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: Grow in Love with God — September 28, 2014
  2. Methodist in-Formation: The Rules: Do Good — September 23, 2014
  3. Methodist in-Formation: The Rules: Do No Harm — September 15, 2014
  4. Methodist in-Formation: Follow the Rules. — September 13, 2014
  5. Methodist in-Formation: Come-unity: Don’t fake it! — September 12, 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 28 2014

Methodist in-Formation: The Rules: Grow in Love with God

Original post at http://jacobjuncker.wordpress.com/2014/09/28/the-rules-grow-in-love-with-god/


This message was offered at Lee Memorial United Methodist Church on Sunday, September 28, 2014.

Reading: Psalm 105:1-6

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 beautiful creation of God, but the reality is that the world is far from what God intended it to be: the world in which we live is broken.  But don’t worry.  Stay calm.  Follow the rules.

Conceived by John Wesley some 275 years ago, these rules were meant to provide people a Christian model for living (click here to see a facsimile copy of the rules as originally printed in 1743).  It’s important to note that faith was not a prerequisite for following the rules; rather, the only requirement necessary was a desire to (and I’m modernizing the language significantly) find peace in this life and the next.  The rules were meant to cultivate the Christian life within all people no matter where they might be on their faith journey.

The rules are really quite simple: do no harm, do good, and stay in love with God.  But don’t be fooled by the simplistic elegance of these rules.  Taking the rules seriously is not for the faint of heart—they will demand self-sacrifice and restraint, initiative and creativity.  It is not easy to follow these simple rules, but doing so will—without a doubt—transform your life and the world around you.

Over the last two weeks, we’ve discussed the first two rules—do no harm and do good.  It’s easy to hurt.  Don’t.  But don’t let what you don’t do define you (or your faith).  Do good.

This week we move to the third and final rule.

It is expected of all who desire to continue in these societies [the rules declare] that they should continue to evidence their desire of salvation,

Thirdly: By attending upon all the ordinances of God; such are:

The public worship of God.
The ministry of the Word, either read or expounded.
The Supper of the Lord.
Family and private prayer.
Searching the Scriptures.
Fasting or abstinence.[1]

These ordinances, as Wesley describes them in the third rule are those things which Jesus instructed his disciples to do: attend, regularly, corporate worship, listen to the reading of Scripture, have Scripture explained to you and join in the discussion, participate in Holy Communion, pray in private and with your family, read and search the Scriptures on your own, and make a regular practice of abstaining from things you rely upon so that you might draw nearer to God.

It’s here that I would alter the wording used by Bishop Job.  While it is surely true that following this third rule will help us stay in love with God; it is better stated that following this third rule helps us grow in God’s love.  It doesn’t matter if we’ve discovered God’s love or not, it doesn’t matter if we’re new to faith, old to faith, or questioning faith, following this third rule is meant to be a means through which we can experience God’s love and grace.  It’s in following this third rule that we come to know, experience, and are inspired to share the great love of God found in Jesus Christ.  It’s in following this third rule that we grow in God’s love for the first time, through a lifetime and into eternity.

It’s in following this third rule that we’re given the wisdom, courage and strength to follow the first two.  If we really want to do no harm, if we really want to do good, then we have to better understand what love truly is.  Friends…

God is love. This is how the love of God is revealed to us: God has sent his only Son into the world so that we can live through him. 10 This is love: it is not that we loved God but that [God] loved us and sent his Son as the sacrifice that deals with our sins[the salve that heals our brokenness].

19 We love because God first loved us. 20 If anyone says, I love God, and hates a brother or sister, he is a liar, because the person who doesn’t love a brother or sister who can be seen can’t love God, who can’t be seen. 21 This commandment we have from him: Those who claim to love God ought to love their brother and sister also.[2]

Those who seek to grow in their love of God will seek to grow in their love for neighbor and that begins by doing no harm and doing good.

Therefore, using the words of the Psalmist:

Pursue the Lord and his strength;
seek his face always!
Remember the wondrous works he has done,
all his marvelous works, and the justice he declared…[3]

And follow the example of Christ: Do no harm, do good, grow in love with God—these are the three simple rules—“all of which we are taught of God to observe, even in [God’s] written Word, which is the only rule, and the sufficient rule, both of our faith and practice”[4]—that will lead to wholeness and healing.  Follow these rules and together, through the power of the Holy Spirit working within us, we’ll surely transform the world into the kingdom Christ proclaimed.

Do no harm.  Do good.  Stay in love with God; or perhaps better stated, grow in God’s love.  These three simple rules will transform our lives and the world.  These three simple rules will save surely heal—bring salvation—to the world God so loves and came to save.

