Jacobjuncker

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

Latest posts

  1. Methodist in-Formation: Be one, too: Don’t give up! — October 13, 2014
  2. Methodist in-Formation: “And, I Mean to Be One, Too” — October 13, 2014
  3. Methodist in-Formation: The Rules: Grow in Love with God — September 28, 2014
  4. Methodist in-Formation: The Rules: Do Good — September 23, 2014
  5. Methodist in-Formation: The Rules: Do No Harm — September 15, 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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Oct 13 2014

Methodist in-Formation: Be one, too: Don’t give up!

Original post at http://jacobjuncker.wordpress.com/2014/10/13/be-one-too-dont-give-up/


This message was offered at Lee Memorial United Methodist Church on Sunday, October 12, 2014.  This message is meant to freely flow from a moment with children to a conversation with adults.  It’s a new style of preaching for me in a new experimental worship experience we’re trying for the next few weeks at Lee Memorial.

 

Invite kids to the table:

Have you ever felt like not doing what you’re told?  Have you ever felt that doing the right thing was just too difficult?  Have you ever felt like giving up?

In the story I’m about to read, the people of God are frustrated.  They’re leader, Moses, and God have been on a mountain having a private conversation for 40 days.  The people have grown impatient.  They don’t like being left alone.  They get angry.  They forget about Moses and God.  They give up: they stop believing in God and they turn their backs on Moses.  They give up.

Sometimes it’s easy to give up.  Sometimes being faithful to God and those we love is really hard; and, it can be tempting to give up.  We need each other to help us be our best.  We need people around us who will remind us to do what we’re told, what’s important and right: people who will encourage us when we feel like giving up.

Sometimes it’s tempting to give up; but it’s through persevering (not giving up) that we experience true joy.

Let me show you what I mean.  I have three small marshmallows here.  You can eat them now; but, if you wait, I’ll give everyone a large marshmallow (if your moms and dads approve).  It’s going to be tempting to eat it before I say it’s OK, but if you can help each other persevere—not give up—I’ll give everyone a large marshmallow.

Got it?  Ok.  Help each other out.  Don’t give up.

[Read Exodus 32:1-14]

Sometimes it’s easy to give up.  Don’t.  Because the reward is always in doing what we’re told (especially if God’s the one speaking): the reward is in doing what’s best for everybody.

The people, Aaron, even God—they all give up in this story.  Thank heavens, Moses was around to help everybody do the right thing.  He is surely a saint (and he didn’t even get a marshmallow): and “I mean to be one, too.”

As soon as you get the head nod from the adult that brought you here, you can now have a marshmallow.

˚˜˚˜˚˜˚˜˚˜˚˜˚

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. 

˚˜˚˜˚˜˚˜˚˜˚˜

There are only a handful of television shows that I will do my best to watch each week, especially this time of year: in late summer, it’s America’s Got Talent; in fall, it’s The Voice and Biggest Loser; in the spring and throughout most of the summer, I hope to be spending so much time outside in the garden that I don’t make plans to watch anything regularly, except for reruns when I’ve got the time on Amazon Prime.

Right now, we’re a few weeks into Biggest Loser: The Glory Days.  The show is featuring athletes—former high school athletes to retired professional athletes and Olympians—who have, for lack of a better description, given up.  The reasons each has reached the point they are—a point of extreme un-health—is varied: for some, it was an emotional trauma, for others an injury, and for others still simply a lack of focus.

Regardless of what got them to the point they are now, the truth (that is so often painful to face) is that they lack the drive to be what they used to be.  They’ve given up; and, it is, quite literally, killing them.

There is, I think, an eternal truth there: when we give up, we become less than we were, less than we could or should be.  In the words of Jay Sheets (the guy in the cowboy hat), one of the contestants from last season (season 15), “It doesn’t matter how old you are, how young you are.  If you believe in something or there’s something you want to do you have got to put forth 100 percent to do it.”[1]

Don’t give up!

In our reading for today there are many Biggest-Loser-esque characters who have given up.

