Jacobjuncker

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Name: jacobjuncker
Date registered: April 2, 2012
URL: https://jacobjuncker.wordpress.com

Latest posts

  1. Methodist in-Formation: The Rules: Do No Harm — September 15, 2014
  2. Methodist in-Formation: Follow the Rules. — September 13, 2014
  3. Methodist in-Formation: Come-unity: Don’t fake it! — September 12, 2014
  4. Methodist in-Formation: Come-unity: You have a place! — August 27, 2014
  5. Methodist in-Formation: Come unity in Community. — August 23, 2014

Most commented posts

  1. Methodist in-Formation: We Need Each Other — 1 comment
  2. Methodist in-Formation: Approaching Life: Beyond Ourselves — 1 comment

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Sep 15 2014

Methodist in-Formation: The Rules: Do No Harm

Original post at http://jacobjuncker.wordpress.com/2014/09/15/the-rules-do-no-harm/


This message was offered at Lee Memorial United Methodist Church on Sunday, September 14, 2014.

Reading: Romans 13:8-10

Let’s pray.

Gracious God, in the moments to come, give me the words to speak and they the ears to hear that together, we might be inspired to not only speak but to live your Word in the world starting today.  It’s in that most holy Word’s name—Jesus the Christ—we pray.  Amen.

˚˜˚˜˚˜˚˜˚˜˚˜˚

The world is a broken place full of division and despair; but, stay calm.  Follow the rules!

The General Rules were adopted by some of the first groups of Methodists in 1739.  These groups wanted to, in their own words, “flee from the wrath to come.”  Modernizing their language a bit, we might say, they wanted to flee the brokenness of this world and live the abundant life offered by Christ now and into eternity.  The rules were meant to be a practical guide for living a life that would not add to but heal the brokenness of our lives and the world.  And, so, wherever this conviction is, wrote Wesley in the original version of the rules:

…wherever this is really fixed in the soul it will be shown by its fruits.

It is therefore expected of all who continue therein that they should continue to evidence their desire of salvation,

First: By doing no harm, by avoiding evil of every kind, especially that which is most generally practiced, such as:

The taking of the name of God in vain.

The profaning the day of the Lord, either by doing ordinary work therein or by buying or selling.

Drunkenness: buying or selling spirituous liquors, or drinking them, unless in cases of extreme necessity.

Slaveholding; buying or selling slaves.

Fighting, quarreling, brawling, brother going to law with brother; returning evil for evil, or railing for railing; the using many words in buying or selling.

The buying or selling goods that have not paid the duty.

The giving or taking things on usury—i.e., unlawful interest.

Uncharitable or unprofitable conversation; particularly speaking evil of magistrates or of ministers.

Doing to others as we would not they should do unto us.

Doing what we know is not for the glory of God, as:

The putting on of gold and costly apparel.

The taking such diversions as cannot be used in the name of the Lord Jesus.

The singing those songs, or reading those books, which do not tend to the knowledge or love of God.

Softness and needless self-indulgence.

Laying up treasure upon earth.

Borrowing without a probability of paying; or taking up goods without a probability of paying for them.[1]

Some of these rules—or at least, the daily application of them—may seem a bit arcane, old-fashioned, and out of date; but their trajectory, their intent is as relevant today as it was 275 years ago.  The point is this: it’s easy to hurt. Don’t.

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It’s easy to hurt.

It is not difficult to return evil for evil.  When someone offers a sharp retort, it’s easy to give them a tongue-lashing.  When someone or something threatens our safety, it seems quite natural to “degrade and ultimately destroy”[2] it.

Even professed Christians find it easy to hurt.  We can give countless examples of Christians who, in the name of their god (and not, in my opinion, the Judeo-Christian God), have spread hate out of ignorance, judgment out of spite, and committed acts of terror in this country and abroad spurring on violence in the name of peace.  We are naïve and ignorant to believe that Christians are blameless when it comes to doing harm in this world.

Perhaps, the most recent public example would be the Duck Dynasty patriarch, Phil Robertson, who never leaves home “without my Bible or my woman”, in a comment about the terrorist group ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham) stated that we, presumably America (as if, America is truly a Christian nation) should either “convert ‘em or kill ‘em” in the name of Jesus[3]  Even those who seek to follow Christ find it easier to hurt than to get to the root of the problem.  The proper response to terror isn’t terror.  Healing (of individuals and of nations) doesn’t come through hurting (violence or war).

[Lord Alfred] Tennyson wrote that despite any love we may profess of God, despite our claims to revere love as Creation’s final law, we, and nature along with us, are “red in tooth and claw.”  After countless generations of ruthless competition for survival, it’s our nature as human beings to carry within us the primal urge to act out in violent ways.  We are a violent species—and as a practical matter, violence more often than not “works.”  If a turn to violence can get the desired result, why bother with any namby-pamby alternative?[4]

It’s easy to hurt; but, hurting—adding to the brokenness of the world—is not what followers of Jesus Christ are called to do.  Walking the road to healing and reconciliation—the road Christ walked—is long, hard, and narrow.  Hurting is not an option for those who seek to follow the Christ who taught:

…you must not oppose those who want to hurt you. If people slap you on your right cheek, you must turn the left cheek to them as well. 40 When they wish to haul you to court and take your shirt, let them have your coat too. 41 When they force you to go one mile, go with them two. 42 Give to those who ask, and don’t refuse those who wish to borrow from you.