Let’s pray.

Gracious God,
The rules seem so simple.  They’re easy to say; but, they require all we are to apply.  Help us to do no harm, do good, and grow in your love that we might find peace and be agents of it in the world you so love and came to save.  Draw us closer to Christ that we might walk and talk with him and know what it truly means to do no harm and to do God.  Through the power of the Holy Spirit we pray.  Amen.

 

Some helpful additional articles:

“The General Rules of the Methodist Church” UMC.org <http://www.umc.org/what-we-believe/general-rules-of-the-methodist-church> Accessed September 26, 2014.

“What does it mean to stay in love with God?” by Rev. Dr. Andrew Thompson (February 20, 2014) <http://www.andrewthompson.com/2014/02/20/what-does-it-mean-to-stay-in-love-with-god/> Accessed September 26, 2014.

“The Practical Theology of the General Rules” by Rev. Dr. Andrew Thompson (November 18, 2013) <http://www.andrewthompson.com/2013/11/18/the-practical-theology-of-the-general-rules/&gt; Accessed September 26, 2014.

 

[1] “The General Rules of the Methodist Church,” UMC.org <http://www.umc.org/what-we-believe/general-rules-of-the-methodist-church> Accessed September 27, 2014.

[2] 1 John 4:8d-10, 19-21, Common English Bible.

[3] Psalm 105:4-5, Common English Bible

[4] “The General Rules of the Methodist Church” UMC.org.


Filed under: Sermons Tagged: 3 Simple Rules, grace, Jesus, love God, transformation

Permanent link to this article: http://methoblog.com/3_0/2014/09/the-rules-grow-in-love-with-god/

Sep 23 2014

Methodist in-Formation: The Rules: Do Good

Original post at http://jacobjuncker.wordpress.com/2014/09/23/the-rules-do-good/


This message was offered at Lee Memorial United Methodist Church on Sunday, September 21, 2014.

Reading: 1 Peter 3:8-17

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 that leaves one wanting and alone; but, stay calm.  There’s hope.  Just follow the rules!

The rules are really quite simple: do no harm, do good, and stay in love with God.  They were written some 275 years ago by a middle-aged Anglican priest by the name of John Wesley.  These rules—the distilled principles of the Christian faith—became a cornerstone of the Methodist movement; and, although most Methodists today don’t realize it, these rules continue to be a binding set of practices that every Methodist is called to follow.

Therefore, “It is expected of all who continue in these societies 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..”[1] We discussed this first rule last week.  It’s easy to hurt.  Don’t!

This week, we move on to the second rule:

It is expected of all who continue in these societies that they should continue to evidence their desire of salvation,

Secondly: By doing good; by being in every kind merciful after their power; as they have opportunity, doing good of every possible sort, and, as far as possible, to all [persons]:

To their bodies, of the ability which God giveth, by giving food to the hungry, by clothing the naked, by visiting or helping them that are sick or in prison.

To their souls, by instructing, reproving, or exhorting all we have any intercourse with; trampling under foot that enthusiastic doctrine that “we are not to do good unless our hearts be free to it.”

By doing good, especially to them that are of the household of faith or groaning so to be; employing them preferably to others; buying one of another, helping each other in business, and so much the more because the world will love its own and them only.

By all possible diligence and frugality, that the gospel be not blamed.

By running with patience the race which is set before them, denying themselves, and taking up their cross daily; submitting to bear the reproach of Christ, to be as the filth and offscouring of the world; and looking that men should say all manner of evil of them falsely, for the Lord’s sake.[2]

While the first rule calls for restraint, the second demands action.  The first calls for passivity, while the second insists upon activity.  It’s not good enough to just do nothing.  We must commit ourselves to doing good.

Don’t do nothing.

Given the first rule, it’s pretty easy for us to feel good about ourselves.  We turn on the news and see reports of Ray Rice, the Baltimore Raven’s star running back, punching his then fiance—knocking her out in a hotel elevator—and we sit back and say, I don’t do that.  We see reports of violence perpetuated by hate and say, that’s aweful, I’ll stay clear of that country, town or neighborhood.  We see reports of parents who abuse their children and say, Lord have mercy.

