Advent I: “Surpised by Hope”

Click for audio:09 Advent_ Surpised by Hope Sermon_ 1

Advent I – “Surprised by Hope”

Matthew 1:18-25

Nov 28 2010

During Advent a Sunday school teacher read her class part of the Christmas preparation story from the perspective of the animals involved. She then asked which animal was missing from the story. One said a cow. Another timidly said a horse. Then in desperation the teacher asked, “Who are the animals waiting for?” After a few seconds of pausing, one brave student declared, “The Great Pumpkin!”#

This time of the year, from the time before Halloween and All Saint’s Day, it seems that we just have one big string of holidays. Turkeys wearing Santa suits. Pumpkins sporting feathers and felted Pilgrim hats. Confetti being dropped from the sky and noise makers at full blast as we begin the liturgical New Year with the first Sunday of Advent. We’re in all these… “right now” … “this second” …and “because we have to” mode of life.

I have to acknowledge that this fall has been busier than usual around the church. We’ve worked doubly hard to make sure you are aware of our congregation’s financial needs to support our ministry budget. We’ve attempted to let you know of those 5 goals that have been discerned over the past five years and accepted by our church’s official leadership: our congregation’s desire to have updated youth and children’s areas, a place for us to come together as friends and a place were strangers can become our new friends, strengthening our music ministry and their work, areas within our walls that support current technological means – like projection for a study group or watching a movie together in fellowship.

For those of you who have heard that call and have responded as generously as you are able, I add my voice to the thank yous that have been said for your support of our congregation and its ministries. I also want you to be aware of the potential for you to be apart of something wonderful and meaningful through giving. Giving in my own life has been something of a slow development. But I am getting there. Every year I have gone up…how much I don’t know …but this year I can tell you this year my pledge went up 7.5% – it’s not huge, but its what I can do. Then I went forward and pledged to the capital campaign. Do you want to know who the first person was to turn in their pledge and their commitment to the capital campaign? Me. That’s how excited I am that I can be a part of this.

I was thinking as I made my decision regarding my support of the Ministry Budget and Capital Campaign, “what do I spend my money on that actually make a lasting difference in my life and other’s lives?” A cup of coffee how long does that last? – say an hour, a haircut two/three weeks, a shirt a couple, three years. A car, what 4-5 years, a tank of gas about 350/400 miles, all fleeting moments of things I find important at that moment. But a Bible purchased for a kid, food given around the world, our general church’s work on behalf of the most marginalized people. Those a places where there is good done. Moments of God’s Kingdom being revealed on earth and by my gifts, people’s lives can be touched.

Part of my thought in giving what I could to the Capital Campaign was me wondering where else, I’d be able to point to in 25 or 50 – 60 – possibly 70 – that’d only make me 104 years old – and say I was fortunate enough to be able to contribute to that project on behalf of our children and youth and every member – now and those to come in the future. There are all kinds of ways to support the church – not only monetary gifts – we focus on Christian living much of the year, and we’ve gotten scared to speak of money as not to offend someone. But what I have come to understand through reading, study, what Ernie has preached, is that if I don’t give, I’ve got someone else to answer to – and it isn’t me. We focus on Christian living much of the year, just lately on Christian giving. In our vows of membership, we are asked, “Will you be loyal to the United Methodist Church and do all in your power to strengthen its ministries?” and your response was ____(yes)_____?

Strengthening United Methodist ministries takes much work and much money, as financial responses tend to grease the wheels of ministry. From the campus ministry at UNCC, the closest university to us with a United Methodist campus ministry, to 5th Street Ministries, to project Agape in Armenia, where we sent those 55 gift boxes and heard from their director on that Wednesday night, to supporting Lake Junaluska, teaching our children and youth, to supporting missionaries and health care programs all across the world. I say that to say, you’ve a big task before you. A worthy task mind you – but a large task.

We are hopeful that you’ll be able to complete your Letter of Intent as soon as possible – we’ll have opportunity for you to bring them up to the front, pray if you wish, receive a brick if you wish (even if you have already turned in for letter or mailed it, we’d like you to have a brick as you are assisting and enabling our congregation to do kingdom work throughout the world). Dr. Porter last week put it wonderfully: “Some of you have already made your commitment, come down to the altar and say a prayer and thank God for what you have done, some of you gona bring yours and leave it on the chancel rail, some of you haven’t decided yet what you’re gona do, come pray about that, some of you have made up your mind you’re not going to give anything, and you’re part of the family, you need to come pray about that too.” -Endquote.

We’ve a large task before us, but we can do it for the sake of fulfilling God’s calling on our church family. Our work and outreach, supporting our ministries are critical for us to answer the call of being kingdom people. But that’s what we do…as Christians there’s a forever presence of overwhelming situations, but there is something about us that should refuse to ever give up hope. Bishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa responded once in a 1992 interview – two years before Nelson Mandela is elected president and four years before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission began. if he was hopeful about the future of his country. His response, “I am always hopeful.” “A Christian is a prisoner of hope. What could have looked more hopeless than Good Friday?…There is not situation which God cannot extract good. Evil, death, oppression, injustice – these can never again have the last word, despite all appearances to the contrary.”#

Well, you know, I figured if we are living in the pumpkin, Pilgrim, liturgical New Year, you surely wouldn’t mind a reference to our Easter story too. But in honesty, isn’t that the real way of life. Every moment is lived in the complex situation of everything at once – Thanksgiving, New Year, Easter, and even Christmas. But at the same time we have to try and center ourselves in the present moment.

We’ve entered into the season of Advent beginning today. It is when we get ready, anticipate the coming of Jesus. We calmly go about our lives, readying our hearts and minds, preparing our homes and events to celebrate the season of Christmas, the birth of the Christ child long ago. Did you notice a problem in the last sentence? I said, “We calmly go about…”. Yeah, right, we’ve thrown the house, we’ve thrown the car, we’ve thrown our selves into high gear.

A friend sent me a text on Friday. He said, “I just saw on the news a clergy person in the middle of the state was fighting for limited quantities.” ( I wondered why Don would be in the middle of the state shopping.) I sorta laughed; sorta thought it’d be fitting as what the season has come to – I hope he just made it up. It was funny this morning in the early service – we had a great illistration – one of the candles fell out of the Advent wreath – we’re down to three Sundays over there.

But Advent is as counter cultural as the church could be in our human lives. Advent is the reminder, just as Lent is to Easter, that there is something more to Christmas than the parties of the season. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t spend time with those special to us all season long, all year long. I’ll be at all the parties I can attend. I am saying that we have to be reminded during the season of Advent that we have to wait just a bit more – things in our world aren’t as they should be. The world in which we struggle through life is not what it should be – and sometimes we, both you and I, have caused and support systems that prevents God’s kingdom from being fully revealed.

The Good News is that Advent reminds us that not only did Jesus come long ago as a child born of Mary, cared for by Joseph – a child destined for the cross, tomb and resurrection. But Advent is here also to remind us that our hope is never history. Yes, we must continue working for God’s kingdom day and night in our world, but, ultimately, Christ will return to make all things right. The end of struggle is not only in heaven, but will be revealed here upon the earth.

James Moore concludes in the book we are studying across our congregation, Christmas Gifts That Won’t Break, the section many of you have read today concludes with the story of the solider in Paris. With a phrase of “Happy Christmas” as he overpays for the flowers he purchases just to give away he transforms the whole restaurant where he’d been dining. Songs burst out, people start singing, laughter abounds. People who couldn’t speak the same language began speaking the same spirit – that spirit of Christmas. It wasn’t about the flowers given, it wasn’t about the money overpaid – it was the Spirit which transformed the moment. That is the Hope of the season. That’s what we are waiting on – a world transformed by the Christ whom we worship.

All glory, honor and power be to the one that was, is and is to come.

