Jacobjuncker

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

Latest posts

  1. Methodist in-Formation: Meet Alice. — November 23, 2014
  2. Methodist in-Formation: Invest now! — November 22, 2014
  3. Methodist in-Formation: Be One, Too: Praise God into Glory! — November 2, 2014
  4. Methodist in-Formation: Be One, Too: Lead Others to the Promised Land! — October 30, 2014
  5. Methodist in-Formation: Be One Too: See(k) God’s Presence — October 26, 2014

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  1. Methodist in-Formation: We Need Each Other — 1 comment
  2. Methodist in-Formation: Approaching Life: Beyond Ourselves — 1 comment
  3. Methodist in-Formation: Be One, Too: Lead Others to the Promised Land! — 1 comment

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Nov 23 2014

Methodist in-Formation: Meet Alice.

Original post at http://jacobjuncker.wordpress.com/2014/11/23/meet-alice/


This message was offered at Lee Memorial United Methodist Church on Sunday, November 23, 2014.

ReadingMatthew 25:31-46

I was introduced to “Alice” in yesterday’s edition of the The Day (newspaper) and, given today’s reading, it sparked a massive reworking of this morning’s message.  Why?  Well, because you just need to meet ALICE.

˚˜˚˜˚˜˚˜˚˜˚˜˚

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.

˚˜˚˜˚˜˚˜˚˜˚˜˚

Meet Alice.[1]

She’s not an individual, per se, but she’s everywhere, including in Connecticut (one of the wealthiest states in the union).  In fact, ALICE is 35% of the households in Connecticut.  In Norwich, ALICE is 50% of the households.  In Sprague, she’s 36% of the households where there’s limited or no transportation options.  ALICE knows every age, race, and ethnicity.  And while you may not recognize ALICE’s face, you most likely know people who know her, if you don’t know her yourself.  We rely upon ALICE every day.  ALICE is our co-workers, friends, neighbors and families.  ALICE is the backbone that keeps small businesses, including nonprofits, standing tall; and, yet, ALICE is often overlooked.  The United Way in six states is working to give her an identity and a voice—because being overlooked without an identity, voiceless, and unheard is a special kind of hell that no one should have to live or endure.

ALICE is an acronym  for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed.  ALICE represents thousands of people who work hard every day yet still struggle to make ends meet.  ALICE households are households that cannot afford the basics of housing, food, healthcare, childcare, and transportation.  Just to be clear, “can’t afford” is not an arbitrary feeling.  ALICE really can’t afford even the basics.  It’s not that ALICE households are squandering money on things they don’t need, they’re literally not making enough money to meet a basic “household survival budget” (which in Connecticut, for a family of four—two adults, an infant, and a preschooler—is $64,689 per year) let alone a “household stability budget” (which for the same family of four is $111,632 per year!).

Meet Alice.[2]

A school bus driver, named Laura.  She has one child.  Her husband is unemployed; he’s struggling to find work.  They have bill stacking up, they have to choose which ones to pay this month.

Meet Alice.

A home health aide and waitress, named Rita.  Rita works two jobs while raising three granddaughters by herself.  She’s just barely scraping by: she can’t afford to save for retirement.

Meet Alice.

A mechanic, named Frank.  Frank has two daughters.  He is the primary earner in the household because his wife is the primary caregiver for their special needs daughter.  They’re struggling to pay credit card debt.

Meet Alice.

…perhaps you already have and didn’t even know it.

You need We need to get to know Alice because when meet her and her needs, we meet Jesus: the Human One, God in-the-flesh, the King of kings and Lord of lords.

Meet Alice.
Meet Jesus.

Our reading from Matthew’s Gospel reminds us that when we meet ALICE, those who struggle to make it—those who are hungry, thirsty, naked, sick, imprisoned, and a stranger…  When we meet Alice, we meet Jesus.

Our reading this morning depicts the final judgment.  “Here Matthew provides the  [New Testament’s] only detailed depiction of the great, final assize.”[3]  Just to be clear, this morning’s reading isn’t meant to be read as a parable—a fanciful story that teaches us something—it is, instead, meant to be a narrative depiction of things to come.

Jesus will come again in all his glory and be seated at the heavenly throne.  All the nations—the people of the world throughout time—will be brought before the throne and judged not based upon the content of their belief but upon the way they’ve put their beliefs into action.  They will be sorted like a shepherd who sorts through his flock.

