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If your friend jumps off a bridge will you jump too?

Posted by Diversity in Faith on March 23, 2014 at 8:10 PM Comments comments (0)

If your friend jumps off a bridge will you jump too?

Everyone has a mother who has said that at least once to them right?

 

Exodus 23:2

Do not follow the crowd in doing wrong. When you give testimony in a lawsuit, do not pervert justice by siding with the crowd.

How many watch the news or read the paper and just shake your head at how much violence there is daily. How many think God can’t there be just one day with all good news? Instead we see more and more people being hurt and many because of their position in life get away with it. People who are supposed to uphold the laws by a higher standard are the worse sometimes.

Exodus 23:2 erv Don’t do something just because everyone else is doing it. If you see a group of people doing wrong, don’t join them. You must not let them persuade you to do wrong things—you must do what is right and fair.

It’s like people are following each other into crime.

One person uses a gun against someone because they don’t like how they dress, the music they are playing is louder than they like or they don’t like that they are texting during previews at the movies. The next thing you know someone else has now done the same thing. Then to make matters worse…. There is no justice for the victims.

Proverbs 4:14 niv Do not set foot on the path of the wicked or walk in the way of evil men.

I want to tell you about two men. Both are respected men who people listen to when they speak. While one sees the violence all around the other experiences the violence first hand. During a time of despair both cry out to God and question him. Why have you abandon me? Why are you letting this happen? These two men turned that questioning into praise. Either one of these two men could be from this day and time in history.

The older gentleman spoke daily with God. The older man in his time watched as violence erupted all around him. Injustices were being made everywhere. He watched as corrupt people seemed to always win and those who followed God were persecuted as though they were ungodly.

The older man I’m about to talk about is Habakkuk. He looks at all the violence that is going on around him. Instead of peace, people are following each other into violence. He like many others with him are confused. What’s going on here? He tries to make sense of things but he just can’t. I’m sure we all can relate to how he feels. Then he questions God and his actions.

Habakkuk 1:1-4 from the msg bible. God, how long do I have to cry out for help before you listen? How many times do I have to yell ‘Help Murder Police!” before you come to the rescue? Why do you force me to look at evil, stare trouble in the face day after day? Anarchy and violence break out, quarrels and fights all over the place. Law and order fail to pieces. Justice is a joke. The wicked have the righteous hamstrung and stand justice on its head.

Habakkuk could be anyone of us asking God what’s going on with everyone. Why does it look like God is letting evil run rampart? Habakkuk wants to know why it looks like God isn’t paying attention to what is going on. Why has God has turned his eyes away?

Habakkuk 1:13b niv “Why then do you tolerate the treacherous? Why are you silent while the wicked swallow up those more righteous than themselves?”

Can you relate to what Habakkuk is saying? How many times have things looked so bleak and you feel that God has turned his eyes from you or everything going on around you?

Instead of jumping off the bridge with these people, we should pattern ourselves after the actions of Habakkuk and what he did next.

Habakkuk 2:1 niv I will stand at my watch and station myself on the ramparts. I will look to see what he [God] will say to me and what to answer when I am rebuked.

He does exactly that. He waits. We aren’t told how long he waits but God does answer him. The prayer Habakkuk then gave was so brimming with faith that it was later used as a psalm in temple worship.

Ephesians 4: 17-19 msg. And so I insist—and God backs me up on this—that there be no going along with the crowd, the empty-headed, mindless crowd. They’ve refused for so long to deal with God that they’ve lost touch not only with God but with reality itself. They can’t think straight anymore.

An example of people going along with the crowd and jumping off the bridge is:

Mark 15:15 niv. “Wanting to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. He had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.

The younger of the two men was a humble man that came from a good family. He grew up speaking to God and shared his knowledge of God with anyone who wanted to know him. The younger man was hated for the truth he spoke. In back rooms and hidden places, plots to frame him were being discussed. Those who were put in charge to protect the people and uphold the law looked for legal ways to assassinate this man.

The cowards arrested him in the middle of the night. Guards stripped him naked then tied his hands to a post above his head; spit in his face, kick him with their boots, blindfolded him and beat him with their first. They beat his body stripping flesh with every blow.

Have you ever wondered how many lashes it is to be beaten to one inch of your life?

Its 39 lashes.

The whip was made of several pieces of leather with pieces of bone and lead embedded near the ends.

The following is a medical doctors’ description of the physical effects of flogging.

The heavy whip is brought down with full force again and again across the shoulders, back, and legs. At first the heavy thongs cut through the skin only. Then, as the blows continue, they cut deeper in the subcutaneous tissues. Finally the skin of the back is hanging in long ribbons and the entire area is an unrecognizable mass of torn, bleeding tissue.

The young man was made fun of, a crown made from a thorny plant shoved onto his head, a robe placed on his bloody body. They beat him upon the head driving the thorns farther into his scalp.

He was made to carry the beam on which he would give his life. This beam usually weighed 30 or 40 lbs. Imagine the pain caused by this rough heavy beam pressing into his bloody body. To be crucified was considered the most hideous punishment possible.

A heavy square wrought iron nail is driven into the depression at the front of the wrist deep into the wood. The actions are repeated with the second wrist, being careful not to pull the arms too tight. The cross is lifted into place. The left foot is pressed backward against the right foot and with both feet extended toes down a nail is driven through the arch of each.

Each breath is a labored breath filled with excruciating pain.

Jesus has borne our sins upon himself.

Mark 15:33, 34 amp. And when the sixth hour (about midday) had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour (about three o’ clock), and at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? This means, My God My God, why have you forsaken me deserting me and leaving me helpless and abandoned??

How many times have you spoken the words from Psalm 22:1 My God, My God why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning?

Instead of following the crowd off that bridge, give it up to the Lord, wait on him. Trust that God will care for you.

In closing:

Philippians 4:6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present you requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understand, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

 

Announcements

Posted by Diversity in Faith on January 20, 2014 at 7:25 PM Comments comments (0)

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Here are some things that will be happening in Diversity in Faith Church for next week and the month of February.

First please join us next Sunday January 26th as we celebrate our 3rd anniversary!  We will have a pot luck dinner.  Bring a covered dish to share.

In February along with the music from our Minister of Music, we will have Live Music from 3 of our members!  

February 9th we will have guest from Healthy Child Healthy World give a Seminar from 4:30 – 5:30 p.m. everyone is invited to come whether you are a Parent, Grandparent, Aunt ,Uncle, or a friend of someone with a child this information will help you. Immediately following will be church service with live music and the sermon “You are Blessed”.   I am personally challenging our members to bring someone with them to church that day! Let’s see who can bring the most people!

 

Pastor Kat's sermon on James 2

Posted by Diversity in Faith on June 7, 2013 at 9:40 AM Comments comments (0)

Here is an audio recording of Pastor Kat's recent sermon on James 2.  Please continue to study through James on your own and feel free to listen.

Download: http://diversityinfaith.sermon.net/da/1200040015

Playback: http://diversityinfaith.sermon.net/da/1200040015/play

Book of James, Part 1

Posted by Diversity in Faith on May 28, 2013 at 8:45 AM Comments comments (0)

Sunday's sermon, beginning a series on the book of James, by pastor Kat Royal, at Diversity in Faith, and including a youth message by Ashley Young...  available in audio format as a Download: http://diversityinfaith.sermon.net/da/1200033734     

and for Playback: http://diversityinfaith.sermon.net/da/1200033734/play

Finding God's Strength in the Midst of Challenges

Posted by Diversity in Faith on May 12, 2013 at 7:45 PM Comments comments (0)

This Sunday's sermon was brought to us by Ashley Young, who has volunteered to help begin a youth program at Diversity in Faith.  I hope it blesses you.

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To hear online, check us out at

 

Download: http://diversityinfaith.sermon.net/da/1200024496

 

Playback: http://diversityinfaith.sermon.net/da/1200024496/play

 

 

 

Challenges

 

by Ashley Young

 

Text:

 

· 1 Timothy 3:16 “Great is the mystery of godliness.” (Read in the beginning)

 

· Psalm 120:1 “I call on the LORD in my distress, and he answers me.”

 

· Psalm 46:1-3 “God is our refuge and strength; an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. "Selah"

 

 

 

(Sermon)

 

Challenges. We face them everyday. Challenges can be anything from a paper cut, first thing in the morning, to being late to class or work, the printer or fax machine jamming, or losing electricity due to a storm. And when we have days—or weeks—when all of these things and more pile up on us, we may think, “Okay, God. How much more are you going to throw at me?” In situations like these, it’s easy to think of God as a five-year-old kid, with a magnifying glass, beaming sunlight down on us, like we were ants. And when we face even bigger challenges, like the death of a loved one, being diagnosed with cancer, becoming disabled, or trying to create a church community, like Kat talked about on February 24, it’s easy to think that God has forsaken us. Forgotten us. Left us to suffer. And it’s times like these where we may question our faith; question the existence of God, as a higher being, watching over us.