43 “You have heard that it was said, You must love your neighbor and hate your enemy. 44 But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who harass you…[5]

It’s easy to hurt; but for those who seek to continue Christ’s ministry of outreaching love, hurting is not an option.  “For love,” writes Paul, “Love doesn’t do anything wrong to a neighbor” (Romans 13:10a, Common English Bible).  The entirety of Scripture, he writes, all the rules and restrictions in the law (and all the directing of the prophets) can be accomplished and fulfilled if we but live in love; and, the first act of love is to do no harm.

Do no harm.

To do no harm [writes Bishop Job] means that [we] will be on guard so that all [our] actions and even [our] silence will not add injury to another of God’s children or to any part of God’s creation.  As did John Wesley and those in the early Methodist movement before [us], [we] too [must] determine every day that [our lives] will always be invested in the effort to bring healing instead of hurt; wholeness instead of division; and harmony with the ways of Jesus rather than with the ways of the world.  When [we] commit [ourselves] to this way, [we] must see each person as a child of God—a recipient of love unearned, unlimited, and undeserved—just like [ourselves].  And it is this vision of every other person as the object of God’s love and deep awareness that [we] too live in that loving Presence that can hold [us] accountable to [our] commitment to do no harm.[6]

For those of us who truly want the world to be a better place—a place of justice, equality, and peace—then we must commit to do no harm.  It’s the first rule that will, if we’ll follow it, begin to bring healing to our broken lives and the world.

Let’s pray:

Gracious God, it’s easy to hurt.  It’s easy to cause pain.  Help us to take the long, arduous, and narrow road that leads to life.  Help us to do no harm.  Help us to follow the rules for the sake of Christ Jesus our Lord and the world he came to save.  Amen.

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Some interesting articles on current events and “doing no harm” (or our lack of wont to do so) for further wrestling and discussion:

Carl Medearis, “ISIS vs the Way of Jesus” Red Letter Christians (September 11, 2014) <http://www.redletterchristians.org/isis-vs-way-jesus/> Accessed September 11, 2014.

Jim Wallis, “War is Not the Anwer” Sojourners (September 11, 2014) <http://sojo.net/blogs/2014/09/11/war-not-answer> Accessed September 12, 2014.

Michael Brown, “Convert Them or Kill Them’: Is Phil Robertson Like ISIS?” Charisma News (September 4, 2014) <http://www.charismanews.com/opinion/in-the-line-of-fire/45275-convert-them-or-kill-them-is-phil-robertson-like-isis> Accessed September 14, 2014.

“September 12: Never Forget” Forward Progressives (September 11, 2014) <http://www.forwardprogressives.com/september-12-never-forget/> Accessed September 12, 2014.

 

 

[1] The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church: 2012 (Nashville: United Methodist Publishing, 2012), 76-77.

[2] c.f. “Why the Obama Administration Keeps Saying ‘Degrade and Destroy’” by Elizabeth Chuck <http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/isis-terror/why-obama-administration-keeps-saying-degrade-destroy-n201171> Accessed September 13, 2014.

[3] “Exclusive: Phil Robertson on the rise of radical Islam” < http://video.foxnews.com/v/3764234066001/exclusive-phil-robertson-on-the-rise-of-radical-islam/#sp=show-clips> Accessed September 11, 2014.

[4] David M. Felten and Jeff Procter-Murphy, Living the Questions: The Wisdom of Progressive Christianity (New York: HarperCollins, 2012), 103.

[5] Matthew 5:39-44, Common English Bible.

[6] Adapted from Reuben P. Job, Three Simple Rules: A Wesleyan Way of Living (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2007), 31.


Filed under: Sermons Tagged: john wesley, Love, The General Rules, War

Permanent link to this article: http://methoblog.com/3_0/2014/09/the-rules-do-no-harm/

Sep 13 2014

Methodist in-Formation: Follow the Rules.

Original post at http://jacobjuncker.wordpress.com/2014/09/13/follow-the-rules/


This message was offered at Lee Memorial United Methodist Church on Sunday, September 7, 2014.

Reading: 1 Peter 1:13-15

Let’s pray.

Gracious God, in the moments to come, give me the words to speak and they the ears to hear that together, we might be inspired to not only speak but to live your Word in the world starting today.  It’s in that most holy Word’s name—Jesus the Christ—we pray.  Amen.

˚˜˚˜˚˜˚˜˚˜˚˜˚

The world is broken.

The continued conflict between Russia and the Ukraine; the brutal slaughter of Christians and other civilians by the extremist Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS); the civil war in Syria; the war in the holy land between Israel and Palestine; the outbreak of Ebola in West Africa; the ever increasing prevalence of –isms and phobias (racism, sexism, ageism, heterosexism, homophobia, heterophobia, xenophobia, etc.) which seek to divide people based on fear; the ever increasing polarization of Americans based upon political affiliation, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and religion; the continued rise of un- and underemployment which is leading to a growing rate of poverty in the United States; the growing gap between rich and poor; our penchant for pursing peace through violence and domination; the continued abuse of limited natural resources which is leading to a loss of biodiversity; war, sickness, disease, anger, senseless and all too often deliberate violence, willful ignorance, hatred, shattered relationships, unrealized dreams, disappointment, heartache and division: brokenness.