It should come as no surprise that Jesus, whose earthly ministry was marked by compassion for others, compassion that led to action (see Matthew 14:14-21), would demand compassion of the nations, of us.  “It is no coincidence that Jesus—who declared that he ‘came not to be served but to serve’ (Matt. 20:28)—demands that service be rendered to those in need.”[4]

The sheep—those who have shown compassion in serving the needs of the hungry, thirsty, sick, naked, imprisoned and a stranger—those who took concern for the body and soul of those in need—will be called righteous for they, being right with neighbor will be “right with God.”  In serving those in need, they will have met the needs of the Savior.

These are the merciful who are blessed (Matt. 5:7), the people whose hunger and thirst for righteousness (Matt. 5:6) leads them to respond with compassion to the hunger and thirst of others.  Jesus teaches that God’s reign—the full revelation of which we await—is characterized in the present, not by powerful works and miracles, but by deeds of love, mercy and compassion, especially toward those in need.[5]

Have you met Alice?

You really should, for when we serve the needs of our neighbors, we meet the needs of Jesus.  When we reach out in love to those around us, especially those in need, we meet Jesus.  We meet the bodily and missional needs of Jesus when we serve those who are most vulnerable.  In so doing, we will be made righteous and God’s Kingdom will surely come.

The front page headline yesterday in The Day read, “Sate United Way chapters confront ALICE problem.”  Friends, ALICE isn’t a problem.  ALICE presents us with an opportunity to meet Jesus.  And, I pray you will take the opportunity to do so.

Let’s pray:

Jesus, King of kings and Lord of lords, help us not to look for your majesty in the well to-do places of our community.  You remind us that it’s in the lowly places—the gutters, under over-passes, in homeless shelters, hospitals, and prisons—that you are found.  It’s in the face of ALICE that we most clearly meet and serve you.  Give us the courage to see your majesty in the “least of these;” give us the fortitude to see our service to you not as a burden of our resources but as an opportunity to know you more.

We pray all this seeking the wisdom of the Father and the power of the Spirit who reign together with you, King Jesus, One God, forever and ever.  Amen.

[1] To learn more about ALICE in Connecticut go to http://alice.unitedway.org.  And download the report!  It’s long, but well worth the effort.  Read at least the Executive Summary!

[2] The examples that follow were taken from the video “United Way ALICE,” YouTube video 1:53, posted by UWC Community Results Center <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u7gPJGu2psw#t=73> Accessed November 22, 2014.

[3] “Exegetical Perspective: Matthew 25:31-46” by Thomas D. Stegman, SJ in Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary: Feasting on the Word, Year A, Vol. 4 (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2011), p333.

[4] Ibid, 337.

[5] Ibid.


Filed under: Sermons Tagged: ALICE, Love, love neighbor, Matthew 25:31-46, service, serving, United Way

Permanent link to this article: http://methoblog.com/3_0/2014/11/meet-alice/

Nov 22 2014

Methodist in-Formation: Invest now!

Original post at http://jacobjuncker.wordpress.com/2014/11/22/invest-now/


This message was offered at Lee Memorial United Methodist Church on Sunday, November 16, 2014.

ReadingMatthew 25:14-30

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.

˚˜˚˜˚˜˚˜˚˜˚˜˚

Most of Americans live paycheck to paycheck; or, worse, we live paycheck to paycheck and are racking up so much credit card debt that we can barely pay the minimums.  Some of us have learned financial basics such as budgeting, saving, and managing debt.  But, the reality is that most have not; so, when the idea of investing is thrown out—the idea of setting aside, locking away, limited resources to hopefully see a gain or profit—the idea seems absurd.

Many people think that investing their money involves taking a risk that they cannot afford. Investment is not gambling on an uncertain outcome. True investing oftentimes yields a profit rather than a loss. It all depends on the way the investor chooses and uses their types of investment options.[1]

Investing is essential for long-term financial stability.

˚˜˚˜˚˜˚˜˚˜˚˜˚

Today’s reading reminds us that investing leads to more than just financial stability, it leads to a life full of joy.

A wealthy man leaves for a long journey.  Before he goes he distributes his wealth to three of his slaves: to one he gives five talents, to another two talents, and to another one talent.  While the amounts don’t seem like a lot—5 talents, 2 talents, and 1 talent—the gifts were huge.

