Friday, March 30, 2018

Why Have You Forsaken Me?

Who are we choosing to abandon, exclude, and ignore?

At the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? which is, being interpreted, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? Mark 15:34

                How would it feel to be forsaken? Some of us know how it feels to be forsaken. Some, more than others, have been forsaken to varying degrees and at different times in life. In this cry, Jesus refers us to Psalm Twenty-two, to get a sense of how He felt while on the cross: abandoned, excluded, ignored.
                God promised, "I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee" (Hebrews 13:5). This is a promise we can trust! But what if something happened to make us feel the promise had been breached? We are the hands and feet of Christ, commissioned to extend this promise to the people around us.
                Who are we forsaking? Who are we, intentionally or unintentionally, choosing to abandon, exclude, and ignore? Christ might ask us the same question He asked our Heavenly Father, “Why are you forsaking me?” Are we forsaking those for whom Christ died? In Matthew 25, Jesus emphasized how we have treated the least among these, among us, as how we have treated Him.
                "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani."

Prayer by Steve Milam: 
                Heavenly Father, we come to you today and thank you for the great and incredible sacrifice that you made for us. As we struggle and suffer through this life, we pray that you help us remember we are not forsaken. We think of the great sacrifice you made for us, and we are grateful. We come to you in prayer, and we pray that you would help us and guide us to live each day in a way that is pleasing to you. We pray that in Christ’s name, Amen.

from the Marshall County United Methodist Good Friday service 
at Calvert City UMC, March 30, 2019

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Hosanna! Don’t You Think It’s Time?

     Our church is positioned with open arms to our community, offering full participation without exception in the life and ministry of the church, reflecting the inclusiveness of God's Kingdom as demonstrated in the love of Jesus. "Don't you think it's time?" 

 "They that went before, and they that followed cried, saying, 'Hosanna! Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord! Blessed be the kingdom of our father, David, that cometh in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!'"(Mark 11:9-10)
     Hosanna is a prayer of praise, a word that lets us pour our hearts out into an exclamation of a whole wide range of gladness and hope and faith in what God is doing with us and where he's leading us.
     Hosanna! We praise Him. We adore Him. We bear witness to Him. We find ways to express our love for him. We can't just depend on our old clichĂ©s and Bible verses to do that. Those days are fewer and farther between. We have to find additional ways to express God's love.
     Love is like water. If you block water from going one way, usually it finds some other way. If there's even the smallest little channel it can follow, it will. Water will enlarge its path and pool up somewhere else. Love's like that. Love will always find a way somehow to express itself.
     If we love God the way we think we do, then we're not going to let any little thing stop our love from flowing. That's how we need to understand our witness. God's love is in our heart, and our job as the witnesses to that love is to let it flow through us. If it doesn't flow one way, let it flow another, but just let it flow. Trust God's love and praise him for it. Let that be our praise, the way our love flows through the rocks and crevices and crooks and crannies of life.
     Jesus was setting up a new and different community among all the populations of the world. It was in this world, but not of the world, and it had different laws. It had a different vision and way of operating. This community is God’s Kingdom. That means it's his vision, and he’s the One putting it together. God himself is making this happen, and we get to be a part of it today if we will.
     God’s kingdom is a community that includes everyone. The only people who are excluded from this community are the people who exclude themselves. The Kingdom of God is a community of love and grace and peace. People have all their different ideas and views and experiences, but together in love, we work as friends and family to encourage and strengthen and guide each other. We let each other change and reshape us according to the image of God, in which we were created. Everything else gets pushed aside, as this kingdom grows within us and among us.
     Jesus mandated that we love one another, as he has loved us. By this everyone will know whether or not we genuinely are his disciples, by how we love one another.
     If you love like someone else says to love, then you're their disciple. If you're following someone else’s vision and ideas, then you're their disciple. But, if you're a disciple of Jesus Christ, then you love the way Jesus Christ has loved you. That's been our mandate ever since the night Jesus gave himself up for us.

          Love can build a bridge 
          Between your heart and mine 
          Love can build a bridge 
          Don't you think it's time 
          Don't you think it's time
(“Love Can Build a Bridge” Words and music by
John Barlow Jarvis, Naomi Judd, Paul Overstreet.
©1990 Scarlet Moon Music, Inc.)

     Don't you think it's time to replace our walls of fear with bridges of love? Jesus was arrested, spent the night being tortured, and gave his life for us at Calvary. His first words from the cross were, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do" (Luke 23:34). In the Resurrection, a great new community rose up with him from the grave and began to form around his new law with this new people, his people. That's success. That’s victory! Hosanna!
     When we shout “Hosanna” and when we praise the Lord, we're praying for victory.  We're not looking to go out and get crushed. We're looking to go out and to stand firm as the people of God in the law of love. As a small congregation, we are uniquely positioned by the struggles we’ve been through together. We may even be able to position ourselves in stronger, fresher ways than some other churches are able to do.
     We've been a church with open hearts, open minds, and open doors. Now we have the opportunity to be the church with open arms. We can make it clear that God's love is here and extended to everyone who will receive it. We’re here to welcome all who will come and be a part of our community of love. That's a beautiful place to be spiritually. Christ is inviting us to take our place as a beacon of hope and salvation. He is delivering us from sin and death into eternal life and restoring us to our rightful place as His children, His heirs.
     That's something for us to celebrate, stand firm in, and build around. We are not constrained by the gains and losses of each week or year. We are looking for the long-term success and victory that Jesus demonstrated in His flesh. Let us show in our relationships the same love and acceptance going forward as the faithful people of God. Hosanna! Don’t you think its time?

Derived from the sermon on Mark 11:1-11 preached March 25, 2018 at Briensburg UMC

Photo "Butterfly on Palm Frond" 2010 by Stephen Case,