 

It’s with challenges like these where we have to take a step back, in order to see what God is allowing to happen, so that our unification with one another and our faith in Him may be strengthened. In John 17:21, Jesus prays, “that they all may be as one, as You, Father, are in Me and I in You.” God wants us to be a people—united in one, with Him. And the challenges we face, whether they are big or small, serve as a reminder that God is always with us and He is our ultimate answer.

 

God shows us firsthand how we can overcome challenges when He allows Jesus to be challenged in the Bible. In Matthew Chapter Four, Jesus was led out into the wilderness, by the Lord, where he fasted for forty days and for forty nights. After this, Jesus was hungry and thirsty and tired. And the devil came up to Him and challenged Him saying, “Hey, if you’re the son of God and you’re so hungry turn these stones into bread.” To that Jesus responded by saying, “It is written, that Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.” So the devil said, “Oh, ho, ho! Well, then,” and he took Jesus into the city and placed Him on the highest point on the chapel, then said, “If you’re the Son of God, then jump, because it’s written that the Angels will save you and prevent you from hitting your foot against a stone.” Jesus said, “It is also written that thou shall not tempt the Lord.” The devil said, “Hmmh!” And he took Jesus to a really high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms in the world, with all of their glory, and the devil said, “Now if you will bow down and worship me all of this can be yours.” And Jesus said, “Go away, Satan. For it is written that, ‘Thou shall worship the Lord thy God, and you should only serve Him.’” With this, the devil left and angels came down and ministered Jesus, for Jesus had ignored temptation and had overcome this challenge by keeping His faith strong in the Lord.

 

Sometimes it can be difficult to put ourselves into Jesus’ shoes, because we don’t have the same kinds of challenges in our lives that He did. I, personally, faced a number of challenges with my disability advocacy at Methodist University. I don’t know if any of you have ever worked in an advocacy situation, but going into college, I had no idea what advocacy even was. Then my second year, my Academic Advisor and professor, Dr. Colonnese, signed me up for two night classes and worked with the campus police to get me a security escort. Man, was I excited! I thought, (THUMBS UP) “Alright! Going to get ahead in my studies!” So a few days into my first creative writing class, we’re on the second floor of the Trustees Building and Dr. Colonnese says, “Let’s go downstairs.” I’d been up and down the stairs many times during the day, so I didn’t think anything of it. We walk out into the hallway and there is one extremely small light glowing and I looked over the rail at the stairs and they were only being lit by a very dim streetlight outside. I have no depth perception in broad daylight and at this time, I did not know anything about a cane, much less that I was entitled to one!

 

(ACT OUT) So we walk over to the stairs; I reach down and put the death grip on the rail and s-l-o-w-l-y put my foot down on the first stair. Then I brought my other foot onto that stair and cautiously proceeded from there. Getting to the bottom of those stairs, in the dark with my vision, was a serious challenge and that night I decided that some serious changes had to be made to Methodist University’s overall campus. I presented the idea to the student media advisor, then embarked on a three month research article for the school’s newspaper. During those three months, I went to the financial coordinator for the school, with all of the research I’d dug up thus far, and told him that the Trustees Building needed an elevator. (SQUINT & LOOK FROM SIDE TO SIDE) And he started laughing, like I’d told him a really funny joke. When he calmed down, he said that the idea of installing an elevator into a more than fifty-year-old building was preposterous and would most likely cost half a million dollars. (TURN HEAD SIDEWAYS) So I smiled and quietly left his office. But I was hot, let me tell you. As I walked outside, I looked up and thought, “This challenge is going to be the end of me.”……But it wasn’t. God brought me through. After three years of pushing and proposing idea after idea, Methodist finally approved the project and installed the elevator. This challenge taught me that God works on His own timeline and we cannot rush Him…

 

As we go forth into this week, remember, God is our ultimate answer. This week, I want you all to work through challenges you face by keeping your faith in Him strong and by helping others to do the same.

 

 

 


Discovering Your New Life in Christ (Part 5 of 5)

Posted by Diversity in Faith on May 6, 2013 at 7:20 AM Comments comments (0)

From Shame To Service

To hear the audio of this, see

Download: http://diversityinfaith.sermon.net/da/1200020358

Playback: http://diversityinfaith.sermon.net/da/1200020358/play

 

 

 

In the midst of our mistakes and failings – and the names weare called by others-- we can be so overcome by shame we don't knowhow to move forward. We can feel trapped, stuck, and powerless. Like a shadow falling overhead before a storm, all light and hope canbegin to be eclipsed by our heartache, guilt, and shame.

Just such a moment happened to a young business named Bill Wilson. A real go getter, an up and coming star in the business world, Billhad a dirty little secret: to get through his day he had to turnagain and again to the bottle. It began to wreck his home-life andhis marriage. Then the hold the bottle had on him cost him his job. Broken, not knowing where to turn, head hung in shame Bill admittedhimself into a sanitorium, desparate for change. Yet what broke himbeyond even his addiction was the life-wrenching shame. In his mind,he was not an alcoholic; he was a drunk. He was not a man who lost ajob; he was a failure. He saw no hope, no goodness in his life.

Just such a moment came in the life of a young preacher named Troy. A married father of 2, he too was rising star in the preachingworld. Yet he had hidden for years a dark secret: he was gay, and noamount of prayer or sacrifice could take away his attraction to men. Like all well-kept secrets, this came out and he lost it all. Hiswife left him, taking the kids away. He was kicked out of thechurch, defrocked. Jobless, with his marriage shattered and childrencut off from him, Troy began a nose-dive of doubt, loneliness, shame,and self-hatred. One day, as life hit rock bottom, Troy took aknife, slit his wrists in the tub, and waited to die.

ThoughI can't relate with these two men's exact journey I know what it isto wake up, feeling you are powerless to move forward. Feeling thatyou have failed too much to move forward, and having the shame of allthe ways I feel I am wrong fall over me like a dark winter chill.

Have any of you had such moments in your life you would be willingto share about?

Tonight we will be joining one final disciple in their encounterwith the risen Jesus and the new life he makes possible. Thisdisciple, Simon, has hit rock bottom, not knowing where to turn.

This is in John 21. Lets turn there together. We will start inverse 1 and go on to verse 19.

 

 

Later, Jesus himself appeared againto his disciples at the Sea of Tiberius. This is how it happened:2 Simon Peter, Thomas (called Didymus[a]), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, Zebedee’s sons, and twoother disciples were together. 3 Simon Peter told them, “I’mgoing fishing.”

They said, “We’ll go with you.” They set out in aboat, but throughout the night they caught nothing. 4 Early inthe morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples didn’trealize it was Jesus.

5 Jesus called to them, “Children, have you caughtanything to eat?”

They answered him,“No.”

6 He said, “Cast your net on the right side of the boatand you will find some.”

So they did, and there were so many fish that they couldn’thaul in the net. 7 Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said toPeter, “It’s the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard itwas the Lord, he wrapped his coat around himself (for he was naked)and jumped into the water. 8 The other disciples followed in theboat, dragging the net full of fish, for they weren’t far fromshore, only about one hundred yards.

9 When they landed, they saw a fire there, with fish on it, andsome bread. 10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fishthat you’ve just caught.” 11 Simon Peter got up andpulled the net to shore. It was full of large fish, one hundredfifty-three of them. Yet the net hadn’t torn, even with so manyfish. 12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.”None of the disciples could bring themselves to ask him, “Whoare you?” They knew it was the Lord. 13 Jesus came, tookthe bread, and gave it to them. He did the same with the fish.14 This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciplesafter he was raised from the dead.

15 When theyfinished eating, Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Simon son of John,do you love me more than these?”

Simon replied,“Yes, Lord, you know I love you.”

Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16 Jesus asked asecond time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

Simon replied,“Yes, Lord, you know I love you.”

Jesus said to him, “Take care of my sheep.” 17 Heasked a third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

Peter was sad thatJesus asked him a third time, “Do you love me?” Hereplied, “Lord, you know everything; you know I love you.”

Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. 18 I assure you thatwhen you were younger you tied your own belt and walked aroundwherever you wanted. When you grow old, you will stretch out yourhands and another will tie your belt and lead you where you don’twant to go.” 19 He said this to show the kind of death bywhich Peter would glorify God. After saying this, Jesus said toPeter, “Follow me.”

