Monday, July 28, 2014

Give Them Something to Eat---Sunday, August 3rd, 2014

This Sunday I'll begin a new series called "Faith: Pursuing Christ." I think a lot of the time, we think about faith as the stuff that we believe. Although that is true, I think faith has more to do with believing that a pen will drop from our hand and hit the ground when we let it go. Faith should impact the way we live, should it not? Can faith be a verb? Can it be something that we do, or show?

The crowds who followed Jesus in "The Feeding of the 5000" had faith. When they heard Jesus was near, they found him and followed him. Jesus had compassion for them, healed them, and fed them...Here's the thing though: Jesus told his disciples to feed the crowds. They responded with how little they had. They gave it to Jesus, he blessed it, and then it fed everyone. I think that's a picture of what faith is like, knowing that when we give what we have to Jesus, we can answer his call to "give them something to eat."

In this series, I hope to retell some old gospel series about what it means to have faith and pursue Jesus. We will look at this feeding of the 5000, the walking on the water, the faith of a Canaanite woman, Peter's confession of Christ, and the cost/reward of faith. I look forward to this journey with you all.

See you Sunday!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Have You Understood These Things?---Sunday July 27th, 2014

Sunday we conclude with the rest of Jesus' "Kingdom Parables" with the parable of the mustard seed, yeast, treasure, merchant, and net in Matthew 13: 31-33, 44-52. These are all short parables, where Jesus wishes to uncover the truth about the hidden Kingdom of God.

These parables seem simple; they have to do with everyday life. But still Jesus asks the crowd, and asks us, "Have you understood these things?" The Kingdom is present in our daily lives, if we have eyes to see it and the heart to understand it. 

Through Jesus' parables, I come to understand the "here but not yet" aspect of the Kingdom. I understand what Jesus is saying, but in my daily life, I soon forget them. My eyes become blind again. 

But Jesus reminds us all: the Kingdom is near. Praise God! 

Sunday, I might just play around with what other "daily things" present us an opportunity to glimpse the Kingdom. See you Sunday!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Pulling Weeds---Sunday July 20th, 2014

This past Sunday we started our trek through the parables. Jesus taught by way of these stories that he told. The piece that was not preached on last Sunday was Matthew 13: 10-17, where Jesus told the disciples why he speaks in parables:

10 Jesus’ disciples came and said to him, “Why do you use parables when you speak to the crowds?”
11 Jesus replied, “Because they haven’t received the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but you have. 12 For those who have will receive more and they will have more than enough. But as for those who don’t have, even the little they have will be taken away from them. 13 This is why I speak to the crowds in parables: although they see, they don’t really see; and although they hear, they don’t really hear or understand. 14 What Isaiah prophesied has become completely true for them:
You will hear, to be sure, but never understand; 
        and you will certainly see but never recognize what you are seeing.
15     For this people’s senses have become calloused, 
        and they’ve become hard of hearing, 
        and they’ve shut their eyes 
            so that they won’t see with their eyes 
            or hear with their ears 
            or understand with their minds, 
                and change their hearts and lives that I may heal them.[a]
16 “Happy are your eyes because they see. Happy are your ears because they hear. 17 I assure you that many prophets and righteous people wanted to see what you see and hear what you hear, but they didn’t.

In between the parable of the weeds and its explanation, Jesus says:

35b I’ll speak in parables; 
        I’ll declare what has been hidden since the beginning of the world.

Jesus speaks in parables to reveal some secrets of the Kingdom of God; to open people's eyes so that they may see; so that the people may understand.

This week, we turn to the parable of the wheat and the weeds, Matthew 13: 24:30 and 36-43.

I admit, I get a little queezy when I think about God's punishment. Although this parable tells us that the weeds should remain growing with the wheat, ultimately the weeds are burned up. This is a difficult word for me to hear.

I remember picking weeds as a kid. It was one of the most daunting chores that I had to do. But Jesus doesn't tell us to pick the weeds.....

Last summer, I heard our Bishop, Ken Carter, speak at my home church (St. Luke's UMC in Orlando). I remember something that he said, stemming from an interpretation of this parable:

"In the gospels, a vivid portrait of patience is found in Jesus' parable of the wheat and the tares. We are sometimes tempted to see the vineyard as more holy or just if those with whom we have conflict are no longer present. In the beautiful image of Jesus' parable, we grow together, wheat and tares, in the church. In this way, the church is a kind of “greenhouse” where we are planted, pruned and thus transformed.   To live together (even in our differences) is a gift of grace, and is essential in our maturing as disciples until the harvest where God is judge."

See you Sunday!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Instant Christian---Sunday July 13th, 2014

Well, yesterday was quite the conclusion to what I dubbed "Welcome Week" for me. It was a great day! I'm very excited to begin this journey of ministry with all of you at Gray.

This week, we turn to one of Jesus' famous parable, that of the soils/farmer/sower. It comes in Matthew 13:1-9, and the interpretation that Jesus tells to the disciples follows in verses 18-23.

It seems to me that people expect and desire things that can be attained quickly and easy. A lot of the time, we treat the Christian life like that. In a world that is full of ads that try to sell products and services that will get results "instantly," Jesus offers us a life that is built on fertile ground and thorough roots. Jesus calls us to consider where we are "planting" our lives. The Christian life may not be attained "instantly," but the work we put in will yield a strong "harvest."

John Wesley talked about sanctification as being a process that unfolds throughout your life. Yes, justification occurs at a moment where your faith justifies you, but the process of sanctification begins at that moment as well. There is something to be said about the power that a moment, an instant can have on you, but what it sparks is really the point. Why be justified from your sins if it does not lead to a holy, fruitful Christian life?

"As for what was planted on good soil, this refers to those who hear and understand, and bear fruit and produce"