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When Being the Boss isn’t Enough

“When Being Boss isn’t Enough”

I Timothy 6:6-19: Advice to Timothy – “The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.” (v. 10)

Luke 16:19-31: Lazarus and the Rich Man

September 26, 2010 Jason Harvey: Broad Street UMC: Statesville

I could have come up with a more joyous text, if I didn’t attempt to regularly preach from the Lectionary texts. That is the a beauty of being a United Methodist Preacher, one can choose one’s own text. But the discipline of Lectionary preaching encourages, no makes, no forces the preacher to preach text he or she would just quietly push under the rug and leave for someone else.

But today, we have two texts before us that really make one ponder if one is so inclined to ponder – pondering these days isn’t something in vogue. It seems that yelling and back and forth are in, but not pondering. Thinking and weighing the impact and the responsibilities of a situation that involves more that one or a few of our closest friends seems to be only a memory of the past.

But for some of those who find merit in pondering and questioning, these texts serve as a reminder of reasoning of their normal action or perhaps a strong wake-up call offered of responsibility and needed action. Hearing once again the often quoted, often ignored line, “The Love of Money is a root of all kinds of evil” challenges us to evaluate our lives – our motivations – our plans – our driving forces in our lives.

You see we have been talking about money a lot around here lately. We are recovery from the summer slumps of offerings. I know there are vacations to pay off, new school clothes to be payed for, fees due here and there. I’d just soon not have to mention money. We’ve talked enough about the ill-fated economy as we considered our Capital Campaign decision.

We know times are challenging. But the small comfort I take in our constant momentary conversation is two fold. The first is the fact that in all of the New Testament’s teachings by Jesus, money is talked about more than anything else. It was talked about more than ANY OTHER TOPIC in the Gospels – if one combines the rest of the topics, even then money would be the top runner still. Money and it’s responsibilities and place in the world were of great focus to Jesus and the early church. In the first of Acts, those who were Christian lived a communal life – one big happy bank account – “and none had want for anything.” I doubt that’ll come up much before November’s election by some who wear their faith on the shirtsleeves. But that shared bank account isn’t what seems to be presented as the only way to be Christian. There some give and take in this.

The real point, at least in my reflection and understanding is really based in I Timothy’s words today – “The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.” Money in itself, like many things, guns that can give life through hunting or protecting, in difficult times, or drugs, that can ease pain or prevent painful illnesses. But when those same items are used in the worst situations, then murders or overdoses can be the result.

When used poorly, all sorts of pain and terrible situations develop. But when our resources are used appropriately, they can able all sorts of good – new shoes or glasses, medical treatments and food, good homes and safe cars, brand spanking new Bible’s for third graders and new organs for congregations, new places to house ministry and experiences where people can learn of God’s love for them.

Do me a favor – penny, coin, key, a baseball or a pocket sized football or the end of your thumb. Hold the coin at arms length between you and the cross up front. Can you still see the cross? Now bring the object closer to your eye. When is it that you can only see the coin and not the cross? When does the object block out the cross all together? At what point does the object become the focus instead of the cross of Christ and his calling on your life?

It seems that Jesus knew where the real rub would be. Not in international relations, or human relationships – not in resistance to change or internal conflicts within the body of Christ – or insert whatever hot button issue is being used to distract us from bigger problems that surround us by talking heads. The topic that Jesus is concerned about hits closer to home – within reach of each of us. It’s about the money. Jesus, even in the midst of all the other things he feels like he needs to teach and share with the disciples and the people following him around, he teaches about money. Not teaching that the money in itself is a bad thing – no.

But if we allow money – and it only – to direct, dictate, or determine how we live our lives and respond to God’s calling in our lives, then, my friends, we are in a world of hurt – and heaven help us, cause there will be hell to pay.

On the other hand of focusing heavily on money and it’s drawing of us: if we allow money to not to be so close to us or hold it so dear to our hearts and so tightly in our fists, it can be an aid to abounding goodness, not just for one or two, but for two, or three, or four, or five hundred, six or seven thousands, 8 or 9 million or 10s of billions of God’s created people can have enough.

I Timothy, the end of todays lection: “As for those who in the present age are rich, command them not to be haughty, or to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches (I’ll add stocks and speculation funds), but [set their hopes] rather on God who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.” But you say see, it is about me having a good time you might argue. But I say to you, the writer isn’t finished with the thought. He says, “They, [those rich folk,] they are to do good, to be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share, thus storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of the life that really is life.” That’s what it says. Bout the same thing as Spiderman’s – “To those whom much is given, much is expected” line.

Like that rich man – not helping Lazarus – the man at his gate. Totally ignoring him. Not out of fear or threats to himself or others or prior experience of not making progress, but simply not helping. The rich man has always been the one in charge, the big boss – telling folks what to do. Then he dies, and heads to Hades, somehow he can see into Heaven and recognizes Abraham and Lazarus. And claiming Abraham, as his father, he asked that Lazarus, the man laying outside his gate whose name he knew as well, to go and deliver a message to his brothers. Well, you know that rich man’s riches done run out. He’s had his goodness, and his power, and his control – but no longer. Abraham reminds him, still claiming him by addressing him as child, that his brothers have the prophets too and they have to decide for themselves. Abraham says, even if they were to see a dead man return, they’re ways would not be changed.

Well, his brothers’ decisions are the same for us. How will we use what we have been entrusted? Cause there is a time when death equals all of humanity – at some point. We don’t know when. I love a line from one of the funeral prayers, “Let us live as those prepared to die and let us die as those who go forth to live.” The decisions we make, the things we consider important now, in this life, will make a difference in the way we are viewed in death. Not haughty, as Timothy’s word’s remind us, pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith.; take hold of eternal life. Deep soul challenging commands. and share the rewarding gifts of sharing the abundance of God’s gifts.

All glory, honor and power be to the one who was, is and is to come

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Stand Up and Be Set Free

“To Be Set Free”

Luke 13: 10-17; II Corinthians 8 (several verses)

Yesterday was hopefully one for the history books – hopefully called sessions of Annual Conference will be no more than a page in the annuals of my life. Frances and Virginia, our lay delegates from our congregation, Jane and Rob as District Delegates, and Don and I left early on Saturday morning toward Lake Junaluska to adopt the 2011 budget for our annual conference.  I understand Marty was at the conference office waiting to update the website with the information decided. Thanks for her good work at the Annual Conference assisting to keep us all updated on the happenings around the conference.

It’s not hard to imagine plans more fitting on a Saturday morning, but the work must go on.  Bishop Goodpaster followed the singing of three hymns – a wonderful sound in a room with some passionate singing. He first apologized for having to assemble our conference once more this year. But he quickly reminded us that we have a process we have all agreed to follow as United Methodist and this was part of it. We need to be able to fund the work of the church and that not only takes prayer and worship but also financing.

He started with a selection of scripture form II Corinthians 8:
We want you to know, brothers and sisters,* about the grace of God that has been granted to the churches of Macedonia; 2for during a severe ordeal of affliction, their abundant joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. 3For, as I can testify, they voluntarily gave according to their means, and even beyond their means, 4begging us earnestly for the privilege* of sharing in this ministry to the saints— 5and this, not merely as we expected; they gave themselves first to the Lord and, by the will of God, to us, 6so that we might urge Titus that, as he had already made a beginning, so he should also complete this generous undertaking* among you. 7Now as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in utmost eagerness, and in our love for you*—so we want you to excel also in this generous undertaking.*
8 I do not say this as a command, but I am testing the genuineness of your love against the earnestness of others. 9For you know the generous act* of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich. 10And in this matter I am giving my advice: it is appropriate for you who began last year not only to do something but even to desire to do something—11now finish doing it, so that your eagerness may be matched by completing it according to your means. 12For if the eagerness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has—not according to what one does not have. 13I do not mean that there should be relief for others and pressure on you, but it is a question of a fair balance between14your present abundance and their need, so that their abundance may be for your need, in order that there may be a fair balance. 15As it is written,
‘The one who had much did not have too much,
and the one who had little did not have too little.’