 

 

Lets pray.

LivingJesus, who promises us that you will never leave us and forsake us,whom we know is so present that if we turn over a rock we can findyou there, and if we split a log, there you are, open our eyes. Helpus to see your presence. Help us to hear your voice. Amen.

Does anything stand out to you about either how Peter experiencesnew life, or how the risen Christ responds to Peter's moment of crashand burn?

Thereare a few things I want to focus in on: First, that Peter wasimmobilized by shame and guilt. Second, that Jesus confrontsdirectly Peter's failure andfeelings. Finally, Jesus invites Peter to replace his shame with alife for others.

First,we see that Peter was immobilized by shame and guilt. We can seethis because Peter has returned to fishing. If you go back and readMatthew 4, you will find outthat when Peter was called by Jesus he was a fisherman. That is theold life, the old job Peter left when he answered Jesus' call to fishfor people.

What is amazing about this is that Peter knew Jesus was risen. Johntells us that Jesus already had showed up to all the disciples,proved that he was risen, and commissioned them to go out and do thework Jesus did.

Peter's response? He hung his head low. He sighed. He said “well,good for you Jesus. Glad you're back. I bet the rest of you folkscan do that just fine. Me? Let me do what I know how. Let me gofishing.”

Atfirst glance, this may seem strange. But if you can think about whatit is like for you when you are filled with shame, wracked by guilt,and failure you can see why he did this. When we are wracked withguilt and shame, we become stuck in the past. We are unable to imagea better future or, if we can, cannot imagine ourselves in it. Webegin to see ourselves as unable to do good, unable to make adifference. What we have done, and what it makes us look atourselves as gets us stuck. When we are stuck and cannot go forward,we turn back. We go back to what had been comfortable before ourfailure.

Peterwas wracked with guilt, shame, and failure. Peter had left fishing,his comfort zone and all he knew before Jesus, to embark on anadventure of following Jesus. To Peter's perspective, that missionhad failed when Jesus died. But it was more than the mission thatfailed. Peter had failed. Peter had promised Jesus he would notleave his side, that he would fight and die before letting theauthorities. When Peterraised his sword to try and defend Jesus, he failed to chop off thehead of the man coming for Jesus and only lopped of his ear –which Jesus promptly healed as if nothing had happened. When it wasclear no amount of fighting could keep Jesus free, Peter ran for hislife and hid. It wasn't Peter, who the other disciples had treatedlike a spokesman and leader, who had the courage to stand by Jesus'side, it was women. Peter had shook in fear, hiding and afraid.

Then, just like Jesus had predicted, when Peter was approached hedenied Jesus, saying he never knew the man – not just once butthree times.

Peter was broken. He knew he was no hero. He knew he didn't havethe strength to lead like people expected him to do. He knew whenthe going got tough, he ran like hell.

SoPeter, even afterseeing Jesus risen, is so full of shame he can't bring himself tomove forward into the bright future his new life in Christ makespossible. He slinked away in the shadows, into that comfort zonethat was the last place he remembered feeling safe before his failure– just as many of you have when you were immobilized by failureand shame.

This immobilization shows what shame and guilt are. Peter isstruggling with both. Guilt is simply feeling bad that you have donesomething wrong. It hurts awful, but actually can be a positivething. When I stub my toe I learn not to kick against a brick wall. When I feel guilt I learn which actions are wrong, and that painhelps me change by giving up bad action.

Shame on the other hand is immobilizing. While guilt is about whatyou have done, when you & I feel shame that feeling is about whoyou are. You no longer feel the remorse that you hurt a friend, youbegin to say “I'm a horrible person who can't keep afriendship. I don't deserve support”. When you feel the guiltof having lied or cheated, you commit to be truthful and honest, notbeing pushed into closets again. But when this becomes shame youbegin to say “I am lying good-for-nothing. No-one would likeme if they knew me, and I can never do the right thing”. Guilt can bring remorse, and with remorse you can change your lifefor the better. Shame causes people to shut down and regress.

Itis not Peter's guilt that keeps him from moving forward – ifanything his guilt makes him wish he could. It is hisheart-wrenching shame. His hatred of who he is for denyingJesus. It is shame thatdrives Peter back to fishing, making him unable to say “I willchange, and become a person of courage, no longer hiding in fear bythe fireside”, and keeps him from going sent as Jesus said heshould. That same shame was what immobilized Bill Wilson when heknew he must deal with his alcoholism, and that was almost fatal toTroy Perry when he decided he was too filthy as a gay man to be worthliving.

Howdoes Jesus respond?

Jesusresponds by directly confronting Peter's failure head on. He does itby doing two things. First Jesus brings Peter into a situationmirroring moments of Peter's life with Jesus – where Peter getsa miraculous catch of feet as he did at his call to follow Jesus; andwhere Jesus makes a meal for the disciples like Jesus did on thenight Judas betrayed Jesus & Peter abandoned him. And then Jesusasks Peter three times, in that moment doeshe love Jesus? These three questions are a chance for Peter toexperience saying “Yes” to Jesus as many times as Peterhad said no to him, when Jesus denied him at Jesus' trial. The risenJesus confronts Peter's failure head-on.

Sooften when we experience shame in our lives, instead of confrontingit head-on, we try to hide from it. We may run from it by jumpinginto new work at our job, in a hobby, or even in the church. We mayrun from it by jumping into a new relationship, or into bed withsomeone. We might run from it by diving into a bottle or lighting ajoint. Pushing down the shame, hiding from the shame only makes itworse, more

Inour relationships with others – whether in our families, or inthe church – we do the same thing. We see others slinking awayfrom feeling shame about actions. We say nothing – why bringup the past? Instead of speaking directly to what is happening, welet it. And people who are hurting slip through the cracks.

YetJesus directly confronts what is happening, and to borrow a phrasefrom fellow Progressive Christian Alliance minister TerryMcGuire, Jesus initiatesgrace. He directly speaks to what has happened, but in a way that affirmsto Peter that there is a future for him, that Jesus has place for himin his life, and that Petercan choose a path where the past doesn't define him. Jesus directlyinvites Peter to embrace their relationship again.

In a real this is very similar to what Bill Wilson and Troy Perryexperience. While in the hospital Bill Wilson cries out to Godsaying “God, if there is a God, show yourself!” and BillWilson has an experience of seeing blinding light and hearing thewords “You are free now”. That moment is a turningpoint for Bill Wilson where he is able to let go of the past becausehe knows his relationship with his Higher Power, with life, and thefuture isn't defined by his failings. He is not defined by themeither. Likewise, when Troy Perry reaches near death, he has theexperience of hearing what he feels is the voice of God telling himthat God loves him, just as he is, and that God wants him to sharewith others who, like him, have heard God detested them that Godloves them too. For both of them this experience gives them thesense that life is worth living, that they are not disposable, andthat there is a future for them. They experience the risen Jesusconfronting their shame and guilt initiating grace. This allows themto learn the lesson of guilt and change the direction of their lives.

Youmay not have had a visionary experience. In fact I hope you haven't– a visionary experience is something God usually gives us onlyafter God has tried to quietly speak, guide, influence us and we weretoo distracted by life's busyness, too caught up in our own pain andangst, to listen. I challenge you to not wait for that, but insteadtake time to confront your feelings of guilt and of shame. Take themto God. Look and listen for God's response. I believe as you lookand listen you will see Jesus reaffirming his relationship with you,letting you know that your failures do not define you, and carvingout a bright future with you. As you experience this Ithink you will find that these broken places in your life that cancreate shame, when you open up them up to God can become the placeswhere God's presence shines through. As you let go of the shame, youwill find God giving you the power to move forward, at timesaccepting what you felt was too broken to embrace and other timesempowered to change course where mistakes have been made.

Howcan we as a church help people learn to reach out toGod & othersinstead of letting shame consume them?

(allowdiscussion)

Finallyafter Jesus reassures him that their relationship continues, Jesusinvitespeople to begin his journey forward by focusing on others. Heinvites them to get outside of themselves.

Jesusdoes this in a number of ways. First by inviting Peter to share hislove for Jesus, Jesus calls Peter to focus on making amends in hisrelationship with Jesus. Making amends to others we have hurt can bea powerful way to mend our broken relationships and heal the pain ofguilt. Shame however immobilizesus so all we do is beat up ourselves, as Peter has been doing tohimself.

NextJesus invitesPeter to demonstrate a change by serving others – feedmy sheep.