Look around.  The world in which we live is busted, cracked, fractured, and shattered.

I’m not talking about the “world” in terms of nature (although creation, too, bears the marks of sin’s blemish and decay). I’m talking about the “world” comprised of the people, structures, and systems that make up society– the moral patterns, beliefs, and behaviors that result in things like unfair business practices, racism, extreme poverty, dishonest government, dirty politics, family breakdown, cheating, stealing, oppression of the weak, and so many other distressors and defilers.[1]

The world in which we live is not fully what God intended.  The world seems to be caving in.  Or, better stated: the world seems to be consuming itself.  And, frankly, if you have a heart and care at all, it can be a bit overwhelming (which is why I don’t particularly like to read or watch the news).  It’s depressing.

We live in a world that is not fully what God intended.

The current state of life on this planet…has a lot of brokenness. You’re right to be dissatisfied with it. But it’s not enough for [us] merely to recognize that the world isn’t what it ought to be and that people are suffering in ways they shouldn’t have to suffer. Our sorrow and indignation must lead us into action that subverts the brokenness that is real and present right now. We [must] work to make this world more as God would intend it to be– with justice, peace, and more.[2]

Yes, the world is broken, but there’s no need to panic.

Stay calm.

There’s hope for this broken world.  The love of God found in Jesus Christ has come to bring life and wholeness to the fragments of our lives.  Jesus is “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6, New Revised Standard Version).  In him, we see the truth, the consequences of our brokenness and the beautiful potential that grace reveals in each of us.  In Jesus, we find the way that leads to life—wholeness of heart and life.

There’s hope for this broken world; and, that hope lies in those who are brave enough to see the truth and walk in Christ’s way toward life.

Jesus was telling stories to the people and debating with the religious know-it-alls one day when one of the religious scholars approached.

He…asked [Jesus], “Which commandment is the most important of all?”

29 Jesus replied, “The most important one isIsrael, listen! Our God is the one Lord, 30 and you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, with all your mind, and with all your strength. 31 The second is this, You will love your neighbor as yourself. No other commandment is greater than these.”[3]

The Way, says Jesus, the most important thing you need to glean from faith is that relationships matter.  In fact, the most important, saving things you can do is grow in your love for God and others.  The whole point of faith hangs on these two principles: love God and love others.  Follow this way and you will surely be saved.  Follow the way of Christ and you will find an abundant life now that leads into eternity.[4]

The world is a broken place.  Don’t worry.  Stay calm.  There’s hope.  All you have to do is…

Follow the rules.

In 1739, eight or ten people approached a priest convinced of the world’s brokenness.  They wanted to know the path that would lead to wholeness of heart and life.  The priest, John Wesley, formed the people into groups and set before them three simple rules that would help them abandon the brokenness of the world and grow in their love of God and neighbor.  The rules were really quite simple.

Do no harm.
Do good.
Stay in love with God.

These rules were not meant to be used as a tool for wholly living the life Christ desired for his followers.  These rules are meant to provide a simple guideline for building relationships with God and people in a world that so often does harm, fails to do good, and ignores the divine presence that’s all around us.

The world is broken, it is divided and self-consuming.

13 Therefore prepare your minds for action; discipline yourselves; set all your hope on the grace that Jesus Christ will bring you when he is revealed. 14 Like obedient children, do not be conformed to the desires that you formerly had in ignorance.15 Instead, as he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in all your conduct.[5]

Follow the rules: do no harm; do good; and, stay in love with God.  Over the course of the next three weeks, we’ll discuss each of the rules, how they apply, and how they can—if we’ll follow them—transform our lives that we all might live for Christ sake and the sake of the world God so loves and came to save.

 

[1] “A Marathon Bombing, the Broken World, and Our Maranatha Hope” by Ed Stetzer at ChristianityToday.com <http://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2013/april/marathon-bombing-broken-world-and-our-maranatha-hope.html#more>  Accessed September 5, 2014.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Mark 12:28b-31, Common English Bible.

[4] c.f. John 10:10.

[5] 1 Peter 1:13-15,New Revised Standard Version.


Filed under: Sermons Tagged: 3 Simple Rules, brokenness, follower of Jesus, stay calm, the way of Christ

Permanent link to this article: http://methoblog.com/3_0/2014/09/follow-the-rules/

Sep 12 2014

Methodist in-Formation: Come-unity: Don’t fake it!

Original post at http://jacobjuncker.wordpress.com/2014/09/12/come-unity-dont-fake-it/


This message was offered at Lee Memorial United Methodist Church on Sunday, August 31, 2014.

Reading: Romans 12:9-21

What is the primary motivation behind God’s mission (God’s redemptive work) initiated by Christ and carried on by the Church? Human guilt or Godly love? Your answer to that question will impact how you reach out to and interact with the world. Is the world primarily loved or guilty? I think God, first, loves the world (c.f. John 3:16-17).  And, that love should define who how we interact with each other and the world God so loves and came to set right (save).

