question what exactly is meant. So let me be clear, that when we encounter slavery in the Bible, I do not believe in any way that God intended for us to practice such a degrading, dehumanizing system of refusing to see others as created in the very precious image of God. There’s a history of people using the Bible to condone the system of slavery, and I believe God weeps when the gospel is used in such harmful ways. So that’s what I don’t mean by drawing our attention to this language of slave and servant that weaves through the New Testament. The most common prayer of our faith is the Lord’s Prayer. We pray it in worship on Sunday, and many of us probably pray this prayer in other places and settings throughout the week as well. It was certainly part of my prayer routine from childhood. How many times have you prayed that prayer? Every time we pray it, we say these words: “You kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” We pray, over and over, for God’s will to be done. Do we mean what we say? Of course, I hope and pray that sometimes, many times, our will and God’s will are one in the same. That, I think, is the goal we aim for in our Christian life. But sometimes, our will, what we want, is different from what God wants for us. Sometimes this isn’t just because we want something that’s wrong or bad or evil, but because God has something in mind for us we haven’t even imagined yet. When we claim the title of disciple, when we say that we’re servants, when we pray for God’swill to be done, I want us to be fully aware that what we’re saying is that God’s will is more important to us than our own. We’d rather see God’s plans carried out than ours. It is in fact the very prayer that Jesus prayed in the garden before he was arrested – if it be your will God. But not as I will, but your will be done. God’s will be done. We pray it over and over. I hope, I seek for myself and for you that we learn to live it, to embody it more fully. We are servants not because God is a tyrant over us, but because we follow this Jesus who shows us that strength and power come from humble service, and deep relationship with God is born of learning to let God’s ways be our ways. The difference is choice. God never forces us to be obedient, to choose to place our will below God’s will for us. But God does ask us to do so. God asks us to choose to let God’s will be the guide of our life. God asks for our servanthood. And God doesn’t ask something that Jesus doesn’t model himself. “For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.” Jesus lives as a servant, placing our lives before his own life, obedient to God even to the point of death on a cross. Jesus chooses. He chooses servanthood. He chooses God. He chooses us. When we promise to support the ministries of the church by our service, we’re promising so much more than donating a few hours of our time like we might rack up community service hours for a school project. Not community service, not volunteering, but servanthood, a way of life where we continually seek to follow God’s will instead of our own and where we place others first and ourselves last. Imagine if, instead of a congregation of members, attenders, participants, volunteers, we cultivate a congregation full of servants, disciples, letting God’s will shape our direction. O God, holy is your name. May your kingdom come! May your will be done! Amen.
Permanent link to this article: http://methoblog.com/3_0/2014/02/sermon-seven-habits-of-highly-effective-disciples-service-mark-1035-45/