The Bishop said the darn-est thing, “You know this passage could have been written yesterday!” He was addressing the concerns of the economy – the concerns of the world around us. The Bishop proclaimed the tension the news from the economist and the good news of Jesus Chirst. He said, “Our stewardship crisis is because of listening to the wrong tapes in our minds.” He said, “If we care only for OUR interest, we will become a spiritually empty shell of nothing!”

From II Corinthians again…for during a severe ordeal of affliction, their abundant joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. 3For, as I can testify, they voluntarily gave according to their means, and even beyond their means, 4begging us earnestly for the privilege* of sharing in this ministry to the saints— 5and this, not merely as we expected; they gave themselves first to the Lord and, by the will of God, to us, 6so that we might urge Titus that, as he had already made a beginning, so he should also complete this generous undertaking* among you.

He said, “He said if we give out of our scarcity or our supposed “fixed” resources, then we limit what we can accomplish for God!” If we continue to live in a scarcity we will wither and die!” Are we in a maintenance mode or willing to share. It was real interesting, he said he received an email recently that listed the average incomes of each county in North Carolina. If he considered the number of working United Methodist times those average earnings across our counties (if we followed God’s suggested giving plan of 10%, the old-fashioned tithe you may recall, then our purpose there would not be to assemble a budget to fund ministries; rather we’d be assembled to try to figure out how in the world we could get rid of massive amounts of money. “God has blessed us,” he said, “with more than enough – for everyone.” He suggested that his reading of the scripture reminds us that our generosity is nothing short of a manifestation of our love.  But he left us with a question, and I pass it on to you, “What can we offer Christ for the world?” And are we willing to share, “according to our means.”

That’s what he said, or at least what I heard him say. He said words we need to hear once again. Over and over again.

There are ways that we buy into a downtrodden systems. Old ways of thinking; old ways of doing. We get used to the normal old maintenance modes of life. We are used to the world we live in – whatever, however that might be. We are conditioned to just deal with whatever is.  It’s good enough. It was good enough for 15 years ago. It, whatever you know needs to be there, it was nice, so it still must be nice – although we really know it isn’t what it needs to be.

I remember a while back – when the televisions weren’t flat – that somewhere I frequented had a tv that the color control had started not controlling the color – sometimes it was more green, sometimes more red, sometimes more blueish. But never what it was supposed to be! Never. Well, it was ok though. It was just tv., so it was ok. But it wasn’t really like we all knew it should be. It was a far cry from the normal tvs we saw around us. But when we just sat and looked at it, we’d get used to it – it was good enough.

I recall going to the pet store growing up – it was on my route through the mall. The puppies and the cats, and all those crazy little animals. One of my favorite sections was were the fish were. It was so neat – they had all colors of fish and all shapes throughout the section of the store. I wish I didn’t, but I did – I’d disregard the signs and tap the glass, just to watch the fish swim hurriedly across the tank. I knew that’d get them moving fast.
Only later when I read once that fish will actually become conditioned to the tapping on the glass. If the glass was tapped often enough as a person walked up to the glass, then even when the person didn’t tap on the glass the fish would swim the other way as they noticed movement. Over and over again they were trying to get away from the constant tapping on the glass – even when it wasn’t there. They’d been so conditioned to run the other way even if the person walking toward the tank was there to feed and care for the small fish. They’d begin to expect the worse, even if the truth was counter their fears – they’d stopped looking for the good!
I remember Bishop Jones sharing a story from the mission field. I don’t remember the lead in, but if I recall correctly, there was a group that had gone over the Atlantic for an international mission event. They were helping out – caring for people  or repairing something. The first few days, they were fine, but near the end, there was a noticeable difference in the mood of the group.
The local person who was helping them adapt to the location, asked about what was wrong. Some of the group stated that they’d worked all week and little had actually changed around them.  The local leader replied, this is the part I remember from Bishop Jones’ story, the leader replied, “That’s the trouble with you Americans, you only know how to hope if you are winning.”  Personally, I doubt this trait is limited to just Americans, but much of the advantaged people of the world. Just this edition of the Christian Century announced on the front cover that 93% of the starving in the world live in three areas:  Asia, The Pacific, and Africa. We are the advantaged, even in these times – a short season compared to the life lived by so many other of God’s created people around the world.  The leader said, “you only know when to hope if you are winning.”
There’s something about life experiences that seem to condition us to deal with just the basics of life. To come to expect nothing more than the norm.  To deal with real life!  To live in the real world! as they say.

Yeah, and sometimes you might be right. But there is something about the fact that we, you and I, and others come here and to other churches, or synagogues, and even mosques, to hear the word of God say so plainly once again that the way things are out there in the big bad world aren’t the same way – or at least shouldn’t be the same way – here as they are out there.  Yeah, we have to consider sound principles,
but that can’t be the only force we let lead our community or our lives.

You see, we’ve more leading our lives than merely sound earthly principles and personal opinions.  The presence of Christ can make such a difference.

I wonder how it would have been to have been there when Jesus healed the woman on the Sabbath day in the synagogues. Her arrival, she’d gone like the week before.  She’d struggled to get there before, her back all hunched over. Painful – probably. Perhaps even more painful because of the way others looked at her. They’d size her up even before she spoke a word or even before she’d lifted her face.

Frances Taylor Gench, one of my professors at Seminary, in her book, Back to the Well, considers this “Bent Woman.” She suggests that the 18 years this woman was “bent over” was over half her life that was probably only about 36 years. ( ) She poses a question, “Given the woman’s restricted field of vision, one wonders if she would have been aware of [Jesus’} presence. Jesus is represented as taking note of her presence, interrupting his teaching, and calling her foward from the margins to the center of the worshiping community” (87). And he says to her, “you have been set free.” And Dr. Gench, who we all called Frances, as we did most of the professors at Union-PSCE, to remind us of our connectedness because of our baptism and life lived in Christ, she suggests that the woman “assumes an eschatological (or of the end of earthly time) posture appropriate to the coming of the Son of Man and God’s new age.” A reminder of Luke’s Jesus foretelling the final days, as in Luke 21:28, “Now when these things take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption in drawing near” (87).  She goes on to remind her reader, “that not everyone recognizes the significance of the events taking place around them – specifically those in leadership. So the deep joy offered by Jesus living in and around them, was only received with deep suspension and  questioning. They were failing to recognize the goodness unfolding before their very eyes.

How often we do the same thing in life. The goodness happening around us is overshadowed by our conditioning. It seems that we are quiet content just to go with the normal ol’ stuff of life and forget about the possibilities of God in our very presence.

Where are the places where the possibilities of Jesus await your life?

Perhaps it is within family relationships. wounds long scared over or raw from this morning’s fresh fight. Perhaps there was THAT teacher or administrator or another student at your school. Or that co-worker that drives you mad. Perhaps you may even feel God has in some way let you down.  Perhaps the presence of Christ waits to be revealed in the way you care for employees in your charge – standing with them verses the bottom line figures for the corporation. Perhaps it’s time you really wrote or called your congressional representatives about an issue that effects more than your wallet.

It goes with out saying that our vote next week is a vote of possibility. We aren’t agreeing to take on debt, we aren’t saying yes to new construction. We are wondering if the congregation supports our leadership beginning to work securing funds to make our building able to support our church’s work for us (especially mindful of our children and youth spaces for the future, your ease of access to get to this sacred space), and for our greater community.

You see, the same old bent over ways of life aren’t required in the presence of Jesus. Because God in our midst is able to do more than our human minds can even imagine. Even if we don’t know enough to ask what we should be doing for Christ Jesus. Sometimes we just have to stand up and be set free to live into a new life. Place old fears and pains behind us and see and start looking for possibilities all around us.