This call to make do something outside of yourself is part of whatboth Bill Wilson and Troy Perry are led to do in the face of theirshame. Bill Wilson begins a process of making amends that laterbecomes a step in the Alcoholics Anonymous movement, because it helpshim use his mistakes to learn how to become a healthier personinstead of immobilizing him with shame. Then he finds when he helpsothers work through their problems with addiction, it helps himmaintain his sobriety. For Bill this helps him move past shame to anew future, and gives birth the Alcoholics Anonymous movement

Troy Perry's experience where the living Jesus told him he was lovedwas linked with the call to tell others, particularly gay people whowere grossly mistreated in his day, that they are loved. In helpingothers discover that they are loved, in helping work with them tofind a place, Troy Perry begins to discover his own self-worth andreplace his shame with being gay with a sense he is loved, loveable,and worth respect. His work to follow Jesus' call births thegay-affirming Christian movement, and to his decision to chooseservice over shame our church ultimately owes its existence.

Thismovement the living Jesus invited Peter, Bill Wilson, and Troy Perryto – which we are invited to – is beautiful expressed bytheologian Jurgen Moltmann, when he prays: “For a long time Ilooked for you within myself and crept into the shell of my soul,shielding myself with an armour of inapproachability. But you wereoutside – outside myself – and enticed me out of thenarrowness of my heart into the broad place of love for life. So Icame out of myself and found my soul in my senses, and my own self inothers. The experience of God deepens the experiences of life. Itdoes not reduce them. For it awakens the unconditional Yes to life.”(TheSource of Life).

Jesus is standing in the midst of our shame, guilt, and brokeness. Jesus is calling us to open ourselves up, to share our unspeakableshame and pain with God, so that we can find those broken placesbecoming cracks through which God's light can shine into ourdarkness. As we do so, we are challenged to reach out to God, to ownour mistakes, and seek to turn our focus from how much we have failedto how we can be people healing the breaches for ourselves andothers. We are invited out of ourselves, like Peter, into lives ofservice.

Inclosing, I want to ask you to listen to a song by Jewel entitled“Hands” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lk0bKfC8XSE) . As you do so, I want you to talk to God about whatever shame orguilt is holding you back. Invite God into it. Open yourselvesduring this time of quiet prayer to God's presence in the midst ofit, and let God embrace you. Look for how you can move outside ofyourself toward God and others, and maybe even let your experiencesof seeming failure be transformed into a time of service.

 

 

 

Discovering Your New Life in Christ (Part 4 of 5)

Posted by Diversity in Faith on April 29, 2013 at 7:55 AM Comments comments (0)

Asking, Seeking, Knocking Your Way To Faith


Audio of this message is available at


Download: http://diversityinfaith.sermon.net/da/1200015717

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Begin sermon by playing video of “Dear God 2.0” by The Roots (see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=32Qr5oKKP-M&list=PL762B8CE6789C5529&index=4 )


Explain that in this song the rapper raises questions about “why”? He questions where God is and why God allows the pain and the brokeness in our lives.

I think all of us go through experiences at times that lead us to question, to doubt, even to feel tempted to walk away from our call or even to turn our back on the new life with God Jesus makes possible.

Have any of you experienced this? Would you be willing to share an example of a time like this for you?


In our Scripture today we will be looking at an occasion where doubt and questioning overshadowed the reality of the resurrection and almost led one of Jesus’ disciples to turn his back on the new life Jesus brings. As we read this example, let’s consider what this teaches us about how we can deal with our doubts and questions in a way that helps us embrace God’s new life.


Lets read John 20, 24-31 together:

24 Thomas, the one called Didymus, one of the Twelve, wasn’t with the disciples when Jesus came.25 The other disciples told him, “We’ve seen the Lord!”

But he replied, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands, put my finger in the wounds left by the nails, and put my hand into his side, I won’t believe.”

26 After eight days his disciples were again in a house and Thomas was with them. Even though the doors were locked, Jesus entered and stood among them. He said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here. Look at my hands. Put your hand into my side. No more disbelief. Believe!”

28 Thomas responded to Jesus, “My Lord and my God!”

29 Jesus replied, “Do you believe because you see me? Happy are those who don’t see and yet believe.”

30 Then Jesus did many other miraculous signs in his disciples’ presence, signs that aren’t recorded in this scroll. 31 But these things are written so that you will believe that Jesus is the Christ, God’s Son, and that believing, you will have life in his name.


Jesus, as we confront our questions, doubts, and deepest fears, meet us through your word and through the bread and cup that symbolize your broken body and shed blood. Open our eyes so we may see you and ourselves more clearly. Help us to know your will and presence more truly. In Jesus’ name.


What is the source of doubt or questioning Thomas faces? What can we learn about the role of questions and doubts in our new life with Christ here?


We are invited by Thomas’ experience to realize three things: first that we need to know that instead of chastising us for questions in our new life, Jesus invites us to take our questions to him; secondly, where to go to renew and strengthen our faith when our path becomes uncertain; and finally, that the new life is not about living without doubts but learning to have thriving faith in the midst of uncertainty.


First I said that we need to realize that instead of chastising us for our question in our new life of faith, Jesus invites us to take our questions to Jesus ourselves. Too often in the church the other message is given: that if you ask question, if you doubt, if you voice uncertainties you are wrong, you are risking your relationship with God, you may be risking your eternal soul and hope of heaven itself. Have anyone of you gotten that message before from churches?


I know I did growing up. I remember being full of questions but getting the sense some of them couldn’t be asked. I remember hearing people be told “How can you even question that? Aren’t you saved?” from friends in the youth for Christ group at my high school; and even from adults at my church to each other. I remember hearing many a sermon where people who questioned the doctrine of the church were painted out to have walked away with God. I remember many a well-meaning church lady and speaking deacon telling people those questions burning in their souls were all the work of the devil trying to lead them astray.


This fear of admitting my doubts and questions plagued me later in life. I remember later in life fear gripping my chest when I saw things that I was taught that didn’t add up and I felt I couldn’t share my questions and doubts about things like my church’s doctrines, my own salvation, or about heaven & hell. Later in Bible college I was shocked to see my professors openly question many of these ideas. I remember it causing a crisis of faith for me. And this same fear made it hard for me to talk in my first years as a minister about doubts I had about what I had always been taught about women not being allowed to be preachers or being gay being a sin.


Though I faced the message again and again “don’t question, don’t doubt, just go along”, this is not what Jesus does. Instead Jesus stands, waiting for Thomas to open up to Jesus about his doubts. When Thomas openly expresses his doubts, Jesus instead of reprimanding Thomas actually works with Thomas to bring Thomas face-to-face with the reality of Jesus’ new life -- and Thomas’s new life in Jesus -- in a way that Thomas receives what he needs for a fuller, more living faith.


I want to suggest that Jesus’ response to Thomas shows us that far from leading us away from God, really becoming open with our questions and doubts can help us produce a fuller faith. This does for Thomas. He not only acknowledges Jesus is risen, but recognizes Jesus is God in the flesh come to save! Ultimately this experience of being open about his questions and searching out until Thomas finds the answers he needs not only makes Thomas’ faith his own but grants him such a real, strong, authentic faith that Thomas willingly risks his life traveling to the furthest reaches of the known world, dying sharing his faith in distant India.


Questioning then is only an obstacle to faith when we ignore those question and push them down. When we let ourselves openly explore our questions before God, looking and listening for God to guide us to answers those questions can actually help us grow.


Interestingly enough this is how early Christians recorded Thomas later reflecting on his own experience. Many sources in the early church remembered Thomas as interpreting Jesus’ command to ask, seek, and knock not being about asking for God to give you this or that material blessing but instead you actively going to God questioning. In one writing, they recall Thomas as saying "Those who seek should not stop seeking until they find. When they find, they will be disturbed. When they are disturbed, they will marvel, and will rule over all." (Gospel of Thomas, Saying 2)


This is what Thomas went through. He questioned -- and his questions at first disturbed him. But his questions led him to a deeper understanding of and knowledge of Jesus, one so personal he touched the risen Lord with his own hands. That experience that came through his questioning made him marvel, opening his eyes to the new life Jesus brings -- and that marveling led Thomas to a life where he could more fully rule all through service, just as Jesus practiced being King through being a servant to all.


This is what I found to be true in my own life. When I quit pushing down my questions and took them to Jesus, opening up to Jesus about them, Jesus led me to places to find answers and to circumstances or people where I could experience things that opened my eyes to see things more through Jesus’ eyes. Some of what I saw like ways people had been hurt by some traditional approaches to faith, like gay men and lesbians who were closer to God than many of the folks I grew up with who put them down, like women who when they stopped being silent spoke more powerfully for God than me -- really disturbed me, shaking up my preconceive notions. But when I let my eyes open I began to see where Jesus was at work and to be able to join Jesus in new ways. So Thomas’ example shows us that our questions, when embraced as another way to connect with God, can strengthen our faith.