To be clear, a talent, here, is not referring to a skill.  In Jesus’ day, a talent was a monetary unit that equaled about 15 years’ worth of earnings by a day-laborer.  Think of it this way: the minimum wage in Connecticut is currently $8.70 an hour.  A single talent would be like giving a minimum wage worker in Connecticut $271,440 (8.70 /hr times 40 hrs/wk times 52 weeks times 15 years).  Five talents equates to $1,357,200.  Receiving one talent, two talents, and five talents was a lot of money—a huge, generous gift.

The man leaves his wealth in the hands of his servants—three people unaccustomed to handling so much abundance—offering no advice nor instruction except that he’d return one day to “settle his accounts.”  The man leaves.

The first servant, the one with over 1.3 million dollars, immediately invests it all in a high-risk venture.  The second does the same.  That approach was too risky and uncertain for the third servant who was much more cautious.  The third servant chose what seemed the safest; and, in the first century, this would have been common practice.  The third servant, a cautious investor, buried his master’s gift in the ground.  In an uncertain economy, the man did what seemed wise.  Let’s be clear, this third servant isn’t bad, he’s simply being careful.  We can all relate to that, right?

When the master returned, he called for his servants.  It was time to settle the accounts.  The first two servants saw a doubling of their investment.  The master smiled, “Well done.”  The third servant brought his gift back to the master.  He was proud that in such a slow economy he’d been cautious, keeping the gift completely intact.  He handed the gift back to the master just as he’d received it: “perhaps, a bit dirtier than before,” the third servant laughed, “but I assure you it’s all here, every penny of it, safe and sound.”  The master is furious; and, in one of the harshest rebukes of the entire New Testament, the master replies, “‘You wicked and lazy slave! (Matthew 25:26a, New Revised Standard Version).

That’s a terrible way to live! It’s criminal to live cautiously like that! If you knew I was after the best, why did you do less than the least? The least you could have done would have been to invest the sum with the bankers, where at least I would have gotten a little interest.

…get rid of this “play-it-safe” who won’t go out on a limb. Throw him out into utter darkness.’ (Matthew 25:26-30, The Message)

You have to wonder how the story might have been different if the first two slaves would have lost everything.  What if the risk they took didn’t pay off?  Would the master have been harsh on them too?  I don’t think so.  In fact, he

…might even have applauded their efforts.  The point here is not really about doubling your money and accumulating wealth.  It is about living.  It is about investing.  It is about taking risks.

The greatest risk of all, it turns out, is not to risk anything, not to care deeply and profoundly enough about anything to invest deeply, [not] to give your heart away and in the process risk everything.  The greatest risk of all, it turns out, is to play it safe, to live cautiously and prudently.[2]

Our reading for this morning reminds us that the safest thing a follower of Christ can do is risk it all in service to his or her Lord.  The most dangerous, risky thing we can do is play it safe.

So, I’ve just got to ask: how safe is your faith?  When was the last time you risked everything in service to God and neighbor?

When was the last time you risked sharing your experience of God with a family member, a friend, a stranger?  When was the last time you dared to give of your time, in a regular and meaningful way, to serve the needs of others? perhaps at our Community Meal, Sprague Community Center, St. Vincent DePaul, or another ministry that serves the needs of the community?  When was the last time you made a conscientious decision to sacrificially give of your resources instead of indulging your own needs and wants?  When was the last time you took a chance in sharing your skills, vocation, and career in service to God?

In our reading for today:

Jesus invites us to be his disciples, to live our lives as fully as possible by investing them, by risking, by expanding the horizons of our responsibilities.  To be his man or woman, he says, is not so much believing ideas about him as it is following him.  It is to experience renewed responsibility for the use and investment of these precious lives of ours.  It is to be bold and brave, to reach high and care deeply.[3]

It’s an invitation for us to be disciples of Jesus: to invest our lives that God’s Kingdom might be made as real on earth as it is in heaven.

Dear friends, invest now that the love of God you know in Christ Jesus our Lord might be multiplied and made real in the lives of others throughout the whole world.  Risk it all.  Invest now.

Amen.

 

[1] “The Beginner’s Guide to Investing,” by Kelly Anderson, Mint.com <https://www.mint.com/the-beginners-guide-to-investing/> Accessed November 15, 2014.

[2] [2] “Matthew 25:14-30: Pastoral Perspective” by John M. Buchanan in Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary: Feasting on the Word, Year A, vol. 4 (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2011), p310. Emphasis added.