I wonder if you might want to pray. I mean just come to the altar rail and pray – or right where you are. Pray for Christ’s church and its work throughout the world.  Perhaps you have some fears or concerns or you’re ready to pray for Christ to guide your thoughts or even pray for strength to vote how you feel God has guided you to vote for our church’s decision next week. Pray for some point of trouble that has your life bent over.To pray about your past, your presence, your future.  To pray for a child you’ve just taken off to school, or for the students and teachers heading back this week. Pray about something that has your vision or your life cloudy or even totally blocked.  Perhaps there is even the possibility that you’re ready to enter the presence of Christ’s love and let your life be lived with him.  There is so much where shall we begin?

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“A Change in Perspective” Aug 1, 2010 Sermon

“A Change in Perspective”
BSUMC: Statesville: Jason Harvey
1 August 2010
Colossians 3:1-11; Luke 12:13-21

It has been far too long for me to be away: Annual Conference, Youth Mission Trip, continuing education event, caring about friends and family. I’ve missed our worship together; Our sharing praise and worship of God.

My time away has been both tiring and renewing. I am especially grateful that the events came in the order they did, I finished up thinking theologically in a worshiping community of musicians, preachers and artists outside of Minneapolis at St. Olaf College. The conference title was “The News and the Good News.” Talking about a timely event. How wonderful! What do we do with the “mess” of the world around us? Oh, I loved it. Some of the presenters spoke or preached about the on going conflicts with in our country. When did it become cool to hate or attach a person for his or her opinions? Civil discourse has long been the means by-which we are able to consider and learn. Our beliefs may be transformed – not by the easy absorption of another’s thoughts, but by development of our own thoughts based upon reason, examination, and developed understanding or experience.  If you are so inclined as a practicing United Methodist, one could follow Wesley’s Scripture, Tradition, Reason and Experience of is thought process named by Albert Outler, Wesley’s Quadrilateral.

There are two themes that keep poping into my mind this week form today Lesson’s: Civility and Greed – (themes that will always pack the house!)

I recall an email exchange with the “GoodNews” magizine’s editor and the now Diector of the Institute of Religion and Democracy, Mark Tooley.  I must let you know, I consider this group a fringe organization who twists and warps facts and events in a unusual light I am unable to see nor understand – I preface my statement with that understanding. Several years back, I wrote him challenging his perspective on the work of our general church.  I’d heard his doom and gloom about the church I love long enough.  I took his perspective to task. He did reply back quickly with a few questions and recants. I returned my responses and then he responded was a I lay or clergy member of the United Methodist Church. I ceased my conversation as he’d pushed the conversation past the issue-at-hand and on to me as a person.  He’d stop considering the issue at hand and moved to begin to attack me as a person – not as a holder of thoughts.

This trend seems to be even more common today – growing over the past 20 years. The climate across our land has deteriorated to a point where we have lost our civility toward one another. Our society seems to be operating by allowing the loudest voices to be only those asking us to join their side of the fence.  Our political process, beginning in the 1980s suggest some, not at the last election or the past three elections, but in the 1980s, our political process has become so polarized. Polarized to the point where the ones with the most money and the greatest amount of advertising rise to the top. A point only recently supported by the Supreme Court of the United States – considering a corporation’s campaign gifts.  Although the cream is thought of as rising to the top of the milk; the gulf over the past three months has been proof enough that slimy crude oil and life draining grease rises and floats to the the surface too.

Stephen L. Carter in his book Civility: Manners, Morals, and the Etiquette of Democracy, a text from one of my classes in seminary, makes many deep arguments for the practice of civility. Civility, he defines “the set of sacrifices we make for the sake of our common journey with others, and out of love and respect for the very idea that there ARE others” (pg. 23).  He goes further in saying, “Alone of God’s creation, we humans are able to apply the test of morality to our actions, and civility calls us to do so. For democracy without civility is like dieting without discipline: we may call ourselves careful eaters, but we know in our souls that we are gluttons” (pg. 24).  His regular suggestions of faith shaped civility through out the text appears to suggest there is something different caused by the presence of God. He suggests, “only resurgence in all that is best about religious faith will rescue civility in America, for there is no truer or more profound vision of equality than equality before God” (pg. 31). Both for us and our neighbors – the ones who act like us; who speak and think like us; who look like us – and those neighbors who do not in the very least mirror our own selves – they too are God’s creation we are called offer care and to be relational.

Carter suggests a few ways for civility to grow: Our duty to be civil does not depend on whether we like them or not; civility requires we sacrifice for strangers, not just for people we happen to know; civility has two parts: generosity, even when it is costly, and trust, even when there is risk; Civility creates not merely a negative duty not to do harm, but an affirmative duty to do good; we must come into the presence of our fellow human beings with a sense of awe and gratitude; civility assumes that we will disagree; it requires us not to mask our differences but to resolve them respectfully; civility requires that we listen to others with knowledge of the possibility that they are right and we are wrong; Civility requires that we express ourselves in ways that demonstrate our respect for others; Civility requires resistance to the dominance of social life by the values of the marketplace. The basic principles of civility – generosity and trust – should apply as fully in the market and in politics as in every other human activity; allows and sometime requires criticism, but it should always be civil; civility discourages the use of legislation rather than conversation to settle disputes, except as a last, carefully considered resort; Civility values diversity, disagreement, and the possibility of resistance, and therefore the state must not use education to try to standardize our children; Religions aid civility when they preach not only love of neighbor but resistance to wrong.
(Pause)
I sometimes to find myself in less than normal conversations. Even on the sidewalk or elevator, I wind up getting to into conversations best left for prayer chapel or a medical professional, but there I often am. After sometime conversing just this very week, someone looked me square in the eye and asks, “How does Jesus Christ make a difference in a person’s life?” Point blank.

Think on that – What do you say? – tell your neighbor. “How does Jesus Christ make a difference in a person’s life?”

My answer was/is “Jesus changes our perspective.”  That’s it. The person I said that answer to appreciated it. What happens after we chose to follow after Christ, our perspective changes?  Our world begins to be seen through a whole new set of lens and there is a whole new way of life. Our old selves begin to die away and our new selves begin to grow modeling our lives after the one we now claim to follow. The process is forever on-going and not likely to be complete while we drawl breath on earth.

The letter of Colossians and our gospel lesson from Luke 12 both suggest that new perspective. In Eugene Peterson’s translation of the Bible, The Message, he translates the first of Colossians 3 in this way, “So if you’re serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it. Pursue the things over which Christ presides. Don’t suffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ — that’s where the action is. See things from his perspective.”

Funny how our text and my conversation happened this week – perhaps it’s a God thing – just perhaps.  The perspective with which we view the world is different when we choose to follow after Jesus Christ. The normal doom and gloom of the world around us isn’t what is the driving force in our lives. There is something beyond us and ourselves and we recognize it.

Then, in the Gospel, there’s that guy who looks at Jesus as some judge and jury. He pops the question – well, at least makes a statement to get Jesus to tell his brother to divide the family’s inheritance.  Good for him, he does recognize that Jesus is a man of great power and possibility, but he misses the point and Jesus calls him on it! Jesus recants, again from Peterson’s The Message, “Take care! Protect yourself against the least bit of greed. Life is not defined by what you have, even when you have a lot.”  Then Jesus illustrated the point with the story of the farmer’s bigger barns and his impending death.

Cartoon from New Yorker – Little girl with toys around her, not wanting to share with the little boy with her one line excuse, “I would share, but I’m not there developmentally.” Greed appears in many places. We are confronted on nearly every news report concerning the greed and mismanagement of corporations throughout the world, chief among them in our own country. It seems the bottom line drives away an honest profit. It seems the care for and about employees is forced to take the farthest seats on the corporate coaches.  It seems that the very ones who yell about the downfall of our world are the very ones leading the charge.