˚˜˚˜˚˜˚˜˚˜˚˜˚

Let’s pray.

Gracious God, in the moments to come, give me the words to speak and they the ears to hear that together, we might be inspired to not only speak but to live your Word in the world starting today.  It’s in that most holy Word’s name—Jesus the Christ—we pray.  Amen.

˚˜˚˜˚˜˚˜˚˜˚˜˚

Can you tell a fake?  Can you tell the difference between something that is real or not?  A Rolex, a twenty-dollar bill, a smile?  Can you tell the difference between a forgery and an original?  The fact of the matter is, sometimes we are and sometimes we aren’t.  Sometimes it’s really hard to tell the difference.  Sometimes it’s really easy.

In our reading for today, Paul urges the church to stop faking it and start living the love they claim to have received.  His concern, I think, is that it’s easy for people to tell when we’re not being sincere in trying to live out our most basic beliefs.

The core of the Christian faith tells us that God’s love for the world changes things.  And, yet, if that be the case, then why doesn’t the church (broadly speaking) look any different from the world around it?  We can say we are many things but the proof of what we truly are is in how we act.  If love is the defining attribute of our faith, then we’ve got to start living it.

We can’t fake it.

“Let love be genuine” (Romans 12:9a, New Revised Standard Version), writes Paul.  It “should be shown without pretending” (Romans 12:9a, Common English Bible).  “Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it” (Romans 12:9a, The Message).

It’s interesting to note that there are at least two ways to translate the first half of this morning’s reading.  We can understand verses 9-13 to be a laundry lists of do’s and don’ts or it can be translated as a list describing what it means to love genuinely, without pretending.  Grammatically speaking (in the Greek), either translation is acceptable.  Given the greater context of Paul trying to help the community live in unity, I would tend toward the second reading:

9          Genuine love is:
abhorring the evil; clinging to the good.
10        being affectionate to one another in brotherly love.
outdoing one another in honor,
11        not lagging in diligence,
being afire in the Spirit,
serving the Lord,
12        rejoicing in hope,
persevering in affliction,
being devoted to prayer,
13        contributing to the needs of the saints,
pursuing hospitality.[1]

Similar to his list in 1 Corinthians 13, this list in Romans 12 gives us a glimpse of what it means to love genuinely, without pretending, through the center of our being, without faking it.

The love Paul is speaking of is not sentimental or sensational.  Love, here, is sacrificial.   The type of love, Paul is calling for is more than a belief: this, Godly love, changes the way in which we live our lives.  Love, true and genuine, changes the way we interact with one another and the world around us.

As we love genuinely, we learn that love does not curse—not even those who harass us.  Those who truly love laugh with those who are laughing and cry with the crying.  Those who love without pretending see people as people treating everyone as equals.  Those who love unhypocritically, don’t think of themselves as better than anyone; meaning, they often associate with those whom are forgotten by society.  Those who let love guide them “don’t pay back anyone for their evil actions with evil actions, but show respect for what everyone else believes is good” (Romans 12:17,Common English Bible).

Loving like this isn’t for the faint of heart.  It’s not always going to be easy or emotionally satisfying.  To love those who are different from you… Paul, in our reading for last week talked about the community being like a body.  To love the bad breathed mouth, to love the sweaty underarms, to love the stinky feet takes a great deal of effort and self-sacrifice.  Resist the urge to fake it.  You can’t.  Be sincere.  Love genuinely.

Live in peace.

Over the past two weeks we’ve considered the words of the Psalmist (Psalm 133:1, New Revised Standard Version) “how very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity!”  We’ve talked about what it might look like for unity to come in community.  Two weeks ago, we talked about how messy and miraculous unity is when diverse peoples live together.  Last week, we discussed the importance of finding our place in community—how everyone has an important part to play (even the anuses!) in making the community strong.  We’ve prayed relentlessly that unity might come through community.  Today, in our final week, we get the terms of the contract.

For the last two weeks we’ve been talking about what unity in community looks like.  Today, Paul tells us how we are to act if unity is to come in community: love genuinely; don’t fake it.

A recent study exposed that 87% of Americans view Christians as judgmental.  That number is probably a bit low considering that the research also suggests that 91% say Christians are anti-homosexual which seems to fall under the judgmental category to me.  People can tell when we’re being authentic or not.  They can tell the difference between the mockery we sometimes call church and the life-giving, grace-filled community Christ calls us to live into.

Therefore, love genuinely.  Don’t fake it.  People really can tell the difference.

Love genuinely.  Don’t fake it.

Hate evil, and hold on to what is good. 10 Love each other like the members of your family. Be the best at showing honor to each other. 11 Don’t hesitate to be enthusiastic—be on fire in the Spirit as you serve the Lord!12 Be happy in your hope, stand your ground when you’re in trouble, and devote yourselves to prayer.13 Contribute to the needs of God’s people, and welcome strangers into your home. 14 Bless people who harass you—bless and don’t curse them. 15 Be happy with those who are happy, and cry with those who are crying. 16 Consider everyone as equal, and don’t think that you’re better than anyone else. Instead, associate with people who have no status. Don’t think that you’re so smart.17 Don’t pay back anyone for their evil actions with evil actions, but show respect for what everyone else believes is good.

