Outline of our passage
NOT like this: But like this:
foolish--unthinking understanding what the will of the Lord is (v. 17) -->
finding out/analyzing/focusing on what is well- pleasing
to the Lord (v. 10)
drunkenness--leading to increasingly filled with the Spirit--leading to
unwise, undisciplined, destructive --communicating with each other with
behavior psalms and hymns and spiritual songs,
--singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts,
--giving thanks to God the Father at all times and
for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The Lord's will for individuals is in harmony with the Lord's will for their communities and for the whole universe. See, for example: Ephesians 1:9-11; 5:17
St Ignatius on how to discern God’s will (based on Jim Manney 142ff.) :
--Get your priorities straight: “People are created to praise, reverence, and serve God our Lord, and by this means to save their souls. And the other things on the face of the earth are created for people and that they may help them in work towards the goal for which they are created.” (Ignatius)
Manney: “Much of the time we have it backward.We make the decision first and then ask God to bless it. You might decide to marry your boyfriend, and then turn the marriage over to God, praying that it will be successful. You might decide to take that attractive new job, and pray that it will turn out as well as you hope.
--Know what you truly desire. Problem: “We’re attached to all sorts of things that obscure our deepest desires.”
--Trust your feelings, your deepest ones, based on your core values.
--Discuss big decisions with others known for their wisdom and compassion.
--Use your imagination:
If I do X, what will a typical day be like, how will my gifts be used, what will I like most? Least?
If I do Y, “ “ “ “ “ “ “ “ “ “ " " " " "
--Weigh the pros and cons
--Ask God to confirm the decision
--Know that it might not work out as you had envisioned. "The decision isn’t the most important thing. It’s the means, not the end. The end is to live a life that please God and satisfies our deepest longings” (143)
Richard Foster Celebration of Discipline (p. 37):
“When [Jesus] prayed for others he never concluded by saying ‘If it be [your] will.’ Nor did the apostles or prophets when they were praying for others. They obviously believed that they knew what the will of God was before they prayed the prayer of faith. They were so immersed in the [life] of the Holy Spirit that when they encountered a specific situation, they knew what should be done… [W]hen praying for others there was evidently no room for indecisive, tentative, half-hoping ‘If it be thy will’ prayers” (Foster 37).
There is, of course, a proper time and place to pray, ‘If it be thy will.’ First, in the prayer of guidance it is the great yearning of our hearts to know the will of God. ‘What is your will?’ ‘What would please you?’ ‘What would advance your kingdom upon the earth?’ This is the kind of searching prayer that should permeate our entire life experience. [In another kind of prayer]…we are committed to letting go of our will whenever it conflicts with the will and way of God… We all have times when our human desires get in the way [of thinking God’s thoughts]. At such times we must follow the lead of our Master who in the garden prayed ‘Neverthelesss not my will, but thine, be done’ (Luke 22:42).
These “Self-Exam” questions are for you to answer as an individual but your answers will indicate the health of your community/-ies as well as your personal health: our health is related to the health of those around us. We are of course especially concerned for the health of our local church community. We would like to be a model of well being! If the exam indicates areas in which your health can be improved, pray for healing—possibly asking others to join you in prayer. Sometimes the prayer can lead to asking others—perhaps your spouse, a friend, your pastor or a professional counselor—for help. All the questions and "Reasons for Concern" are taken from Ephesians 4:16--5:2.
elf-Exam Questions Reason for Concern
--Do you LIE? We are all members together in the body of Christ.
--When you speak with someone about
a problem, do you TELL THE TRUTH?
Do you SPEAK THE TRUTH IN LOVE,
as last week’s reading asked us to do?
--Are you ANGRY? (v.26) Your anger can lead you into sin--to behavior
Some symptoms of anger: (v.31) that hurts others and hurts yourself.
bitterness: (harboring resentments) Don't give the Devil a chance!
simmering anger, gnawing hostility
yelling à lack of restraint
insults / slander: putting down others
hateful feelings of any sort
--Do you make sure that anger gives way
to peace by the time the sun goes down?
Do you steal? Stealing hurts yourself as well as others;
work enables you to help the poor.
--Have you used harmful (literally, “rotten”) words? Helpful words build up the body of Christ.
Your speech should help people in ways that
are needed, doing good to those who hear you.
--Have you done anything The Spirit is God's mark of ownership on you,
to make God's Holy Spirit sad? a guarantee that the Day will come
when God will set you free.
--Do you demonstrate kindness?
