Tuesday, January 23, 2007

What did he say?

Matthew grew up here. Many of you have known him pretty much his whole life. What would you think if he came here a few years from now, and stood up in front of us all, read these words from the prophets and said “these things are fulfilled in me.“ (expect responses from congregation)

The folks in Nazareth had a hard time believing Jesus was the fulfillment of Isaiah’s words. Jesus was not what they expected of the Messiah that was to come.

Dreams from our Jubilee - they were in the newsletter, Linda read them.
There’s one dream that you haven’t seen or heard. One person wrote “ help me believe in Jesus.” Since October I’ve been struggling with this. How can I help? I felt inadequate - how can I bring someone to believe?

And then, yesterday, I realized the person did not ask just me by myself to help. These were dreams for the congregation! This was a plea sent out to all of us

If I asked everyone here what they believe about Jesus I’d get a lot of different answers. I have shelves full of books by different theologians saying what they believe about Jesus - containing lots of disagreement! Different denominations teach different understandings of Jesus. We are separated by the What’s.
What did Jesus really say? What did he really do? and Why?
In what way was he the son of God? What were the circumstances of his birth?
What about miracles?

All day yesterday the Discovery channel ran programs that asked these questions and many more. As theologians, congregations and denominations we disagree about a lot of the What’s around Jesus - but we are bound together by our belief in Jesus.

And anyway, the dream offered up at Jubilee wasn’t help me believe about Jesus - it was help me believe IN Jesus.

A woman I met in college was raised in the Baptist church but converted in Judaism. I asked her how she could stop believing in Jesus and she said “I didn’t stop believing in Jesus. I just don’t believe the same way I was taught to.”

For me, believing in Jesus is like believing in air. I can’t remember ever not believing. I was raised to believe that God was judgmental and punishing and hated me for not being perfect, and that Jesus loved me. As I got older I began to think there was something wrong with that picture. If God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit were all together one God, then how can Jesus be loving and God not be? If Jesus is the son of God, then he must be like God, and so God must also love, as Jesus does.

That is what Jesus came to teach the world - that we should not see God as the judgmental, punishing, war-loving, death-dealing being that appears in so much of the Old Testament, but as a parent, loving, merciful, compassionate, and forgiving, who may be disappointed in the behavior of us kids, but who always loves us. Who celebrates our joys with us, and shares our pain, and is always home to kiss the boo-boos and feed us the comfort food that makes us feel better. And Jesus is the one we turn to in all those times, like a big brother who helps us get home after we’ve fallen off our bicycle, who stands ready to defend us when the schoolyard bullies are circling, who takes the blame when we’ve transgressed.

As Christians, as believers in Jesus as Lord and Savior of the world, we are to do our best to be like him. And because Jesus was the only human who has ever been able to perfectly understand and obey God, we can understand that individually we will not be perfectly like him. That doesn’t mean we aren’t to do our best. It does mean we can be assured that our mistakes will be forgiven when we ask God for forgiveness. To be a Christian is to be part of the body of Christ - to be part of a congregation of believers.

Hear what Paul said about the body of Christ: 1 Corinthians 12:12-31

To be part of the body of Christ means we are all brought together for one purpose
to tell the good news to the poor. to announce freedom for prisoners,
to give sight to the blind,
to free everyone who suffers,
and to say, `This is the year the Lord has chosen.' "

If this is the scripture that is fulfilled, then y’know? as a Christian, Matthew could, indeed, stand up and say “This is fulfilled in me” because he does these things - as do we all.

As Disciples we have no creed but Christ. We are not required to make a statement of particular ways in which we believe about Jesus as a test for membership. We do have a statement of affirmation - things we confess to be true. That affirmation is in your hymnal on page 355. Let’s turn there and read it together. And if, for whatever reason, you find yourself unable to affirm any part of this, please don’t feel that you must. This is not a test for membership - Disciples don’t do that. It is simply a statement of faith and of what we understand our role and mission as Christians to be.

As members of the Christian Church,
We confess that Jesus is the Christ,
the son of the living God,
and proclaim him Lord and Savior of the world.
In Christ’s name and by his grace,
we accept our mission of wines
and service to all people.
We rejoice in God,
maker of heaven and earth
and in the covenant of love
which binds us to God and one another.
Through baptism into Christ
we enter into newness of life
and are made one with the whole people of God.
In the communion of the Holy Spirit
we are joined together in discipleship
and in obedience to Christ
At the table of the Lord,
we celebrate with thanksgiving
the saving acts and presence of Christ.
Within the universal church
we receive the gift of ministry
and the light of scripture.
In the bonds of Christian faith
we yield ourselves to God
that we may serve the One
whose kingdom has no end.
Blessing, glory and honor
be to God forever. Amen.

As a congregation, as Church, it is our mission first and foremost to carry the Good News of Jesus Christ to the whole world - beginning right here. In this congregation is someone who wants to believe. Who perhaps already does believe but thinks they don’t believe enough or in the right way. I don’t know. I do know that we, together, as church, have as our primary responsibility to reach out to every person. To strive to be Christ-like - in our words and our actions in every situation. To be part of the body of Christ, using our individual gifts and talents to help others believe. To always be there when someone cries out “Lord, I Want to be a Christian”

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Back from Vacation

Vacation was good. I slept a lot, wore my favorite sweats most of the time, and pretended I don't even own a computer! I spent most of the week either on the couch or in the kitchen. I cooked a turkey and a ham and chili for watching football and split pea soup and even baked a cake! (Mind you, there's just me and The Husband to eat all of this food!) While I find that trying to figure out what to prepare for every-day dinner in 30 minutes or less is crazy-making, spending hours preparing special meals is fun or maybe even therapeutic. And we just won't talk about calories or exercise right now. :-)

I woke up yesterday morning wondering why I was even going back to the office. I really didn't want to! I wanted to call in sick, or manufacture a crisis, or anything but go to work. My secretary had handled pretty much everything - she always does - but there's always something that no one else can deal with. She gave me my messages and mail, and reminded me that we have to set up new files for 2007. The annual report was sitting on my desk waiting for me to fill in all the membership and outreach stats, and there were dozens of church newsletters to read - and how did I get on all those mailing lists anyway?

In the afternoon I spent several hours with our computer guy playing with the computers and talking about some stuff he's going through. I arrived home "for dinner" in time for a phone call from a clergy sister, mostly about finalizing details for the regional Martin Luther King Jr Celebration and partly about just needing someone to share with. Then I went to teach the Bible Study, which ran late because we got so engaged in the text we forgot to check the clock!

Later, as I locked the door behind me on my way home for the day, I remembered why I keep coming back after vacations. I do so love the preaching and teaching and counseling and studying and writing and sacramental parts! And I love my small church, so I guess I'm kind of stuck with the administrative stuff too.