But greed isn’t only in the corporate boardroom. It’s present in even the most holy of places. Non-profits. Scandals all around. But we most likely don’t even have to travel outside our own heart to get to the greed Jesus is speaking of. So often our own desires to be great and have much leaves us restless (as Augustine put it: “our hearts are restless till they find rest the thee.”)  Our greed, our wants, our desires are seem to ourselves justified in some way.

Oh, the struggles we face.  What is in us that justifies the 3-4,000 more dollars of car accessories or home upgrades, you know while we are doing it, but the challenge that arises when the offering envelope or the pledge card comes around to give a bit more.  What is it that makes us feel we deserve the four or fifth trip of the summer even to the point where we hinder the causes of Christ in the world? But if we truely follow after, or act like we are following after Jesus, these corrupted ideals won’t have lasting power over us.

John Wesley’s phrase, “Make all you can, save all you can, give all you can.” The first two for most of us aren’t that demanding. The last one is where the rub is.

My, my, the need for civility and a case against greed.  Yeah, not such happy topics. But examination of our lives is necessary – crucial.  The wound cannot heal without being cared for in some manner. We must consider our perspective on all things – allowing nothing to be unexamined in light of the call of Christ Jesus. The good news in all this news is that God is still working with this weary world and within our “sin sick souls” calling us from despair into the live changing love of Jesus Christ.

All glory, honor and prise be to the one who was, who is and is to come.

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The Adventure Begins! – Youth Mission 2010

Well, I wasn’t sure the trip would actually come to fruition. Honestly, we’d moved the dates a couple times and it seemed as if every date suggested came with a litany of reason why someone couldn’t go. But we moved forward.  I made contact with Calvary Baptist Church in Chinatown where my cool friend, DR. Amy Butler, is the pastor. They would host us at a price we could afford.

Then, I contacted the General Board of Church and Society concerning their Seminar Program. Susan Burton, the director of the Seminar Program was most helpful.  She made several wonderful suggestions to help focus our group toward considering Issues of Racism, Homelessness and Poverty and Theological Refection on an Individual’s Role in these Issues. I found out Laura Bensman would be our primary GBCS staff member for the sessions and she proved more than kind, helpful and knowledgeable. I know they weren’t having to “invent the wheel” with these issues, but our group was a bit smaller, pretty smart and very capable. They helped me, especially as a novice, to make this a real learning experience.

Well, we left on Saturday, July 3 headed up to D.C. For the most part we started about on time. We made pretty good time – well, after we figured that we had enough room for all the stuff – thanks to Sue and Maryette agreeing to be our cargo carrier.

In Colonial Heights we stopped off at one of those Subways located in an Exxon for lunch. Nothing but the finest for our traveling adventure. All went normal until we finished and were looking for keys. The keys had gotten locked in the cargo van.  We couldn’t find them anywhere, so we decided to call “AAA.” That’s where the title for this blog comes from. Some point while we were waiting the speedy 15 minutes for the lock guy to arrive, I said, “The adventure begins!” and so it had. We were quickly back on the road after the door was open and the key was located.

We drove on. And on. And on.

On the way up there, somewhere about 45 minutes outside of the city, I told the youth to listen up. You know the typical drill about being safe in the “Big City” stuff. I told them they’d see people from “all-walks-of-life” (see I have uncool, ancient language – these poor youth). They’d better be kind and not make mean, stupid or hurtful comments, because some of these people might come after them.  I also told them that depending on what caused the situation would determine how quickly I became involved.  That’s when the phrase, “One dead is better than two” slipped out from no-where. Well, it was and is true. But thank goodness this wasn’t an issue.

We arrived and met Paul, the Church Administrator, he was wonderfully helpful, especially as we wound down four levels into the parking deck in the big ol’ van. I certainly wasn’t envious of his task of trying to make sure that HUGE facility was functioning for all the activities of a church in downtown D.C.  But the rooms were nice enough. We finished unloading the vans and went off to eat in Chinatown. To Wok-n-Roll . It was pretty good – once we finally figured out what all of us were eating.

Sunday morning came early, especially given the fact that it was warm enough to sweat through the night, until the air came on, then people got cold about the time I was getting to sleep! Then I had to get up and going before the rest did. But we were heading to worship – at Asbury UMC in D.C. One of the most historic churches in the District, Asbury was founded in 1836 by a group of African-Americans, but the leadership of the church was held by the white leaders until 1864. Since that time, Asbury Church has made profound impact on the community and its people.

This is our group with the Pastoral and Music Leadership (Musicians in the back – they were conversing about the organ with Maryette). The whole church welcomed us with open arms. It was the weirdest thing that so many people walked out of their way to welcome our group. We even made it into the morning announcements. People would literally greet every member of our group! Pastor Dr. Shockley, Bishop Stith, and the Rev. Nurse, took so much time with us asking about our trip and wanting to know what we were doing in the Nation’s Capitol. They suggested we get to The Mall early to stake our grassy spot.
The service was more than interesting. It was very interesting being in one of the most established African American congregations in the Nation’s Capitol on the Fourth of July.  The service had plenty of patriotic tones, but it was clear that the history of our country was not spotless! (Spotless is much too weak of a word for the history, but you know what I mean).  I have never seen this modeled in my life successfully.  Yeah, our country is great. My blood is just as American as any other citizen, but I do struggle with blanket patriotism. I suppose it is my Salem, North Carolina roots – Those in Old Salem who remained neutral throughout the Revolution. Being a member of a denomination with close ties to the English way of life. Being a historian with an understanding that the devisions of the colonist during the Revolutionary War was 1/3 loyal to the English crown, 1/3 American patriots, and 1/3 were just trying to survive the war. It was later in college when I learned those facts, not in elementary or high school.
The thing about this service that was different, was the remembering of struggle, especially remembering the history of slavery and continuing struggle for equality within our country. I left feeling more proud to be an American and even more  challenged to work as a Christian in the American country. God always takes precedence over country. As we walked by homeless men and women and dodged the luxury sedans in the capitol, I was mindful of the great separations present between God’s people and the American people.
We were heading back to the church. We went to Fuddruckers for burgers and then to the church to change clothes. We had 3:30 tickets to the Holocaust Museum and plenty of time to get there. I would drive them over in the van, bring the van back to the deck and then Metro back to L’Enfant Plaza stop and walk to the museum (as Smithsonian stop was closed for security on the mall). Blocked roads were everywhere! I tried and tried to cross the Mall! I couldn’t get them across the Mall to the museum. Even going as far as Georgetown and back onto the interstate proved useless. So I had to drop them off on 15th st. and they had to walk across the Mall – in the heat! But they did it! and on time.
The time in the museum was well spent. It remembers a time in history when one group of people decided they didn’t like other groups of people and had the power to do something about it! The getteo-ing, transporting, imprisonment, experimentation, torturing, and murder of Jews, Jehovah Witnesses, Gypsies, homosexuals, developmentally challenged, even Christians who refused to pledge allegiance to the actions of the Nazi leadership and stood for those who were being threatened! I didn’t actually get to go through the museum this time, as I was being tour guide, but I remember so much of it from the two times before. It is the mass of shoes, shoes of people who are most likely dead, especially now, some we may not even know of their name, but the God who created them loved them then, just as God does now.

1262204991_1f9b8c4096.jpg

Picture from: www.flickr.com/photos/ curtandrew/1262204991/

Poem seen on the wall.

We are the shoes, We are the last witnesses
We are shoes from grandchildren and grandfathers.
From Prague, Paris and Amsterdam
And because we are only made of fabric and leather
And not of blood and flesh,
Each one of us avoided the Hellfire.

-Yiddish poet Moses Schulstein

How horrible that there have been times, that there are times, even now, when the lives of people are threatened in our world! Too tragic! Too horrible!