I mentioned that this account reminds us where to go when doubts and questions begin to cast a shadow over our new life in Christ, leading us to consider walking away from it. We see this in what Thomas does. Thomas first shares with his friends who walk with Jesus what has happened. Then he goes to where Jesus has shown up alive, bringing those questions with him.


In our lives we can do the same thing -- we can open up to other believers who can listen without lecturing or judging, about our questions. Just through them listening we can begin to sort out what we need from Christ. Who knows? They may have been through something similar and be able to share how they got through it.


Also we can go where Jesus shows up. Where does Jesus show up consistently today? (Allow discussion) Many places -- in Scripture, in meditation, in prayer, in worship at church with songs of praise and the breaking of the bread of communion. Sometimes in nature for some of us we open up to God’s presence; and in serving our neighbor Jesus promises we can find Jesus alive and present in a special way. Often when we are questioning these are the places we turn away from and avoid. Instead Thomas models going to these different places where Jesus shows up alive, and there looking for Jesus to show up answering the questions.


The flip side of this, though, is that this means you and I need to work to be people who can be that friend who listens without judgment, letting another share their doubts and questions who lets them know they aren’t alone. As a church, we say in our mission that we will welcome all people to grow with us in their faith. What can we do to welcome those who join us, like Thomas, full of questions and doubts??


We as a church need to work to be a place where we let people know that this is a safe place to not have things all figured out, to have questions, to search. This is part of why as a church we affirm the faith freedoms -- soul freedom, that we each have a personal relationship with God so no one can stand between another and God to judge if they are right with God; Bible freedom, that we each have the right to study the Bible with an open mind questioning and searching each coming to our own conclusions; church freedom that no one has a right to impose on our church from the outside beliefs, practices, or politics we don’t feel called to and we can’t do that to people in other churches; and religious freedom -- that we have respect other’s paths to faith even if they are different than ours, even if they aren’t Christian, recognizing only God knows who are God’s. We emphasize these to make our church a safe place to question. But being a safe place is about more than saying the words -- it is about being welcoming to the person who doesn’t have all the answers, even the person who says, does, and believes things that you aren’t sure fit your picture about what Christianity is about. Our church needs to be a place that meets people where they are without judgment.


So we need to go with our questions to the place where Jesus shows up, but also we need to work to be people who are safe for people to be honest with about their questions and doubts.


Finally Jesus our new life in Christ is not about living without uncertainties or doubts, but developing thriving faith in the midst of uncertainty. We see this because Jesus says that though its great that Thomas follows trustingly once Jesus helps Thomas find the answers Thomas is looking for, how happy and blessed are those who don’t get those answers yet believe.


Growing up I thought this meant that people would be happy if they just kept mouthing the words, gritting their teeth to force themselves to believe what the preacher taught, even though they had no proof for it and really a part of them was riddled with doubts. Just cover your ears, cover your eyes, and follow blindly.


Since being a pastor I have begun to see what that actually produces -- little old ladies who give away their pension to TV preachers who say “have faith -- God will bless you!” and go without while a con-man preacher uses their money to live in the lap of luxury; parents who hear “your child is healed if you just believe” so they watch their child die because they don’t take her to the doctor; people who cut off their children for being gay because their preacher says to even though deep in their heart they question how that could really be loving God. Blind faith is not beautiful or good. It wrecks lives.


Instead I think Jesus is letting us know that living faith includes ongoing questions, ongoing uncertainty, and embracing the uncertainty as all a part of the new life in Christ. New life in Christ means recognizing you don’t always see, and that is ok. You don’t have to pretend you’ve got it all figured out -- you can trust God without knowing all the answers.


This is why Jesus spoke in parables, using stories and metaphors to teach. These communicate truth but because each person can interpret them differently, don’t give a black and white certain answer. This is why Jesus uses what Buddhist call koans -- short statements like blessed are those who don’t see but believe; or blessed (happy) are those who mourn (are sad); the first shall be last. In Buddhism such statements are studied to help someone get used to uncertainty, to the fact that there are truths that cannot be explained. They help show that to be happy in life you have to be willing to embrace uncertainty as a gift not a curse. I think that Jesus’ statement about blessed are those who do not see but believe invites us to embrace the uncertainty and paradox of life that makes it so first can be last, the sad can be happy, and that we can often believe the strongest and truest not when we are certain but precisely when we have no clue.


Embrace your questions and uncertainties-- they are a gift, the end of which is a thriving faith.


Would you pray with me?


Risen Jesus, who is not only the Answer to our longings, but also the Questioner of our Souls -- do not let us stay content with pat answers, but help us like Thomas to truly ask, seek, knock when we are uncertain, so that we might discover living faith that will last. Amen. (Play “I Hope You Dance” during communion -- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DmBSGlXqC4Q )

Discovering Your New Life in Christ (Part 3 of 5)

Posted by Diversity in Faith on April 25, 2013 at 9:55 PM Comments comments (0)

Becoming God With Skin On

Audio of this message is also available at

Download: http://diversityinfaith.sermon.net/da/1200013726
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He is risen! He is risen again!

For those who are just joining our series, we are continuing to look at the accounts of the forty days Jesus appeared to the disciples, risen from the dead, and the lessons they teach us about the new life possible for you and me because Jesus is risen.


This week will be continuing with a passage in John 20.19-23.

As you turn there let me set the context:

Have any of you ever felt you were at a point that is hopeless, helpless, and without a future?

I know I have. I remember a time a little after the first church Kat and I planted -- Safe Haven Community Christian Church in Colton, CA. This was our first independent church plant and had begun because of encountering transgendered people who desired to know God and had no place to go to hear about Jesus and be welcomed. We poured our heart, soul, and life into that ministry. We probably spent every waking moment working on it.

And – I can only speak for myself – but I forgot. I forgot Jesus’ example to take time to go out to our quiet place and be. I forgot to make time for my marriage. I didn’t plan how to provide for us in that ministry, being so swept up in the call of God I at least didn’t count the cost.

I remember everything hitting the fan. Finances ran out and we couldn’t pay the bills. We were offered a place to stay with family, but it meant leaving the ministry in the hands of another minister. And our own relationship became strained.

The strain on our relationship pulled so tight it snapped. It snapped as a tire popped on the freeway of New Mexico. I remember the heartache when,watching the car being hauled away, Kat and I talked and it looked like our relationship was over. When she took the bus back to California, and I sat lonely in New Mexico to me it looked like everything was over. My ministry. My career. My marriage. Dark shadows seemed to fall like a solid sheet over me, and I saw no light ahead.

Have you been there?

That is how Jesus’s disciples were at the moment we join them in this text. For them, their world is ending. Their hopes and dreams lay shattered. They know Jesus lies dead, buried, killed as a traitor.


If you would, lets now read this together.

19 It was still the first day of the week. That evening, while the disciples were behind closed doors because they were afraid of the Jewish authorities, Jesus came and stood among them. He said, “Peace be with you.” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. When the disciples saw the Lord, they were filled with joy. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father sent me, so I am sending you.” 22 Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven; if you don’t forgive them, they aren’t forgiven.”



Would you pray with me?

Holy Spirit, mother of all living and light of life, embrace us with your love. As you came on these men and women giving them new life, fall upon us. As we discuss your work and Jesus’ words, help us be made new by your presence. Show us your will. Help us hear your call. In Jesus’ name, Amen.


Does anything stand out to you about the new life Jesus brings in this passage?


I have four aspects of the new life that stand out to me here.


First, we find in this story that at their darkest moment, when God seems far away and they have shut themselves off from everything, they find Jesus is already in their midst. In that moment sitting in my car alone, tear-filled and broken, in New Mexico it seemed to me that I was all alone. I wanted to like them shut myself into some cave, lock the door, and hide from the world. When they do this, what do they find? That Jesus appears, standing beside them.

Now some scholars will sit and wrangle over science and metaphysics to try and explain how Jesus walked through a shut door. I think they get this story all wrong. You see I read in Ephesians that when Jesus ascended he rose to fill all things. To me that means that because Jesus is risen, because each and every one of us now share in new life through Jesus, we no longer have a place we can go or a thing we can do where the risen Jesus is not present.

You see Jesus didn’t have to do a magic trick to walk through the locked door to where they were. No Jesus was already there. As Jesus tells them later in Matthew 28 -- “Lo I am with you always, even to the end of the age”. All Jesus did was open their eyes so that they could see he was present, though they faced their darkest night and locked the world out for fear.