[3] “Matthew 25:14-30: Pastoral Perspective” by John M. Buchanan in Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary: Feasting on the Word, Year A, vol. 4 (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2011), p312.


Filed under: Sermons Tagged: Christ Jesus, giving, investment, Jesus, Jesus Christ, Jesus the Christ, Kingdom of God, matthew 25:14-30

Permanent link to this article: http://methoblog.com/3_0/2014/11/invest-now/

Nov 02 2014

Methodist in-Formation: Be One, Too: Praise God into Glory!

Original post at http://jacobjuncker.wordpress.com/2014/11/02/be-one-too-praise-god-into-glory/


This message was offered at Lee Memorial United Methodist Church on Sunday, November 2, 2014.

Reading: Revelation 7:9-17

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.

˚˜˚˜˚˜˚˜˚˜˚˜˚

Over the course of the last month, we’ve been reflecting on what it means to be a saint.  I will remind you that in the Methodist tradition, we don’t pray to saints.  We don’t believe that saints have a special audience with God.  And, we don’t have a specific system for determining who is a saint and who is not.

We do believe in saints,though.  We believe saints to be people of genuine faith.  People who live faithfully and share the love of God they’ve found in Jesus Christ with others.  They bear the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22).  They are exemplars of the faith whose ever-developing faith inspires others to grow in love with God and neighbor.  And, as Lesbia Scott write (No. 712, “I Sing a Song of the Saints of God,” The United Methodist Hymnal) in her famous hymn, we believe:

They lived not only in ages past;
there are hundreds of thousands still.
The world is bright with the joyous saints
who love to do Jesus’ will.
You can meet them in school, on the street, in the store,
in church, by the sea, in the house next door;
they are saints of God, whether rich or poor,
and I mean to be one too.

Over the course of the last month, we’ve honored the saints and talked about some ways in which we can strive to be one too.

This morning, in the last week of our series on the saints, we get another glimpse of what it means to be a saint.  Saints praise God (sing) into eternity.

˚˜˚˜˚˜˚˜˚˜˚˜˚

In our reading for this morning we’re given a glimpse of the saints in action.  It’s a fanciful image that engages all the senses.

“I looked,” writes John, “and there was a great crowd that no one could number.”  The light reflecting off their white robes was as blinding as the sun reflecting off the sea on a bright summer’s day.  They looked like the shimmering sea, they’re waving palm branches, shading the light just enough to see that these people were diverse and different, from every race, nation, and people of the earth; and yet, in their diversity, their voices were joined as one as they shouted:

Victory belongs to our God
who sits on the throne
and to the Lamb

The sound was deafening.  The multitude was shouting.  The angels and elders were singing.  It was an overwhelming scene even for those participating.

One of the twenty-four elders, who attend the divine throne (4:4) and seem to function as divine mouthpieces or criers (4:10-11; 5:5), asks John with the surprised air of one whose country-club party has just been crashed: “Who are these, robed in white, and where have they come from?” Taken aback, John reacts like Ezekiel in the valley of dry bones: “Sir, you are the one that knows.”[1]

Gaining some clarity in the midst of the chaos, the elder then told John that the multitude had come from a great “ordeal.”  They were battered and beaten; clothes tattered from living in a world hostile to the people of God.  They’ve come through a great hardship, washed their robes white in the blood of the Lamb and were worshiping God.  The putrid smell of blood—metallic, salty, musty—was now undeniable; so pungent that John could taste it.

The scene is overwhelming.  Yet, this one fundamental truth is undeniable even amidst this astonishing vision: saints praise God.  They shout praises to God.  They sing!

In the midst of whatever is going on around them, believers always sing.  Day or night, in desert or oasis, whether in prison or free, during calm or storm, they sing: “Salvation belongs to our God and to the Lamb.” […]

Sometimes the world tricks them into refusing to sing. “My second-grade music teacher told me I couldn’t sing.” “I don’t know the words and tunes to these new hymns.  How can I sing them?” “My voice left me years ago; I can’t sing anymore.”  Revelation overcomes such trickery with the music of the heavenly choir reminding the saints—living and dead—that the good news is heard, even over heard.  The saints’ cry may not always come in four-part harmony, but it’s always a joyful noise.[2]

Saints are never shy about singing God’s praise.  I am reminded of one of my college professors, William Placher, who had a great mind for theology, but a horrible voice.  At every chapel, his voice could be heard above all the rest out of key, off by a beat.  It didn’t matter.  He sang.  Saints are never shy about singing God’s praise even if it doesn’t sound all that great.