I wonder why situations like this ever occur! Where were the caring people? Yeah, there were many around hiding, helping, smuggling and in direct conflict with the Nazi ran German government!  In my understanding, one of the constant jobs of the Christian (or person of faith) is to guard the life of humanity – all of it, not just some or a few, but all of those we believe that God has created and loves! May our vigil never cease.

More later! (I think this will take a while!)

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“Shaazam!” – Pentecost Sermon

“For Real Membership”
Pentecost, Confirmation and Heritage Sunday
Broad Street UMC, Jason Harvey, Preacher
23 May 2010
 
If someone were to stop you on the street and ask what does Pentecost mean? What might you tell them? Say they were in a hurry, what would your short answer be? Puzzeled? Here’s my advice to you, just say “Shaazam!” The best explianation of the arrival of the Holy Spirit long ago is the simple “Shaazam!” ’cause that’s pretty much what happened. –“Shaazam!” belongs to The. Rev. Gerheart Miller’s sermon on Pentecost.  
 
Today is the day of Pentecost. A day our church liturgical calender deems is the day of celebration of the giving of the Holy Spirit to the people. Christ’s promised “Advocate” comes as a mighty rushing wind over the people gathered. Peter, the Disciple of Christ, begin to speak and all the people, no matter where they had gathered from, they understand the Disciple’s words. How it happened I do not know, but I do not worry – the Disciples spoke and the people understood.So much so that 3,000 people were baptized and added to the body of Christ. The Spirit has continued to work each and every day since – even when we fail to recognize it.
 
The church of God, or rather the people of Christ who combine to create the Church of Christ, has a long history. It is that history that offers us the tradition of our past, the stories of those who have been engaged by God Almighty and have chosen to live their lives under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. It is also the same history of our church that has been effected by humanity’s finitude that holds stains of the past. But it is also that same church of Christ that seeks to make the world we live in just a bit more like that promised wonderfulness of the Kingdom of God – places of grace and mercy, justice and equality, forgiveness and new challenges. Somewhere in that history of the past and hopes for the future, we find ourselves, as a present linkage between the past and the future – like a link in a chain, we stand as the link. 
 
Could Christ’s church move forward into tomorrow without us? Quiet possibly, but I believe, the God who knit us together in our Mother’s womb, as the psalmist wrote, wouldn’t have it
ANY OTHER WAY
than to have us right here, right now. Perhaps another way to say it is captured by Ralph Waldo Emerson’s sentence, “What lies behind us and what lies ahead of us are tiny matters compared to what lives within us.”  Although, important are the things we have done in the past – moments of successful living and glorious histories; we must, too, consider future events that may hold unknown triumphs and loudest accolades, but they are not most important in our lives.  The most critical, perhaps most counter-cultural, prophetic statement I’ll make today, the most important elements of our lives is who we chose to be in the here-and-now.  
 
I wonder if the congregation would mind if I were to take just a few minutes to speak with these four confirmands? A little time to encourage them on their way and challenge them in their future.  You see we’ve spent a good deal of time together over the past months, however, there have been interruptions and challenges during our teaching time. Today, they’re down front, quiet, the cell phones are toned down a good bit, so I might be able to chat with them, if you’ll allow it?
 
Thank you.
 
Confirmands, I am so glad that you’ve have arrived here where you are. You’ve come a long way. But we aren’t finished yet. There are a few more things I want to say to encourage you on your way as you begin your full membership in our church’s congregation and more importantly into Christ’s Holy world-wide Church.  But I feel a little weird just talking to you, so is it ok if the rest of the congregation listens in a bit to our conversation?
 
Thank you. I wasn’t sure what I would have to do if they said no. I feared I may have to ask you to leave and go to lunch early.
 
During our time together, you’ve considered many aspects of our faith. Our lenghtened time together has allowed you to learn and live into what it means to be a part of the church. You’ve studied the parts of scripture, you’ve learned about people of the past, John and Charles Wesley, various leaders of the church from St. Augustine and Martin Luther, to Mother Teresa and the Rev. Dr. King. People who have lived out God’s call upon their lives in commitment that caused them to challenge and teach the church and world the ways of God. We’ve studied and even experienced other denominations’ worship styles. We’ve even had a chance to visit other churches and our local synagogue to discover Christianity’s connection with the Jewish faith. I admit, that was the first time I’d ever been in a synagogue, with you, that was just wonderful!  We’ve have a chance to discuss, sometimes in great detail, our faith, our questions, our struggles, our experiences with God. I wonder if we all could constantly be this mindful of what it means to be Christian and to be United Methodists, how very different our world would be!
 
You might not even be aware of some of the times you were learning and what you were learning, when you were learning.  You didn’t know, but I was learning too. I was learning more about the faith I claim as my own, right alongside you all.  Bet you didn’t know that, but it is true. Upon your Confirmation, it does not mean that you now know everything you need to know about church membership and following the way of Christ. It’s sorta like boot camp in the armed forces. There are things you must know to be a educated member of the force and the schooling is a quick way to teach you some stuff, but it isn’t meant to be your last learning moment. Oh, it is mearly a first step of a life long, no eternity long process.
 
Not only is today Pentecost Sunday and Confirmation, but it is also deemed Heritage Sunday. A day when we recall our history as a denomination. This day is closely tied to May 24, 1738, for on that day, John Wesley, the chief personality of Methodistism, was convinced at once that God forgave, loved and cherished him.  His heart was “strangely warmed,” as we’ve talked about before in class. It was then that he trusted in God. Wesley wrote in his journal,

“…While he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone for salvation, and an assurance was given me that he had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.”  -Heritzenrater, Richard. Wesley and the People Called Methodist, 1995, pg. 80. 

It was this event that gave this Priest in the Church of England new courage and empowerment to work for God in the world – to visit the sick and set up free clinics, to preach for people in fields and gathering places, spoke out against slavery and societal injustices of his time, wrote and taught about this God in whom he trusted. Wesley’s “heart warming experience” was not a culmination climax of his faith, it was only a grand opening!, a new beginning.  It doesn’t say he never had a challenge again, it only meant he was able meet challenges, not unafraid, but with confidence of who was on his side.  He trusted Christ with his life.    
 
I don’t lift up Wesley to you as someone to be worship, not in the least.  But I do say he’s not a bad model of a person who practiced their faith with zeal.  He’s pretty clear is his motivating factor in his work is his deep appreciation for the gift of Christ’s salvation and grace and love. His desire to serve God and humanity is not some once-upon-a-time, half-hearted, lacking commitment, easy-does-it type of Christianity.  It is sacrificial, self-less and certainly not easy. 
 
In Pat Conroy’s South of Broad, he follows a gang of kids through much of their lives.  I’ve not finished reading it yet, it’s been an OK read.  However, part that really fascinates me is the struggle these kids face in the late sixties as a group African-American and White kids who spread the spectrum of social classes – from the riches part of town to the orphanage.  They are always fighting between them selves, who is this or who is that.  They love the each other to death, but their infighting is draining. 
 
In the early part of the book, two guys, one Africa-American and one White guy are brought together as co-captains of the integrated football team. They really aren’t so excited to be on the same team. One of the guys is the son of the new African-American football coach at Peninsula High School, the other is the principal’s son.  Over the summer of everyday workout their friendship grows into one that proves to last through their time at the Citial and their lives.  Their work as co-captians and their leadership of their team took them to the State Championship game, they of course win, this is a novel. 
 
It’s not a recount of the very exciting game laid out by the author, even a sport novice can appreciate. But he says, “I liked being apart of a team with a game plan and a way of deliverance for a boy who knew how much he needed it.” There you are, today, you are being added to a team, one who offers you deliverance from the “normal” ways of life and world, part of God’s way of life. One that takes lots of work, lots of learning, lots of love and lots of grace to live out.  
 