Friend, do you face darkness? Do you have your moments when you see no hope, and want to lock the doors to the world and its pain. Know that Jesus is already present with you. Jesus is already standing beside you. Always, ever, Jesus is saying to you “lo I am with you always even to the end of the age”.

Turn to someone and say “Your new life in Christ means you are never alone”. Turn to someone else and say “Jesus promises I am with you always, even to the end”


Secondly Jesus shows us that our new life brings peace with God.

What are some barriers to peace with God? How Jesus’ resurrection help us find a new life at peace with God?

You don’t have to wait until you’ve become religious enough, worked hard enough, obeyed enough commandments, or begun to fit another’s image to have peace with God. Peace with God is offered to you and me as a free gift, something we can experience simply by faith, which is trusting God with your heart and life. Have you done that? Will you trust God and accept God’s friendship?


Thirdly we see that Jesus’ new life is not something we experience alone.

This is pointed to by Jesus breathing on the men and women gathered in front of them and saying “receive the Holy Spirit”. Jesus is actually acting out a scene from the Bible. Can anyone guess what scene it is?


The scene is in Genesis 2 when God creates the first person Adam. There God gathers up clay and dirt, shaping it into a statue of God, and breathes into it the breath of life. Jesus does the same thing but instead of gathering clumps of dirt Jesus gathers the men and women who have followed him, and breathes on them.


He shows that this new life is not something we can experience on our own. Alot of times people have this idea. They say “I can just worship God at the fishing hole; I don’t need to be around other believers”. But when Jesus breathes the breath of the Holy Spirit on them, it is on them when they are together, gathered remembering Jesus.


Turn to someone and say “I need you, You need me, we are all a part of God’s family”. Turn to someone else and say “You are important to me. I need you to survive”.


You see, you can’t experience this new life all alone but need others to help you grow. How can other people, at church, in our small group Bible studies, who we foster spiritual friendships with, help us grow in the new life Jesus gives us? How can we be ones that help others grow?


Not only is it other people we need but we need God the Holy Spirit. God the Holy Spirit is God as God comes to live within your life, within the lives of others around you like aid filling your lungs, even flowing through your blood. I like to say it like this – we pray to God the Father when we pray in the Lord's Prayer Our Father Who Art in Heaven... God is also our Mother who is within – within us and all living thing. God the Holy Spirit is like that mother within, just as God the Father is like a Father above. God the Holy Spirit’s presence brings life to the plants, animals, and newborn babes. We need to be open to the presence of God the Holy Spirit within our own life, within the lives of every living thing. And important to remember, we need to learn to look for the Holy Spirit to be at work in the lives of those around us -- because in any person, friendly or hateful to us, Christian or of another faith, even hardened atheist, if we look with eyes of faith we can encounter God the Holy Spirit in their life.


My friend Bob McLeod puts it like this, in his commentary on the Gospels:

“A Christian should always be trying to communicate with that bit of [God] that resides in every person. ‘Don’t just talk to that individual personality … don’t just look at that person as someone full of ambition and selfishness and personal strategy. If you try to negotiate with that, the job is far beyond you. Remember instead that in that other person’s heart [God] is trying to reach out to the [Holy Spirit] in you.’ .. [the Holy Spirit] is everywhere and in everything, and if we wish to attach ourselves primarily to [the Holy Spirit], as opposed to a tradition or personal interest, Christ will unlock doors for us in some very surprising ways”


So you, I, all of us, cannot thrive in our spiritual life alone. We need the Holy Spirit and each other to thrive in this new life.


There is a final part to this message is probably best pictured by an exercise a friend from school shared with me. What I am going to do is start with this person here. I am going to whisper something in their ear. Then they will act it out to the person beside them. Then that person will whisper the message to the next person’s ear, who acts it out … until we come to the last person in the room.


OK... what was the message near the end? Wow. Here’s what I said. “...” Notice how different it is!


I share this example because it illustrates the final message about the new life this story gives. After miming shaping them into a statue of God like Adam was, Jesus says “as the Father has sent me, so I am sending you”. How was Jesus sent? John 1 tells us that Jesus came as God -with-skin-on. We are sent like Jesus to be God with skin on, so that when people encounter our life it is like they are seeing God in a way they can touch, they can feel, they can hear.


Obviously we can’t do this perfectly -- because unlike Jesus we screw up. But we can be someone through whom God appears with skin on for others. Have any of you had people whose lives radiated God’s love, goodness, compassion, or mercy in your life in such a way that for you they were like God with skin on?


I know some in your life who brought the presence of God with skin on to you may not have quote a Bible verse to you at all, or even mentioned God directly. I bet if I asked too you probably have some people who did like we did in our exercise and sent mixed messages in their life. Maybe they voiced they were about “God” but their lives sent messages of rejection, condemnation, selfishness, abuse. We can send send the wrong message, failing to be God with skin on -- or embrace our new life in Christ and be God with skin on to others.

How can we be God with skin on ourselves?


Jesus points to one key word in his words on forgiveness -- by radiating forgiveness to others, showing them by how we live that God has forgiven and loves them; showing them God’s forgiveness and mercy. This is a part of what we mean when we say in our church's mission statement that our mission is to welcome all people to join in healing our world.


In closing I want to give you a few minutes to reflect on what image of God you are presenting. I have put some pla-do on the corner table. As you prepare to come to communion, take some of the pla-do and shape something -- maybe a heart for loving, a hug for forgiveness -- of some aspect of God you feel called to put skin on more in your life. When you come to communion, if you are comfortable share what it is before we pray and break bread together.


Remember here at Diversity in Faith you don’t have to be a member of this church or any church to take communion but simply come open to God, ready to experience new life. All are open at Christ’s Table.

Discovering Your New Life in Christ (Part 2 of 5)

Posted by Diversity in Faith on April 15, 2013 at 6:30 AM Comments comments (0)

Letting Go and Moving Forward

Happy Easter! He is Risen! (Repeat and explain, until boisterous).


Can anyone remember what we talked about last week?

As you may recall we are talking about the new life Jesus' resurrection makes possible for you and for me. We mentioned that we would each week until Pentecost look at a different time one of Jesus' followers encountering Jesus risen from the dead offering new life to help see what is possible for us with the new life we have in Christ.

Today I want to look at the story of Mary's encounter with the risen Jesus in John 20, verses 11-18.


John 20

11 Mary stood outside near the tomb, crying. As she cried, she bent down to look into the tomb. 12 She saw two angels dressed in white, seated where the body of Jesus had been, one at the head and one at the foot. 13 The angels asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?”

She replied, “They have taken away my Lord, and I don’t know where they’ve put him.” 14 As soon as she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she didn’t know it was Jesus.

15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who are you looking for?”

Thinking he was the gardener, she replied, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him and I will get him.”

16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.”

She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabbouni” (which means Teacher).

17 Jesus said to her, “Don’t hold on to me, for I haven’t yet gone up to my Father. Go to my brothers and sisters and tell them, ‘I’m going up to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”

18 Mary Magdalene left and announced to the disciples, “I’ve seen the Lord.” Then she told them what he said to her.

What are some things Mary's experience of Jesus taught her about the new life Jesus is offering her?


First of all, Mary Magdalene's story suggests that new life in Christ shows us that God already loves us and already believes in us.


The description in Luke 8.2 of Mary as one from whom seven spirits had been sent out suggests Mary had some sort of mental illness when she met Jesus, since that was a common description for what we call schizophrenia or multiple personality disorder in Jesus' day. Such illnesses rarely just happen. Usually someone is deeply hurt to get in such a place. Likely Mary Magdalene had experienced years of abuse, mistreatment, heartache and rejection before she became mentally ill. Likely she experienced even more after she got the title “Mary with the seven spirits” – crazy Mary! – from those around her. Yet Jesus was different. When Jesus met her he had not judged her. He loved her for who she was. He had shown her a compassion she had never seen. He had treated her as a child of God, dear, loved, accepted just as she was. When she met Jesus somehow she was changed. The Bible doesn't explain how that mental illness no longer wrecked Mary's life, only that Jesus healed it. I wonder if it was less a miracle in the form of hands being set right and more a miracle of the quality of his love. His love was so deep, so true, so healing, that Mary could not but experience and begin to be healed. Around Jesus Mary was no longer crazy Mary but loved Mary, embraced Mary, respected Mary.


Experiencing this healing power of love is a part of what your new life in Christ, when you embrace it, can do for you.


James Allison, one of my favorite theologians pictures the difference between the love our new life in Christ gives us and the love the world has taught us to expect in our old life. I've asked some volunteers who are going to act out the difference.