They find every reason, even through hardship, to give God the glory.  “Even in the midst of evil, war, social upheaval, famine, luxury, and greed saints cannot keep from singing!”[3]

The Westminster Shorter Catechism—a Q&A on and statement of faith written in 1647 and 1648—asks in its first question: “What is the chief end of man?”  What is the primary purpose of humanity?  Why are we here?  For what reason was humanity created?  The answer, it suggests: Humanity’s “chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.”  Saints understand and live this.  They find their purpose in living lives in praise to God.

Saints refuse to give up when life gets tough, when faith seems impossible, when it’s easier to follow the selfish ways of the world than to love God and neighbor.  Saints are those who see and seek God’s presence in all things.  They encourage others on their faith journeys.  And in the not giving up, in the seeing and the seeking, and in the encouraging they cannot help to give God all the glory.  They can’t help but shout their praise; because when you see and experience God you can’t help but sing!

One of the most familiar and ancient hymns of the church is known as the “Doxology.”  The word literally means a word of glory.  It’s a song of praise that every saint learns to sing even if they never know the words…

Praise God from whom all blessings flow.
Praise God, all creatures here below.
Praise God above, you heavenly host.
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
Amen.

This song of praise (and others like it) will be sung now until forever by the saints of God.  Saints praise God now and into eternity.  That’s what saints do; I mean to be on and I pray you do too.

Let us pray.

O God, on this All Saints’ Sunday, as we celebrate the faithful who have gone before us, give us a reason to sing.  Help us not to become too overwhelmed by the world around us that we lose sight of you and forget to sing.  Give us a reason to sing that we might sing of your glory now and into eternity.  Amen.

 

[1] “Exegetical Perspective: Revelation 7:9-17” by Christopher B. Hays in Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary: Feasting on the Word, Year A, Volume 4 (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2011), p221.

[2] [2] “Pastoral Perspective: Revelation 7:9-17” by Tom Tate in Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary: Feasting on the Word, Year A, Volume 4 (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2011), p220.

[3] Ibid.


Filed under: Sermons Tagged: All Saints' Sunday, Praise God, Revelation, Revelation 7:9-17, saints, saints of God, Saints praise God, Season of the Saints

Permanent link to this article: http://methoblog.com/3_0/2014/11/be-one-too-praise-god-into-glory/

Oct 30 2014

Methodist in-Formation: Be One, Too: Lead Others to the Promised Land!

Original post at http://jacobjuncker.wordpress.com/2014/10/30/be-one-too-lead-others-to-the-promised-land/


This message was offered at Lee Memorial United Methodist Church on Sunday, October 26, 2014.  This message is meant to freely flow from a moment with children to a conversation with adults who are all seated in the round at tables.  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.

 

I need all the kids to join me over here.  I need your help this morning.  I’m blindfolded.  I can’t see; and I need to get to the center table so that I can talk with all the big boys and girls.  Can you help me?

Where are we going?

We all need help from time to time getting where we’re going.  We need people to point us in the right direction when when we can’t see; when we’re lost and don’t know where to go.  We need people—in the church we call them saints—to help us on our journey so that we can be our best for God and neighbor.

Thank you for your help this morning.  I think I’m where I need to be.  You all are little saints.  And for the parents that have a hard time believing it, hang with me for the next few minutes…

˚˜˚˜˚˜˚˜˚˜˚˜˚

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.

˚˜˚˜˚˜˚˜˚˜˚˜˚

I can tell you from experience that it is hard to blindly follow someone (especially, if they have yet to be potty trained).  I can only imagine what it must have been like for God’s people.  You’ll remember that God’s people where in exile, enslaved to the Pharaoh of Egypt when God calls Moses to lead God’s people out of slavery to the Promised Land: a land which was promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; a land that the people had dreamed of but never knew how to get to.

With many miracles, God lead the people out of Egypt.  For 40 years, the people of Israel blindly followed God to a place that they’d only known in their dreams.

It was hard for the people to follow when they didn’t know where they were going.  They complained.  They had what we call in our house whiney butts.  They complained a lot: and, just like in the Juncker house, complaining didn’t get them very far.