--When you see or hear of people
who are suffering, do you respond
--If you are hurt by someone, do you forgiven them? God has forgiven you through Christ.
--To what degree do you try to be like God? You are God's beloved children!
--Is your life controlled by love? Christ loved us and gave his life for us
as a sweet-smelling offering and sacrifice
that pleases God.
Introduction: Key Repetitions Indicating the Focus of This Passage
·Unity…bound together…one…one…one…one…one…one…one …all…all…all… all…all… oneness/unity…all…whole
·Be humble, gentle, patient…tolerant…mature
·Show your love… speaking the truth in love…building the body up through love.
Different dimensions of unity
From the local to the universal church
A. Each local body of believers
B. Methodist fellowship: "connectional ties bind us together in faith and service in our global witness” Book of Discipline ¶102
--“Our worldwide connectio1nal relationship is one of the ways we carry out our missional calling beyond national and regional boundaries.” ¶125
--“In covenant with God and with each other: We affirm our unity in Christ and take faithful steps to live more fully into what it means to be a worldwide church in mission for the transformation of the world…creating a new sense of community and joyously living out our worldwide connection…” ¶125
C. Ecumenical: “United Methodists respond to the theological, biblical, and practical mandates for Christian unity by firmly committing ourselves to the cause of Christian unity at local, national, and world levels…[leading] to sharing in Holy Communion with all of God’s people.” ¶105
Unity of Time—Present & Eternal
A. Communion “With your people on earth and all the company of heaven, we praise your name and join their unending hymn “Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might, heaven and earth are full of your glory.”
B. “With other Christians we recognize that the reign of God is both a present and future reality. Wherever persons are being made new creatures in Christ, wherever the insights and resources of the gospel are brought to bear on the life of the world, God’s reign is already effective in its healing and renewing power. We also look to the end time in which God’s work will be fulfilled… This expectations saves us from resignation and motivates our continuing witness and service.” ¶102
C. Our liturgy reflections the union of history, the present, and the future
Our liturgy contains practices of God-seekers that are thousands of years old: reading scriptures; singing psalms, hymns and choruses; saying the Lord’s Prayer; reciting the Apostles’ Creed—“I believe in the holy catholic church...” ("catholic"--from the Greek kata- "concerning" -holos "whole; all" --> "concerning the entire body of Christ, throughout and beyond space and time"); and taking communion.
1. Unity in love…
UNITY IN LOVE IS DYNAMIC, NOT STATIC. our passage from Ephesians says that we are to "measure up to the standard God set … prepare all God's people for the work of Christian service, in order to build up the body of Christ… become mature people, reaching to the very height of Christ's full stature… grow up in every way… When each separate part works as it should, the whole body grows and builds itself up through love."
UNITY IN LOVE IS INCLUSIVE, NOT EXCLUSIVE, not “Us against Them” but “Us for them”—“all people.
--Christian unity, of which we are reminded when joining to worship with members of other denominations
--Human unity: seeing the positives we have in common with the non-Christians (prevenient grace) and building relationships based on the positives.
UNITY IN LOVE ENCOURAGES SELF-CRITICISM AND CREATIVITY RATHER THAN GROUP-THINK. “Groupthink occurs when … Individual members of [a] group are strongly discouraged from any disagreement and set aside their own thoughts and feelings to unquestioningly follow the word of the leader and other group members. …group members refrain from expressing doubts, judgments or disagreement with the consensus and ignore any ethical or moral consequences of any group decision that furthers their cause.” Psychology Today
--“[The UMC affirms] our unity in Jesus Christ while acknowledging differences in applying our faith in different cultural contexts” (BD, p. 104)
--“Every generation must appropriate creatively the wisdom of the past and seek God in their midst in order to think afresh about God, revelation, sin, redemption, worship, the church, freedom, justice, moral responsibility, and other…concerns… to understand and receive the gospel promises in our troubled and uncertain times. (BD, ¶105)
d. UNITY IN LOVE ENCOURAGES “speaking the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15) rather than avoiding problems: mutual respect and accountability—along with risk-taking, creativity, independent thinking—are necessary for healthy growth.
Unity in the local church: Our local church should be a shining example of growing in unity through the love of Christ and the love of each other
3 Readings today
1. Psalm 89: one of the many laments in the Old Testament. It is an expression of loss, grief, and confusion similar in mood and content to the poems in the book named Lamentations.
2. Ephesians 2: the mood is just the opposite of the psalm’s. An expression of joy and confidence.
3. Mark 6. Both the psalm and the letter can contribute to our appreciation of this picture of Jesus, his few disciples and his many followers.