Old life--

False god: I want to love you, but I can’t love you as you are, because you are sinful and objectively disordered.

Self: Well, what then must I do to be loved?

False god: You must become someone different.

Self: I’m up for it, show me how.

False god: Love isn’t something that can be earned, it just is.

Self: Well then how do I become the sort of person who can be loved?

False god: If I were you I would start somewhere else.

Self: That’s a great help. How do I start somewhere else?

False god: You can’t, because even starting off for somewhere else starts from you, and you can’t be loved.

Self: Well if I can’t start off from somewhere else, and I can’t start off from where I am, what can I do?

False god: Give up on the love thing; just obey and be paralysed.


The new life Jesus offers, which Mary has already experienced, is so very different.

New life –


Unambivalently loving God: I love you.

Self: but I’m full of [garbage] how can you love me?

Unambivalently loving God: I love you.

Self: but you can’t love me, I’m part of all this muck.

Unambivalently loving God: it’s you that I love.

Self: how can it be me that you love when I’ve been involved in bad relationships, dark rooms, machinations against other people?

Unambivalently loving God: it’s you that I love.

Self: But ...

Unambivalently loving God: it’s you that I love.

Self: But ...

Unambivalently loving God: it’s you that I love.

Self: OK then, so are you just going to leave me in the [garbage pile of a life]?

Unambivalently loving God: Because I love you, you are relaxing into my love and you will find yourself becoming loveable, indeed becoming someone that you will scarcely recognise.

Self: Hadn’t I better do something to get all ready for this becoming loveable?

Unambivalently loving God: Only if you haven’t yet got it that it’s I who do the work and you who get to shine. Because I love you, you are relaxing into being loved and will find yourself doing loveable things because you are loved.

Self: I think I could go along with this.


The power of God's love heals Mary … and in your new life in Christ, a powerful love is available that when you embrace it is healing for you.


Yet this new life does more. There are suggestions within the Gospel that Jesus not only loved and accepted Mary, but also drew her in as one of his own students, teaching her the Gospel and the Scriptures. Outside the Bible early Christian writings tell stories of Mary Magdalene sitting at Jesus' feet as a student of a rabbi, learning to teach the Bible for herself. Early Christians later call Mary Magdalene an apostle just like Peter, James, and John. Not only did Jesus love her with an unconditional love that helped her accept herself and heal from whatever abuse she had faced but Jesus also believed in her. When others looked at Mary Magdalene they saw a failure, a broken woman, a crazy person. When Jesus looked at her he saw potential. He saw a woman who could be counted on. He saw someone whom God had a plan for. A woman who can be counted on.


God believes in Mary when no one else does. God believes in you. Turn to someone and say “God believes in you more than you believe in yourself”. Turn to someone else and say “With God all things are possible for you”. This is a part of what new life in Christ is about.


Not only does this speak to us about our broken pasts. But also as a church we say our mission is to welcome all people, without prejudice, into finding their place in God's family. What can we do to let the Mary Magdalene's of our community find their place in God's family, despite everything the world says about them?


Secondly, I think its important to notice that she is shown that seeming ends and broken places can be places we experience this new beginning.


Mary Magdalene already had a lot of broken places in her life, as we just discussed. And now Jesus, the first one to believe in Mary, the first to show her unconditional love, had been taken from her – beaten, left for dead. To Mary it must have looked like an end, another broken place in our life. To Mary this new life in Christ must have looked like a dead end all of the sudden. Yet in encountering the risen Jesus Mary finds out things are not always what they appear.


Early mystics used to say that God allowed broken places in our life not to harm us but so they might become windows through which the light of God shines through. Now coming to the tomb Mary doesn't see signs of death but is surrounded by signs of new life: She sees angels like the ones who appeared to the prophet Daniel proclaiming a new day was dawning. She sees Jesus alive again – appearing like a gardener who brings life out of dead ground. That Jesus is like a gardener is important because Adam was created as a gardener. This is a sign of God has begun making all things new. What looked like the ultimate brokenness is not an end but a new beginning. Through the resurrection life Jesus gives Mary, her broken place has become a window through which God’s light shines through.


What is your broken place? The fact that you have been born again to living hope means that if you open yourselves to the light of God in this dark place, the brokenness you feel need not be your end but can become a window through which God's light shines into your life and, through you, to others.

As you invite the new life Christ makes possible into that broken place it can become a window, a place in your life God's light shines.


Finally a part of entering new life is to quit clinging to the old. Jesus hints at this when Mary so glad to see him greets him with his old name – Rabboni, or teacher-- and grabs on to him, literally clings to him so as to not let go. Mary in some way wants to hang on to how she had come to know Jesus and who it had made her be.

On the one hand, who can blame her? Jesus had loved her like no-one else. In a land where she was known only as crazy Mary, in a world where women were to be seen not heard, Jesus had taken Mary on as his student, breaking all the rules to teach her Scripture, and to equip her just as much as the mean in his life to be able to teach the disciples.

Mary saw Jesus and hoped this meant she could cling to him, and keep to the life she knew. Jesus says – no, you cannot cling to me. You cannot cling to how you have known me – as teacher – or how you have known yourself – as student. You certainly can't cling to the names the world gave you of crazy, of useless, of worthless. Instead you must let me go ahead of you, prepare a place for you, and then you must follow me into a role of life, a place of life you could not expect.


It is easy for us to do as Mary and try to cling to our past, or dig our heels into our present. Even though the new life is available to us, we can refuse to embrace all its benefits when we do this. We can cling on to the way of relating to God we always have had. We can cling to those old patterns of life that are destructive. We can live in the past, reliving over and over again our abuse, our heartache, our pain. We can can continue to stay hooked on the bottle or the pill. We can even cling by clinging on to a picture of Jesus or a way of worshiping or serving God we have come to be comfortable with, forgetting that Jesus always goes ahead of us, preparing a place for us, calling us to follow him out of our comfort zones to something new.


What are you clinging to, instead of letting it go so you can see Jesus go ahead, prepare a place for you, and call you out of the comfortable into the new?


I have placed two things in this room I want you to engage with as we close.

First in the corner I have placed a big cardboard window. Take a moment as we end and go to the window and write down a broken place in your life right now. As you do so invite the life of Christ into it, so it can become a window through which you see God. Take time to ask and look for God each time you face that brokeness, so God can show you how it is becoming a window.


Also I have placed strips of paper on the table beside them. I want to challenge you as we conclude, to think of what things you have been clinging on to which have kept you from fully entering into the new life God has for you or, if you have entered it, what comfort zones you are clinging to that keep you from fully being God's light and love to others.


Take time before you come to the communion table to figure out what it is. Write them down on the slip. And then pray a prayer giving that to God. When you feel you have – whether this week, next month, or next year, come back here and lay that strip on the altar to God.


As you do so I am going to play a song whose chorus I think beautifully pictures God's word to us as we cling to our past, or let broken places hold us back.


So pray and give over to God whatever holds you back. When you have done so, feel free to come forward for communion or prayer as you feel led, knowing that here at Diversity in Faith you don't have to be a member of this church or any church but simply to come ready and open for God to join in communion or prayer at the Lord's Table.

Discovering Your New Life in Christ (Part 2 of 5)

Posted by Diversity in Faith on April 15, 2013 at 6:30 AM Comments comments (0)

Letting Go and Moving Forward

Happy Easter! He is Risen! (Repeat and explain, until boisterous).


Can anyone remember what we talked about last week?

As you may recall we are talking about the new life Jesus' resurrection makes possible for you and for me. We mentioned that we would each week until Pentecost look at a different time one of Jesus' followers encountering Jesus risen from the dead offering new life to help see what is possible for us with the new life we have in Christ.

Today I want to look at the story of Mary's encounter with the risen Jesus in John 20, verses 11-18.


John 20

11 Mary stood outside near the tomb, crying. As she cried, she bent down to look into the tomb. 12 She saw two angels dressed in white, seated where the body of Jesus had been, one at the head and one at the foot. 13 The angels asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?”

She replied, “They have taken away my Lord, and I don’t know where they’ve put him.” 14 As soon as she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she didn’t know it was Jesus.

15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who are you looking for?”

Thinking he was the gardener, she replied, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him and I will get him.”

16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.”

She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabbouni” (which means Teacher).

17 Jesus said to her, “Don’t hold on to me, for I haven’t yet gone up to my Father. Go to my brothers and sisters and tell them, ‘I’m going up to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”

18 Mary Magdalene left and announced to the disciples, “I’ve seen the Lord.” Then she told them what he said to her.

What are some things Mary's experience of Jesus taught her about the new life Jesus is offering her?