 
Perhaps that’s one thing troubling the world today – where have those who practice a living faith gone? I’m not talking about a faith that’s turned into some political party lashing out at world. I’m not talking about a faith that’s been regulated to simple teachings of being nice, although that’s not a bad goal either. I’m not talking about a faith that has been compartmentalized to a small pigeon hole that is only visited on Sunday morning. I’m not talking about a faith that practiced in here and not out there. 
 
“Two Dollars Worth of God Please” by Mark Williams.

Well, I pulled up to the station

in my bright new shiny car

and I asked the man who was working there

what was he staring at me for

Nevertheless, I let him rest

but then I watched him freeze

when I told him what I wanted

was “two dollars of God, please.”

chorus:

‘Cause that’s not enough to make me love

someone who’s not like me

but the right amount to get me through

another busy week

I don’t want nothing radical

‘cause then I’d have to change my ways

no, I just want two dollars

that would be just fine today

That man did what I wanted

he put the gas into my car

not so much as to slow me down

just enough to get me far

Now some people call me crazy

but I’m smart enough to know

the type of fuel changes the way

your engine runs and so

chorus:

I don’t want enough to make me love

someone who’s not me

but the right amount to get me through

my very busy week

I don’t want nothing radical

‘cause then I’d have to change my ways

no, I just want two dollars

that would be just fine today

Well, next time you’re by that station

tell that man I said “hello”

‘cause I think he’s starting to understand

what I told him not long ago

See I don’t want to live for God my friends

‘cause his ways and mine don’t mix

that’s why I only go every week or so

to get my two dollar fix

chorus:

‘cause that’s not enough to make me love

someone who’s not like me

but the right amount to get me through

another business week

I don’t want nothing radical

‘cause then I’d have to change my ways

no I just want two dollars

that would be just fine today

yeah, I just want two dollars

that would be just fine today

c. 1997, Mark Williams (BMI) http://www.mark-williams.com/ (It is with deep appreciation to Mark for sending me the words to this favorite song from my college Wesley Foundation experience.)

I beg of you, keep a faith that is more than just two dollars worth of God. Live into mighty challenges.  Stay a part of God’s team. I’d like to encourage you to chase after a faith that is alive and living. The Christ we seek to follow has promised us life abundant, not just some half life.  The Christ, whom I’ve learned more about during our time together than I knew before, promises to be with us always to comfort and to challenge. I can’t look into the future and know what your life will hold – times of glamorous goodness or deepest pain, but I do know one thing, the Christ that you chose to follow after, to worship and praise, to pray to and travel with, will never, ever, never leave or not love you. Our God is good. May you always learn, always love, and always allow his life to lead your life this day and forever. 

All glory, honor and praise, be to the one who was, who is, and is to come.   

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An Easter Vigil

 

 

 

 

The Easter Vigil

The First Service of Easter 2010

9:00 P.M.

 

All who gather are silent.

 

About the Easter Vigil

The Easter Vigil is often call the “first service of Easter,” and is generally held on Saturday evening after sundown, consistent with the Hebrew people’s understanding of the day beginning with the evening (see Genesis 1).  It is a service that offers profound association with the Jewish Passover and early Christian practices of baptism. The suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus were linked to the individual’s dying and rising with Christ, and with the journey from slavery to freedom and darkness to light.

The Easter (Paschal) Vigil has both historic and symbolic roots in the Jewish Passover. That is why so many images are from the Old Testament and why so many analogies are experienced in Christ. In this service we experience the passage from slavery to freedom, from sin to salvation, from death to life.

Most recently the Easter Vigil has become a prominent experience in the emerging church movement of Christianity in North America. This new form of worship (known as “the emergent church”) emphasizes the ancient traditions of the faith and the creative expression of them. 

Thank you for taking your time to gather around and hear, learn, remember and celebrate the greatest joy of our Christian faith – the Resurrection of Jesus, the Christ!  Happy Easter!

 

Gathering and Lighting of the New Fire

              A fire is built and kindled which symbolizes the Resurrection. The central sign is the paschal candle, a large freestanding white candle signifying the triumph of the Resurrection over the darkness of death.

Explanation and Greeting

           We gather this evening to remember the story

                        that transformed the world,

            that Jesus passed from death into life,

                        and that his resurrection

                                    leads us from darkness into life.

 

Prayer of Blessing

             God of life,

                        through Jesus Christ

                        you have bestowed upon the world the light of life.

            Sanctify this new fire,

                        and grant that our hearts and minds may also be kindled

                        with holy desire to shine forth with the brightness of Christ’s                                                             rising,

                        that we may attain the everlasting light;

            through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Litany of Thanks

We praise you, God, for the gift of life.

We praise you, Lord, for the gift of light.

We gather now in the warmth of this fire.

We ask that your brightness would shine upon us.

May the word of Christ dwell within us, gladdening our hearts.

May the world that surrounds us know your peace.

(Silence)

God of life and light,

give us eyes to see you.

(Silence)

God of water and word,

give us hearts to receive you.

(Silence)

God of bread and cup,

Let us taste your goodness.

(Silence)

Amen.

 

Lighting of the Paschal Candle

The light of Christ rises in glory,

          overcoming the darkness of sin and death.

Christ is our light!

 

Procession to the Chapel

Christ is the light of the world.

Christ is our light!     

Easter Proclamation

Rejoice, heavenly powers! Sing, choirs of angels!

Exult, all creation around God’s throne!

Jesus Christ, our King, is risen!

Sound the trumpet of salvation!

Response:

Rejoice, heavenly powers!

Sing, choirs of angels!

Jesus Christ, our King, is risen!

Rejoice, O earth, in shining splendor,

   radiant in the brightness of our King!

Christ has conquered! Glory fills you!

Darkness vanishes for ever! Response 

Rejoice, O holy Church! Exult in glory!

The risen Savior shines upon you!

Let this place resound with joy,

            echoing the mighty song of all God’s people! Response

It is truly right that we should praise you,

            invisible, almighty, and eternal God, and your Son, Jesus Christ.

For Christ has ransomed us with his blood,

and paid the debt of Adam’s sin to deliver your faithful people. Response

This is our Passover feast, when Christ, the true Lamb, is slain.

This is the night when first you saved our forebears,

you freed the people of Israel from their slavery

and led them with dry feet through the sea. Response

This is the night when the pillar of fire destroyed the darkness of sin!

This is the night when Christians everywhere,

washed clean of sin and freed from all defilement,

are restored to grace and grow together in holiness. Response

This is the night when Jesus Christ broke the chains of death

and rose triumphant from the grave.

Night truly blessed, when heaven is wedded to earth,

and we are reconciled to you! Response

Response:

Rejoice, heavenly powers!

Sing, choirs of angels!

Jesus Christ, our King, is risen

Accept this Easter candle, a flame divided but undimmed,

            a pillar of fire that glows to your honor.

Let it mingle with the lights of heaven,

            and continue bravely burning to dispel the darkness of the night! Response

May the Morning Star, which never sets, find this flame still burning.

Christ, that Morning Star, who came back from the dead,

            and shed his peaceful light on all creation,

  your Son who lives and reigns for ever and ever. Response

Amen.

Readings of Struggle and Promise from the Old Testament

Let us hear the record of God’s saving deeds in history, and pray that each of us may receive the fullness of this grace.

 Genesis 1:1-2:4a

http://bible.oremus.org/?passage=Genesis+1 

Prayer in Unison Voices

 Almighty God, you wonderfully created, yet more wonderfully restored, the dignity of human nature. Grant that we may share the divine life of the One who shared our humanity, Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.

 Genesis 22: 1-18

 Gracious God of all believers, through Abraham’s trust in your promise you made known your faithful love to countless numbers. By the grace of Christ’s sacrifice fulfill in your Church and in all creation the joy of your promise and new covenant. Amen.