It was hard for the people to blindly follow God through the rugged terrain of the desert to a place they’d never been.  God led them through the wilderness on a path that was anything but straight: a path that on several occasions doubled back on itself; a path that was many times longer than it needed to be (no offense God, but you could have taken the expressway instead of the scenic route that didn’t end up being all that scenic—no one likes looking at that many rocks!).

It was hard for the people to follow God when they didn’t know here they were going.  It was especially difficult when the days turned into week after week after week.  They felt like giving up.

But, when the journey got hard, Moses was there to encourage them to keep moving—to keep walking to the place God had promised.  Moses didn’t know where it was, but he had faith that God would keep God’s promises.  And that’s what saints do.  They encourage us when things get difficult.  They keep us moving toward the Promised Land

In our reading for this morning, the people of God are nearing the end of their journey.  It’s been hard, but Moses has diligently led and encouraged the people to finish the journey.  They’ve nearly reached the land God promised them and their forefathers—Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  It’s literally right in front of them.  God leads

[Read Deuteronomy 34:1-12]

Saints lead others to the Promised Land even if they never make it there themselves.  Their reward—their deepest satisfaction–isn’t in arriving at a certain point, it’s in serving God and helping others along the journey.

John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement, remarks in his notes on verse five that

Moses the servant of the Lord died—He is called the servant of the Lord…a man eminently useful, who had served God’s counsels in bringing Israel out of Egypt, and leading them thro’ the wilderness.  And it was more his honour, to be the servant of the Lord, than to be king in Jeshurun.  Yet he dies.  Neither his piety nor his usefulness would exempt him from the stroke of death.  God’s servants must die, that they may rest from their labours, receive their recompense, and make room for others.  But when they go hence, they go to serve [God] better, to serve [God] day and night in [God’s] temple.  The Jews say, [writes Wesley] God sucked [Moses’] soul out of his body with a kiss.  No doubt [Moses] died in the embraces of his love.[1]

Moses walked with God and he lead others, encouraged them on the journey toward the Promised Land.  That’s what saints do, even if they never fully enter into it.

Saints encourage people to embrace the love of God found in Jesus Christ.  They encourage people on their journey till all are, in the words of Jesus, “complete in showing love toward all.”

I wonder what it might be like if each of us committed today to encourage three people for the next month along their faith journey?  Who would you encourage?

As the Bell Choir plays, I invite you to consider that question.  Who will you encourage?  What three people will you walk along side as they journey toward God’s future?  How might you encourage them? reminding them that they are children of God; a person of sacred worth; a person with a gift and a calling that’s meant to be shared with and transform the world.  Who will you encourage?  I invite you to consider that question in the next few minutes.

[Bell Choir: “How Firm a Foundation”]

Don’t share it with anyone, but whose name did you write down?  Before we sing our last song, I’d like us to pray over those names.  Let us pray…

[1] Notes on Deuteronomy 34:5 in Wesley Notes on the Old Testament by John Wesley at Wesley Center Online <http://wesley.nnu.edu/john-wesley/john-wesleys-notes-on-the-bible/notes-on-the-fifth-book-of-moses-called-deuteronomy/#Chapter%2BXXXIV> Accessed October 23, 2014.


Filed under: Sermons Tagged: children of God, Deuteronomy 34, john wesley, Moses, saints, Season of the Saints

Permanent link to this article: http://methoblog.com/3_0/2014/10/be-one-too-lead-others-to-the-promised-land/

Oct 26 2014

Methodist in-Formation: Be One Too: See(k) God’s Presence

Original post at http://jacobjuncker.wordpress.com/2014/10/26/be-one-too-seek-gods-presence/


This message was offered at Lee Memorial United Methodist Church on Sunday, October 19, 2014.  This message is meant to freely flow from a moment with children to a conversation with adults who are all seated in the round at tables.  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.

 

Welcome kids to the table:

What does God look like?  In our story for today, Moses asks to see God.  Moses and God’s people were about to make the final leg of their journey to the land God had promised, when God dropped the news, “I’m not going.  I’m sending an angel with you instead.”  Moses pleads with God saying, “You’ve been with us this long; if you leave, how will people know who we are?”  He begs God, “show me your ways;” and, then he asks the unthinkable, “show me your glorious presence.”  Moses asks to see God.  And, he does.

What did Moses see?  Can you draw me a picture of God? or a picture of a time when you knew God was with you?

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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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Read Exodus 33:12-23.

This is a powerful story.  Thanks be to God for it.  Amen.