Psalm 89: an expression of sorrow and loss
1. The source of sorrow in this psalm: a devastating military defeat
2. The speakers in this psalm do not just ask "Why?" but accuse God
a. 12 accusations in about that many lines
b. Still the people are addressing God: “You…you…you!”--
a. Each people has a god
b. The strength of a people depends on the strength of their god
c. The prosperity of a group of people indicates God's being with & working for that people
d. The misery of a group of people indicates God not being with & working for that people
4. Throughout the Bible, these are shown to be FAULTY ASSUMPTIONS
a. Sermon on the Mount: the poor and persecuted are citizens of God's kingdom
b. Jesus experiences the grief and shame that is lamented in the psalm:
i. "You have rejected your anointed one" (v.38)
> “The Son of Man must suffer much and be rejected” Mk 9.12
ii. "Your servant has been mocked... mocked [at] every step" (vv. 50-51)
> The soldiers led Jesus away…and mocked him…
"the chief priests and the teachers of the law mocked him" (Mark 15.16,20,31)
iii. "He has become the scorn of his neighbors."
> "Those who passed by hurled insults at him….
Those crucified with him also heaped insults on him." (Mark 15.29,32)
iv. "You have covered him with a mantle of shame."
> Jesus, the pioneer...of faith…endured the cross…its shame…" (Hebrews12.2 )
Ephesians 2:11-22: a radically new way of viewing “God’s people”
1. Christ’s purpose: to create one new humanity,
a. In contrast to assumptions similar to those behind Psalm 89:
i. Jewish God v. Gentile’s god/s > "our God against their God/gods"
ii. Jewish identity v. Gentile identity "our identity versus their identity"
b. Christ Jesus has “destroyed the barrier, the diving wall of hostility” between the two” with the “purpose…to create in himself one new humanity out of the two.”
i. Easy to accept this when put in terms of groups that we do not often think of in our daily lives. But more in keeping with what was a radical message 2000 years ago is the message today that “Christ Jesus has “destroyed the barrier” between the Christian and the Moslem--or some other group viewed in hostile terms by many identifying themselves as Christians.
ii. The Methodist Book of Discipline affirms that we must work at breaking down walls of hostility: “We have entered into serious interfaith encounters and explorations between Christians and adherents of other living faiths of the world.... As people bound together on one planet, we see the need for a self-critical view of our own tradition and accurate appreciation of other traditions. In these encounters, our aim is...to raise all such relationships to the highest possible level of human fellowship and understanding.” (Par. 105)
iii. “the dividing wall of hostility”: a great contrast between what’s said about the wall of hostility in the letter to the Ephesians and what has been said about another wall of hostility in recent discourse:
--"Christ...has destroyed...the wall" versus a massive budget to build one
--"one new humanity" versus racism
--Peace versus militant separation of mothers & children
2. Christ’s preaching: peace.
a. “He came and preaced peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near.”
b.. Christ himself is our peace—not our religious identity, certainly not our national identity or our social status, or our economic security.
3. Christ’s presence: God’s Spirit in all of us
a. The growth of the Christian community is like the construction of a building
i. All parts of the building are connected together, supported by a strong foundation > all members of the church connected together, supported by Christ
ii. The building made to host God’s presence—“a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.”
Mark 6.30-44: “You feed them!"
God’s way of working through Jesus and his followers here reinforces themes we have considered throughout the month:
1. July 1: “Give her something to eat” (Mark 5.43)
> "Give them something to eat" (6.37)
2. July 8: Serving with minimal resources (6.8-10)
> Not enough resources! (6.35-38)
3. July 15: the riches of God’s grace (Ephesians 1)
> "the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces of bread and fish" (Mark 6.42). A basket each for those who said there was not enough!
In the Greek, Ephesians 1.3-14 is just one sentence—the longest sentence in the Bible! “In one sense the language is exalted and extravagant and yet, in another, the very repetition of phrases reveals its poverty and inadequacy to do justice to its subject—salvation on the grandest scale and broadest canvas” (Word Bible Commentary).
Young’s Literal Translation gives a taste of the sentence’s structure. I have used different fonts to indicate phrases and similar ideas that are repeated throughout the passage to communicate the basic point.