First of all, Mary Magdalene's story suggests that new life in Christ shows us that God already loves us and already believes in us.


The description in Luke 8.2 of Mary as one from whom seven spirits had been sent out suggests Mary had some sort of mental illness when she met Jesus, since that was a common description for what we call schizophrenia or multiple personality disorder in Jesus' day. Such illnesses rarely just happen. Usually someone is deeply hurt to get in such a place. Likely Mary Magdalene had experienced years of abuse, mistreatment, heartache and rejection before she became mentally ill. Likely she experienced even more after she got the title “Mary with the seven spirits” – crazy Mary! – from those around her. Yet Jesus was different. When Jesus met her he had not judged her. He loved her for who she was. He had shown her a compassion she had never seen. He had treated her as a child of God, dear, loved, accepted just as she was. When she met Jesus somehow she was changed. The Bible doesn't explain how that mental illness no longer wrecked Mary's life, only that Jesus healed it. I wonder if it was less a miracle in the form of hands being set right and more a miracle of the quality of his love. His love was so deep, so true, so healing, that Mary could not but experience and begin to be healed. Around Jesus Mary was no longer crazy Mary but loved Mary, embraced Mary, respected Mary.


Experiencing this healing power of love is a part of what your new life in Christ, when you embrace it, can do for you.


James Allison, one of my favorite theologians pictures the difference between the love our new life in Christ gives us and the love the world has taught us to expect in our old life. I've asked some volunteers who are going to act out the difference.


Old life--

False god: I want to love you, but I can’t love you as you are, because you are sinful and objectively disordered.

Self: Well, what then must I do to be loved?

False god: You must become someone different.

Self: I’m up for it, show me how.

False god: Love isn’t something that can be earned, it just is.

Self: Well then how do I become the sort of person who can be loved?

False god: If I were you I would start somewhere else.

Self: That’s a great help. How do I start somewhere else?

False god: You can’t, because even starting off for somewhere else starts from you, and you can’t be loved.

Self: Well if I can’t start off from somewhere else, and I can’t start off from where I am, what can I do?

False god: Give up on the love thing; just obey and be paralysed.


The new life Jesus offers, which Mary has already experienced, is so very different.

New life –


Unambivalently loving God: I love you.

Self: but I’m full of [garbage] how can you love me?

Unambivalently loving God: I love you.

Self: but you can’t love me, I’m part of all this muck.

Unambivalently loving God: it’s you that I love.

Self: how can it be me that you love when I’ve been involved in bad relationships, dark rooms, machinations against other people?

Unambivalently loving God: it’s you that I love.

Self: But ...

Unambivalently loving God: it’s you that I love.

Self: But ...

Unambivalently loving God: it’s you that I love.

Self: OK then, so are you just going to leave me in the [garbage pile of a life]?

Unambivalently loving God: Because I love you, you are relaxing into my love and you will find yourself becoming loveable, indeed becoming someone that you will scarcely recognise.

Self: Hadn’t I better do something to get all ready for this becoming loveable?

Unambivalently loving God: Only if you haven’t yet got it that it’s I who do the work and you who get to shine. Because I love you, you are relaxing into being loved and will find yourself doing loveable things because you are loved.

Self: I think I could go along with this.


The power of God's love heals Mary … and in your new life in Christ, a powerful love is available that when you embrace it is healing for you.


Yet this new life does more. There are suggestions within the Gospel that Jesus not only loved and accepted Mary, but also drew her in as one of his own students, teaching her the Gospel and the Scriptures. Outside the Bible early Christian writings tell stories of Mary Magdalene sitting at Jesus' feet as a student of a rabbi, learning to teach the Bible for herself. Early Christians later call Mary Magdalene an apostle just like Peter, James, and John. Not only did Jesus love her with an unconditional love that helped her accept herself and heal from whatever abuse she had faced but Jesus also believed in her. When others looked at Mary Magdalene they saw a failure, a broken woman, a crazy person. When Jesus looked at her he saw potential. He saw a woman who could be counted on. He saw someone whom God had a plan for. A woman who can be counted on.


God believes in Mary when no one else does. God believes in you. Turn to someone and say “God believes in you more than you believe in yourself”. Turn to someone else and say “With God all things are possible for you”. This is a part of what new life in Christ is about.


Not only does this speak to us about our broken pasts. But also as a church we say our mission is to welcome all people, without prejudice, into finding their place in God's family. What can we do to let the Mary Magdalene's of our community find their place in God's family, despite everything the world says about them?


Secondly, I think its important to notice that she is shown that seeming ends and broken places can be places we experience this new beginning.


Mary Magdalene already had a lot of broken places in her life, as we just discussed. And now Jesus, the first one to believe in Mary, the first to show her unconditional love, had been taken from her – beaten, left for dead. To Mary it must have looked like an end, another broken place in our life. To Mary this new life in Christ must have looked like a dead end all of the sudden. Yet in encountering the risen Jesus Mary finds out things are not always what they appear.


Early mystics used to say that God allowed broken places in our life not to harm us but so they might become windows through which the light of God shines through. Now coming to the tomb Mary doesn't see signs of death but is surrounded by signs of new life: She sees angels like the ones who appeared to the prophet Daniel proclaiming a new day was dawning. She sees Jesus alive again – appearing like a gardener who brings life out of dead ground. That Jesus is like a gardener is important because Adam was created as a gardener. This is a sign of God has begun making all things new. What looked like the ultimate brokenness is not an end but a new beginning. Through the resurrection life Jesus gives Mary, her broken place has become a window through which God’s light shines through.


What is your broken place? The fact that you have been born again to living hope means that if you open yourselves to the light of God in this dark place, the brokenness you feel need not be your end but can become a window through which God's light shines into your life and, through you, to others.

As you invite the new life Christ makes possible into that broken place it can become a window, a place in your life God's light shines.


Finally a part of entering new life is to quit clinging to the old. Jesus hints at this when Mary so glad to see him greets him with his old name – Rabboni, or teacher-- and grabs on to him, literally clings to him so as to not let go. Mary in some way wants to hang on to how she had come to know Jesus and who it had made her be.

On the one hand, who can blame her? Jesus had loved her like no-one else. In a land where she was known only as crazy Mary, in a world where women were to be seen not heard, Jesus had taken Mary on as his student, breaking all the rules to teach her Scripture, and to equip her just as much as the mean in his life to be able to teach the disciples.

Mary saw Jesus and hoped this meant she could cling to him, and keep to the life she knew. Jesus says – no, you cannot cling to me. You cannot cling to how you have known me – as teacher – or how you have known yourself – as student. You certainly can't cling to the names the world gave you of crazy, of useless, of worthless. Instead you must let me go ahead of you, prepare a place for you, and then you must follow me into a role of life, a place of life you could not expect.


It is easy for us to do as Mary and try to cling to our past, or dig our heels into our present. Even though the new life is available to us, we can refuse to embrace all its benefits when we do this. We can cling on to the way of relating to God we always have had. We can cling to those old patterns of life that are destructive. We can live in the past, reliving over and over again our abuse, our heartache, our pain. We can can continue to stay hooked on the bottle or the pill. We can even cling by clinging on to a picture of Jesus or a way of worshiping or serving God we have come to be comfortable with, forgetting that Jesus always goes ahead of us, preparing a place for us, calling us to follow him out of our comfort zones to something new.


What are you clinging to, instead of letting it go so you can see Jesus go ahead, prepare a place for you, and call you out of the comfortable into the new?


I have placed two things in this room I want you to engage with as we close.

First in the corner I have placed a big cardboard window. Take a moment as we end and go to the window and write down a broken place in your life right now. As you do so invite the life of Christ into it, so it can become a window through which you see God. Take time to ask and look for God each time you face that brokeness, so God can show you how it is becoming a window.


Also I have placed strips of paper on the table beside them. I want to challenge you as we conclude, to think of what things you have been clinging on to which have kept you from fully entering into the new life God has for you or, if you have entered it, what comfort zones you are clinging to that keep you from fully being God's light and love to others.


Take time before you come to the communion table to figure out what it is. Write them down on the slip. And then pray a prayer giving that to God. When you feel you have – whether this week, next month, or next year, come back here and lay that strip on the altar to God.


As you do so I am going to play a song whose chorus I think beautifully pictures God's word to us as we cling to our past, or let broken places hold us back.


So pray and give over to God whatever holds you back. When you have done so, feel free to come forward for communion or prayer as you feel led, knowing that here at Diversity in Faith you don't have to be a member of this church or any church but simply to come ready and open for God to join in communion or prayer at the Lord's Table.


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