It is pretty easy for us to look at the brokenness of the world—the inequality, the hate, the violence, the fear, the disappointment and discouragement—and disengage from it.  Many of us can sit back in relative comfort and thank God that we have nothing to do with “that”—the hatred, the violence, the misunderstanding, the violence, the arrogance and pride (etc.).  We bear witness to the brokenness of the world and say, well, I don’t…

I don’t steal. I don’t kill.  I don’t commit adultery.  I don’t lie.  I don’t curse.  I don’t beat my wife or my children.  I don’t “return evil for evil.”  I don’t lie about the presence of spiders nor do I shout fire in a crowded room.   I don’t talk badly about people behind their back.  I don’t gossip.  I don’t strap bombs to my chest and blow people up.  I don’t always say what I’m thinking.  I don’t park in the fire lane.  I don’t, as an able bodied person, park in handicapped parking.  I don’t watch “R” rated movies.  I don’t listen to music with explicit lyrics.  I don’t drive above the speed limit.  I don’t have sex before marriage.  I don’t disrespect parents, teachers, and especially my pastors.  I don’t use or abuse drugs.  I don’t drink in excess.  I don’t stay up late: I gotta get up early and pray.  I don’t forget to say ‘please and thank you.’  I don’t waste my food: there’s starving kids in China.  I don’t judge people except for those I don’t know.  I don’t put my hand in the tip jar.  I don’t “bite the hand that feeds me.”  I don’t play video games until all my homework is done.  I do not take the last Oreo cookie without asking if someone else wants it first.  I don’t play with fire.  I don’t text and drive.  I don’t run in church.  I don’t come to church without being in my “Sunday best.”    I don’t miss church.  I don’t .  I don’t do this and I don’t do that, I just don’t.  We “don’t do” a lot.  And, the sad thing is we Christians are known more for what we don’t do than what we do do (the little kid in me chuckles: do do).

The Irish statesman, Edmund Burke, is often attributed with saying: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”[3]  Friends, we cannot be satisfied with what we do not do, that’s why the second rule is so important.  We cannot become comfortable with what we’re not doing when the world continues to crumble around us.  Don’t do nothing.

Do good.

As Christians we are, all too often, known by what we don’t do (or what we don’t want others to do) when, in fact, it’s what we do that’s most important.  We must be, writes the apostle James, “doers of the word and not only hearers who mislead themselves.”[4]  We must be known not for not doing and more for what we do.  And, what we’re called to do is good.  What that means will vary by context; but…

There is scarce any possible way of doing good, for which here [or wherever you might be] is not daily occasion…  Here are poor families to be relieved: Here are children to be educated: Here are workhouses, wherein both young and old gladly receive the word of exhortation: Here are the prisons, and therein a complication of all human wants.[5]

The world is a broken place.  There are endless opportunities to do good—to aid in the restoration, reconciliation and salvation of the world.  So don’t neglect to do good.  “Doing good’ is always God’s will, even if it results in suffering [on the part of the doer], as Christ himself demonstrates.  [Christ’s] obedient suffering offers us relationship with God, conquers sin and evil, and achieves ultimate victory that no threatening power, of this world or any other can withstand.” Therefore, don’t do nothing.  Do good in the name of and for the sake of Christ.

And may the world know we’re more than what we don’t do.  May the world come to know us and the Good News of Jesus Christ by the good we do.  In the falsely attributed words of Wesley may you

“Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.”[6]

Admittedly, this rule when coupled with the first will go a long way in making the world a better place; but, these two rules alone cannot finish the job.  The weight of the first two rules—do no harm and do good—can become a terrible burden—an impossible task—unless we adhere to the third rule: stay in love with God.  The third rule—stay in love with God—gives us the wisdom, courage and strength to enact the first two.  We’ll talk more about that in our final week, next week.

Let’s pray.

Gracious God,

We all too often are known by what we don’t do.  May we be more inclined to do than not that we might be known for that which we do: and may it all be good for Christ’s sake and the sake of the world you so love and came to save.  Amen.

[1] “The General Rules of the Methodist Church” UMC.org <http://www.umc.org/what-we-believe/general-rules-of-the-methodist-church> Accessed September 18, 2014.

[2] Ibid.

[3] “The only thing necessary…” BrainyQuote.com <http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/e/edmundburk377528.html> Accessed September 20, 2014.

[4] James 1:22, Common English Bible.

[5] “Journal from August 12, 1738, to November 1, 1739,” in The Works of John Wesley, vol. 1, p181.

[6] “Wesley Didn’t Say It: Do all the good you can, by all the means you can…” by Kevin Watson (April 29, 2013) at VitalPiety.com < http://vitalpiety.com/2013/04/29/wesley-didnt-say-it-do-all-the-good-you-can-by-all-the-means-you-can/> Accessed September 20, 2014.


Filed under: Sermons Tagged: 1 Peter 3:8-17, 3 Simple Rules, Christianity, Do Good, Jesus, john wesley

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

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.

˚˜˚˜˚˜˚˜˚˜˚˜˚

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.

˚˜˚˜˚˜˚˜˚˜˚˜˚

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).

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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.

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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

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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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