God’s people gave up.  It’s amazing really to think about.  Here is a group of people who were delivered out of slavery in Egypt by a series of miracles; a group of people who walked through the sea on dry land; a people who, when they were thirsty, received water from a rock; and, when they were starving, received manna and quail from the dew.  Here is a people who have just received the 10 commandments (Exodus 20:1-21), renewed their commitment to be God’s children and God to be their God, and they’re about to receive instructions (a bunch of them, see chapters 21-31).  Moses has been gone for forty days and nights (see Exodus 25:18) and the people are growing impatient.  They give up on Moses; and make Aaron their leader.  They give up on God and fashion an idol out of gold.  They violate the first two commandments (see Exodus 20:3-4) God has just given them.

Aaron gave up.  He has witnessed even more than the people.  He was recruited by Moses, his brother, to go on this incredible journey to free God’s people.  It was Aaron’s shepherd’s staff that was turned into a snake before Pharoah (see Exodus 7:8-13).  It was Aaron who slept next to the most holy place in the tabernacle near the Ark of the Covenant, God’s “throne” on earth.  Of all the people, aside from Moses, Aaron had the most direct contact with God; and even he gave up, eager to take power, leading and appeasing the people.

All of this angered God.  And, it seems to me, even God gave up.  “Your people,” God screams to Moses, people “whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, are ruining everything! […] I’ve been watching these people, and I’ve seen how stubborn they are.  Now leave me alone!  Let my fury burn and devour them” (Exodus 32:7, 9-10b, Common English Bible, emphasis added).

God’s people, Aaron, and, I think, God all gave up.  And, like those who aspire to be the next biggest loser, they’re snapped out of their defeatist attitude by a trainer, Moses, a man who hadn’t give up on God or on God’s people, a person who intercedes and encourages everyone to not give up.

˚˜˚˜˚˜˚˜˚˜˚˜

I’m not here this morning to vilify or damn anyone who has ever given up.  We’ve all been there—you, me, the people of Israel, Aaron, even God (and even Moses, but not in this passage!).  We all struggle to live into and be the best we can be for God and one another.  But, praise be to God that there are trainers, practitioners of the faith who refuse to give up: people of tremendous faith (who aren’t afraid to standup and change even the mind of God?) who refuse to lose hope; people who encourage and inspire us when we feel like giving up.  These people are saints; and, I hope and pray that you mean to be one, too.

Don’t give up.

In the words of the Apostle Paul, don’t get tired of doing good (see Galatians 6:9), don’t get discouraged in doing what is right (see 2 Thessalonians 3:13); but as for you, people of God, don’t give up, “instead, pursue righteousness, holy living, faithfulness, love, endurance, and gentleness” (1 Timothy 6:11b-12, Common English Bible).  Don’t give up.  “By holding fast,” says Jesus, “you will gain your lives” (Luke 21:19, Common English Bible).  Don’t give up.

Let’s pray:
Gracious God, help us to not give up.  We thank you for those who have inspired us to live our faith.  We thank you for the saints—those who are still with us and those for whom we’ll be reunited in eternity.  We thank you for the saints, O God, and we want to be one, too.  Help us to be faithful in our living that all we do might be an offering to you.  In Jesus’ name we pray.  Amen.

[1] “Jay Sheets: ‘I Tell My Kids Don’t Ever Give up’” by Andrea Billups, People.com, January 17, 2014  < http://www.people.com/people/article/0,,20777222,00.html> Accessed October 10, 2014.


Filed under: Sermons Tagged: Biggest Loser, exodus 32:1-14, Moses, saints, Season of the Saints

Permanent link to this article: http://methoblog.com/3_0/2014/10/be-one-too-dont-give-up/

Oct 13 2014

Methodist in-Formation: “And, I Mean to Be One, Too”

Original post at http://jacobjuncker.wordpress.com/2014/10/13/and-i-mean-to-be-one-too/


This message was offered at Lee Memorial United Methodist Church on Sunday, October 5, 2014.

Reading: Philippians 3:4b-14

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.