18 If possible, to the best of your ability, live at peace with all people. 19 Don’t try to get revenge for yourselves, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath. It is written, Revenge belongs to me; I will pay it back, says the Lord20 Instead, If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink. By doing this, you will pile burning coals of fire upon his head21 Don’t be defeated by evil, but defeat evil with good. [2]

Strive toward these things and unity will surely come to this community.

Let’s pray.

God, join us together once more that unity might come to this community.  Give us a common vision.  Help us find our place that we might find value in the work you set before us.  And, with you at the center of our lives, may we live in peace.  Loving God, you’ve shown us what it means to love, you’ve shown us the way that leads to unity and peace, may we now live into it.  In Jesus’ name we pray.  Amen.

[1] “Exegetical Perspective: Romans 12:9-21” by Christopher R. Hutson in Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary: Feasting on the Word, Year A, Vol. 4 (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2011), p17.

[2] Romans 12:9b-21, Common English Bible.


Filed under: Sermons Tagged: church, community, fake, Jesus, Love, Romans 12:9-21

Permanent link to this article: http://methoblog.com/3_0/2014/09/come-unity-dont-fake-it/

Aug 27 2014

Methodist in-Formation: Come-unity: You have a place!

Original post at http://jacobjuncker.wordpress.com/2014/08/27/come-unity-you-have-a-place/


This message was offered at Lee Memorial United Methodist Church on Sunday, August 24, 2014.

Reading: Romans 12:1-8

Let’s pray.

Gracious God, in the moments to come, give me the words to speak and they the ears to hear that together, we might be inspired to not only speak but to live your Word in the world starting today.  It’s in that most holy Word’s name—Jesus the Christ—we pray.  Amen.

˚˜˚˜˚˜˚˜˚˜˚˜˚

It is the dumbest book you’ll ever read.  It will take you about two minutes.  I’ve read it several dozen times in the last six months.  It’s one of my daughter’s favorite books.  I absolutely despise it.  When its asked for, I read it with an eye roll.  In spite of my distaste for it, this book holds great sentimental value because when I think of my daughter laughing, I think of the first time I read her this book: Blue Hat, Green Hat by Sandra Boynton.

Let me just say from the outset I’m a big Sandra Boynton fan.  We have many of her books, I like most of them—they’re simple with great linguistic beats—but this one annoys me.  It’s the story of a turkey who has a hard time understanding grasping where his clothes go.

Blue hat, green hat, red hat, oops.
Red shirt, blue shirt, yellow shirt, oops.[1]

At the end of the book, fully dressed in a “yellow hat, green shirt, blue pants, purple socks, [and] red shoes,” the turkey jumps into a pool.  Silly and stupid, I know.  But, my daughter laughs nearly every time.

She finds it quite humorous that that silly turkey would put his hat on his feet, his shirt on his butt, and his pants on his head.  She understands that coats don’t go on your nose, socks don’t go on your hands, and shoes don’t go on your head (sorry if I ruined the book for you).  She learned at a very early age that things have their place and when they’re not in their place—well, just ask her—that’s kind of humorous.

Everything has its place.

And when things are not in their place, well, that is both laughable and annoying.

Everything has its place and that place—no matter where it is—is important.  Life tends to run smoother when things are where they’re supposed to be.  Having a place for everything saves time and money, makes life smoother and less stressful, and it better prepares you for emergencies.[2]  And, if you’re having a hard time relating to what I’m trying to say, let me go hide your car keys or your eyeglasses.…

In our reading for today, Paul is trying to help the church in Rome understand that everything has its place.  Everyone, all—whether they be Jews like Jesus or some other faith or ethnicity or race—everyone has a place within the community, the Kingdom, God is creating.

Everyone has a place.

And when we misunderstand our place, there is trouble.  When we overvalue our place, there is strife.  When we diminish, ridicule, and look down upon others, that is evil.  Therefore, “don’t think of yourself more highly than you ought to think” (Romans 12:3b, Common English Bible).  Everyone has a place and that place is important.

For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another. We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness.

Everyone has a place, a purpose that is vital to the working of the entire community.

Sticking with the body metaphor, it doesn’t matter if you’re an eye or an ear, a hand or a foot, a mouth or a butt hole, every part of the body has an important role to play in making sure that the body functions properly.  Each part is unique and different.  Each part has a vital function to perform.  It’s a beautiful image of interdependence.

What a beautiful image for the church!  Each member is like a part of the body.  Each member has a function to perform.  No one should ever consider his/her ministry [his/her Godly work] more important than another’s ministry.  The function of each person’s ministry is not to highlight itself, but to give wholeness and cohesiveness to the whole body.

Each person’s ministry is important.  If some person is not ministering with his or her particular gifts, then it would be like the body trying to function without eyes.  It would be very difficult for a person to maneuver without eyes.  If some member is failing to perform his or her ministry then the church is rendered ineffective in that particular area.

Each person has some place where he or she can minister.  And every member needs to feel that what he or she does is important.[3]

Everyone has a place and that place is important if we’re to be the community God needs us to be.  Everyone has an important, vital role to play in building up the body of Christ.  Everyone has a place that deserves honor and respect.  Everyone has something to contribute that will make us, as a whole, better than we are alone.  Everyone—you, me, those who intended to be here and who never even gave it a thought to be here—everyone has a place and I hope the church will help people find it.