Blessed is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who did bless us in every
spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, according as He did choose us
in him before the foundation of the world, for our being holy and unblemished before
Him, in love, having foreordained us for adoption through Jesus Christ to Himself,
according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace,
in which He did make us accepted in the beloved, in whom we have the redemption
through his blood, the remission of the trespasses, according to the riches of His
grace, in which He did abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence, having made
known to us the secret of His will, according to His good pleasure, that He purposed
in him, in regard to the dispensation of the fulness of the times, to bring into one the
whole in the Christ, both the things in the heavens, and the things upon the earth --
in him; in whom also we did obtain an inheritance, being foreordained according
to the purpose of Him who the all things is working according to the counsel of His
will, for our being to the praise of His glory, [even] those who did first hope in
the Christ, in whom you also, having heard the word of the truth -- the good news
of your salvation -- in whom also having believed, you were sealed with the Holy
Spirit of the promise, which is a pledge of our inheritance, to the redemption of
the acquired possession, to the praise of His glory.
Song-like repetitions and variations underscore the idea that God is to praised for liberating us in Christ, having planned to do so since before creation and assuring us of this with his Holy Spirit.
Psalm 24 praises God for establishing order out of chaos and protecting his people, calling Yahweh “the mighty warrior” and “hero of our battles.” The God once viewed as the defender of one group of people is, the writer of Ephesians exults, now to be viewed as a loving parent to be praised for graciously proceeding with the plan to forgive, liberate, heal, and save all people and restore order to all of creation in Christ. The Ephesians were among the first generations to respond to this good news. We of the latest generations to respond to God in terms of this identity can continue to benefit from the guidelines and encouragements given in the rest of the letter. We will consider some of these over the next few Sundays.
Psalm 24 (my translation)
Song approaching the temple:
Yahweh owns the earth and everything on it.
He is the one who built it on the ocean
and he keeps it stable amidst the chaos.
Priest at the temple gates:
Who is allowed to climb Yahweh's mountain
and to stand in his holy place?
The ones who are innocent in thought and deed,
not carried away by what is false
but carrying blessings and justice from Yahweh,
the Liberator, the God of Jacob’s descendants.
Stand tall, temple gates!
Carry yourselves well, ancient doors!
Prepare for the entry of the honorable king!
And you who come to worship here,
answer this: Who is the honorable king?
Yahweh, the mighty warrior!
Yahweh, the hero of our battles!
Stand tall, temple gates!
Carry yourselves well, ancient doors!
Prepare for the entry of the honorable king!
[NOTE: THIS MAY AT FIRST HAVE BEEN A REFERENCE TO THE BRINGING OF THE ARK OR SOME OTHER REPRESENTATION OF GOD'S PRESENCE]
You who come to worship here:
Who is this honorable king?
Yahweh, commander of the armies!
He is the honorable king!
Gospel text: Mark 6:1-13
1. The Christian’s “Declaration of Dependence” on Jesus as God’s son (last Sunday’s sermon) is a
“Declaration of Independence” from all other powers.
a. The other powers don’t go away: Great Britain did not disappear after American independence
b. But are loyalties shift radically: a new government
c. JESUS CAME TO PROCLAIM A NEW GOVERNMENT: THE KINGDOM OF GOD
2. Three powers from which the Christian has become—or can become—independent
1) Hometown limitations (Mark 6.1-6)
--Hometown > cultural, national, world powers.
2) Wants and worries (Mark 6.7-11)
--The disciples’ minimal load
--Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline (87-88):
As Jesus made clear…, freedom from anxiety is one of the inward evidences of seeking first the kingdom of God.
The inward reality of simplicity involves a life of joyful unconcern for possessions. Neither the greedy nor the
miserly know this liberty [--this independence]. Freedom from anxiety is characterized by three inner attitudes:
1. We receive what we have as gift from God.
2. It is God’s business, and not ours, to care for what we have.
3. Our goods are available to others. “We cling to our possessions rather than sharing them because
we are anxious about tomorrow. But if we truly believe that God is who Jesus says he is, then we
do not need to be afraid.
3) Destructive situations (vv. 12-13)
--Disciples healing others
--Liberating them from “demons”—from destructive forces that keep us from benefiting
from being loyal subjects of the kingdom of God.
3. For reflection:
--Are we troubled in any of these areas?
--Have we made a Declaration of Dependence on Jesus the Christ? If so, how has it proven
itself over the years? recently?
--To what degree do we seek independence from powers opposed to the Kingdom?
--Is it time to make a declaration of independence from destructive attitudes, habits, or
actions? If so, who are our allies and how might they help us?
July 1, 2018 was my first Sunday as the pastor for Eagleville United Methodist Church. This is the sermon as I wrote it out a couple weeks in advance.
Gospel text: Mark 5:21-43