˚˜˚˜˚˜˚˜˚˜˚˜

Today begins a month long celebration and season of the saints.  In the Methodist tradition we recognize people whose faithfulness and devotion inspire others to grow in their love of God and neighbor.  We do not pray to saints.  We do not believe that saints have a special audience with God where they can intercede on our behalf (see 1 Timothy 2:5-6a).  They are not to be worshiped.

Saints are those people who exemplify the Christian faith: those who “have the mind of Christ” and bear the fruit of the Spirit—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (see Galatians 5:22).  Saints—far from being prudish, holier-than-thou sticks in the mud—are real people like you and me who devote themselves, the best they can, to following Christ with all their heart, soul, mind and strength; people who seek to constantly grow in love with God and neighbor.  Saints are people—living now and into eternity—who seek to know and grow in love.

We are, all too often, mistaken when we think of saints as being people of purity, in white flowing robes.  Saints are just ordinary people who have allowed God’s grace to pick up the pieces of their lives and turn them into something extraordinary.  They are regular people who carry baggage—the burden of the past: people who make mistakes and are broken by the effects of sin.

Saints are people who are defined not by their past—no matter how good or bad it might be.  They’re not pure or perfect in a worldly sense.  They are fallible.  They make mistakes; but, those things do not define their lives.  They are defined by living the possibility of God’s future.  They seek to give themselves fully in love to God and neighbor.

Saints, in the words of Paul to the Philippians, “forget about the things behind [them] and reach out for the things ahead of [them].  The goal [they] pursue is the prize of God’s upward call in Christ Jesus’ (Philippians 13b-14, Common English Bible).

John Wesley was fascinated by examples of living saints. As a missionary pastor in Georgia, he met one such saint and later wrote about him in his Journal. When Wesley met Henry Lascelles in 1736, he was dying. Wesley was astounded to note Mr. Lascelles’ complete serenity and peace.

Wesley writes, “After praying with him I was surprised to find one of the most controverted questions in divinity, disinterested love, decided at once by a poor, old man without education or learning, or any instructor but the Spirit of God. I asked him what he thought of paradise — to which he had said he was going. He said, ‘To be sure, it is a fine place. But I don’t mind that. I don’t care what place I am in. Let God put me where he will, or do with me what he will, so I may but set forth his honour and glory.'”

Wesley later found that pointing to examples of saints could be a useful way to help spur the Methodists on to receive God’s grace for themselves. In his famous book, A Plain Account of Christian Perfection, Wesley tells the story of a Methodist woman named Jane Cooper. In telling the story of her death, Wesley calls her “a living and a dying witness of Christian perfection.” He describes the way in which Ms. Cooper was buffeted by the full assurance of her salvation, even as she lay painfully dying of smallpox. Regardless of her situation, she knew Jesus’ love for her and gave her full trust to God. Wesley presents her as an example for other Christians.

People like Henry Lascelles and Jane Cooper are all around us today. While it is true that the full extent of their faith is most noticeable around the time of death, such faith is also present in life — usually in the quiet, unassuming way that living saints go about their daily discipleship.

Watching for the living saints among us can help us in our own faith journeys. They know something in their souls that we are all trying to learn. Their gift to us is that, in reflecting the light of Jesus so clearly to others, they give us a chance to receive it for ourselves.[1]

Over the course of the last month and a half, the youth of Lee Church have been thinking about and naming living saints who have impacted their faith journeys.  And over the course of the next month we will honor the living saints among us.  They’re all around: people who are doing their best to be faithful; people who are inspiring others to grow in faith and love toward God and neighbor.  There are saints all around us; and, I mean to be one, too.  And, I pray you do too.

 

[1] “The Saints Among Us” by Andrew Thompson, GBOD.org <http://www.gbod.org/resources/the-saints-among-us> Accessed October 3, 2014.


Filed under: Sermons Tagged: christian perfection, Jesus the Christ, john wesley, saints, Season of the Saints

Permanent link to this article: http://methoblog.com/3_0/2014/10/and-i-mean-to-be-one-too/

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

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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.

˚˜˚˜˚˜˚˜˚˜˚˜˚

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

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