What if the church—this community of faith—became a place where everyone could find a place to belong, a place where everyone’s contribution would could be valued?  Dear friends, that’s the kind of church I want to be a part of, the kind of church I dream about, the kind of church I’m willing to invest my life in for that’s the kind of church I believe Christ died (or better stated rose) for, that’s the kind of church that makes disciples, and that’s the kind of church that will ultimately transform the world for Christ’s sake.

Let’s pray.
God, join us together once more that unity might come to this community.  Give us a common vision.  Help us find our place and to value the contributions of others.  With you at the center of our lives, may we live in peace.  It’s in Christ’s name, the Prince of Peace, we pray.  Amen.

 

 

[1] Blue Hat, Green Hat by Sandra Boynton (New York: Little Simon and Schuster, 1995).

[2] See “Heading Out on Your Own: Day 31 – A Place for Everything and Everything in Its Place” by Brett & Kate McKay (August 31, 2012), ArtofManliness.com <http://www.artofmanliness.com/2012/08/31/a-place-for-everything-and-everything-in-its-place/> Accessed August 23, 2014.

[3] Every Member in Ministry: Involving Laity and Inactives by John Ed Mathison (Nashville: Discipleship Resources, 1996), 3.


Filed under: Sermons Tagged: Body of Christ, church, community, place, purpose, romans 12:1-8

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Aug 23 2014

Methodist in-Formation: Come unity in Community.

Original post at http://jacobjuncker.wordpress.com/2014/08/23/come-unity-in-community/


This message was offered at Lee Memorial United Methodist Church on Sunday, August 17, 2014.

Reading: Psalm 133

Let’s pray.

Gracious God, in the moments to come, give me the words to speak and they the ears to hear that together, we might be inspired to not only speak but to live your Word in the world starting today.  It’s in that most holy Word’s name—Jesus the Christ—we pray.  Amen.

˚˜˚˜˚˜˚˜˚˜˚˜˚

An unarmed African-American teen shot by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, continued fighting in Gaza and Iraq, violence and hatred (around the world and in our own community) spurred on by ignorance and malice based upon race, economic position, gender, age, sexual orientation, and religion.  I look at the broken world around us and can’t help but read this morning’s Psalm with a bit of cynicism.

How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity.[1]

I imagine David, the supposed writer of the Psalms, sitting down and looking at the world around him.  It wasn’t all that much different 3000 years ago: war, discord, anger, hatred, violence, disagreement, disease, misunderstanding…  I can see David looking around and saying, “Geesh (a good Hebrew word?), how nice it would be if things were different. Oh…”

1-3 How wonderful, how beautiful,
when brothers and sisters get along!
It’s like costly anointing oil
flowing down head and beard,
Flowing down Aaron’s beard,
flowing down the collar of his priestly robes.
It’s like the dew on Mount Hermon
flowing down the slopes of Zion.
Yes, that’s where God commands the blessing,
ordains eternal life.[2]

The images in the Psalm are lush and lavish: expensive oil and cool dew falling in the hot and arid desert.

It’s here that the Psalmist reflects on the messy and miraculous work of unity.  In verse 2, the flowing of oil down the face, beard, and collar, “concentrates less on the sign of blessing than on its rich unpredictability, creating a scene that is joyfully abundant and decidedly messy.”[3]  In verse three we get the image of dew from Mount Hermon which is on the northern border of Israel and Lebanon falling on the mountains of Zion outside of Jerusalem half-a-nation away.  Unity is a messy and miraculous proposition.  “It is somehow comforting to find that the blessedness of unity is not presented in a ‘hearts and flowers’ haze of naiveté and perfection, but is seen for what it is: wonderful, messy, unpredictable, and rare.”[4]

Finding and living in unity is hard work (which is why, I think, the Psalmist doesn’t give us a twelve-step program for achieving it).  The Psalmist I think gets it right, though, unity begins with believing that it’s possible.  It’s achieved when we set it as a goal before us.  We achieve that which we believe possible.  The greatest obstacles in life are those things which we believe to be unattainable.  Unity is difficult and challenging to believe, but it is possible so long as we set it before us as the goal and vision to be lived into.

This is true in any relationship.  Partners in committed, loving relationships must learn to support one another in spite of the challenges and quirks of the others’ personality.  Parents must learn to support their children as they grow up and become independent and autonomous.  “Partners in virtually any endeavor must find common ground without squelching the individual talents and skills that each brings to the partnership.”[5]

The psalmist, in our reading for today, reminds us of the messy and miraculous work of bringing unity in the midst of discord and diversity.

How very good and pleasant it is when kindred [family, brothers and sisters, the children of God throughout the world] live together in unity![6]

We as Kingdom people—those who seek to be reconciled with and grow in the love of God and neighbor—must seek to model to a broken world that is becoming more and more polarized that unity is a goal, a vision worth living into no matter how messy or miraculous it might be to achieve.  Unity among God’s people isn’t an option, it’s a holy calling.

So let’s strive for the things that bring peace and the things that build each other up.[7]

…that unity might come in community.