 Exodus 14:10-31

Please Stand for the Canticle                                                                    

 Hymnal, No. 135 

Canticle of Moses and Miriam / Cantemus Domino

Please be Seated

God our Savior, as once you delivered by the power of your mighty arm your chosen Israel through the waters of the sea, so now deliver your Church and all the peoples of the earth from bondage and oppression, to rejoice and serve you in freedom, through Jesus Christ our Deliverer. Amen.

Isaiah 55:1-11

Creator of all things, you freely offer water to the thirsty and food to the hungry. Refresh us by the water of baptism and feed us with the bread and wine of your table, that your Word may bear fruit in our lives, and bring us all to your heavenly banquet; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

 Ezekiel 36:24-28

 God of holiness and light, in the mystery of dying and rising with Christ you have established a new covenant of reconciliation. Cleanse our hearts and give a new spirit to all your people, that your saving grace may be made known to the whole world;        through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Ezekiel 37:1-14

Please Stand for the Hymn

Breathe on Me, Breath of God                                                trentham

Eternal God, you raised from the dead our Lord Jesus and by your Holy Spirit brought to life your Church. Breathe upon us again with your spirit and give new life to your people, through the same Jesus Christ our Redeemer. Amen.

Procession to the Sanctuary

Christ is the light of the world.

                   Christ is our light! 

The Congregation will be seated near the front of the center section of pews following entry into the sanctuary.

 

New Testament Lesson: Romans 6:3-11

Gospel Lesson: Luke 24:1-12

Sermon                                                                                                            

“What Are You Looking For?”

 Renewal of our Baptismal Vows

Introduction

          Through the Paschal mystery we are buried with Christ by baptism into his death, and raised with him to newness of life.  I call upon you now that our Lenten observance is ended, to renew our promises and vows of Holy Baptism, by which we once renounced evil and all its work, and promised to serve God faithfully in his holy Church.

 

            Brothers and sisters in Christ:

Through the Sacrament of Baptism  we are initiated into Christ’s holy Church.  We are incorporated into God’s mighty acts of salvation and given new birth through water and the Spirit.  All this is God’s gift, offered to us without price. Through the reaffirmation of our faith we renew the covenant declared at our baptism, acknowledge what God is doing for us, and affirm our commitment to Christ’s holy Church. 

Renunciation of Sin and Profession of Faith

On behalf of the whole Church, I ask you:

Do you renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness, reject the evil powers of this world, and repent of your sin? I do. 

Do you accept the freedom and power God gives you to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves? I do. 

Do you confess Jesus Christ as your Savior, put your whole trust in his grace, and promise to serve him as your Lord, in union with the Church which Christ has opened to people of all ages, nations, and races? I do. 

 According to the grace given to you, will you remain faithful members  of Christ’s holy Church and serve as Christ’s representatives  in the world? I will. 

 Let us join together in professing the Christian faith as contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments.

 Do you believe in God the Father?

I believe in God, the Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth.

  Do you believe in Jesus Christ?

I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried; he descended to the dead.

On the third day he rose again; he ascended into heaven, is seated at the right hand of the Father, and will come again to judge the living and the dead.

Do you believe in the Holy Spirit?

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.

Thanksgiving over the Water

 

The Lord be with you.

And also with you.

Let us pray.

Eternal Father:

When nothing existed but chaos, you swept across the dark waters and brought forth light. In the days of Noah you saved those on the ark through water. After the flood you set in the clouds a rainbow. When you saw your people as slaves in Egypt, you led them to freedom through the sea. Their children you brought through the Jordan to the land which you promised. 

In the fullness of time you sent Jesus, nurtured in the water of a womb. He was baptized by John and anointed by your Spirit. He called his disciples to share in the baptism of his death and resurrection and to make disciples of all nations.

 

Pour out your Holy Spirit, and by this gift of water call to our remembrance

the grace declared to us in our baptism. For you have washed away our sins, and you clothe us with righteousness throughout our lives, that dying and rising with Christ we may share in his final victory.

 

 

Reaffirmation of Faith

 

Remember your baptism and be thankful. Amen.

The Holy Spirit work within you, that having been born through water and the Spirit, you may live as faithful disciples of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Adorning of the Altar Area

          To replace the items taken from the Lord’s table on Holy Thursday, we replace them as building stones to reverse the dark somberness with signs of light and life experienced in Christ’s resurrection.

Announcement of the Resurrection

Alleluia. Christ is Risen!

          The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!

 

Voluntary

          Praising!                                                                                       Martin


Hymn of Easter  Christ Has Risen                                            holy manna

 

 

Prayer of Easter

          Alleluia! What was dead shall live; what was dark shall shine; what was forgotten shall be remembered, for the Lord is risen and walks among us. Let us confidently bring before God the needs of our world, asking for renewal and saying: Christ is risen, Christ is risen, Alleluia!

God of life, with gratitude and great joy we thank you for the gift of Christs resurrection. On this day, give us hope, for Christ is risen:

Christ is risen, Christ is risen, Alleluia!

On this day which brings joy to all Christian believers, may we commit ourselves to work toward the unity of the Church, that Christ’s body may be one, for Christ is risen:

Christ is risen, Christ is risen, Alleluia!

Honoring the gift of Christ’s risen body, may we rise to serve all those whose needs keep them from seeing themselves as the image of God; for Christ is risen:

Christ is risen, Christ is risen, Alleluia!

For all who have need of Easters gift; for those who journey from illness to health, from despair to hope, from grief to consolation, from loneliness to love. May we help them to hear that death has lost its power over us, for Christ is risen:

Christ is risen, Christ is risen, Alleluia!

For all who suffer and all who mourn, that today God will wipe away all tears, for Christ is risen:

Christ is risen, Christ is risen, Alleluia!

May we have the persistent faith of Mary Magdalene and the surprised belief of Peter and John. May we long to be Gods sign of life in our world, for Christ is risen:

Christ is risen, Christ is risen, Alleluia!

May we be one in faith with all who have died in Christ, for our life is

hid with Christ in God; for Christ is risen:

Christ is risen, Christ is risen, Alleluia!

(Here other intercessions may be offered, either silently or aloud.)

God of life, we thank you for the mystery planted in us today, the paradox of life from death and of community from scattered disciples. We praise you for the dying which saves us from death and the rising which brings us to life. We pray, as we live, through Jesus the risen one, in the power of the Holy Spirit, now and forever. Amen. 

 The Great Thanksgiving

 It is right, and a good and joyful thing, always and everywhere to give thanks to you,  Almighty God, creator of heaven and earth…

 And so, with your people on earth and all the company of heaven, we praise your name and join their unending hymn:

 

And so, in remembrance of these your mighty acts in Jesus Christ, we offer ourselves in praise and thanksgiving as a holy and living sacrifice, in union with Christ’s offering for us, as we proclaim the mystery of faith.

So, now, pour out your Holy Spirit on us gathered here and on these gifts…

 Through your Son Jesus Christ, with the Holy Spirit in your holy church, all honor and glory is yours, Almighty Father, now and forever.

 The Lord’s Prayer 

            Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.             Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.     Give us this day our daily bread.  And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.

Prayer Following Communion

          Eternal God, we give you thanks for this holy mystery                    in which you have given yourself to us. Grant that we may go into the world in the strength of your Spirit, to give ourselves for others, in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

Hymn of Easter

At the Font We Start Our Journey                                             lauda anima 

The Dismissal

          Alleluia! Alleluia! Let us bless the Lord.

          Thanks be to God. Alleluia! Alleluia!

 

Voluntary

          Dialogue                                                                                      Martin 

 

 All are welcome for the first celebration of Easter.

  This service was mostly adapted from the United Methodist Book of Worship, 1992. With some influence from the Book of Common Prayer, 1979.  The hymns are found in The United Methodist Hymnal, 1989 or The Faith We Sing, 2000.

 

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