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I think Moses was scared.  It had been a rough journey.  You’ll recall from last week that everyone seemed to give up—the people, Aaron (Moses’ “right-hand-man”), and even God.  Moses intervenes, he refuses to give up on God and the people God so loved and came to save.  In our story for today, I think Moses was scared that things were going to get worse.

God had commanded him to take the people of God on the final leg of their journey to the land God had promised.  On the first part of the journey, God had led the people with a pillar of cloud by day and fire by night; God had provided quail and manna that fell like dew when the people were hungry, and when they were, it seemed, dying of thirst God instructed to Moses to strike a rock with his staff and water sprung forth.  All of this was a reminder, a sign to the people that God had not left them.  It must have come as a surprise to Moses, then, when God refuses to go with the people on the next part of the journey.  Look, says God, these people are rebellious.  If I go, I’m just gonna get mad and pull the car over and you don’t want me to pull the car over.  So I’m going, says God, to send an angel to escort you.

Moses isn’t satisfied.  If you’re not with us, how will outsiders know who we are and that you love us?  Great question.  In that moment, God must have rubbed God’s chin and scratched the top of God’s head.

Hey, kids, I think God has a chin and head.

Good point, says God.  So God decides to go; but Moses isn’t done making his point.  “Make your presence known now. I want to see you.”

It was a bold request (literally).  The people of God believed that God was too holy to see with the naked eye.  In fact, God was so pure and holy that to even utter God’s name would be an offense to God.  That’s why your Bible’s say LORD in all capitals all over the Old Testament.  In those instances, most of the time, the Hebrew word is YHWH, the name of God; so, out of respect, it is often translated—and has been for centuries—as THE LORD.

Moses asks to see God.  You know how the story ends: God instructs Moses to stand behind a rock.  God then puts the hand of God over Moses’ eyes and walks in front of him; and, as God removes his hand walking by, Moses gets a glimpse of God’s back.

Hey, kids, scripture says God has a back.

Moses desired God.  He wanted to know God’s presence and consequences be damned.  Moses sought God’s presence.  He yearned, desired to see God and he did.

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I don’t think God hides from us.  I don’t think our faith journey is meant to be played like a pious game of hide and seek.  I do think God’s desire is for us to desire God’s presence; that is, God wants us to want God.  “Desires…not just decisions, really matter.”[1]

Jesus said, “Ask, and you will receive.  Search, and you will find.  Knock, and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks, receives.  Whoever seeks, finds.  And to everyone who knocks, the door is opened” (Matthew 7:7-8, Common English Bible).  Seek God and you will surely find God.

The truth—the Good News—is that God’s glory shines brightly all around.  And, like Moses, we must not be afraid to see God’s presence; in fact, we must seek it out.  For seeing and seeking God’s presence will inspire us to continue the journey and that what saints do.

Saints see God and that encounter inspires them to keep on seeking God as they grow in love with God and neighbor.

Saints seek and see God.  Saints know that God is ever present if only we’d seek God out.

Jesus knew that the disciples would get weary.  He knew that there would be times when the disciples would be tempted to give up, times when they’d feel like they were alone; so, I don’t find it at happenstance—indeed, it’s imperative—that in the gospel of Matthew Jesus’ last words (in fact, it’s the last sentence in the entire Gospel)—to his disciples is, “I myself will be with you every day until the end of this present age” (Matthew 28:20b, Common English Bible).

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How’d your pictures turn out?  What does God look like? Can you show me—on the pictures you drew—when you knew God was with you?

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Saints see and seek God’s presence.  They’re not afraid to see God in others—even their enemies.  Saints are not afraid to seek God in even the hardest of times.  Saints seek and see God; and they inspire others to see and seek God also.  …that’s what saints do.  I mean to be one; and, I pray, you do too!

Let’s pray.

Gracious God,
We thank you for the saints who have inspired us to see and seek you.  You’re not hard to find; but, we tend to be hard-headed and hard-hearted people who try to go it alone.  Help us to see and seek your presence that we might inspire others to do the same.  May we live to your glory and it alone, we pray, in the name of Christ our Lord.  Amen.

 

[1] John Piper, When I Don’t Desire God: How to Fight for Joy (Wheaton: Crossway, 2013), page 19 <http://cdn.desiringgod.org/website_uploads/documents/books/when-i-dont-desire-god.pdf> Accessed October 17, 2014.


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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.

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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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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.

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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

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