˚˜˚˜˚˜˚˜˚˜˚˜˚

Over the next two weeks we are going to look at what it might look like to live in unity in this community.  We’re going to be looking at Paul’s call to unity in Romans chapter twelve and how he sees it being achieved.  Next week, we’re going to look explore what it means to find and respect our place in community.  And, in the last half of chapter 12, which we’ll look at in two weeks, we’ll look at the attitudes we need to have if we’re going to live in peace.  To be in community suggests that we have more than an hour per week relationship.  So, in order to help us get to know one another better, starting next week, there will be coffee and light refreshments in the entryway before worship (so come 15-30 minutes early and enjoy a cup of coffee and get caught up with each other.  During worship, we’ll undergo the messy and miraculous work of living in unity as a community.  Our order of worship will be intentionally altered that we might gather, hear the Word and then become the community God is calling us to be as we seek reconciliation with God and each other, pray for one another and the world in our need, and give of ourselves—our time, talent, and resources—that God’s work of reconciliation might continue through us.

These next few weeks we will begin the messy and miraculous work of finding unity in the midst of our diversity that we might receive a foretaste of the “life evermore” promised in the last words of today’s Psalm:

Look at how good and pleasing it is
when families [brothers and sisters, kindred, communities great and small] live together as one!

…it is there that the Lord has commanded the blessing:
everlasting life.[8]

˚˜˚˜˚˜˚˜˚˜˚˜˚

Let’s pray.

God, join us together once more that unity might come to this community.  Give us a common vision.  Help us find our place that we might find value in the work you set before us.  And, with you at the center of our lives, may we live in peace.  It’s in Christ’s name, the Prince of Peace, we pray.  Amen.

 

 

[1] Psalm 133:1, New Revised Standard Version.
[2] Psalm 133, The Message.
[3] “Pastoral Perspective on Psalm 133” by Michael D. Kirby, Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary: Feasting on the Word, Year B, Vol. 2 (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2008), 390.
[4] Ibid.
[5] Ibid.
[6] Psalm 133:1, New Revised Standard Version.
[7] Romans 14:9, Common English Bible.
[8] Psalm 133:1, 3d, Common English Bible.


Filed under: Sermons Tagged: community, psalm 133, unity

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Aug 12 2014

Methodist in-Formation: More than Words

Original post at http://jacobjuncker.wordpress.com/2014/08/12/more-than-words/


This message was offered at Lee Memorial United Methodist Church on Sunday, August 10, 2014.

Reading: Romans 10:8-13

Let’s pray.

Gracious God, in the moments to come, give me the words to speak and they the ears to hear that together, we might be inspired to not only speak but to live your Word in the world starting today.  It’s in that most holy Word’s name—Jesus the Christ—we pray.  Amen.

˚˜˚˜˚˜˚˜˚˜˚˜˚

In order to keep some routine in our house, Stella typically goes upstairs to bed between 6:20 and 6:45.  The bedtime routine commenced something like this: Chandra or I go upstairs to put Stella in her pajamas, the other one goes to make a warm milk “baba” and we all reconvene for books “in the big bed” (which as of late has been a lot of Giggle, Giggle, Quack by Doreen Cronin and One, Two, Three by Sandra Boynton).  After books we head to for our last restroom break of the day, then go to the rocker in Stella’s room where Stella snuggles chicken and dada snuggles Stella.  We then sing “You Are My Sunshine.”  And, let me tell you the cutest thing ever is when she sings it with me, she sings off beat like Willie Nelson and alters the lyrics: “you are my sunshine, my only sunshine, I make you happy when skies are grey…”  Ah, makes my heart melt each time she sings along.  At any rate, we sing together and then walk over to the crib.  As I lay her down, she gets three kisses as I say: “Dada loves Stella.  Momma loves Stella.  Everybody loves Stella.  Everybody loves Stella.”  This has been the routine since she was a couple of months old.

This past week, we were going through the routine as normal: jammies, baba, books, potty, “Sunshine,” kisses.  But this particular night, as I was laying her down—“Dada loves Stella.  Momma loves Stella.  Everybody loves Stella.  Everybody loves Stella”—she said, “Jesus loves Stella too.”  “Yes, baby,” I responded, “Jesus loves Stella too.”

Now to be completely honest, we have been singing, pretty regularly, “Jesus Loves Me”—it is her favorite “dada song” that she often sings with mamma—nevertheless, it was a moment that made me smile.  My heart was strangely warmed.  Stella is beginning to learn about faith.  She’s gaining a vocabulary that will, I pray, enable her to one day confess faith for herself.

Our lesson for today gives us a good understanding of what it means to confess our faith.  It also gives us a clue on how we might lead others to confess faith for themselves.  Why is all this confession important?

Because if you confess with your mouth “Jesus is Lord” and in your heart you have faith that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 Trusting with the heart leads to righteousness, and confessing with the mouth leads to salvation. 11 The scripture says,All who have faith in him won’t be put to shame12 There is no distinction between Jew and Greek, because the same Lord is Lord of all, who gives richly to all who call on him. 13 All who call on the Lord’s name will be saved.

Romans 10:9-13, Common English Bible

Confess.

The dictionary defines it as an act of acknowledgement, “to own or admit as true.”[1]  When we confess something, we live as if it is indubitably true.  To confess something means to claim it has fact.

When we confess faith in Jesus Christ, we acknowledge that God loved us so much that at the right time, God came to live among us.  We had forgotten what it meant to live at peace with God and neighbor; so, God—in the person of Jesus Christ—came to show us “the way” that leads to life.  God came, showed us the path to peace and love, but we wanted nothing to do with it.  We tried to push God, Jesus, so far away that we tortured him and sentenced him to a cruel death, and when we were sure he was good and dead we placed him in a borrowed tomb and sealed it with the biggest rock we could find.  But not a rock, not our ignorance, and even death could separate us from God’s love for us and God’s desire for us to be wholly happy and at peace.  Three days later after his death, three days after we thought he had breathed his last, Jesus rose from the dead and appeared over the course of 40 days to those (friends, disciples and otherwise) whose hearts were open to the unlikely possibility of God’s never-failing love.  After forty days, Christ “ascended” into heaven, promising to be with us—active in the world through the power of the Holy Spirit—through the end of time.

Or, in the words of Paul, who was actually quoting Deuteronomy (30:14): “The word is near you, in your mouth, and in your heart” (Romans 10:8b, Common English Bible).  That is, God is so close you can taste and feel in the deepest parts of your soul his presence.  God is with us and all the world!

Friends, this is the gospel—the good news, the truth of God’s loves.

But how can people acknowledge a truth they’ve not known or experienced?  “How are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him” (Romans 10:14, New Revised Standard Version)?  People can’t confess something they have no concept of.

˚˜˚˜˚˜˚˜˚˜˚˜˚

On the night of my “take-in” (which is United Methodist speak for the first time I came to Norwich to see the facilities and meet with representatives of Lee Memorial Church) the Staff Parish Relations Committee had a series of questions that they asked me.  They were trying to feel out—discern—if my ministry style and leadership would be a good match for the church.  In all honesty, I can’t remember all the questions that were asked, but I do remember one.  I believe it was Chris Glenney who asked (I’m paraphrasing best I can recall): “Mainline denominations, including the United Methodist Church, are in decline in the United States.  Why?  And what can we do about it?”

My response: The decline of the church is no longer just a “mainline” (i.e. Methodist, Presbyterian, Episcopal, Lutheran, UCC) issue.  The church is declining across most (if not all) large denominations across the United States.  The church in the United States is in decline—not because the 10 Commandments are being taken out of the public square, not because “prayer has been taken out of our schools—the church is in decline because followers of Jesus have not given people a convincing reason to believe.  I don’t think we’ve done a good job of demonstrating that God’s abiding presence in Jesus Christ makes a lick of difference in our lives.  Let’s face it, Christians can be some of the meanest, most judgmental, and inhospitable people we know.  And people who don’t yet know of God’s love in Jesus Christ are looking at us—“Christians—saying, I don’t need anything that’s going to make my life more difficult and broken.

Put another way, we’ve not given people the language necessary to proclaim faith for themselves.  We’ve done a lousy job of confessing our faith—acknowledging, claiming for ourselves, and sharing our experiences of God presence in our lives.

It’s somewhat ironic to me that many a street preacher would look to our lesson for today (Romans 10:8b-13) as justification for what I consider fear based evangelism: that is evangelism where we literally try to scare the hell out of people so that they’ll say a prayer and “accept Jesus into their life.”  The irony is that we don’t have to force the Gospel down people’s throats, God’s already there.  In Paul’s words, “The word [of God] is near you, on your lips and in your heart” (Romans 10:8b, New Revised Standard Version).

So what is Paul getting at?

It’s here that we could learn something from the “hair band” Extreme.  In 1991 they released a song entitled “More than Words.”  Admittedly, this song played endlessly on the adult contemporary station that my parents forced me to listen to as a child.  It’s one of those sappy songs I absolutely despise, but just can’t get out of my head.

Saying I love you
Is not the words I want to hear from you
It’s not that I want you
Not to say, but if you only knew
How easy it would be to show me how you feel
More than words is all you have to do to make it real
Then you wouldn’t have to say that you love me
Cos I’d already know[2]

That is, words alone are insufficient in declaring one’s love.  There are many of us who are much better at saying we God and others than we are at actually living it out.  Paul, and the 80’s hair band Extreme, remind us that confessing our love may begin with words, but it ends in actions.

Therefore, live as if God’s presence makes a difference in your life and the world!  What you’ll find is that as you begin to confess—acknowledge, claim for ourselves—the presence of God in your life trusting that God’s steadfast love will endure…  When you truly believe that

nothing can separate us from God’s love in Christ Jesus our Lord: not death or life, not angels or rulers, not present things or future things, not powers 39 or height or depth, or any other thing that is created.[3]

When you confess with your lives that God is near others will begin to do the same.

 

 

[1] “confess.” Dictionary.com Unabridged (Random House, Inc.) <http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/confess> Accessed August 8, 2014.

[2] “More than Words” by Extreme as quoted at AZLyrics.com <http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/extreme/morethanwords.html> Accessed August 8, 2014.

[3] Romans 8:38-39, Common English Bible).


Filed under: Sermons Tagged: Christ Jesus, confess, evangelism, Jesus Christ, romans 10:9-13

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